Posts tagged ‘colonialism’

December 12, 2011

Blue eyes

So I read this post at What Tami Said. It was just the kick in the bum I needed to write this blog post. It refers to this announcement that a doctor has figured out a way to make brown eyes, blue.

This post was gonna be about the beginning of my project to decolonize my mind and body. It is a project of radical self-acceptance. It is me wanting, at long last, to get to a place where I can love and appreciate my body for what it is. And I decided to start this project with my eyes. And their colour. Because I do think they are boring. That they are ugly. Just because they are brown.

And I’ve utterly stalled out on this. The article helps me a lot about an issue I’ve been struggling with, because I would *not* pay $5000 dollars for plastic surgery to change my eye colour. Maybe this is because I’m a student and simply don’t have that kind of money. Would I pay $500? How about $50? Maybe $5? This scares me, because I might pay $5. Except that I shouldn’t want to. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for taking whatever actions you feel you need to in order to be comfortable in your body.

This is different because I dislike my eyes because we live in a white supremacist world. Because I grew up in a culture that told me that white skin and blue/green eyes are beautiful. Because you can read things like that article that say:

“A blue eye is not opaque, you can see deeply into it, and a brown eye is very opaque. I think there is something very meaningful about this idea of having open windows to the soul.”

This is the sort of thing people think and believe about brown/black eyes. This quotation especially disgusts me for the ways that it reenforces the stereotype of the inscrutable Asian. Perhaps this is why people still treat us as if we have no souls. Like we are mindless drones, lacking individuality, and only live to study, work, and be exploited for cheap labour.

I want to decolonize my mind. I want to look into the mirror, in my eyes, and see that they are beautiful. I want to see the warm, almost amber-like, hue and think, gosh your eyes are beautiful. I want to stop joking with people that my eyes are poo-brown.

Decolonization is extremely important for creating a just world. But people often only speak of it in terms of physical space or society as a whole. These are important places for decolonization. But are the smaller scale, individual level. Because I will never be able to see myself as truly free or equal if I think my eyes are poo-brown. As long as I’m trapped by the invisible prisons that whiteness constructs for POC, I’ll never be truly free.

But decolonizing my mind and body, unfortunately, is *hard*. It is hard to shake off a lifetime of oppression. It certainly doesn’t happen overnight. But I’m committed to it. Because I do want to be liberated and live in a world free of the pernicious effects of colonialism.

November 16, 2011

The First Nations

I was recently having a conversation with a co-worker that again reminded me how just how casual stereotypes and racism is in Canada. I’m not sure how, but we got onto the topic of First Nations and it turned out that this was the very first time that he had heard this label for referring to the Indigenous people of North America. I probably shouldnt be so surprised. Really. I’ve known for years how awfully the First Nations are treated in Canada. Ive also known for years just how misunderstood First Nations issues and realities are (a lot of which is purposeful misunderstanding).

I’m also willing to admit that I was, for years and years, one of the people who consistently downplayed or ignored the current conditions of Indigenous peope in NA. (not to excuse it, but a large part of it comes form the internalized racist story about Asians and the model minority, since the argument went: my dad is/was a poor immigrant and we totally have managed to succeed! They should stop whining and just work harder!)

Even more insultingly, I’ve definitely been one of the people who say, “this, like, happened years ago and they should just get over it!”. Or completely erasing this countries colonial past (not recognizingu it’s continuing colonization) in NA. Failing to see how even my presence in this country perpetuates the continuing colonization of a land that isn’t mine.

Anyway, this post was meant to be about how and why recognizing that the Indigenous peoples of this continent are the *First Nations* if the continent is an important first step towards justice. This applies even if they reject our modern, Western notion of what a nation is. The major point is that their primacy demands that we engage them on whatever terms they choose.

One of the many derailing comments that my worker used was the the old argument that it is because they choose to remain on reservations that continues their continued economic marginalization. Maybe. But saying so without understanding how it is our fault totally misses the point. Saying that they should stop clinging to what little shreds we’ve left for them and finally admit defeat and erasure by total assimilation is not the solution.

However, I did agree that they should get off the reservations. But my vision was of them arming themselves, creating a militia and finally taking back what rightfully belongs to them. (this is of course if this what they want to do — they get to decide what would be the most appropriate way for them to achieve the dignity, equality, and respect that they deserve. Also, because they are not a monolith, a response as diverse as they are is great.)