Reflection on decolonization

This short piece is taken from a comment I recently wrote from a class on Transitional Justice, changed slightly to make sense outside of this context.

Sometimes I reflect on what it means to be a descendant of colonialism. What it means to be a descendant of histories of violence and trauma that have shaped one’s identity today, along one’s beliefs, about themselves, others, what kind of relationships to have and not have, how to love, how to hate (yourself) …

And often this reflection has felt pointless. What is the point in reflecting on such ‘normal’ things? In other words, what is the point in thinking on such structural forms of violence, where no way out is obvious or easy to attain, and where your own communities may lash out at you for daring to change what they have forgotten is a colonially imposed order?

I also realize my privilege in this reflection. For some, what it means to be a descendant of colonialism is painfully obvious. For example, there is the image of what it means to live as an Indigenous person in Canada, told in numbers of lost, murdered, broken bodies – “this is what structural violence looks like,” how it is lived. I am lucky, in an utterly absurd way, in the fact that I have not had this experience.

Though of course, structural colonial violence rears its head in a different way in my own communities. There was the poverty faced by my mother. The loss of a parent for both my mom and dad, as their fathers were compelled, you can say even forced, into the diaspora in order to provide enough for their families. There are Filipina women lured in into caregiver work, abuses untold, and where told they become cautionary tales for other women instead of a clear sign that something terribly wrong must be stopped. There are those who live hating their skin, language, culture, wanting to adapt and become white instead of brown, instead of the other.

What does decolonization look like. What does it mean to hold, breathe, live histories and experiences of violence and trauma inside of you. What does it mean for this to change. What does it mean to change this life that we have. That was forced upon us. That we somehow have the power to change.

I think it is here that Leanne Simpson and Glen Coulthard speak brilliantly and proudly on resentment and healing within their own communities, and where things like the need to collaborate between communities, to understand mutual pains and so mutual ways of healing, is so crucial.

I think, amidst my questions and confusion, that I’ll begin with the premise that decolonization is the ability to voice, instrumentalize resentment, and do it for oneself in connection to one’s community.

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