Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
October 16, 2021

This Thanksgiving, being grateful in the midst of tragedy

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD | November 15, 2018


The first Thanksgiving: a peaceful celebration in 1621, where Pilgrims and indigenous people sat side by side sharing food. 

That’s the version of history many of us grew up with. Most of us now know the bigger picture, the ugly truth: that Thanksgiving emerged against a backdrop of genocide — of colonizers killing millions of indigenous people long before the Pilgrims ever set foot on the Americas. That despite their so-called thanksgiving, colonists continued to commit these crimes. 

Bearing this in mind, we may ask ourselves: why do we celebrate? What does Thanksgiving mean to us 400 years later? Perhaps you’re even asking: in yet another year of hate and innocent lives lost, what is there to be thankful for? 

As the Editorial Board, we usually dedicate each week to holding people in power accountable, to mourning lives lost, to demanding change. But as Thanksgiving approaches, we also want to reflect on what we have to be grateful for — on the strides we’ve made not only in our country, but also in this city that we love and at our University. In spite of the tide of hate and injustice engulfing us, there is still hope. Hope for solidarity and progress, for greater inclusivity and compassion. Because even — and perhaps especially — in the darkest of times, we’ve seen people come together. 

We began this year a few months into the #MeToo movement, with another Women’s March that united hundreds of thousands of people around the world. More and more survivors have come forward with their allegations and their stories. It’s not just women or public figures, but also the people on our own campus. And more and more people are listening.

Sometimes, we’ve seen justice served, like when Harvey Weinstein was arrested. At other times, like with the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, justice failed to deliver. But as 2018 comes to a close, there are no signs of #MeToo dying down. We believe that this is just the beginning. 

We may be tempted to give into nihilism. In the case of climate change, for instance, the situation may seem almost hopeless. A recent UN report shows that unless we make dramatic changes to our economy and lifestyles, we’ll face widespread catastrophe by 2040: massive wildfires and floods, poverty and political instability on an unprecedented scale. 

But we can’t afford to give up. There are still things we can do. We can choose leaders who will help curb and delay disaster. We still have the freedom and platforms to hold our institutions accountable. Student activists here who continue to demand that the University divest from fossil fuels have been a testament to that. Change might be slow, but we do have a voice. For that, we are thankful. 

As of Nov. 12, there have been over 300 mass shootings in our country this year. Parkland. Annapolis. Pittsburgh. Tallahassee. Thousand Oaks. It never ends and we’ve made little progress on gun control legislation. 

Yet even in the face of this violence, we have hope. Remember, also, that survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School used their grief to mobilize the nation in the wake of the Parkland shooting. Remember their strength and their courage. Remember the hundreds of high school students here in Baltimore who marched miles from their schools to City Hall in March, demanding change. 

Remember when hundreds of Hopkins students joined a national walkout paying tribute to Parkland’s victims and the 800,000 protesters who filled the streets of Washington D.C. for the March For Our Lives. Since then, progress has been slow. But the end may be nearer than we think. Our newly elected Congress may do better. Gun control may, for once, become a priority. 

Last year at the Unite the Right Rally, neo-Nazis killed a woman in Charlottesville. A year later, hundreds of protesters, including members of the Hopkins and Baltimore community, took to D.C. to march against hate. They stood for hours in the rain, overwhelming a pitiful group of around 20 white supremacists. 

As police in Baltimore and other parts of the nation continue to terrorize civilians without consequences, look to the people standing up against them. To the Black Lives Matter movement in our city, and to the student activists who demand that a potential private police force be accountable to minorities, and to our community. 

Over the past year, we’ve lamented our University’s shortcomings. But in the wake of these shortcomings, it is equally important to recognize the strides we’ve made. Last semester, Advocates for Disability Awareness (ADA), a new student group, called for measures to make our community more inclusive for students with disabilities, and administrators were receptive to their demands. In October, we saw the first celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day on campus. And as students push for better mental health resources, our Counseling Center has shown signs of becoming more accomodating.

In the end, we’re thankful to be here. We’re thankful for the friends we’ve made, inside and outside the classroom. We’re thankful for the privileges we have — for our academic opportunities and the peers and professors who push us to learn and challenge ourselves. 

Lastly on behalf of The News-Letter, we’re grateful to have a platform to ensure that our voices, and those of our peers, are heard. We’re grateful to be in Baltimore. We’re thankful for the community members at Hopkins and in our city, and we’re grateful to those who’ve trusted us with their stories. Most of all, we’re grateful to you, our readers.

We do not know what the last few weeks of 2018 have in store for us. But as we go forward, we know that whatever obstacles or tragedies we face, we can always hope. That for every hate crime, there are countless more who will fight for compassion and inclusivity.

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