The title of this post may be a little disarming. Your first thought might be that it is written by someone who hates Kwanzaa. But actually, I love Kwanzaa. I’ve been celebrating and acknowledging Kwanzaa since the 1980’s. I’ve created several Kwanzaa-related products and I manage a couple of Kwanzaa websites and social media pages.
I usually prefer to focus on what is positive in any given situation. But as far as Kwanzaa is concerned, I can’t continue to ignore the 800-pound gorilla in the room which is the negative and condescending videos, articles and comments on the Internet about Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa has become the butt of a lot of jokes, satire and comedy sketches. Kwanzaa has also become the target of many hate-fueled online comments.
I ignored the negative jabs thrown at Kwanzaa for a while. I took the position of:
- ‘It’s probably better not to pay that stuff any attention.’ or
- ‘Don’t put the negativity in the spotlight any more than it already is.’
But I can’t take it anymore. I have to say something.
In this article I will talk about:
- Comedy sketches that talk about Kwanzaa
- Glenn Beck’s reaction to a Congresswoman’s Kwanzaa comment
- Negative Kwanzaa comments on the Internet
- Animated Kwanzaa satire like ‘Charlie Brown’s Kwanzaa and ‘How the Grinch Stole Kwanzaa’
Comedy Sketches That Talk About Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa comedy should be taken with a grain of salt. I have mixed feelings about comedians using Kwanzaa in their standup. Part of me is like ‘Oh my goodness! How can you joke about something I take seriously?!’ The other part of me is able to step back with thick skin, lighten up and see the humor for what it is.
Kwanzaa Doubts – Comedy Time
Glenn Beck’s Reaction to a Congresswoman’s Kwanzaa Comment
Democratic U.S. Congresswoman from California, Nancy Pelosi made a comment on the House floor that made conservative media personality Glenn Beck lose his ever-loving mind and create some videos about Kwanzaa that I feel were very condescending and demeaning to people who celebrate Kwanzaa. I think he blew the whole thing out of proportion. His actions were the last straw for me, prompting me to bring this article from a thought in the back of my mind to a tangible thing in the physical world.
Let me set it all up for you. It’s December 2012. There were some tax cuts put into place by President George Bush that will expire at the end of the year. Everyone’s taxes will go up if Congress and President Obama don’t extend the tax cuts in one way or another. Since economic times are a bit rough during this period, raising taxes and taking more money out of people’s pockets isn’t really the best thing to do.
So Congress says let’s take a break for Christmas and then come right back the day after and get this tax thing worked out before the year is over. Nancy Pelosi makes a statement insinuating that the Republicans are being insensitive to to the Jewish holidays and Kwanzaa by wanting to only take Christmas off and then get back to work.
Video of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s Kwanzaa statement
After Nancy Pelosi made her comment, commentators went crazy accusing the congresswoman of pandering to her liberal voters. Conservative media personality Glenn Beck seized the moment to feature commentary about Kwanzaa on his television show.
Glenn Beck gives a ‘Kwanzaa Quiz’ to two callers on his show
This video might actually get thrown into the ‘Kwanzaa Comedy’ section as well. But what’s different about it to me, from the first two videos in this article, is the overtly condescending tone.
Glenn Beck mutilates and destroys the pronunciation of the Swahili words he tries to say. And the other people on set insinuate that if you don’t know anything about Kwanzaa, you’re racist. If a contestant gets a question wrong, they ask questions like, ‘When was the last time you burned a cross on someone’s lawn?’ How can you see to drive with your (KKK) hood on?’
Glenn Beck didn’t stop there. He goes on to have a Kwanzaa version of the game show ‘Jeopardy’ where the contestants are a Latina who speaks no English, a little person who they refer to as an elf and an African-American.
Glenn Beck’s ‘Jeopardy: Kwanzaa Edition’
So Glenn Beck gets to make a big joke at Kwanzaa’s expense. Now I hear what he’s saying. He is trying to make the point that Nancy Pelosi’s comment was outrageous because she was basically saying that Congress shouldn’t rush back to prevent taxes from going up because they should respect the fact that some people celebrate Kwanzaa.
The truth is that most Americans don’t celebrate Kwanzaa (duh), let alone know every fact about the holiday. Further more, most African-Americans don’t celebrate Kwanzaa either. But SOME people do. (We ARE the 2%! lol) And that small, subset of the population is who Nancy Pelosi was referring to, in my opinion. Not all of America.
I think Glenn Beck’s ‘Kwanzaa Quiz’ and ‘Jeopardy; Kwanzaa Edition’ made his point that most people in America do not celebrate Kwanzaa but he was insensitive and went over-the-top to do so. Nancy Pelosi also spoke about Jewish holidays in her comment. I didn’t see Glenn Beck making fun of that.
Negative Comments About Kwanzaa on the Internet
Articles Speaking Negatively About Maulana Karenga and Kwanzaa
My first encounter with negativity directed towards Kwanzaa were comments on YouTube. Around 2006 I uploaded some video clips to promote a Kwanzaa children’s story I created. Comments began to trickle in. Some were positive and constructive. Other comments were very negative. Most of the negative comments we things like:
- Kwanzaa is a fake holiday
- Kwanzaa is a made up holiday
- Kwanzaa is racist because it is only for Black people
- Kwanzaa is the Black Christmas? Haha
- The creator of Kwanzaa is a convicted felon
- The creator of Kwanzaa is an FBI informant
Every year since then, I found myself feverishly trying to reply to every comment and defend Kwanzaa. I would respond:
- No, Kwanzaa is NOT fake
- Every holiday is ‘made up’ by somebody if you look deep enough
- Kwanzaa can be celebrated by anyone who wishes to celebrate it
- Kwanzaa isn’t a ‘Black Christmas’
- I don’t condone any criminal acts by anyone. But Kwanzaa is bigger than its creator
I realized that the vast majority of people who were saying negative things about Kwanzaa in this video’s ‘comments’ section on Youtube were either just trying to get some reaction from people or were having their own emotional reaction to Kwanzaa based on misinformation.
I had help from other commentators who had constructive things to say. Then I had to stop and realize that I wasn’t going to change anybody’s mind. And that wasn’t my job or my goal. I just wanted to provide some entertainment for people who were interested in Kwanzaa. I wasn’t out to convert anyone. So I chilled.
I continue to respond but not like a maniac who is out to change everyone’s mind.
Animated Videos Getting Laughs at Kwanzaa’s Expense
Ok. If you’re easily offended by videos that disrespect Kwanzaa, and videos that stereotype African-Americans and use excessive offensive language, then you don’t want to watch these videos. These videos and the large amount of views and clicks they get online compared to more serious Kwanzaa videos proves the fact that the world loves drama. Things that go against the grain and are politically incorrect are more desirable to the masses than things that are positive.
Charlie Brown Kwanzaa
WARNING! Offensive Language Used
How the Grinch Stole Kwanzaa
WARNING! Offensive Language Used
Ok, enough. You get my point.
All in all, it’s my opinion that those of us who celebrate Kwanzaa shouldn’t get bent out of shape because of any negativity directed towards the holiday. Kwanzaa is in the public eye and is fair game for jokes, comedy sketches, satire and the like. That’s part of Kwanzaa’s ‘growing process’.
Instead of taking it personal when negativity is directed at Kwanzaa, those of us who celebrate the holiday need to just keep doing our thing. Keep hosting and attending Kwanzaa events, keep celebrating Kwanzaa in your home. Keep sharing Kwanzaa with those who are interested, especially children. And keep striving to incorporate the Seven Principles into your life all year.
It’s also my opinion that if Maulana Karenga, the creator of Kwanzaa, is guilty of any crime before or after having created the holiday, then that isn’t cool. But he is human and subject to human shortcomings. I don’t feel like that negates the positive things he has done in his life.
When we celebrate Kwanzaa, we’re not celebrating Maulana Karenga. We APPRECIATE his contribution but Kwanzaa is bigger than Karenga. The Seven Principles are universal. I would never validate or condone any crime he may be guilty of, but I feel Kwanzaa has done more good than any evil Maulana Karenga has reportedly done.
So why am I glad that people hate Kwanzaa? Hate is an emotion, a feeling and a passion. Hate isn’t middle-of-the-road and it isn’t sitting on the fence. Hate is a strong sentiment that gets the blood boiling. Even though the emotion is negative, people who feel hate towards Kwanzaa feel something.
Haters let you know that you’re doing something right. Here is what a hater is REALLY telling you through their actions:
- You’re making me uncomfortable
- Everything is just fine how it is. Why do you have to do something that makes me feel like I have to move out of my comfort zone?
- I’m going to make you feel bad about wanting to rise up out of the mediocrity that I enjoy and have become complacent with
- I don’t want to rise or shine
- Please stop rising, please stop shining. You’re forcing me to feel like I should do the same
Haters keep me on my toes, force me to think about my beliefs and why I stand for what I say I stand for. Haters force me to re-evaluate myself and my position on issues. I come out of the situation as a stronger, firmer and more focused person.
So to all the Kwanzaa haters, I say ‘Thank you! Keep on hating.’
I will keep rising and I will keep shining.
And Asante sana (Thank you) for the balance created by those who love Kwanzaa and those who are open-minded enough to learn about the celebration and make their own educated decision on how they feel about it.
Okera Ras I is the creator of several Kwanzaa-related products at KwanzaaMedia.com
He operates the KwanzaaCentral website
He hosts the Kwanzaa Central Podcast
You can follow him on Twitter @KwanzaaOkera
He manages the iLoveKwanzaa and KwanzaaMedia Facebook pages