Decolonization is Not a Metaphor: The Basics of a Genuine Anti-Colonial Position

Maehkōn Ahpēhtesewen

The purpose of this short article is to put to the pen a number of thoughts that have been working themselves out in my head recently about the default eurocentrism of the north amerikan left and the necessity for a genuinely anti-colonial positionality. I have been attempting to working out these ideas for myself regarding just what exactly such a position would look like. 

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(In French) Notes on White Settlers Who Romanticize and Instrumentalize Discourses of Indigenous Resilience

(In French) Public Note on White Settlers Who Romanticize and Instrumentalize Discourse of Indigenous Resilience

Note Ouverte sur les Settlers Blancs Qui Répètent Convenablement Les Discours de Résilience  Autochtone 

Le rappeur Samian est un leader et un figure importante au Québec et pour les communautés autochtones. Récemment, due aux multiples tragédies qui ont pris place à la communauté du Lac-Simon dans le nord du Québec, (deux heures de ou que j’ai grandi), il a publié un message public d’espoir et de résilience sur son facebook. Les premières lignes disent que la jeunesse autochtone doit cesser de ‘blâmer les blancs’. Ce message de résilience et d’espoir, que je ne peux pas critiquer en tant que tel, est dédié aux autochtones.

Le problème, c’est que plusieurs blancs sont entrain de partager cet publication, des milliers en fait. Ils dominent aussi la section des commentaires, en disant qu’ils ont des amis autochtones, qu’ils ne voient pas la couleur de la peau, qu’on est tous humains. Sur mon feed, j’ai vu des personnes endorser ce message, les mêmes personnes qui ne disent jamais rien à propos de ce sujet normalement.

Ce n’est pas vraiment notre place, même si il y a une discussion a avoir aux alentours de ce sujet,  Si ces approches sont utiles et guérissantes pour ceux affecté(es), tant mieux. Si elles peuvent aider la jeunesse à avoir confiance en soi, tant mieux. Mais je veux parler des implications quand ce sont les autres qui répètent ces discours.

Je vais continuer d’avoir un problème avec les discours et les approches qui stipulent que ‘le problème ‘autochtone’ au Canada’ est interne, qu’il suffit que certaine personnes autochtones ‘ait de l’honneur’ ou qu’ils ‘arrêtent de prendre des substances’ lorsqu’elle sont adoptées et répétées par des personnes non-autochtones. Premièrement, c’est un peu trop cupide et ‘self-serving’ pour des blancs de sauter sur l’argument des ‘communautés endommagées’.

Cette approche est d’une logique alignée avec le néoliberalisme qui dit que de base, un individuel, peu importe sa place dans la société, peut faire face à n’importe quel obstacle s’il est assez fort et résilient. Si, par contre, la personne n’est pas ‘assez forte et résiliente’ au gout, tout les malheurs dans sa vie devienne aussi sa faute personelle. Le danger de cette logique est qu’elle peut être utilisée pour blâmer les victimes en les imaginant en dehors d’un context (très clair) de marginalization et de dépossession qui existe depuis des siècles ici. On dit ‘ignore les remarques racistes’, ‘tu es meilleur que ca’. on assume que les humains peuvent seulement ‘être fort’ que s’ils ou elles ne démontrent pas que quelque chose les blessent, s’ils ou elles prétendent que les choses blessantes vont disparaître si on leur ne donne pas d’attention.

On pathologise (rendre quelquechose une maladie) et criminalise l’abus de substance, la pauvreté, les moyens de survie et les moyens de gérer l’existence utilisé par un individuel tandis qu’on ignore de façon commode les montagnes qui pèsent sur les épaules de certains. Cette approche demande aussi le silence de certaine injustices, invisibilise la douleur, la réalité des traumatismes inter-générationels, normalise les politiques coloniales du présent et le plus important, le fait que les blancs continuent de bénéficier, aujourd’hui, du colonialisme dans le passé et dans le présent. Cette approche rassure les blancs qu’ils ont pas nécessairement de responsabilité dans tout cela. Que nous, on a pas de ‘travail interne’ à faire. Nos ancêtres ont travaillés assez fort, n’est ce pas? Au cas de grand doute, on peut pointer à notre ‘grand-mère Indienne’ très éloignée. Ca rassure, n’est ce pas, d’avoir une personne autochtone dire qu’on a rien à voir avec les vérités que le Québec et le Canada essaient d’effacer, de contenir.

En fait, on est jamais partis, so ca la fini depuis quand?
‪#‎PositionNonPopulaireEtCestBinNormal‬ 

#NotYourFeelGoodPost

#LacSimon

 

Voir aussi cette réponse: Petit atelier de sensibilisation pour toutes les Denise Bombardier du Québec

 

(White) Settler Futurity with Bloody Hands on Stolen Land

Memory is short when it comes to your futurity [1]. Imagination is productive when it comes to your futurity, to your innocence.

by Trycia Bazinet, UnsettlingAsExistence.wordpress.com

Given who I am, I will only speak of white settlers. This is not to contribute to the erasure, but many discussions about non-whites folks on Turtle Island exist by (and for) POC & WOC. Check out Rita Dhamoon [2], for example.

White Settler Futurity is the most important future that is catered to, in the world, and on Turtle Island. It is given the most resources, and it is afforded in the status quo. It is the everyday upholding of the privileges created from colonialism and continued occupation that white settlers/occupiers [3] nervously “enjoy”. It is the comfort of knowing that you are stable today and that you will be tomorrow. And so will your kids. It is the comfort of knowing that environmental pollution will probably not affect your area right now, and it is knowing that your kids will not get rashes like on the pictures showing First Nations babies with “mysterious rashes”. It is the comfort of laughing at the thought of deportation being applied to you. How ridiculous does it even sound for a white kanadian or a white american to think of being deported, right? (Even though settler-kanadian institutions deport non-whites canadians everyday).

The few times I have raised the questions for the sake of entertaining the idea, I was immediately met with propos such as;

“It’s against human rights”

“My ancestors have been here for so long”

[Only when this conversation comes] – “I have Indian blood  (always a grand-mother) – I am pretty much Metis” (extremely violent and erasing of the Metis people, nation and culture) [4]

“What? Why don’t you worry about more important stuff (that caters to me or does not disturb my future so I can continue to enjoy settler privileges)”

Whose human rights? Why do you only care about human rights when it is about yours? Who gets to afford human rights? When were they created? By who?

White settler futurity makes everything about itself. Even when it says it does not. Every single step of reconciliation is enacted so that it inadvertently assumes white settler futurity by default. It then manages the rest. Reconciliation takes two; the white settler nation, and the several nations, but now homogenized populations of Aboriginals of Canada. A “nation-to-nation” relationship is White Settler Kanada with its Indigenous peoples, not the many sovereign nations that happens to be within its borders.

White settler privilege is having the privilege to do “what you are passionate about in life”, because, survival and justice is an area of interest, just like any others such as fashion, engineering, sky diving. It is not your lived experience. (although non-white male representation in “area of interest” exist and matters).

In her article, Refusal to Forgive, Flowers [5] takes up the politics of refusal. She explains that Indigenous women can rightfully be in rage, and that settler’s comfort, or selective solidarity, is not welcomed:

 “You will never have my forgiveness as long as land dispossession, domination, and violence are present in the lives of Indigenous peoples; in particular the lives and bodies of Indigenous women and children. The division that currently constitutes our colonial reality is a first and necessary step toward reconciliation on equal terms”

I think that this explains well the notion of “Reconciling in the Apocalypse”, as coined by Erica Violet Lee [6]. My point in bringing this article is that Rachel [5] says that “the settler too must demonstrate a willingness to be refused” and that “the labor of settlers should be to imagine alternative ways to be in relation with Indigenous peoples“. For such a work to even begin, I do not think that white settler futurity can be continued to be undisturbingly assumed. but then, when I want to entertain the idea of voluntarily and consciously trying to give up settler futurity, this usually happens:

“But this Indigenous person/friend of mine told me they want to reconcile, and it also happens to be what I want, so..”

“I do not want to change anything in my life or give up on some privileges; I just feel bad that there are so many injustices against “our” Indigenous people – a bit out of charity , except I am doing it here, not in Africa”

“It’s intersectionality, so I am by default an ally to the Indigenous peoples of Canada” 

“Land acknowledgments are normal in our progressive space- except I don’t know anything about the fact that this land is about to be ceded in a fraudulent way” [7]

“Decolonize everything” (making decolonization into a metaphor) [8]

I think that it is time to be engaged in decolonization for the sake of decolonization. Not to use catchy words in the academia. Not to assume reconciliation; to not assume that we are forgiven as crimes are not done being listed, and as harms against Indigenous lands and (women, girls, two spirits, queer) life continues, as settler-colonialism continues to displace. Existing treaties are constantly disrespected and ignored, we know that.

My point is not “deport all white settlers”. But…it might entail some of it. My point is that white settlers cannot engage in reconciliation if we hold on and exist within structures that are inherently violent.

We must become comfortable and accustomed (but still continuously unsettled – too much comfort means a taming of decolonization) about supporting resurgence and a future that is not about us. The actual outcome of who is welcome to remain on Turtle Island is not for us to determine.

Settler’s relationship to stolen land is by default destructive, it is by default dependent on erasing the Indigenous so that it can fantasize itself as being the real native. Do you know of a settler nation in which the invading nations is parallel and equal to those being invaded? Even a “perfectly” multicultural society is (always white supremacist/anti-black anyway) collapses Indigeneity and concurring sovereignties within “the ethnic” [9].

Even green or radically anti-capitalists movements [10] too often fail to challenge the settler-colonial relationship. They want a clean future for the commons, for everyone, while erasure continues. While “environmental racism” is not EVEN entertained to begin with.

Settling is repeated everyday. It is normalized. It is naturalized. But it is never done. It is never accomplished. It will never be sustainable. You cannot be settling forever, haunting is catching up.No matter how much money is “given up” to communities who are kept dependent, money that was made off the stealing and abuse of their lands, the violent riddance of their ancestors (and slavery) in the first place. Many of today’s occupiers carry their ancestors’ colonial bloodshed, no matter how loud they scream innocent today. A nervous, panicked scream that resonates against their silence about what is happening in the present.

References

[1] Settler Futurity is a term used by professor Eve Tuck 

[2] Rita Dhamoon (2015) A Feminist Approach to Decolonizing Anti-Racism:Rethinking Transnationalism, Intersectionality, and Settler Colonialism in the 4th issue of Feral Feminisms 

[3] Sakej Ward – Decolonizing the Colonizer

[4] On Settlers Claiming Metiness

[5] Rachel Flowers (2015) Refusal to Forgive: Indigenous Women’s Rage

[6] Erica Violet Lee (2016) Reconciling in the Apocalypse 

[7] Land Claims Agreements in Ontario

[8] Tuck & Wayne Yang (2012) Decolonization is Not a Metaphor

[9] Winona Stevenson (1998) “Ethnic” Assimilates “Indigenous”: A Study in Intellectual Neocolonialism 

[10] Barker (2012) Already Occupied: Indigenous Peoples, Settler Colonialism and the Occupy Movements in North America