Confrontational and profoundly uncomfortable: why anti-racism and decolonisation can be nothing less (a reading of Houria Bouteldja’s polemical essay, ‘Whites, Jews and Us’).

“We will be beggars so long as we accept as universal the political divisions that cut up the white world and through which they conceive of the social conflicts and struggles that these divisions will engender. We will be beggars so long as we remain prisoners of their philosophy, of their aesthetic and of their art. We will be beggars so long as we do not call into question their version of History. Lets accept rupture, discord, discordance. Lets ruin the landscape and announce a new era”. – Houria Bouteldja

The uncivilised

A nice white person once asked of me “can’t you be less antagonistic when challenging racism”? It was less a question, more a direction, imbued with all the faux-innocence and partitioning of ‘civilised rationality’ as a quality specific to whiteness, and therefore necessitating white people to preach the word. The imperative that justified colonisation as the bringing of civilisation to the barbarians, is now repeated by white liberals espousing ‘rational’ and ‘civilised’ debate in the face of racism and white supremacy.

Continue reading “Confrontational and profoundly uncomfortable: why anti-racism and decolonisation can be nothing less (a reading of Houria Bouteldja’s polemical essay, ‘Whites, Jews and Us’).”

Rootlessness and dislocation

The suggestion that non-indigenous people living in this colonised land should seek out and connect with their own cultural roots and use this as a source of strength in acting with anti-colonial struggles here, is a common one in radical milieus. I understand how investigating ‘cultural roots’ is important for some people, that being able to trace lines of connection to ancestors who resisted colonisation in their time can be a great inspiration in the present. However, I have also found its abstract use to be both confusing and simplistically dismissive of the global consequences of capitalist colonisation and resultant migrations. I think that it is necessary to interrogate some of the problems that are contained within such an uncritical valorisation of historical identity and culture.

These issues recently arose again at a workshop I attended that was centred around issues of Aboriginal sovereignty and colonisation/ de-colonisation. One of the facilitators, a non-indigenous woman of colour, gave a spiel about the importance of locating cultural roots, of knowing the land where your ‘bones are buried’, and drawing strength from this heritage. While I don’t believe that my personal experience should be taken as constitutive of a critique of this position, I will begin by laying out my subjective position just as a bit of background, but also because I’m pretty sure that I might not be alone in this.

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Settler / Migrant

Some thoughts related to this article by Monica Tan.

The first time I heard a non-white migrant use the word ‘settler’ to describe all other non-white migrants in so-called Australia, I recoiled at this naming that felt so unfamiliar to my experience. I didn’t associate with being a settler because that term seemed to place me within the same racialised group as white people – and I had my own familiarity facing their racist hostility.

In any case, the discomfort of that moment provoked some thinking on my part, as well as a few conversations with Aboriginal people, non-indigenous people of colour and white folk. After initially feeling that my position as a brown migrant bore no relation to white colonialism, it became apparent that for many Aboriginal people it most certainly did. Dispossession from country, loss of access to resources, and the struggle to hold onto cultural forms are all ongoing effects of an unceasing colonisation that remains in full swing. While racial power in this country is still specifically invested in whiteness, there are significant material benefits that non-indigenous people of colour have been able to access as an effect of colonisation.

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Invasion Day 2019

A quick (side)note on Invasion Day:

I’ve been noticing, and feeling inspired, by how many non-indigenous POC are increasingly finding ways to resist racism and colonisation and ensuring that they do this by actively acting in solidarity with Aboriginal struggle. This feeling was confirmed by seeing all the crews of POC on the march – whether just groups of friends or slightly more organised networks/alliances, it was a noticeable presence. The significance of this was further amplified in an excellent, fiery speech by Harry Bonifacio Baughan of the Asian Anti-Colonial Alliance.

I think it’s important to recognise that an outcome of colonisation and white supremacy is to keep disparate, marginalised peoples in a state of competition with each other. Our struggles are too often oriented towards appealing to the dominant, white power structures. When migrants cut across that by orienting our action towards First Nations people, we are undermining some of the power that whiteness holds and, more significantly, forging bonds of solidarity against racism, colonisation and white supremacy that could lead to new angles of attack.