“Colonization” is not a dirty word

My husband and I are having an argument about the word “colonization.”

I’m not feeling very accommodating these days. I’m like: you have to name it to change it. This is the diagnosis. It’s not personal. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, because you come from colonizers, just as it doesn’t make you a bad person to be male, in a patriarchal system.

It’s hard for us to pry the two apart. To find our way through the shame.

The words feel like blunt instruments to him.

And maybe there are some who use them as cudgels.

But to me, they’re like scalpels. Precise, sharp, and able to root out the tumours in our operating system.

It’s history. (It’s not even my personal history. It’s literally the history of the world. By 1914, a large majority of the world’s nations had been colonized by Europeans at some point.)

It’s orienting ourselves by understanding what went before, what we’re downstream of, what legacies we need to unravel, what wounds need tending, what damage needs repair. We are all affected by the damage. Because we live in a system, where everything is affected by everything else.

My mind has been colonized, by the culture I grew up in, the dominant culture, the culture we’re swimming around in all the time. I want to unleash my mind from those limits, I want to expand the way I think, I want liberation for my mind. It feels like that is a path to being a better ally, to helping reconstruct our systems to serve everyone, and I think it makes life feel more exciting.

(If you’re curious about what it might take to start decolonizing your thinking, or to restory colonialism, you can take one of Ta7taliya Nahanee’s online courses, on-demand. Or attend one of the upcoming free workshops being presented by Whistler Community Services Society at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, where Ta7taliya is a guest instructor.)

Colonization itself is not the dirty word, just like cancer is a not a dirty word. Colonization is a dark system of harm that redistributed resources and privilege and dominant mind-sets. Let’s pick up the word as the powerful diagnostic tool it could be.

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