Views expressed on this website do not necessarily represent the ideas or opinions of the Northeast Anarchist Network or affiliated groups. Posts, comments and statements represent the individual user by which they are posted, or an individual or group cited within the text.

This Oppressive, Colonial System

Steps to imposing a dominant culture and force assimilation in the context of a racist, oppressive, colonial order of society.

  1. Define a dominant culture and promote all facets of that culture as desirable and most advanced in the quality of human life
  2. Lump all people who fit a certain, "secondary culture" criteria together and neglect the possibility of individual differences in hobbies, interests, political leaning
  3. Deny, discourage or punish aspects of these cultures such as language, traditions, food, etc. Coopt and appropriate what may be beneficial to the dominant culture
  4. Reward the few who generally accept or benefit the interests of the dominant culture
  5. Reinforce the feeling of inferiority of those resistant to change

Now, speaking from personal life experiences as the son of a Chicano who has lived the impacts of up to number 3 above, and as an increasingly self-aware, second generation Chicano struggling against assimilation myself, I often feel the frustrations of this process and find them to create hurdles throughout the process of recognizing and embracing my non-white identity, especially amidst my involvement in the anarchist movement.

Reading through what many have written on the topic of white privilege, I feel an additional sort of frustration that I can't exactly place. Its not that I find these writings to be fundamentally flawed in any way; indeed, the authors usually touch on many topics rarely talked about yet important for those provided with excessive privilege to recognize and own up to.

What causes the frustration? That many points seem to be saying the same thing, that white people are in general more often represented in media and dominant in social life? Perhaps at first - reading something that tends to be obvious for those not represented written in 20 different ways can be annoying, but understandable when considering it can't be said enough for those who are represented to fully understand. Maybe that these types of things seem to always be written by a person experiencing privilege? Maybe that's part of it - but then again, it helps break through a first line of defense when the reader and author have a shared personal experience. White guilt, and a perceived apologetic tone? In cases where the conclusion seems to be guilt or shame it can definitely be annoying (referencing and apologizing for your own privilege in an oppressive situation is annoying, people) but that's still not quite it.

All of these, and more, definitely run through my head but don't quite suffice for an answer. I'm not sure what the situation of the author is - what they would be like in a personal encounter, or how the tone of their article represents a targeted audience more than their own actions and beliefs. I think what frustrates me is how it seems that even those who talk the anti-oppression talk may fall short in practice; that often the most radical analysis fails to recognize personal experience; that these movements and groups still seem to fail in engaging themselves with day-to-day community struggles, where those involved in the work have an immediate and real interest in the outcome; and that so often white movements recognize only the dominant culture and resistance to it, with perhaps only partial attention given to sensationalized examples of alternatives (for instance, the Zapatistas - inspirational, no doubt about it, but how many white anarchists singing along to Rage Against the Machine's "People of the Sun" know who Emiliano Zapata is, or that his part in and outside of the Mexican Revolution serves as inspiration for the modern day rebels?).

What frustrates me most is that all of these things come together in what seems like the idea that the revolution is the burden of the privileged. That privileged radicals have entitlement to unspoken vanguardism with a passive if not explicit unwillingness to work with non-anarchist-identified groups, or seeking to engage these groups only on issues that are stereotypically of interest to them.

What's the difference between assuming that I only eat burritos, and that I am only involved in the struggle for justice for immigrants? We've got to start breaking down barriers - and understand that it may likely have to be on other's terms - to really work on "solidarity." We've got to start building relationships based on respect, trust and responsibility to connect in a more meaningful way. This means getting to know the people and their work, with others taking the lead in expressing their own culture in full, rather than seeking coalition partners on a single issue by first determining that they only know about that specific issue.

Sure, building these relationships and addressing these issues takes a hell of a lot of time and energy, and can be scary at first. It all starts with taking the first step, out of your own self-insulated work and towards life-long relationships to really begin tearing down the oppressive, colonial borders we are all so eager to do away with.

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Views expressed on this website do not necessarily represent the ideas or opinions of the Northeast Anarchist Network or affiliated groups. Posts, comments and statements represent the individual user by which they are posted, or an individual or group cited within the text.