What is colonization?
To de-colonize, it’s important to first understand what colonialism is.
The dictionary gets right to the point:
colonialism (n): the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically
Succinct…and objective af. What the definition doesn’t mention is how bad colonialism is. And colonialism is very, very bad.
Here’s my edited version:
colonialism (n): the very awful policy or brutal practice of
acquiringstealing/forcing full or partialpolitical, physical, and/or mental control over another country or region or peoples, violently occupying it with their ideologies and settlers (themselves often colonized and/or forced from their lands) and exploiting it economically for the benefit of the colonizers and utter destruction of nature and people.
Colonization is forcing people from their land, taking away one’s language, customs, beliefs, choices, often to replace them with a dominant belief (Christianity; capitalism). It is rape and murder and abuse and resource extraction; it is McDonalds, Amazon, Wal-Mart, Facebook, and Disney. It is planet- and spirit- destroying; it is species extinction. It is the imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy. It is all around us, a part of every industrial system on this planet.
You can compare colonialism to coronavirus. It gets everywhere, moves fast, kills humans, ruins economies, and no one is immune.
Colonialism isn’t just a virus. Colonialism is trauma. For most of us, it is the original trauma. And it’s passed down, generation after generation, a wound that grows and festers and deepens.
But colonialism, unlike a virus, is man-made. Which means if we wanted to, we could stop it. Right now. End colonialism. But unfortunately, “the legacy of colonialism is baked into every facet of every culture on the planet” and we all know you can’t unbake a cake. Or can we?
Good news! We can un-bake this cake.
All we need to do is decolonize.
The current system—the imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy, the “interlocking systems of domination that define our reality” is unjust. Born into this system that our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents were born into, we internalize the actions, thoughts, words, and mentality of colonialism and thus become colonizers (abusers) ourselves.
We end this cycle of abuse by decolonizing, by rejecting and replacing this system with love.
We decolonize to heal ourselves, our homes, our communities, the land. We decolonize to understand that others are colonized, too. We decolonize to empathize, to reject individualism and become part of a global community. We decolonize to connect to each other, to stop hurting each other. We decolonize to replace hate with love.
But isn’t decolonizing an Indigenous thing?
Nope. Not at all.
Everyone needs to decolonize. Even settlers. Especially settlers. After all, we were colonized, too.
If you don’t think so, ask yourself these questions: do you speak the same language as your grandma did as a child? Does she speak the same language as her great-grandmother?
Do you live in the same place your parents grew up? How about your great-grandparents?
Can you name the first people who lived on the land you now call home? What did they call that land? “Can you name the territory and nation your grandmothers were born on?”
How many bird species can you name that visit your neighbourhood? Zero? One? Ten? Now, how many Netflix shows can you name? How many sports teams? How many brands?
How many of those sports teams use misappropriated Indigenous names while playing their sport on stolen Indigenous land?
Anyway, hopefully you get it.
How do I decolonize?
All healing journeys are personal. How anyone decolonizes is ultimately up to them.
What I want to share is my healing journey in the hopes it may help or inform yours.
I decolonize by asking myself the great questions of life: Where do I come from? Where am I going? Why am I here? Who am I?
I put my answers into positive actions.
As I knit, I practice mindfulness.
Knitting is healing in action. Each stitch is a step on my journey.
A stitch, a step, a word, a seed. Each of these tiny things can become something bigger: the tool to decolonize.