In the Blog

And Still With the Colonialist Language

July 7th, 2011     by Diandra Oliver     Comments

For the past two months I’ve been pondering if I should respond to the brouhaha that followed my post on here about Feminism for Real and the resulting pieces by Feministe and the rapid fire on a number of other (f)eminist blogs (here, here, here, and here). I’m not feeling defensive and never felt defensive at all: discourse is awesome. I wasn’t even going to say anything until a recent Shameless article triggered me to say, “ARG! Colonialist Language!”

What happened though, post-Feministe post, is that I feel like I have to qualify or defend what I’m going to say on the internet so I don’t look like I’m some pale faced idiot with over powering opinions just sitting in front of my computer blogging about “wimmin’s issues” all day long. Or that just because the a “call out” is on the internet means that there’s nothing beyond the call out and that there’s nothing going on beyond the keyboard, or that I have to have some kind of super feminist ethic and experience to be able to say, “hey you! you’re doing this wrong!” But, I’m not going to qualify what happens beyond my keyboard (because Google can help you figure that out): I’m not perfect. I didn’t come at this knowledge because I learned it in school or because it was handed down to me by some higher feminist power. I’ve learned this because I have screwed up. I’m still in the process of figuring it out (the not being inherently privileged and racist thing) and I’m still trying to figure out how to be Non-Aboriginal in an Aboriginal organization and community.

I’m not 100% positive on how I’m going to adapt and change (or how I need to), but there’s a few things I’ve learned so far and I want to share them with you as tools in your the journey of being a Non- (Dominant person/race/class/etc) in a community/culture/place where you should be challenging your basic assumptions about who you are and how you carry yourself physically, emotionally, behaviourly in that community. They’re not the be-all-and-end-all answers to solving hundreds of years of colonization, genocide, and racism, but are some things I do to challenge myself as a White person/Feminist in my community. (Notice my nice hegemonic list? How do we blog in circles and blobs?)

- Words like Aboriginal, Indigenous, Metis, Inuit, and First Nation(s) are proper nouns and thus capitalized. In your work at school, or in a job you may have, or blogging, or even tweeting use capitalization as a way to show your allying with Indigenous issues and resistance. I often get the opportunity to engage with policy and practice in my community and am capitalizing left right and centre whenever I can.

  • Using words like “pioneer” “land of opportunity” “discover” and “native” (as in “Alberta native”) are colonialist. Sure, it’s common to deny your/our place as responsible for the “history of colonization” but by using these terms we’re fully responsible for the NOW of colonization.

  • Saying things like “West Coast Time” or “BC time” is really White code for “Indian Time” and it’s racist. Sorries!

  • It is my job as a Non-Aboriginal to give other Non-Aboriginals the what for.

  • Inviting Aboriginal “representatives” to my “meeting” isn’t inclusion. Me bravely showing up at a public cultural event (that I’ve been invited to, even on Facebook) when I don’t really know anyone is me practicing inclusion, by trying to be included in an Aboriginal space. It’s about living it, not just using it to achieve some goal of being “inclusive”.

  • Often I’ve been at meetings and because I work at a Friendship Center (and am White) I’m considered as the “counted Indian” like that organization has achieved some kind of inclusion because “someone” from the Friendship Center came to their meeting. It’s important to constantly remind them that they can’t count me as their “token Indian” and work with them to change their approachability and exclusive practice.

The is not exhaustive and is growing/changing all the time. If you’re on this journey of trying to “get it” share what you are doing / try to do in your community in the comments!

Tags: in my opinion..., race and racism

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