Is it racist to say Happy Thanksgiving?

Written by Rorri Geller-Mohamed, LCSW

November 26, 2020

I noticed that I started feeling uncomfortable saying happy thanksgiving due to the history of the holiday.  From what I’ve learned, it seems like many indigineous people and groups acknowledge it as a day of mourning to remember the genocide and exploitation done to their ancestors and that continues to this day.  For me it feels confusing as to what to say and how exactly to “celebrate” or participate in Thanksgiving.  I don’t want to say or do something that would be hurtful to others and I know for so many of us it holds happy memories of time with family and friends focused on gratitude. 

Most of us get time off work and the opportunity to connect with those closest to us.   This is where I am right now in my anti-racist journey.   I’m trying really hard to allow myself to accept that it’s okay for me to be in between without having it figured out.  I’m learning and growing to live in a way that is aligned with my anti-racism values and pass those values and teaching down to my kids.  It’s not always clear.  I don’t have to have all the answers right now.  It’s ok that I’m uncomfortable with it, that’s part of doing this work.  But I also can’t use that as an excuse to not be speaking up and showing up for racial justice. 

Here’s what that looks like for me right now: 

  • Questioning if I should say happy thanksgiving and how I can respond when others say it.  
  • Googling what to say and if we should be saying it at all.  (I didn’t really find the clear answer I was hoping for yet.)
  • Talking to my kids about the history of Thanksgiving and bringing it up with my family when we do our Thanksgiving zoom. 
  • Learning more about indigineous history of the land where that I occupy and making sure my kids know about that throughout the year not just on Columbus Day and Thanksgiving.  
  • Learning more about the current struggles and racism that indigenous groups are facing today and finding ways to show up and speak up around that.  


In case you are having any similar feelings or looking for more ways to show up here are some resources that might help:

If you found this article interesting or helpful, check out my free recorded webinar: 5 Strategies To Shift Your Racial Equity and Justice Conversations with White People From Frustrating to Change Making

To figuring it out.

Related Articles

This 1 thing changed my anti-racism approach

I first got involved in anti-racism work in my late teens mainly because of the personal pain I felt from my brother's experiences of racism as a person of color. It's actually one of the main reasons that I become a social worker because I saw it as an avenue to...

Do you worry about saying the wrong thing? (me too!)

If you have read my blogs, are on my email list, or read my posts you may have noticed a recent shift in topics from social justice for families to where I have been trying to speak directly to white folks that care about racial equity and justice but could use extra...