I really feel it is important for us to learn more about colonizing and colonialism, but I think there needs to be a discussion of what modern colonizing looks like. So often it’s associated with Thanksgiving and the founding of America, we miss how the spirit of colonization lives on throughout our society and systems. Understanding it can help us all understand why Whiteness operates the way it still does in 2019.
We need to understand how the remnants of colonizing hurts Blacks and people of color subjected to it still to this day. I think we all could benefit from modern examples to help us put colonizing into perspective. I would like for my readers to understand our proximity to colonizing in 2019. We can’t achieve equality and equity in America without understanding some mindsets and actions which are stopping us.
And for those of White people who are getting ready to flip the script saying we appropriate White cultures, let me tell you, most of us don’t. Most Blacks and people of color assimilate and code-switch to get our paychecks and to live in peace among White people for a few hours a day without all their biases and judgements. Colonizing (taking land, culture, and power that doesn’t belong to the thief) and forced assimilation (majority groups forcing minority groups to acquire the basic habits, attitudes, and mode of life of the dominant culture) are not the same thing as Black people adopting White culture.
For some Blacks and people of color, permanent assimilation is simpler than code-switching. For others, their parents raised them to be fully assimilated. Some folks enjoy their newly appropriated culture, and that’s perfectly okay, but it’s not representative of most people forced to take part in it.
Colonizing is Theft
White America has a continued fascination with colonizing. Colonizing, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary is 1.) Sending settlers to (a place) and establishing political control over it, 2.) Appropriating (a place or domain) for one’s own use, and 3.) Ecology (of a plant or animal) establishing itself in (an area).
Colonizing is taking, not finding like. Even the Oxford dictionary white washes theft. “Establishing” in this case is a fancy way to define stealing. This is another example of something written by Europeans meant to dismiss the harm they’ve done in the past. Establish is too kind for what colonizing has done to the world. Establishing is still too gentle a word for the things White people continue to do to Black and brown places and spaces today. Taking, settling, appropriating, co-opting or establishing in connection with the remnants of colonizing is stealing.
Taking something that already existed and was already thriving from the owners or previous settlers to make whatever is being stolen the property of the new settlers is how America became a nation.
Everything about America is colonized. Colonization here is about dominance, power, White comfort, and White wealth. We cannot talk about America without talking about colonizing. From Plymouth rock to the election of a character like Donald Trump in 2016, taking from others is perfectly acceptable. Taking from others to enrich White people in America is also as American as apple pie.
Modern Examples of Colonizing
Gentrification is Colonization 2019
The original gentrification of America happened when the Pilgrims arrived on Plymouth Rock. Gentrification is a pretty new name for colonizing (Whitening) places of color. We define gentrification as renovating and improving a house or district so it conforms to middle-class taste. The act as defined by Oxford overlooks all the micro and macro-aggressions which take place leading up to the resettling of existing communities. In order for a community or area to be improved, it would mean something or someone had to already be there in order for them to revitalize or improve (resettle) in the first place.
What gives gentrifiers the right to go into a community and decide it’s not up to their taste? Who decided their taste was the taste that should count? Why does gentrification always seem to mean whitening? Poor and lower-middle class Black and brown people often live amongst each other with no problems for decades. It’s not until White people get involved that things need to change to accommodate their comfort and fears. Then you move in and displace residents who lived in those areas for decades. Smiling all the while with your lattes, cappuccinos, labradoodles, and Lululemon yoga gear in tow. Everything is better when it’s whiter the new settlers believe.
This is a prime example of modern colonizing. Gentrification is a slow theft by Whites in progress that Black people and people of color can’t call 9–1–1 to stop.
Some people live where they live because they desire to escape the unpleasant experiences and discomforts being in Whiteness brings. Their communities is where they find peace, safety, the foods they like, and people who aren’t policing their every move or word. Those communities that were designated for Blacks and people of color to live in by Whites.
So much of our culture nationally has been appropriated from other cultures. For example, Mexican food and Cinco de Mayo have been hijacked by American White people who have absolutely no respect for the day of observance. Some American hate Mexicans so much they want to put up a wall to keep them out, while others love to party and drink so we’ll take your Cinco de Mayo holiday, with no recognition or acknowledgement of what they day is for.
Nationally we just celebrated Thanksgiving when there really is nothing about the holiday to be thankful for. White people celebrate Plymouth colonialists settlers stealing the land from the American Indians and breaking bread with them before they killed them. Indians on their own lands minding their own business accepted the settlers with opened arms, only to be killed. Nothing good ever comes for colonizing. Ever.
Hip hop music, foods, cultures, art forms, portions of religion (i.e. Yoga), clothing, and even words are just a few things in recent history culturally appropriated after being blessed by Whiteness. Whiteness Putting other cultures down until they’ve found a way to personally or financially capitalize from it is exploitation, and White America does that shit better than anyone.
Africans, Negros and American Indians, that’s why. Colonizers turned into settlers, and eventually they got the fancy title of “framers” who worked with states to establish political control over the colored folks of the land. White people have their exerted political control using two major political parties over the years, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.
During the 19th century, the Democratic party was the party that supported slavery and opposed civil rights reforms after the American Civil War to keep the support of Southern voters (White voters with voting rights, of course). The Democratic Party is the oldest political party in the United States with roots dating back to 1792. During the same time-period, the Republican Party stood against the extension of slavery and, ultimately, for slavery’s complete abolition. What to do with Black and brown bodies and dictating what those Blacks and brown bodies can and cannot do has been the primary purpose for both political parties existing.
American politics are rooted in White colonizers establishing state and local political controls over land and people wrongly appropriated. Colonizing spirits still linger in our political parties nationally and locally. It’s why they Black candidates and candidates of color have such a hard time breaking through to represent their people.
Another example, of political colonization is the GOP keeping Black and brown people out of the nation and having the ability to determine which people are of value to America is the epitome of White privilege and an extension of Western colonizing. The Democratic Party is in the process right now of trying to transform the party into something new with no regard for the people of color who have been loyal to it.
Never forget the Christopher Columbus lie, or how political parties pop-up and die, or how White people will leave a political party and take over another one to support White power, ensuring Black and Brown people aren’t doing better than they are (like so many did in 2016). Descendants of colonizers stay active in taking over land, and structures and subjugating people. At some point dominance over groups should recall memories and thoughts of colonialism, but apparently they do not.
They don’t because colonization is imbedded in the DNA of White people just like the trauma resulting from it is imbedded in the DNA of Black and brown and folks.
Oil and Resource Colonizing
Our government loves starting wars to take people’s stuff (at least that’s how Black and Brown people see it), especially in the Middle East and Africa, some of the oldest and wealthiest civilizations in the world. Our colonizing nation even helped destabilize parts of oil rich Latin America because God forbid somebody else wants to be great, rich, and can defend itself against us! America hates when other nations oppose our policies.
Sometimes America doesn’t destabilize the intended targeted nation we’re trying to steal from, our nation will destabilize other nations surrounding the intended target to slowly to cause other issues (i.e. human suffering, immigration and refugee crises). The desired result is the same, and that’s destabilizing, conquering and taking other people’s stuff. Stuff that belonged to Black and brown people who were doing just fine before modern colonizers intervened. The people who make these types of colonizing decisions don’t look like the people they are working to destabilize, conquer, and/or steal from, and that’s part of the problem. When color has a seat at the table, sometimes they can appeal to the better angels of those with colonizing spirits running wild.
Colonizing has everything to with a lack of respect for the people the settlers invade. Race and ethnicity have everything to do who gets ripped off and how the rip off occurs. Pay attention to what they conflicts are about in European countries versus what the conflicts are about in Black and brown countries.
America with its colonizing spirit can’t continue to destabilize the Brown world, creating immigration and refugees crises, and stealing other nation’s natural resources without paying a price one day for it. At some point, we’ll accrue a lot of enemies. You can’t be sane and ignore what we’ve done, the greedy, irresponsible rationale for it, and the potential repercussions for those actions.
Public education has always been horded by White people in America, and it has always been politicized. During slavery, Black people/slaves were prohibited from learning to read and write, and growing their own food without White supervision. The descendants of colonizers have continued to politically control the educational attainment of Blacks specifically, which is the reason for so much inequity in public education between Blacks and Whites. White people appropriated education for themselves, both public and private. Once they passed laws to let us in on learning to read and write, they made sure we always had second best (i.e. hand-me-down books).
Through second-class educations and second-rate supplies and educational materials, Blacks and lower classes have always been groomed by Whites to be second-class citizens. Education in America is appropriated, politically controlled, and established or removed at the leisure of White decision-makers almost always. The spirit of colonization lives on in damn near everything.
The Hard Ugly Truth About Whiteness
If you’re White, you’re likely a beneficiary of the act of colonization, and at some point whether you realize it, you probably engage in some thought process or action which continues the ugly legacy this nation was founded on. It doesn’t matter what you call theft or how you do the deed, the deed of taking, possessing, establishing and controlling others for the use and privilege of Whiteness is still rooted in colonization.
Instead of being angry at the victims of colonization, White people should try to understand the impact of their past and present colonizing actions, look at the thought-processes behind the actions, and examine how they would feel if they were constantly having their stuff taken away from them or given second best to compete with the dominant group with more resources, wealth, and people. There is no fairness in this competition, only luck. Some of us are lucky we have made it, because the deck has always been stacked against us.
America can never achieve equity and equality if we don’t get to the root of the causes of it. Colonization isn’t simply going to die or go away if White people don’t discontinue the practice no matter how innocent or harmless they believe it to be. You can’t profess to be civilized in one breath and continue such harmful and barbaric colonialism practices in another. Black and brown people in America will never achieve equality if White Americans insist, either knowingly or unknowingly, to practice the subjugation of Black and Brown people to White. We didn’t create the problem, so we can’t fix it. Don’t be angry with the victims.
If America’s colonizing spirit ever plans to die, White people should help it. They can start by asking themselves are we living in 1619 or 2019? The practice of colonizing is from another era. It’s time to let it go
In order for the nation to heal and move on, it’s all up to them to change. Drop the takeover and controlling spirit, and adopt a spirit of humility, healing, asking, sharing, and respecting Black and brown people and cultures.
© 2019 Marley K. All rights reserved.