Many of the First American protests against the 1% as well as some radical groups in the Bay Area and Northwest use the imprecation ‘Decolonize!’ rather than ‘Occupy!’ Black writers like those at BAR speak to the theme of colonization, and I’ve been increasingly aware of the shift in perspective it might take for a white person to understand some of the reasoning behind that choice.
There have even been discussions at some of the West Coast and NY Occupys about changing to a Decolonize! Theme, but while there was often great understanding for the reasons, rebranding the movement wasn’t seen as viable or wise to enough at the GA’s involved. So, different protestors use the word on their signs, and I love it.
Their argument against Occupy are basically two-fold: First Americans are peeved that Anglo protestors seem to forget that the United States is a stolen, therefore, an already Occupied land, and second, they see Occupation as a tool of Empire, thus objectionable. Both are interesting points, but the first one especially resonates with me. This piece at racialiscious.com makes the case for ‘decolonize’ (too bad he quotes M. Malkin).
While listening again to the poignant song in the video below, it occurred to me that it was an easy way to enable us to peer into the memory and imaginings of those still suffering from earlier Imperial Colonization.
Xavier Rudd, who wrote the song (h/t: O.B.), is an Australian ecological and Aboriginal rights activist. Indigenous Australians are believed to have originated in southeastern Asia between 40 and 60,000 yeas ago, and were conquered and forced off their lands by the British beginning in 1788 at Botany Bay. Those who refused to leave their lands for designated reservations were killed; the remaining half of the Indigenous people were felled by smallpox brought by their conquerors. Recent lawsuits for return of ancient land claims have brought some, but limited, results. (Decolonize the Black Hills! Leaps to mind.)
As with our First American population, decimated by genocides, brutal death-dealing ‘relocations’ to reservations, they have been left culturally, financially and spiritually wounded, in a wasteland between the Anglo world and their ancestral spiritual origins and identities.
It’s all to easy to imagine the Old Woman in the song as African American, not as this Aboriginal one who is peering into The Dreamtime, but into their ancestors’ lives in Africa before being stolen, transported and sold as slaves. Or any Indigenous oppressed group around the planet, for that matter.
“the places that we lived, the living that we did
the places we were put, the things we were given*
the things that they took
they took away our pride, and if they didn’t
take our lives, they took away the things that made us feel alive
oooh what have we become, what have we become
oooh how did this become, how did this become
the old woman reflects from the east to the west
she thinks of her grandmother and her grandfather
and the strength that they had”
Imagine, then, whole cultures of people around the world who’ve been turned into second or third-class citizens by oppressors or conquerors, if indeed they were thought of as human at all by the greater societies for centuries, having had stolen the things that made them feel alive. Marginalized by the dominant society, even hidden, as our First American tribes are, or only too visible and noticeable to whites as black Americans so often are. Or never feeling welcomed, or worse: reflexively seen as suspect or inferior by the greater society and institutions that are so dominant in our lives. Or living as targets of the cradle-to-prison pipeline, knowing one’s life expectancy due to violence and poverty has been calculated as very abbreviated in advance of your death. Sobering, to say the least.
Would you effectively want to be someone else through drug and alcohol abuse?
“now she looks to the young
with all their sniffing and their drugs
the drinking that has stolen so many souls
and flooded her sacred blood
she says oooh how did this become,
how did this become
she says oooh the bottle took my son,
it took away my son
she says oooh where we going to run,
what have we become?”
Reservations are too often now about desperate poverty and unemployment, drugs, gangs, alcoholism, nuclear waste, coal power generation and mining…too many urban ghettoes are the equivalent, and it’s clear: They have about zero representation in government, and all of these facts are working just find for some lawmakers. Consider how many people of color are spending life in prison as Political Prisoners because someone had to take the fall, or else it’s crucial that they be silenced (STFU incarceration). Nor do they have enough representation in the activist world, imo, although some Occupy General Assemblies are working toward fixing that feature.
But at least some First Americans are fighting back now, only too aware that they’ll never receive justice from their government, as proven recently when the mineral royalties owed to tribes by extractive mining and energy companies were stolen a second time. The first time was arranged by the late 19th Century Dawes Act arranging for their royalties being held in the Indian Trust by a corrupt Federal Government that (Oops; sorry) …lost them…lost $170 billion of their estimated collective wealth? And finally, with a black Democratic as President, his administration cared so very much for their futures that they settled the account for pennies on the dollar?
And now in 2012, their lands and water rights are still being stolen, only when Congress steals, it’s called ‘legal’. When their ground, air and water are being poisoned by mining even in 2012 it’s just ‘job-creating capitalism’ at work, so fuck off, Indians.
When Hispanics can be deported in some states for not having the right papers in their pockets proving they’re citizens or here on work visas, and school districts outlaw their own histories being taught to them, and declared illegal as ‘promoting resentment of a race or class of people’, would those things not foster resentment and rage toward a race and class of people?
If urban gentrification uprooted your family from its house or apartment, or you were aced out of voting rights by modern poll taxes, wouldn’t you be pissed? And if you saw the extent to which the Black Political Class had been colonized to the point that they supported the first American black President to the point of not goading him into vast stimulus programs for job creation, or actually designing a program to help the underwater home mortgages that were fraudulently sold to them, and serviced by corrupt organizations like MERS, and instead of prosecutions, those banks and companies were hit with fines instead, wouldn’t you probably feel as though you and your labor had been colonized by a government so entwined with Big Business you can scarcely tell them apart? Mightn’t you consider yourself ripped off, knowing that American public education was being ‘assaulted by corporate’ financialization through public/private charter schools, knowing education was traditionally one way out of poverty for you?
Were you part of the racial demographic that capitalist, profit-driven law-makers, with the aid of groups like ALEC, obscenely targets in order to fill private prisons, you might believe that ‘decolonizing the prison system’ is a worthy theme; even some of us Whiteys do.
The examples and indictments of colonization could go on forever, but I will end by asking you to consider how much we now share, and will share further soon, with The Colonized, as we face the need for a Second American revolution, not to decolonize from King George, but from the Oligarchs and Plutocrats who not only to rule the globe with their NeoLiberal Imperial Dreams, but us as well, steal our capital, hope, futures, imprison us at will for our Inconvenient Dissidence, and yes, even kill us with injustice, poverty and lack of medical care, not to mention the massive security apparatus they have been building to keep us from doing so.
We must learn why it’s so crucial to make Solidarity with everyone feeling the need to resist, none more than those who have been under this same gun for hundreds of years, and are in more desperate need of relief than you and I.
‘What have we become’ is an apt question as to how it came to be; and what have those whom we allow to rule us become is a question whose answer we need to spread far and wide across the land; to many are still living their lives in utter ignorance still. Occupy! Resist! Decolonize!
*Government commodities as promises for leaving the land; seldom honored for long.