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reflections | on practicing decolonization

photo taken on Sinixt Territory

Jan 2016

What is your decolonization practice?

It's easy enough to say that we believe in decolonization. That we stand for racial and social and gender equity. Wear a Pride pin or hang a "Black Lives Matter" banner from your front porch (you might find one on ours). But what does the practice of decolonization look like in your everyday routine life?

I'll admit that I've kind of been obsessed with this word: decolonization. Once I realized what it meant, I felt a kind of inner liberation. Like the shame that I felt for having gotten it all wrong wasn't all on me. Take for example the experience of being the only brown kid in grade one and telling my dad, "When I grow up, I want to be white!" All smiling and proud. I thought that my proximity to my dad's white-ness made me more acceptable to the world. Like a badge of honour. I've felt shame, as an adult, for even thinking that.

Credit to my dad, he always encouraged our brown-ness. I might have said that comment after my grade one birthday party and I remember I was gifted a white little gymnastics barbie that I loved as it was my very first one. I didn't have it for long though. I looked for that barbie everywhere but it was gone and in its place there soon appeared two anatomically correct very life-like brown little dolls (one for my sister). There was never an explanation but my six year old self understood that it was for our own good.

So what does your decolonization practice look like?

I just watched a video posted by somatic therapist Luana Rose about cultivating emotional maturity and I feel like the principles could be adjusted to apply to this as well.

The first principle is self-awareness. In order to decolonize our minds we need to be self-aware. We must bring our awareness to the areas where a colonial mindset has painted the way we view a situation, or a set of people, anything. We have to see through the programming we received through grade-school, through media, through socialization in western society, and notice where the ideas we were taught clash with the awarenesses we are developing now.

The second principle is identifying the specific flawed colonial premise. An (embarrassing) example of this that I experienced was the first time I met a chief and I was surprised to see that they did not where regalia all the time. Actually they just wear jeans and a t-shirt like you and me. This is obvious to me now because now I know better but I remember at the time having a mental disconnect, thinking, "What??" (That's not how Simpsons portrayed a chief.) That 'what' moment is the moment to notice that what was taught is not necessarily the truth.

The third principle is to get curious about alternatives to the colonial mainstream. What does this look like? It's letting go of any notions of knowing anything about groups of people who are different than us. I've experienced this the most through ceremony, where the experiences I've had or have witnessed have defied what I have been raised to know and thus I have to let that all go in order to allow in new truths, greater truths, about life.

These are just some ideas. One way of approaching it among many ways. This is the work that we've been assigned to do just by living and existing in society at this time in our grandchildren's history. What does practicing decolonization look like to you?


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