Going through those emotions is very normal. It’s something everybody goes through as they come to terms with their social justice identities. It’s OK to get angry. But understand that anger is usually part of something bigger. It’s usually part of some trauma that people may be carrying around with them. That’s also part of this whole notion of historical trauma, where trauma runs through our veins and gets passed down through generations. For example, the wars that we’ve gone through as a people, the centuries of brutality during colonialism, the murders, and the rapes. Filipino people, who weren’t even called Filipino people back then, have been carrying so much of this with us.
There is a lot of tone policing, emotional exhaustion and emotional labor. What is your approach in welcoming new Filipinxs and Fil-Americans into the movement against anti-Blackness?
For me, it’s just reminding ourselves that we’re in community and recognizing that there's nothing effective about calling out people in antagonistic ways. In fact, when we are antagonistic towards each other, that’s really just what that the colonizer and systems of oppression want. They want us to fight. They want us to not get along.
For me, there's this notion, if you can't approach a person with kindness, why are you even approaching them? Because that may show that you don't even have a relationship with that person or you’re forgetting the idea of why you’re even in this work, which is because you want to advance all of our communities.
It’s such a complex issue because some people they say, “We have to call out people.” I say, yeah we do have to call out some people, but for me, it’s calling out people in power, that’s what’s most important. When it comes to people in our own communities who are fighting for the greater good, then that’s where I feel like we have to at least consider being gentler. I say that because I know there are people in our community that aren’t advocating for our communities.
What happens after decolonization and unlearning?
Decolonization is a lifelong process that you don’t ever come to the end of. I like the word decolonizing because it's an active process—it’s not something that is a yes or no. What I think is on the other side of decolonization and unlearning is joy and peace, love and self-love. People don’t learn about colonizing and social justice until they’re in high school or after. That’s two decades of learning to hate yourself.
Kevin Nadal is an author, psychologist, activist and professor at John Jay College for Criminal Justice , City of New York (CUNY). We’d love to hear your feedback and your questions for future conversations with Wise Ones. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Co-conspirator: “Co-conspiracy is about what we do in action, not just in language. It is about moving through guilt and shame and recognizing that we did not create none of this stuff. And so what we are taking responsibility for is the power that we hold to transform our conditions.”—Alicia Garza, Black Lives Matter co-founder and Special Projects Director for National Domestic Workers Alliance
Colonization: “In the context of Indigenous Peoples, colonization has come to mean any kind of external control, and it is used as an expression for the subordination of Indian peoples and their rights since early contact with Europeans. In North America, colonization took the task of subordinating Indigenous Peoples to the political power of Christian European kings. In Spanish colonies, with the appearance of the colonists, the land was immediately considered under the control of the colonizing nations.”—Duane Champagne, via Indian Country Today
Decolonization: “Decolonization brings about the repatriation of Indigenous land and life; it is not a metaphor for other things we want to do to improve our societies and schools.”—Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang, “Decolonization is not a metaphor”
“The process of colonization begins with the physical occupation of land and domination of the Indigenous people. Following the primarily physical aspects of colonization (i.e. military conflict, relocation, etc.), non-physical methods are applied. These include what could be called mental aspects. Religious indoctrination, cultural, social and economic assimilation are common examples. Therefore it could be said that colonization comprises two primary aspects—physical and mental. In order to be liberated from this oppressive state, the process of colonization must be reversed. That is, it must begin with the mental aspects and move towards the physical.”—Zigzag & Keyway, “Long Hot Summer ’99”
Internalized oppression: “When we accept or ‘buy into’ the negative and inferiorizing messages that are propagated about who we are, then we have begun to internalize the oppression that we experienced. We have come to learn that—having certain traits, being a member of a particular group, and being who we are—are not good enough or are not desirable. Sometimes, we even learn to hate our traits, our groups, ourselves.”—E. J. R. David, via Psychology Today