From this post by Laina Dawes at blogher.com:
As with many holidays, there is quite a fair bit of criticism about Kwanzaa, partly because it a relatively new holiday. There is a fair bit of controversy surrounding founder [Maulana (Ron)] Karenga and his ties to a Black Nationalist party during the Civil Rights era, during which he reportedly held some Anti-Semitic beliefs. One of the other issues is that Kwanzaa is thought to be a â€˜secular’ holiday â€“ that only blacks can celebrate it (on a side note, when researching for this post it was amazing how many websites I came across that called the holiday racist â€“ and some other rather unflattering language).
There is a growing concern that Kwanzaa is becoming too commercialized which is more of a concern than you would think, as Kwanzaa is considered a cultural practice, which in theory no one should profit from. Also, commercialization goes against the seven principles that Kwanzaa is founded on. Some naysayers have charged that the holiday is grounded in Marxist principles, and while that might be a tad harsh, there are certain trains of thought within the holiday that do have a more â€˜socialist’ bent than other cultural observances. But like many other culturally-grounded holidays, it is open to anyone to celebrate not only the holiday, but to observe the seven principles in that the holiday is centered on. The focus is that the holiday should be respected for what it is â€“ a time for unification and the reaffirmation of values geared to build self-empowerment within the African Diaspora.
From President Bush’s official White House Kwanzaa greetings:
Established in 1966, Kwanzaa is celebrated each year as an opportunity for African Americans to honor African traditions of family, community, and culture. During the seven days leading up to the New Year, millions of individuals reflect on the past and renew their commitment to the principles of Kwanzaa — unity, self determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.
As family and friends gather to celebrate Kwanzaa, our citizens are reminded of the many African Americans who have contributed their talent and strength to this great Nation. I commend those observing this holiday for taking pride in your rich heritage. May the coming year be filled with the blessings of health and happiness.
I’m hoping to avoid what Christina at feministe calls the”We’re So Lefty But We Can Make Fun of Kwanzaa Anyways”spirit today.