Decolonizing Whiteness: Doing Our Own Work

In response to the outbreak of violent white supremacy in Charlottesville, Virginia (only one of countless thousands of such violent outbreaks), this is the first of a series called ‘Decolonizing Whiteness: Doing Our Own Work’. We look at the ways Whiteness was constructed historically—and thus colonized—by Capitalism and the Corporate State to both strip european people of a meaningful identity and culture, and to use us as tools for violence, oppression and colonization of people of colour. Deconstructing Whiteness and white privilege, we gain insight, or clear seeing that white supremacy is a system of racialized privilege and oppression, and what we both gain and lose from that system. By Decolonizing Whiteness, we become deeply and personal invested in the project of disempowering white supremacy, racism, and the colonization of indigenous people of colour. We can then authentically enter the arena of working along-side Black, Indigenous and People of Colour to end racism, patriarchy and colonization. We work with people of colour to end racial oppression because we want to end the exploitation of our lives as a weapon of systemic oppression.

The following is a selection from the website Awakening the Horse People: Writings and Resources for People of European Heritage/Decolonization, Ancestral Recovery and Indigenation.

Why Decolonize?

spiritual-emptiness“Do you know the people you come from?”

This is the one question most commonly asked by the world’s Indigenous peoples to people of European heritage. For the large majority of us in America, Europe, and elsewhere, the honest answer beyond simple genealogy is, “I don’t know.”

Unfortunately, this not knowing is part of a deep disconnection that has serious consequences for ourselves and others.

Traditional Indigenous people understand this unknowing lies at the heart of the political, social, and economic systems that have caused, and continue to cause, colonization and genocide of their people as well as destruction of life on Mother Earth.

At the personal level, the lack of being rooted in a culture of place brings spiritual disconnection, shallow sense of self, and historical trauma from the lost ancestral roots and lost ways of life that shaped our physical, emotional, and spiritual health for tens of thousands of years.

People of European heritage are often called  hungry ghosts  because we don’t know ourselves. This trauma of disconnection is profound, causing us to constantly grab for anything of spiritual meaning – even if it does not belong to us.  This taking leads to cultural theft and appropriation, spiritual materialism, and the silencing of authentic native voices.  Worse, we spread this dysfunction to others, including People of Color of various origins, through the dominance of Western cultural values.

Indigenous people are asking us to heal ourselves, so we can redevelop a deeply rooted cultural identity that brings about respect for ourselves and our relatives on Mother Earth. This healing also builds the understanding necessary for us to listen with compassion and speak with integrity to Indigenous people as we begin the painful conversations necessary to grow healing between people. We must take responsibility for our past, so we can create a healthy future for all people.

In summary, decolonization is a powerful process that allows us to:

  • Re-connnect with the places we come from, and the ways of life that shaped our ancestor’s experience and continue to live hidden within ourselves;
  • Reawaken the identity of who we are in a line of people from ancient ancestors to future generations;
  • Restore a sacred way of life through relationships with the animals, plants, and other living relatives who made our lives possible;
  • Transform from allies to true relatives in anti-racist action, solidarity work, and resistance struggles of Indigenous people and other people of color;
  • Make healing of historic traumas possible for ourselves, and for Indigenous people who suffer from colonization and genocide.

Renewal, Remembrance, and Resistance for Decolonizing People of European Heritage

If we don’t consciously and actively define who and what we are, the world will define who we are for us – using all of its distorted projections and colonial value systems to keep us domesticated and impotent. Without resistance, colonialism will continue to steal the real lives, identities, gifts, roles, and cultural lifeways of Indigenous peoples, as well as the Indigenous spirit that still lives inside of us. To bring this spirit out of dormancy, we must be prepared to do whatever is asked of us by our ancestors and the land itself to create the conditions that allow for our original languages and cultures to revitalize and reawaken in the present day and for future generations.

Deep movements of decolonization allow for the self-knowledge and cultural competency to begin to discern more healthy relationships from those that perpetuate unhealthy and exploitative power dynamics created by colonialism. Knowing our own hearts and stories, as well as learning our own Indigenous language and reawakening our cultural lifeway in relationship to place creates the possibility of relating with Indigenous peoples in different ways than simply being a culturally ignorant settler on stolen land allows.

When we remember our ancestral ways of being and the place-based protocols of respect that grow and nurture healthier relationships with life, we regain the self-respect, deep love, and desire to be in honorable relationship with other beings. We can genuinely embody who we were meant to be as culturous peoples in a place, moving past white guilt, forgetfulness, and shame into radical acts of transformation that allow us to honor the gift of creating relations with other Indigenous peoples and life forms – including strong, loving acts of togetherness and resistance.

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