Archive for the ‘ Decolonialism ’ Category

Reblog: A Statement of Trans-Inclusive Feminism and Womanism

This is how you decolonize activism.

A wide swath of people have demonstrated how to decolonize activism: not with negativity, but with constructivity.  The following is being reblogged from Feminists Fighting Transphobia, and you will need to follow the link to see the ever-increasing number of signatories who have signed on.  I did not take part in authoring this, but gladly lend whatever support I can — M.

A Statement of Trans-Inclusive Feminism and Womanism

We are proud to present a collective statement that is, to our knowledge (and we would love to be wrong about this) the first of its kind.  In this post you’ll find a statement of feminist solidarity with trans* rights, signed by nearly 100  feminists/womanists from at least eleven different countries [it's now 383 individuals and 17 organizations -- exactly 400! -- from at least 15 countries] who wish to affirm that feminism/womanism can and should be a home for trans* people as well as cis.  It has been signed by activists, bloggers, academics, and artists.  What we all have in common is the conviction that feminism should welcome trans* people, and that trans* people are essential to feminism’s mission to advocate for women and other people oppressed, exploited, and otherwise marginalized by patriarchal and misogynistic systems and people.

If you are a blogger/writer/academic/educator/artist/activist/otherwise in a position to affect feminist or womanist discourse or action and you would like to sign on to this statement, let us know!  You can use the form on the contact page or you can email us at feministsfightingtransphobia1@gmail.com.  We’d love to hear from you. [NEW: You can also just sign right on in the comments, particularly if you're wanting to sign in a personal, rather than professional capacity--this will be much quicker and also easier on our moderators!]

Note: this blog in general and this post in particular are places where trans* people can come and find welcome and support from feminists.  For this reason, all comments are moderated for now, and hateful or abusive or bigoted discourse directed against marginalized groups or their members will not be approved.  It will either be deleted or it will be replaced with mockery of that discourse, depending on what the moderators feel like doing.  To be clear, transphobia, misgendering, racism, misogyny, slut-shaming, etc. are unwelcome.

We particularly welcome comments regarding ways in which feminists and womanists, both cis and trans*, can organize to demonstrate solidarity with and support and acceptance of trans people.  Reading the names of prominent feminists on statements of transphobia is heartbreaking to many of us, but as Joe Hill said, “Don’t mourn; organize!”

– Moderators

A Statement of Trans-Inclusive Feminism and Womanism

We, the undersigned trans* and cis scholars, writers, artists, and educators, want to publicly and openly affirm our commitment to a trans*-inclusive feminism and womanism.

There has been a noticeable increase in transphobic feminist activity this summer: the forthcoming book by Sheila Jeffreys from Routledge; the hostile and threatening anonymous letter sent to Dallas Denny after she and Dr. Jamison Green wrote to Routledge regarding their concerns about that book; and the recent widely circulated statement entitled “Forbidden Discourse: The Silencing of Feminist Critique of ‘Gender,’” signed by a number of prominent, and we regret to say, misguided, feminists have been particularly noticeable.  And all this is taking place in the climate of virulent mainstream transphobia that has emerged following the coverage of Chelsea Manning’s trial and subsequent statement regarding her gender identity, and the recent murders of young trans women of color, including Islan Nettles and Domonique Newburn, the latest targets in a long history of violence against trans women of color.  Given these events, it is important that we speak out in support of feminism and womanism that support trans* people.

We are committed to recognizing and respecting the complex construction of sexual/gender identity; to recognizing trans* women as women and including them in all women’s spaces; to recognizing trans* men as men and rejecting accounts of manhood that exclude them; to recognizing the existence of genderqueer, non-binary identifying people and accepting their humanity; to rigorous, thoughtful, nuanced research and analysis of gender, sex, and sexuality that accept trans* people as authorities on their own experiences and understands that the legitimacy of their lives is not up for debate; and to fighting the twin ideologies of transphobia and patriarchy in all their guises.

Transphobic feminism ignores the identification of many trans* and genderqueer people as feminists or womanists and many cis feminists/womanists with their trans* sisters, brothers, friends, and lovers; it is feminism that has too often rejected them, and not the reverse. It ignores the historical pressures placed by the medical profession on trans* people to conform to rigid gender stereotypes in order to be “gifted” the medical aid to which they as human beings are entitled.  By positing “woman” as a coherent, stable identity whose boundaries they are authorized to police, transphobic feminists reject the insights of intersectional analysis, subordinating all other identities to womanhood and all other oppressions to patriarchy.  They are refusing to acknowledge their own power and privilege.

We recognize that transphobic feminists have used violence and threats of violence against trans* people and their partners and we condemn such behavior.  We recognize that transphobic rhetoric has deeply harmful effects on trans* people’s real lives; witness CeCe MacDonald’s imprisonment in a facility for men.  We further recognize the particular harm transphobia causes to trans* people of color when it combines with racism, and the violence it encourages.

When feminists exclude trans* women from women’s shelters, trans* women are left vulnerable to the worst kinds of violent, abusive misogyny, whether in men’s shelters, on the streets, or in abusive homes.  When feminists demand that trans* women be excluded from women’s bathrooms and that genderqueer people choose a binary-marked bathroom, they make participation in the public sphere near-impossible, collaborate with a rigidity of gender identities that feminism has historically fought against, and erect yet another barrier to employment.  When feminists teach transphobia, they drive trans* students away from education and the opportunities it provides.

We also reject the notion that trans* activists’ critiques of transphobic bigotry “silence” anybody.  Criticism is not the same as silencing. We recognize that the recent emphasis on the so-called violent rhetoric and threats that transphobic feminists claim are coming from trans* women online ignores the 40+ – year history of violent and eliminationist rhetoric directed by prominent feminists against trans* women, trans* men, and genderqueer people.  It ignores the deliberate strategy of certain well-known anti-trans* feminists of engaging in gleeful and persistent harassment, baiting, and provocation of trans* people, particularly trans* women, in the hope of inciting angry responses, which are then utilized to paint a false portrayal of trans* women as oppressors and cis feminist women as victims. It ignores the public outing of trans* women that certain transphobic feminists have engaged in regardless of the damage it does to women’s lives and the danger in which it puts them.  And it relies upon the pernicious rhetoric of collective guilt, using any example of such violent rhetoric, no matter the source — and, just as much, the justified anger of any one trans* woman — to condemn all trans* women, and to justify their continued exclusion and the continued denial of their civil rights.

Whether we are cis, trans*, binary-identified, or genderqueer, we will not let feminist or womanist discourse regress or stagnate; we will push forward in our understandings of gender, sex, and sexuality across disciplines.  While we respect the great achievements and hard battles fought by activists in the 1960s and 1970s, we know that those activists are not infallible and that progress cannot stop with them if we hope to remain intellectually honest, moral, and politically effective.  Most importantly, we recognize that theories are not more important than real people’s real lives; we reject any theory of gender, sex, or sexuality that calls on us to sacrifice the needs of any subjugated or marginalized group.  People are more important than theory.

We are committed to making our classrooms, our writing, and our research inclusive of trans* people’s lives.

Signed by:

Individuals

Hailey K. Alves (blogger and transfeminist activist, Brazil)

Luma Andrade  (Federal University of Ceará, Brazil)

Leiliane Assunção (Federal University of the Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil)

Talia Bettcher (California State University, Los Angeles)

Lauren Beukes (novelist)

Lindsay Beyerstein (journalist)

Jamie “Skye” Bianco (New York University)

Hanne Blank (writer and historian)

Kate Bornstein (writer and activist)

danah boyd (Microsoft research and New York University)

Helen Boyd (author and activist)

Sarah Brown (LGBT+ Liberal Democrats)

Christine Burns (equalities consultant, blogger and campaigner)

Liliane Anderson Reis Caldeira (Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil)

Gloria Careaga (UNAM/National Autonomous University of Mexico)

Avedon Carol (activist and writer; Feminists Against Censorship)

Wendy Chapkis (University of Southern Maine) – “I don’t love the punch line ‘people are more important than theory.’  More to the point, it seems to me, is that feminist theories that fail to recognize the lived experiences and revolutionary potential of gender diversity are willfully inadequate.”

Jan Clausen (writer, MFAW faculty, Goddard College)

Darrah Cloud (playwright and screenwriter; Goddard College)

Alyson Cole (Queens College – CUNY)

Arrianna Marie Coleman (writer and activist)

Suzan Cooke (writer and photographer)

Sonia Onufer Correa  (feminist research associate at ABIA, co-chair of Sexuality Policy Watch)

Molly Crabapple (artist and writer)

Petra Davis (writer and activist)

Elizabeth Dearnley (University College London)

Jaqueline Gomes de Jesus (University of Brasilia, Brazil)

Sady Doyle (writer and blogger)

L. Timmel Duchamp (publisher, Aqueduct Press)

Flavia Dzodan (writer and media maker)

Reni Eddo-Lodge (writer and activist)

Finn Enke (University of Wisconsin, Madison)

Hugh English (Queens College – CUNY)

Jane Fae (writer and activist)

Roderick Ferguson (University of Minnesota)

Jill Filipovic (writer and blogger)

Rose Fox (editor and activist)

Jaclyn Friedman (author, activist, and executive director of Women, Action, & the Media)

Sasha Garwood (University College, London)

Jen Jack Gieseking (Bowdoin College)

Dominique Grisard (CUNY Graduate Center/Columbia University/University of Basel)

Deborah Gussman (Richard Stockton College of New Jersey)

Dr Sally Hines (University of Leeds)

Claire House (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, Brazil)

Astrid Idlewild (editor, urban historian)

Sarah Hoem Iversen (Bergen University College, Norway)

Sarah Jaffe (columnist)

Roz Kaveney (author and critic)

Zahira Kelly (artist and writer)

Mikki Kendall (writer and occasional feminist)

Natacha Kennedy (Goldsmiths College, University of London)

Alison Kilkenny (journalist and activist)

Matthew Knip (Hunter College – CUNY)

Letícia Lanz (writer and psychoanalyst, Brazil)

April Lidinsky (Indiana University South Bend)

Erika Lin (George Mason University)

Marilee Lindemann (University of Maryland)

Heather Love (University of Pennsylvania)

Jessica W. Luther (writer and activist)

Jen Manion (Connecticut College)

Ruth McClelland-Nugent (Georgia Regents University Augusta)

Melissa McEwan (Editor-in-Chief, Shakesville)

Farah Mendlesohn (Anglia Ruskin University)

Mireille Miller-Young (University of California, Santa Barbara)

Lyndsey Moon (University of Roehampton and University of Warwick)

Surya Monro (University of Huddersfield)

Cheryl Morgan (publisher and blogger)

Kenne Mwikya (writer and activist, Nairobi)

Zenita Nicholson (Secretary on the Board of Trustees, Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination, Guyana)

Anne Ogborn (frightening sex change)

Sally Outen (performer and activist)

Ruth Pearce (University of Warwick)

Laurie Penny (journalist and activist)

Rosalind Petchesky (Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY, and Sexuality Policy Watch)

Rachel Pollack (writer, Goddard College)

Claire Bond Potter (The New School for Public Engagement)

Nina Power (University of Roehampton)

Marina Riedel (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil)

Mark Rifkin (University of North Carolina – Greensboro)

Monica Roberts (Transgriot)

Dr. Judy Rohrer (Western Kentucky University)

Diana Salles (independent scholar)

Veronica Schanoes (Queens College – CUNY)

Sarah Schulman, in principle (College of Staten Island – CUNY)

Donald M. Scott (Queens College – CUNY)

Lynne Segal (Birkbeck, University of London)

Julia Serano (author and activist)

Carrie D. Shanafelt (Grinnell College)

Rebekah Sheldon (Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis)

Barbara Simerka (Queens College – CUNY)

Gwendolyn Ann Smith (columnist and Transgender Day of Remembrance founder)

Kari Sperring (K L Maund) (writer and historian)

Zoe Stavri (writer and activist)

Tristan Taormino (Sex Out Loud Radio, New York, NY)

Jemma Tosh (University of Chester)

Viviane V. (Federal University of Bahia, Brazil)

Catherynne M. Valente (author)

Jessica Valenti (author and columnist)

Genevieve Valentine (writer)

Barbra Wangare (S.H.E and Transitioning Africa, Kenya)

Thijs Witty (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Groups:

Bishkek Feminist Collective SQ (Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia)

House of Najafgarh (Najafgarh, India)

House of Kola Bhagan (Kolkatta, India)

Transgender Nation San Francisco

[See http://feministsfightingtransphobia.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/welcome-to-our-most-recent-signatories/ for our newest signatories, as of the end of the day on September 16, 2013]

[See http://feministsfightingtransphobia.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/six-hours-later-we-have-a-new-signatory-list/ for our newest signatories, as of the end of the day on September 17, 2013]

Using scripture to rationalize slavery by the one percent

morecraftI grew up in a Pentecostal church, so I remember the beginnings of some of the dominionist doctrines that characterize far right faith groups today.  There was never any one principal compendium of theology that every church got behind (just as there’s no single denomination in the dominionist movement, and divisions exist), but rather there were different streams of thought that flowed in and gradually changed the course of the river of belief teachings.  It filtered in through books by C. Peter Wagner, sermons by Oral Roberts, through Maranatha Ministries publications, through Youth For Christ media, and various other influences that made up the charismatic movement.  So I remember when “abundant life” teachings became the new dogma.

Abundant life teachings were a loose offshoot of faith-healing, in which congregations were told to put their finances and trust in God and he would consequently bless them exponentially, in return.  If you had only a dollar to your name, you give that dollar to God and he’ll find a way to give you much more in return — a twisting of the parable of the widow’s mite (Mark 12:41-44), changing the valuing of the poor that Jesus-the-man intended into a give-everything ideal that could be taken advantage of in the name of Jesus-the-legend.  There could be no excuse, then, for holding back the amount one tithed, in order to do things like pay the rent and bills, or to buy groceries.

Heads, we were right; tails, you were wrong.

It became another weapon in the shame machine, too.  Abundant life teachings implied that the poor were poor because they were sinners, were irresponsible, lazy.  And if you as a Christian gave abundantly to the church but saw no reward in return, then you needed to search your heart, because it meant that you were holding something back.  It meant that there was some sin, some doubt, some laziness, some guilty pleasure, some impure thought that held you back, and that God therefore would not reward you until it was flushed out and addressed.  And in this way, you were to give everything, and if you saw no return on it, it was your own fault.  A shyster’s dream.

Abundant life philosophy became a part of charismatic philosophy, one of the foundations for what is called the New Apostolic Reformation, or Seven Mountains Dominionism, a kind of roadmap for the Evangelical extreme, fundamentalist Catholicism and other allies to try to achieve theological-based governance.  And this is where it becomes necessary to parse things once again, because I’m referring to narrow branches of philosophy within a faith, and not the whole faith itself.  This becomes blurred, because many of these leaders pass themselves off as speaking for their faith authoritatively, and few actually challenge them on that.  I say this repeatedly in my blog because I believe it’s important that the specific abusive exploitations of Christianity that I single out not be conflated with Christianity itself, and by extension, with all Christians.

Abundant life teachings became a boon to some in the corporate sector, and had a lot to do with the growing together of dominionist doctrine and the Ayn Rand survival-of-the-fittest beliefs of the corporate class.  Abundant life philosophy taught that the rich were rich because they were worthy in the sight of God, and blessed accordingly… a self-aggrandizing patronization that was easy to believe, reflecting the self-important self-image of many financial elites.  And it absolved those who subscribed to abundant life teachings of feeling any social responsibility toward the poor.  Poverty was for the weak, the unworthy, the lazy, the irresponsible… for those who deserved it.  It fit the belief among the rich that anyone could be rich if they simply worked hard enough at it, or believed in God enough — something that fails to take into account the lack of opportunity and constant obstacles faced by the poor.

In case it’s not clear in my writing, I’m not talking about a conspiracy.  There might be another name for it out there, but I call it “coinciding interest opportunism,” the tendency of self-interested parties to move toward policies, beliefs and tactics that suit those interests, resulting in the merger we’re seeing between the top one percent of wage earners and dominionist religion.  The latter provides not only an affirmation of the growing class divide as though it’s pre-ordained by Christ, it also provides a mechanism to devalue the poor, perpetuate shame and keep adherents submissive and believing in the rightness of that submission.

And using abundant life -style teachings, even something as evil as slavery can be rationalized.

Easier for a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle than for the meek to inherit the earth… or something like that.

Vyckie at RH Reality Check pointed to a video today that vividly illustrates the convergence between far-right religious fundamentalism and the Any Rand -style corporate opportunism of the upper upper upper class.  It’s a sermon posted online, which expounds on Proverbs 11:29, which reads:

He who troubles his own house will inherit the wind,
And the fool will be servant to the wise of heart.

On the basis of this scripture, Joe Morecraft of Chalcedon Presbyterian Church teaches his congregation that in godly cultures, slavery is God’s chosen fate for the morally deficient:

“There IS a place for slavery, then, in godly cultures.  It’s the only place you can keep a fool under wraps.  It’s the only way you can keep a man from ruining other peoples’ families…”

Morecraft’s church is located in Cumming, Georgia, so there’s quite likely an undercurrent of racism throughout the sermon.  But race isn’t addressed directly at all; only through dog whistles and appealing to parishoners’ assumptions about those he defines as fools.  Interestingly, the language he uses is more often the language used to target LGBT people (i.e. about family) than racial groups.

The video clocks in at 5:50 long, and provides a stunning lesson in the way evil can be rationalized through the use of scripture.  It’s worth watching in full:

How prevalent is this kind of belief?  Well, if you look at all of Christianity, then not very.  But if you look within the narrow, vocal stream of North America’s far right Evangelicals in particular, it’s probably a lot more common than most would want to believe.  Morecraft is hardly a major name among theocrats, although his church is apparently the progenitor of an offshoot of Presbyterianism that now encompasses 12 churches.  His sermon is notable, though, as an example of the ideas that pervade pulpits in average neighbourhood churches — at least in southern states.  While theocrats aren’t usually as blunt and bold as, say, Bryan Fischer, the attitude that equates poverty with sinfulness has become pervasive in the increasingly consolidated far right.

And it’s helped to make religion a tool in the arsenal of corporate social engineers.

(Crossposted to The Bilerico Project Dented Blue Mercedes)

Violence is almost never an acceptable response. Neither is rationalizing it.

In August 2012, Floyd Lee Corkins entered the Family Research Council (FRC) headquarters and opened fire, injuring a security guard as he was tackled — fortunately, before he could cause any more damage.

Periodically, I see people who I otherwise respect trying to dismiss the incident as insignificant, or even making excuses for Corkins.

Violence is not an acceptable response to hate.  I’ll add the caveat “unless someone is in direct danger.” I believe in the right to self-defense and accept that there could be extreme situations that preclude using the word “never,” i.e. mass criminalization and mob violence.  But that was not the case here and is besides the point.  Floyd Lee Corkins deliberately chose to seek out the FRC with the intent of killing people.  I blame the idiot with the gun.  Whether a right-wing nut or a left-wing nut, violence is not an acceptable response to hate.

When we try to rationalize actions like Corkins’ — even when we’re not completely serious and just using hyperbole — we are (consciously or unconsciously) creating an environment in which violence is seen as an acceptable response.  It isn’t.

Further, rationalizations have a tendency to lead toward absurdity.  The most vivid example of this is the contention that if a woman is raped, she should be held at least partly responsible if she wore a particularly short skirt. Selecting clothes is not an act of consent, and yet increasingly, this rationalization is used to minimize or even absolve sexual violence.  Rationalization of aggression needs to be called out, no matter who is doing it.

“Well, if they’re going to be that way, they’re going to have to expect that people aren’t going to like it.”

And it is not that long ago that being lesbian or gay was rationalized as reason enough to expect to be targeted for violence.  It is still seen that way for trans people.

Instead, be the change you wish to see.

If we are to condemn victim-blaming and rationalizations of hate and violence, then we also need to practice the alternative we expect others to live up to… even if the victim in a particular case has been vile.  I do not believe that violence and fear are the response to violence and fear that we should espouse.  Inspire. Be the change you wish to see. And that means not making excuses for violence.

Challenge the ideology, not the individual.

Identifying hate

The Family Research Council has tried to take advantage of the Corkins episode by blaming the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups and has categorized FRC as a hate group for the voluminous anti-gay and otherwise vitriolic / targeted rhetoric it has habitually used.

There is value in what the SPLC does, in that it draws attention to and demands answers for hateful comments.  Identifying hate challenges those identified to either back down from hateful positions or to reveal the full and extreme extent of them for all to see.  Both are revealing to the social dialogue on minority issues.  But identifying hate is not a license to target individuals or groups for violence.  And if we begin rationalizing its use that way, then we risk encouraging people with poorer judgement to act violently, whether we intended to or not.  And if we cannot be clear on this, then we risk losing the moral high ground.

No matter how vile the FRC has been in its rhetoric, violence is not an acceptable response.

Understanding the legalities of First Nations struggles in Canada, present and past.

This is 35 minutes long, but Russell Diabo (publisher of the First Nations Strategic Bulletin) provides an informative and important discussion about the complexities of the issues surrounding the Indian Act, the Harper Government’s termination agenda, the #IdleNoMore movement, Chief Spence’s hunger strike, and Bill C-45.  This comes courtesy ThePerfectPlex’s YouTube channel.

Previously: Treaties are Between Nations

Additional:

Treaties Are Between Nations: An #IdleNoMore Solidarity Post

When I first started blogging, I mentioned something that I’ve only talked about occasionally, since.

I wrote about being Métis but passing for white and living in urban Canada.  This brought with it an escape from most serious forms of discrimination that First Nations people face, and something that should be acknowledged as privilege, even if it wasn’t consciously pursued.  It also brought many occasions of people letting fly the judgmental assumptions and beliefs that they have about Aboriginal peoples, thinking it’s “safe” to do so around me.  And then, when I get angry and reveal that I’m Métis, those people simply change their behaviour.  Their opinions haven’t changed, they simply decide to be more careful about speaking in front of me.  It’s also not unusual to have them also start projecting those assumptions onto me.

There’s a reason that I don’t write about it a lot.  I grew up in urban Canada and was largely not told about about my heritage, or with anything that would connect me to it.  In recent years, I’ve been able to make some positive connections and rediscover things, but remained preoccupied with other activism, life in general, and especially the sucking black hole of the day-to-day work of economic survival.

Part of it was my own fault, too.  I learned many of the negative attitudes from Canadian culture, and internalized them (directing them inwardly and occasionally also outwardly) until I finally realized I needed to question them (and I occasionally still discover some screwed up way that I’ve unconsciously internalized things).  While I can take some solace in the fact that I’d changed my perspective, the fact that it took so long is still something I’m not proud of.

And so being disconnected from that heritage, having escaped the worst of anti-Aboriginal prejudice, and also having spent some of my youth being ashamed of it, I’ve never seen myself as someone who could be inspiring about Aboriginal issues or have much right to speak out.

Supporting #IdleNoMore

That notwithstanding, I feel a need to at least express my support and do something to draw attention to the #IdleNoMore movement which is spreading and which the mainstream media is trying to ignore in hopes that it will go away.  There are many things I can’t claim to speak with authority on.  But I can speak to my own reasons for supporting this movement, and why the “assimilate already” attitude from non-Aboriginal Canada toward the First Nations fails.

Decolonial Thinking: Putting Words into Practice

Additionally, I’ve previously written to trans audiences about colonial thinking, describing it as “how various classes lay claim and ownership over each other and impose regulations, will and rules of conformity that run counter to other classes’ needs.”  Decolonialism is the process of seeking to dismantle the socially-constructed ways that societies create and reinforce oppression and colonization of peoples, cultures, characteristic classes and nations throughout the world.

A movement — any movement, trans or otherwise — can too easily get hung up on its own issues and forget that its struggle is part of a larger whole.  And while it is not physically possible to be all things to all people, or to involve oneself in all forms of activism (nor is that good for one’s health), we do have some responsibility to be aware of others’ struggles, be empathetic, and be prepared to at least be a voice when the opportunity presents itself.  It is crucial to recognize that decolonization is not merely a process of liberating ourselves, but one of challenging the world we create and empower through tacit obedience on a universal level — to question the actions undertaken supposedly under our name, with our assumed consent, whether we’ve elected and empowered the governors in question or not.  Decolonial thinking is an aspiration not only to liberate a single minority, not only to liberate multiple intersecting minorities, not only to liberate ALL minorities, but to deconstruct the ways by which we marginalize and oppress — to wholly dismantle the ability to institutionalize oppression.  Or at least, that’s my personal take on decolonial thought, anyway.

Any discussion about decolonialism needs to acknowledge the fact that literal, institutionalized colonization still persists.  It persists in the Anglophone / Francophone conflict in Canada, and in the various race and immigration struggles here and south of our border.  And it persists most vividly in Canada’s treatment of its First Nations.

Historically, the First Nations have experienced depopulation and genocide, exile within their own homelands, economic impoverishment made worse by theft and/or destruction of reserve land resources, and institutional attempts to obliterate their cultures and traditions, and replace them with western ideologies and values.  But this is not merely historical, and my own loss of heritage is merely one of countless examples of how that cultural erosion and eradication continues to occur.  While #IdleNoMore was ignited by the ways that the Harper Government’s omnibus budget bills have dismantled previous agreements with the First Nations, the kindling has been decades of invisibly erasing a nation.

We still have a tendency to think of Canada as a single nation, with everyone subsumed by it.  That’s a problem.  Treaties are signed by nations.  Plural.

Nations, and Other Distinctions.

And that illustrates just one of the many things that complicate justice and equality for Aboriginal peoples.  Canadians have long ago stopped thinking of the First Nations as nations — as though the treaties resulted in their dissolution and absorption into Canada.

This has allowed a cognitive dissonance to infect the public consciousness over the past century or more, in which Aboriginal peoples are often characterized by some as (forgive the paraphrase) “spoiled brats who want to be special.”  The non-Aboriginal “solution” to First Nations plights has always been to assimilate people to the point that they become like “any other Canadian,” and our governmental policies have always been keyed toward this objective.  But dissolution of the First Nations as nations was never agreed to, and it’s because of this that the erasure of Native culture over two centuries has taken the form of separation of children from families, denigration of traditions, and sometimes even extermination of entire populations (most familiarly through the use of things like smallpox-infected blankets, but evidence is surfacing about other atrocities as well).  Canada never had authority to actually dissolve the First Nations, so it set out to do what it could to disempower, erase, and break them.

This is why you have the atrocious conditions at places like Attawapiskat (and it should be acknowledged here that both conditions and legalities are very different from place to place because of the different treaties that were signed, the varying limitations on communities to self-govern, the different visions of those communities, etc.).  Treaty-designated reserves and territories are exempt from Provincial laws (which sometimes gets spun as “preferential treatment” elsewhere in Canada).  But treaty legalities limit the way that Aboriginal communities can self-govern.  And where self-governance exists, federal legislation often prevents communities from establishing a legal system with teeth that can actually enforce Aboriginal laws and regulations in a meaningful way.  That is how you can have homes built upon floodplains, riddled with mold, without fire-suppression sprinklers or other safety considerations that would be illegal under fire codes, without sanitation, and basically uninhabitable.  This is how you can have a school built and torn down shortly afterward because it was built over toxic waste.  This is why the only solution available for deplorable housing can be to build yet more homes that will eventually be uninhabitable.  Canadians outside the experience of Aboriginal plight see only the money, and not the complex morass of institutionalized chaos that keeps that money being spent in a grossly ineffective state of triage.  Or the fact that that money has to address everything for Aboriginal populations — from housing to health care to education to infrastructure to utilities to social supports like addictions assistance and suicide prevention… many of them things that the average Canadian also benefits from but aren’t including the price tag in their comparison.

Agreements.

That’s where the Indian Act comes in — a piece of legislation which was said to implement the agreements made in the treaties.  It was a deplorable piece of legislation in the first place, steeped in racism, and until 1960, it even denied Native peoples the right to vote for the government that determined their fates, unless they renounced Indian status first.  20 major amendments to the Indian Act later, we still have First Nations ravaged by economic exploitation (revealing the worst of capitalism), and barriers to communities that want to grow and flourish and determine their own destinies.  Not all have done badly under these agreements, but those who’ve done well are very often aware of how easy it is to fall into despair, and how difficult it is to climb back out.

And so, the Harper government now steps into that by unilaterally making changes to those agreements, as though the First Nations do not even need to be consulted at all.  In the massivesupermegaomnibus “budget,” some of the few guarantees that government historically did provide to the First Nations were struck off, to allow for more corporate exploitation — without anything substantial in return.  And then when you hear neo-liberal pundits like Spin Media entertainer Ezra Levant talk about it, you hear spin that the best way to deal with it all is to dissolve the First Nations and give them the legal right to sell their land off to oil companies.  Harper’s own response to Attawapiskat was to try to impose an emergency manager, reminiscent of the tactic being tried (in attempt number two, now) to arbitrarily break minority communities in Michigan and sell off public assets.  And it is not a heartening sign when the Prime Minister ignores and refuses to meet with Chief Spence, follows the Tom Flanagan playbook and appoints an Indian and Northern Affairs Canada minister who had been a former forester directing the destruction of Haida lands, and who once viewed the department he now heads as:

“… the money vacuum. …. Furthermore, it is a cruel, unfair hoax on the Canadian taxpayer because despite all the federal largesse and misguided paternalism, those status Indians who live on reserves do not pay income, property or sales taxes on purchases delivered to the reserves….”

This is why Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike and the #IdleNoMore flashmobs, round dances, railway and highway blockades, and other decidedly peaceful acts of resurgence and reclamation are part of a multifaceted issue which can’t be boiled down to one law, one action or one easy fix… or even one particular group to negotiate with, for that matter, which could complicate resolving things.

Now, in the above, there is probably at least something I screwed up, got wrong, mischaracterized, failed to reveal the full scope, have overemphasized victimhood, etc.  I do know, for example, that some consider the word “Aboriginal” objectionable, while others embrace it — terminology debates are not just limited to trans communities, but I’m not versed in all the nuances of that discussion to make a decision on that word.  I often don’t know specifically where I’ve messed up my characterizations because I don’t have the lived experience, and this is why I don’t typically write about First Nations issues.  But I challenge people to question the assimilationist mentality that has often been passed off as “conventional wisdom,” complete with dismissive finger-pointing.

And that is why I support #IdleNoMore, and issue this challenge to my readers: don’t accept the media, mainstream or party line for truth.  Question everything.

Some recommended reading:

The #IdleNoMore Manifesto;

âpihtawikosisân’s Idle No More: There’s good reason the Natives are restless;

Her follow-up, Where do we go from here?

Pam Palmater gives some idea of how legislation (not just the massivesupermegaomnibus “budget”) discussed by the Harper Conservatives as of November impacted the Indian Act, using Bill S-2 Family Homes on Reserve & Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act (which in true Harper fashion, was presented as a way to protect women) as an example;

Intercontinental Cry discusses the suite of bills passed or in process affecting the treaties, and puts them in the context of the White Paper of 1969;

And if you want to focus just on the numbers, âpihtawikosisân gives a frank breakdown of the disputed dollars in Attawapiskat as an example.

(Crossposted to rabble.ca)

On Persecution Complexes and Rage

The interplay of rage and persecution complexes works to shape trans, LGB — and in fact all — struggles against oppression.  It can become an eternal feedback loop that can stymie any attempt to move progressive causes forward, if it succeeds in establishing its circuitous pattern.

This translates to many struggles, so I’m going to speak generally and with varied examples — but I’m reminded of this most recently by the claims of persecution over a confrontation that happened at the New York dyke march, by Cathy Brennan, so will probably focus there most frequently.

(Oh dear god, I invoked the name. Now here come the bajillion bloody emails and the character assassination — it’s like goddamn Beetlejuice.)

Because I’ll be talking in generalities, I’ll be using terms like “oppressor / oppressed.” And because privilege is relative, and we all have some form of it or another relative to someone else, there are times when just about any group takes on the role of the oppressor — ourselves included.  So if I jump around a bit, you’ll need to bear with me.  The principle is what I’m focusing on, moreso than the many players.  Rather than participate in the game, I’d rather dismantle it.  Break the cycle, not perpetuate it. Continue reading

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