Answering my phone, we talked for quite a while, discussing the
herbal constituents of a medicinal salve. We exchanged our
approval over the importance of agricultural textile hemp and the
amazing biproducts that we could focus on if we had the right
equipment. We expressed our concern for the water protectors, the
crude oil and tar sands. Then I mentioned decolonizing our
libraries. I could sense your need to know more. out of the entire
conversation we had, I sat with this one question I heard on the
receiving end: “What does decolonize mean?”
Carrying this thought-provoking discussion with me for a long
time, I decided to answer it despite the fear I might not know
exactly what it means to me. With time to let the topic grow from
reflection, I decided to birth a response. All I have are choppy
words and adrenaline-induced theories. The one thing that speaks
to me is the truth that we believe based on our individual experiences.
Decolonize means to dispute the colonial force of power perpetrated
by the immigrants of Europe who took claim of my ancestors’
bodies and land through the Doctrine of Discovery. It means
to dismantle and unravel the binding of the biased books we were
led astray with. It is to unhinge the door of systematic racial discrimination with more than just twists and turns of the proverbial
No one told me as I stood there naïve with my hand on my heart
repeating an oath sworn under God of my compliance to the way
the world was designed to orchestrate inspired by a constitution
that still oppresses me and my people.
No one. Told. Me.
With melodies of indoctrinated outright lies and supposed
justice for all, I would sing on beat and on cue.
Every. Single. Time.
To the little white boy who tormented me walking home from
elementary school, I will never forget the hate in his voice as he
screamed the mispronunciation of my last name and rude
All. The. Way. Home.
To the white kids in high school with their collars popped ever
so high. The ones who called me “spink.” The same kids who said
my people are dirty because they work in the fields.
Or how about those magazines? You know the ones at every
five and dime with white, skinny, clean bodies. Mass subliminal
messages in between the pages of legs, lips, and thighs.
The poor and misinformed demonstrations of the first
Thanksgiving plays and songs I took part in.
Year. After. Year.
To the police officer taking one look at my skin color and leaving
20-year-old me in the middle of the night. Instructing me to “figure
it out,” as I was left stranded in the city with no way home.
To the countless times I was interrogated as I was being profiled
by authorities, praying to God I remained safe.
So, my friend, decolonize means to challenge and confront a
colonial system; to implement accurate and improved terminology,
resources, and establishments, especially for the ones who
think they have control over my body and land that I occupy. It
means to set a truthful example for others to learn from in a harmless,
educated, and conducive way.
Decolonize does not mean to be uncivil. It does not mean we
should create an upheaval or make up false narratives. It is an
opportunity to unlearn the information that was deliberately
distorted and taught to us in a deceitful way. It is to question, not
to defy. It is to reexamine the current reality we are in.
Although now that I say this out loud, it sounds like decolonization
means breaking away from a corrupt and slave-like system.
A system we are inherently born into.
The same system we both pledged our allegiance to.
I suppose this is the best I can do, my friend, admitting you
deserve a better answer.