For almost 50 years, African-Americans have celebrated Kwanzaa in an effort to divide America. Or at least that would be the holiday tale that Wisconsin State Sen. Glenn Grothman would tell, based off an inflammatory press statement released during the week. The Republican senator attributed the holiday’s prolonged existence to the agenda of left wing white people and questioned its legitimacy.
“Almost no black people today care about Kwanzaa — just white left-wingers who try to shove this down black people’s throats in an effort to divide Americans,” Grothman wrote. “Irresponsible public school districts such as Green Bay and Madison … try to tell a new generation that blacks have a separate holiday than Christians.”
Out of almost 40 million African-Americans, an estimated two million celebrate Kwanzaa. Grothman’s statement doesn’t speak to any of those groups, but instead challenges those who would endanger the American status quo, or force the majority of Americans to recognize their “whiteness.” In the statement, Grothman challenged the views of Maulana Karenga, the black radical who created the holiday in 1966, and argued that the holiday should be “slapped down.”
The GOP’s inability to tolerate a tradition that opposes white normality speaks to the reason for Kwanzaa’s existence. Karenga created the holiday in response to the Los Angeles Watts Riots, an uproar caused by racial tension that injured more than 1,000 people. No doubt, the origins of Kwanzaa are political in nature, but decades after its creation the message belongs to those who observe it.
Taking place in the week after Christmas, and ending on New Year’s Day, Kwanzaa is a celebration meant to reinforce black identity, values and tradition. Regardless of who cares or chooses to identify with it, Kwanzaa is unique in that regard. Grothman’s statement echoes the type of rhetoric that would deny black identity, or any identity that exists beyond white normality.