Naming Colonialism

Photo by Brett Sayles on

I consider my work to be that of learning about my privilege to best use it to do my part in untangling us from the grips of colonialism. But what is colonialism? Those that know me, know how much I love the power of naming things. Naming helps improve our awareness of something and allows us to develop the ability to explore what that thing means for our selves on a personal and intimate level.

Colonialism is something I have found value in naming. For my understanding, it is the force of systemic, cultural, internal and interpersonal violent oppression that:

  • Tries to force people to conform to the dominant culture at enormous expense of self destruction, especially to the parts that don’t fit with the upheld ideal
  • Tries to tell me my way of feeling, connecting and being is wrong
  • Stripped me and my ancestors of our way of creating and connecting to the earth, universe, our children and each other
  • Tells us the way to survive is through disconnection, suppression, isolation and power over others

The intersecting narratives of our lived experiences with colonialism are both personal and shared. When we name this experience we can better recognize its effects and work together to consciously heal. I know that naming this and finding others who have experienced and understand colonialism has given me the power to articulate this force over the narrative of my life so I can move forward in healing myself, my family and the earth.

Photo by Jacub Gomez on

Once I named and learned more about colonialism, I saw the deeply embedded threads of its work everywhere. I have found myself defeated and hopeless as I have clumsily attempted to pull at every thread I saw while surrounded by people who simply didn’t see what I saw. At times I was causing harm with my efforts. Now I realize that I was missing crucial pieces that I needed to find the names for: self compassion, community, collective wisdom. I want to continue doing this work and I have renewed vigor and hope thanks to hearing from the collective wisdom of a community of people who offered my soul some healing and reconnection. I’d like to offer gratitude to the Institute for the Development of Human Art for their amazing panel for the Decarcerating Care: Community-Based Healing Alternatives +How to Build Them talk. It quenched a thirst I didn’t even realize I was dying from.