As you find yourself reading this article, you might have some questions; you might be asking yourself, what in heaven is Colonialism?
Or if you “think” that you already know the answer, then the next natural question will be…
Didn’t that happen a long time ago, actually centuries ago?
Why are we still talking about it? Why should I care? And what does Colonialism have to do with systemic racism and/or self-worth?
Let’s put it this way: if we can understand colonization and the psychological effects, then we’ll be stepping in the right direction in our quest to create a more just and diverse society.
The first challenge we are facing today, is that a big majority don’t understand how something that happened hundreds of years ago is still impacting us deeply today.
How is Colonialism still impacting me as a minority? My daughter and my son? How do they look at themselves, and how does that correlate with their sense of self-worth or lack of self-worth?
How is it still impacting the lives of millions of Black Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, Asians, and any other non-white minority group, here at home, and around the globe?
More importantly, how has Colonialism become so deeply embedded in our communities, schools, government and “law and order” institutions, resulting in the killing, the deaths of millions throughout history?
It has created a structure of powerful media and interest-based institutions and corporations having a specific agenda that promotes an atmosphere of fear and hate, fomenting racial division and discrimination in very subtle and almost unnoticeable ways.
Yet, there is the idea that because it happened so many centuries ago, then, Colonialism is no longer relevant. This is a very biased point of view considering how other events that happened thousands of years ago are still very relevant in our current lives. Take Christianity, for instance, just for the sake of making the point. You must agree that Christian values have shaped the way we do things in America today.
Most of our reactions, impulses, behaviors, and beliefs are shaped by experiences from many years ago, during our early childhood and teenage years, and of course, by inherited societal beliefs and structures. Therefore, from an empirical viewpoint, the past is very relevant when speaking about our present.
The challenge is that a large majority of people will say, “I don’t dwell in the past” or “we just have to move on with our lives,” “we must let it go.” However, it is also the truth that if we don’t take the time to reflect on our historical background and how we ended up here today, then, we are destined to keep repeating a history plagued with inequality, injustice, discrimination and systemic racism.
We tend to repeat what we have forgotten or haven’t processed and integrated into our lives. Most of the time, we miss the point of the experience precisely because we haven’t taken the time to look back and see what we have learned so far. Instead, the excuse of “I don’t want to dwell in the past” is used, and we miss a great deal of understanding about ourselves, our history, our ancestors, and the environment, which have shaped our sense of identity as a society and as individuals.
In his book, Psychology & Religion, Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, one of the most influential psychiatrists of all time, said, “as a matter of fact, I believe that an experience is not even possible without reflection, because “experience” is a process of assimilation, without which there could be no understanding.”
From that premise, we must realize that it is critical for us to understand our history before we attempt to change. We must travel back in time to learn from our past as a collective group of people who have experienced oppression, discrimination and suppression in many forms. One of them is Colonization.
I’ll present the facts and allow you to make your own conclusion. And yes, some of you might have a subtle belief that I might be biased because I’m a direct product of the process of colonization. And no, this does not disqualify me from shedding some light on the subject. On the contrary, it makes me an expert because I have empirical experience, meaning I have a deeper understanding precisely because I’m the product of colonization and systemic discrimination.
So, no, I will not allow those who believe that I should not express my viewpoints because of this perceived bias to tell me that I should move on with my life and forget the past. In reality, what is happening is that I’m making you uncomfortable, namely feeling like a “bad person” or a “good person,” depending on where you “think” you fit into this picture.
Then, let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room, let’s try to remove the labels. Let’s keep an open mind and allow each other to learn from our past so that our kids don’t have to repeat it, regardless of where you “think” you might fall into the picture now.
This is not about taking it personally and canceling one another out. Instead, this is about having a deep desire to understand the systemic challenges that we inherited. These systems bring about discrimination and racism because of deep-subtle biases that we don’t fully understand and don’t know how to navigate.
Yet, we can see the damage caused to very specific groups, namely, minority groups. If we can keep “an open mind” for understanding, maybe, just maybe, we can do something to change it. It’s about you, and it’s about me and how we can begin healing ourselves together. The healing process will allow us to see things more clearly to create a better place for our kids to flourish as a truly diverse and more colorful and happier nation.
Are you interested now?
So, what is Colonialism after all?
According to Sumie Okazaki, E.J.R. David, and Nancy Abelmann, from the University of Illinois and University of Alaska Anchorage, “Colonialism is a specific form of oppression. An increasingly rich literature explores how the colonial subject is made through elaborate systems that measure, compare, and explain the human difference; these are the processes that justify the colonizer’s radical imposition on ‘inferior’ people in need of intervention. Colonial regimes are elaborated discursively by differentiating between the colonizer’s ‘superior’ or ‘more civilized’ ways of life and the colonized people’s allegedly ‘inferior’ or ‘savages.’*
*(from the University of Illinois and Alaska Anchorage, © 2007 The Authors Journal Compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Social and Personality Psychology Compass 2/1 (2008): 90–106, 10.1111/j.1751-9004.2007.00046.x Colonialism and Psychology of Culture)
Now, take a moment, take a deep breath. Release any preconceived ideas of what you thought Colonialism was, have an open mind. Let’s imagine for a moment the following headlines:
“An insurrectionist mob of Black and Latino protesters breached the Capitol.”
Had the mob who breached Capitol Hill been Black or brown, what would be the consequences?
For one, the headlines would be so much different. A massacre with hundreds dead and arrests would have occurred. Sadly, this is not hard to picture; we just have to look at the evidence. The double standard on how governmental institutions and law enforcement respond are very different when comparing BLM with White Supremacist Terrorism. This is not something new, historically speaking, this has always been the case.
According to BLM Global Network, “Black American protest is often met by hundreds of arrests, assault rifles, shields, tear gas, and battle helmets.” On the other hand, when the white supremacist mob breached capitol hill, they found easy access, no arrests, and a huge lack of accountability.
You must be blind if you cannot see the inequality so deeply rooted in our collective consciousness.
Inequalities that are rooted in racial concepts of superiority and inferiority that we inherited from our turbulent past. One group feels superior to the point of subjugating other groups into submission using violence, phycological means creating animosity among groups and perpetuating a sense of inferiority that runs deep to a cellular level.
The consequences of our past are very serious, where one person’s very life is devalued or overvalued based on racial differences. When the highest house in the land is presided by a president who called BLM Protesters ‘thugs’ but has a soft heart for the mob of insurgents that stormed through the Capitol hill calling them ‘Very Special.’
What if I tell you that this is how Colonialism works?
A group of people feels entitled to their views because they have behaved this way for millennia and in doing so, gain immeasurable power with zero accountability for their actions. And this is not something unique to our country. Imagine doing this on a large scale, to entire towns, villages, countries, and entire continents. Through generations, they had convinced themselves that they are superior. And if you attempt to disagree, they will use force, burn your house to the ground, disperse your family, imprison and slave you for the only reason that someone else sees you as a “savage,” and they must “educate you” for the greatest good. Teach you a new language, a new value system, a new religion, and a new way of healing.
And for what reason?
Who gave them permission for such atrocities? One idea, and one idea ONLY: that “my way of being is better and superior to yours.”
After many centuries of conditioning, the sense of inferiority creeps into your skin like a virus from which you are already immune. You have this pervasive feeling that something is wrong with you, but you don’t know what it is. So, you refuse to teach your kids your native language because you don’t want them to feel different. You disregard and even feel ashamed of your own cultural values to adopt “higher/modern” ways of life.
You become afraid to express different ways to practice your spiritual beliefs, ancestral traditions, and customs because they seem inferior, uncivilized, sinful, or just wrong. In the process of colonization, “they,” the one believing to be superior, have raped your soul and stripped you out of the last sense of who you are.
Then, the inferiority complex takes a life of its own and embeds itself into your DNA, where we transfer it from generation to generation and deep-rooted fear that you don’t understand. I’m now part of a society that I helped create based on biases, limited information, taboos, and beliefs that do not allow me to explore myself fully; who I am as an individual and my ancestral power.
Now with limited information, you and I are helping shape a society based on the “right type of knowledge or a better way” “a more refined way” that is usually centered on Eurocentric views of the world, where being “white” is better than being of brown or black skin, even if I’m brown myself.
I perceive major elements of my life from one point of view only and dismiss anything else as myth or ignorance. Then, it comes to a point where I no longer need any colonizers to tell me what to do because my sense of self has already been colonized many generations ago.
It’s like a kid who has been bullied his entire life; at one point, the traumas and hurts were so frequent and deep that he just got used to it. Now, he even feels like justifying the bully and concluded that, “maybe the bully was right all along, I deserved the punishment.”
The bottom line is that when colonized, you are stripped of your identity, your values, your spiritual beliefs; you get separated from your roots and brainwashed into believing that your ancestors were savages, and therefore, the genocide such as what happened to our native Taino’s of the Caribbean, was justifiable, and never acknowledge in any of our history books.
In the USA and other countries, human trafficking and slavery was a normal practice, where Black lives were viewed as material property and were not considered humans. We are still suffering the consequences of such views. Go ahead and read The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander, and you will see how people of color have been relegated to a second class citizenship for generations.
When Marianne Williamson, during the political campaign, talked about the atonement that needs to happen in our country, many made fun of her. The reality is, as she said, that the USA has some atoning to do. “Only in atoning for our errors are we released from their karmic consequence. Until then, there are no guns, no bombs, no worldly force whatsoever that can save us from the effects of our own thoughts and actions. Abraham Lincoln’s words in declaring a National Day of Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer in 1864 reach across the ages to us today.” Marianne Williamson
It pained me deeply that this is the reality that we live in. As an immigrant who chose freely to become a citizen of this beautiful country we call the USA, I can appreciate that this country is indeed filled with opportunities that are not so accessible in another part of the world. It’s the truth that this country is founded on the idea of freedom of speech and expression, including religious expression. But it’s also the truth that our beloved country is plagued with contradictions and double standards.
We consider ourselves to be the greatest country on Earth. However, if you consider yourself to be the greatest at anything, there is no room for growth. Therefore, the first atonement that needs to happen is a reality check.
Much healing needs to happen in our country before calling ourselves the “greatest” at anything. And this does not mean that I don’t love the USA. It’s precisely because I love this country and its ideal of freedom that I openly say that we must begin a process of atonement and healing.
We only have two hundred years of history, meaning we are a young nation; and as a young nation, we have a lot to learn. There is no shame in acknowledging that.
God bless the United States of America and our path ahead so we can form a new identity so our collective soul can find a home in this beautiful land once and for all. Where we can see each other as brothers and sisters regardless of our skin color, sexual orientation, gender or spiritual views. So, we can finally become a more colorful and joyful nation for many generations to come.
Identity Magazine is all about guiding women to discover their powers of Self-Acceptance, Appreciation, and Personal Achievement.
We ask that every contributor and expert answer the Identity questions in keeping with our theme. Their answers can be random and in the moment or they can be aligned with the current article they have written. In that way, and as a team, we hope to encourage and motivate each other, thus inspiring you to Get All A’s.
1. What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? Additionally, what are you still working on accepting? Now, we’re not talking about resignation, rather stepping into, embraced, and owned.
That everything happens for a reason – the law of Cause and effect is always at work. Additionally, what are you still working on accepting? Now, we’re not talking about resignation, rather stepping into, embraced, and owned.
Well if everything happens for a reason, then I learned to accept things for what they are without the need to fight them. Allow the learning to take place and letting things flow. This is called mindfulness.
2. Appreciation is everything. What have you learned to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? On the other hand OR in contrast, are there elements of who you are that you’re still working on appreciating?
Throughout my years of experiences and learning, I became to realize how powerful and amazing we truly are as human beings. We are pure potential, but that potential can be active or dormant, and so I’m working on appreciating and activating my full potential, which means putting myself out there, and learning to appreciate my flaws and shortcomings
3. Share with us one of your most rewarding achievements in life? Tell us not only what makes YOU most proud but also share the goals and dreams that you still have.
The most rewarding is appreciating the fact that you are alive here and now.. and finding the magic and beauty in the simple things. I’m proud of my kids, they are just beautiful human beings.
Well my mission is spreading happiness in the middle of the chaos, so there is a lot of work that needs to be done, especially with young adults who are suffering so much with a sense of disconnect, which causes anxiety and depression