Colonialism is a challenging issue. I've learned that the first step into multicultural work is awareness. Awareness before action. The awareness around Colonialism may be disturbing for you, as it is for me. My hope is that, as a community, we can open a conversation on this topic, working toward a forum for truth and reconciliation, as has occurred in other communities. Thank you for joining the conversation.
How little I knew...
Of all the forms of prejudice and oppression I learned about growing up, I never grasped the horrible genocide that was foundational to the birth of the country I call home. It never occurred to me that "manifest destiny" "land of the free and home of the brave" and "westward expansion" were all euphemisms for ethnic cleansing, the willful intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group (part of the UN's definition of genocide). The colonial policies of the US are an integral part of our government and our political philosophy and drive how the US operates in the world.
I may not be responsible for what my ancestors did in creating the current day United States, but I am responsible for the society that I live in, which is a product of that past. I bear responsibility for the impacts of that history on those who have and still suffer from past policy. It is my responsibility, no matter how painful it is, to recognize the unearned privilege I have, paid for by the lives of millions who were oppressed, tortured and murdered in that history.
How do I begin to think about reconciliation and reparation?
Book recommendation... a difficult read. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz offers a well documented history of the United States told from the perspective of Indigenous peoples. A very different history from what most of us learned in school, this book starts with the corn-based Indigenous cultures that existed 10,000 years ago, detailing the development of thousands of city-states and small tribal communities, and then recounts how European colonialism forced it's way across the land. Broken promises, defied treaties and outright invasion occurred time and time again. A hard read, but an important one.
Why SHAME isn't helpful...
It is common for members of non-target groups (male, white, straight, European ancestry, etc.) to feel shame as they dive into multicultural work and become more aware of their privilege. That shame can then create defensive responses that can hinder empathic understanding and true multicultural competencies. Here's some awareness that may help you step out of shame and into growth and connection:
Which are these statements are true for you?:
(from Thomas S. Griggs, Ph.D. - see Griggs Leadership)
1. I was born and raised here.
2. I was deeply programmed as I grew up.
3. I did not choose my parents, my hometown or my early education.
4. I did not create the movies, TV and advertising I was exposed to.
5. I am not to blame for what I was taught, or what I caught.
6. Even now, this programming is all around me.
7. I did not wake up one morning and choose to oppress anyone.
8. I do desire to learn and grow.
9. I am proud of myself for surviving and choosing to be aware.
10. I am glad I am here with you on this discovery.
Truth & Reconciliation Commissions(TRC) began in Latin America in the '70s and '80s, then played an important role in South Africa with the end of apartheid. The first TRC in the US was in North Carolina in 1979 with the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In 2009, Canada chose to establish a national truth and reconciliation commission to examine historic racist violence against its indigenous peoples. Canadian TRC programs continue to lead the way in addressing the impacts of colonialism.
Would you like to join a conversation around colonialism? We have some great local resources and experts on colonialism and we're looking into creating a workshop to have this conversation. Please let me know if you are interested. (email@example.com).
The Danger of a Single Story:Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie speaks of the danger of holding a single story about people different than us; how it keeps us from the understanding and connection possible when we acknowledge the complexity of the human experience. Watch this short Ted Talk here.
The Purification & Renewal Ceremony
The Lodge The Sweat
Whatever we call it, when is it cultural appropriation?
Are we justified in using one piece from a culture without acknowledging and honoring the steep price that culture has paid to survive, especially when our culture has been the one to inflict that price? Does one man's gifting change that? Or is this more privilege rearing it’s ugly head? Reasonable questions?