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Decolonization: Theory, Action, and Praxis
by Yvonne M
Sunday Sep 9th, 2012 10:07 AM
During a recent visit to the Bay Area, a about a half-dozen activists from Decolonize Seattle shared their ideas about decolonization at Holdout Books in West Oakland.
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?Decolonize Seattle During a recent visit to the Bay Area, a about a half-dozen activists from Decolonize Seattle  shared their ideas about decolonization at Holdout Books in West Oakland.  The panel discussion and subsequent Q/A session included a variety of dense topics, with a complete running time of over 3 hours. As a past participant of Occupy Oakland and as one who is currently active in Decolonize Oakland, I was intrigued by this event.  I was eager to hear other perspectives on decolonization, and perhaps meet with activists of Decolonize Seattle to fortify any complementary efforts between our groups.  I was also curious to know how the Decolonize Seattle tendency came about, in relation to Occupy Seattle, to find any parallels or similarities as has been experienced in Oakland.

Overview That Sunday evening, the main upper level meeting area of The Holdout was filled with at least 75 people.  It was apparent to me that this discussion was highly anticipated.  I saw many familiar faces that I had recognized from various activist groups - mainly from Occupy Oakland. One of the speakers opened by noting that Decolonize Seattle is not an organization per se, and does not adhere to a set of policies or principles.  It is a collection of individuals whose ideas and work mesh together. The panelists gave brief self-introductions and overviews of the topics that would be discussed.  It seemed that each had adopted a concept to examine through the lens of decolonialization, including:  food sovereignty, education abolition, and critiques of the nation-state, non-profit organizations, and privilege/identity/oppression politics. A synopsis of each decolonial theme presented by members of Decolonize Seattle is as follows:

  • Food SovereigntyWhite supremacy disconnects us from the land.  Our food system is a capitalist food system.  we need to find ways to destroy it and refuse to work within that system.
  • Education AbolitionEducation is an institution that does not need to exist.  It is only necessary for the proliferation of capitalism.  Educational institutions are colonial institutions, as they set people on certain pathways (from school to prison or from school to the nonprofit industrial complex).
  • The Nation-State: The installation of borders lead to territorialism, which leads to the displacement of peoples.  500 years of colonialism and the drawing of borders have fractured our communities.  These geographical borders also create mental borders when we believe our oppressions define us.  We have to confront our oppressions and confront our identities.
  • Nonprofits: The nonprofits say we need leaders.  As people of color we need to stand our ground and resist - be our own leaders.
  • Identity Politics:  Identity politics involves an examination of power relationships between groups.  Identity politics means that individuals claim membership to groups and speak for others, based on these identities.  Nonprofit organizations benefit monetarily through the state because of identity politics.  On whiteness: we are all indigenous from some place or another.  While white-skin-privilege does exist, whiteness is a concept, not a color.
Reactions Each of the topics presented intrigued me.  I found myself to be in agreement with the panelists who discussed food sovereignty, the idea of the nation-state,  the dangers of some nonprofit organizations, the rejection of white supremacy, and the direct confrontation of oppression.  There were contradictions expressed by individual panelists and across the group in regards to identity politics.  This is understandable, as it is a concept that can be unwieldy in conversation.  A thread that remained consistent throughout the panel presentation was the idea of 'smashing' various systems, which garnered loud cheers and lots of applause.

I did not find much connection with the discussion of the abolition of education.  I wholeheartedly agree that the American public school system is a broken system that plays a part in upholding colonial structures, specifically the school-to-prison pipeline.  However, since no practical alternatives were explored, it seemed to be limited to theory.  I expected to hear a brief discussion of parent-run school cooperatives, homeschooling, or unschooling, but the presentation lacked an analysis of the education of children - which is where it all begins.  I had the impression that the panelist was in support of free skools for adults as an alternative to universities, but even on this note, more needed to be discussed.

While I resonated with some of the ideas that were presented and found the topics to be interesting, the Q/A section hampered the momentum of the evening. Partially due to the lack of planned facilitation, at times, audience members and panelists gave long responses that caused the event to drag on needlessly.  By the end of the evening, the audience had dwindled down to less than half the original size.  Additionally, there was an undercurrent of awkwardness between participants of Decolonize Seattle and Decolonize Oakland.  One panelist mentioned hearing disturbing things about Decolonize Oakland (1) .  Another panelist acknowledged that there were unresolved tensions in the room, and expressed that conflict should be welcomed.  I found the vibe in the room to be off-putting and distracting, as did a few others in attendance.  I think that if both decolonize groupings had been in direct communication before the event took place, some of the hearsay may have been neutralized, and a broader perspective of Oakland's political landscape would have been brought into focus for Decolonize Seattle.

Lingering Questions Participants from Decolonize Seattle did have the opportunity to share their political ideas and theories, but I was still left wondering about a couple of practical, nitty gritty details.

  1. What work are you doing in Seattle, and how does this work link with your theories of decolonization? (audience member's question)
  2. What are ways in which you use anti-authoritarian methods of organization within communities? (audience member's question)
  3. How did Decolonize Seattle form?  What are the similarities and differences between  Decolonize Seattle and other decolonize groups in other cities?
  4. How is Decolonize Seattle related to Occupy Seattle?
  5. How do individuals address issues of race, gender, and sexuality within the movement and in relation to decolonial struggles?
Some important questions remain for Decolonize Oakland, in my opinion, as our work moves forward in our collective.  How can we further develop our notions and ideas about decolonization, and how can we intentionally link these ideas with our actions? How do we delve into the praxis of decolonization in Oakland and beyond?  

Notes (1) At the end of the evening, the panelist shared with me that "many other anarchists" divulged negative things about Decolonize Oakland.  I share this information here to illustrate how misunderstandings and hearsay have exacerbated rifts in the current activist milieu of Oakland.  I am thankful for having a thorough conversation with this panelist, because it's the first time anyone has directly shared qualms with me about Decolonize Oakland, rather than hiding behind anonymity, internet articles, and whispers.  


Comments  (Hide Comments)

why do white people in occupy oakland continue to bash decolonize oakland behind their backs? what a bunch of cowards.

lets be clear:

there ARE people in occupy that want to work with police. I have NEVER met anyone in decolonize that does.

there ARE people in occupy that *do not* think that white privilege exists. There ARE NO PEOPLE in decolonize that will make this absurd claim.


Occupy seems to think that because they have absolutely no accountability system set up that this is okay. because they dont believe in kicking people out of occupy, they cant control people who claim occupy oakland that want solely reformist, patriarchal anti-poc bullshit. they certainly arent kicking people out for sexist and racist behavior in fact they will work with just about anybody if they want the same immediate goals. they think this is okay because they are a 'movement' of diverse views. but they are really a bunch of ignorant white people who quote decolonial theory when convenient. it sucks when you are a white person and want to run everything in a poc town and feel left out, huh? or when you have to change your white name to baruca to sound more poc?

the only reason people of color involved in occupy feel erased when others discuss how white occupy is, is because occupy is 75% white in a 75% poc town. actually occupy is probably even whiter since the poc committee left because of occupy's racist bullshit. if people of color had a strong presence in occupy, they wouldn't feel so invisibilized when others discuss whiteness.

tell me white people of occupy, what do you think makes a good ally?

by where have you been?
Monday Sep 10th, 2012 1:10 PM
The comment above is so laughable for so many reasons but the main one is the basic fact that Occupy Oakland does not even exist anymore. The general assembly no longer exists, OO has not called for any action in five months, and almost everyone has moved on to other things. So who exactly are you referring to when you paint this straw man imaginary portrait of a nefarious white occupy oakland? Sounds like you are trying to sow the very divisions you claim to be upset about. And just to set the record straight here, occupy oakland has been explicitly against the police since day one and never wavered on that. Everyone know that. That doesnt mean that some of the tens of thousands who participated in this social movement all shared the same view on the cops. But every official OO action was against the pigs and never sought out a permit. This is in contrast to Decolonize Oakland who helped to organize multiple demonstrations in which they worked with the city and police to secure a permit.
decolonize oakland helped organize one march with a permit: the Dignity and Resistance March. There were MORE people identifying as part of occupy oakland in the Dignity and Resistance march planning than in Decolonize! Yet you have no internal reflection about occupy folks wanting a permit. With the exception of one occupy oakland person, all the other occupy people in the coalition voted for a permit. Decolonize Oakland didnt want a permit but ceded to the wants of immigrants who were in the coalition that had planned the mayday march in the past and were part of undocumented communities. decolonize, probably like occupy, would not have pushed for a permit on their own.

the fact that occupy has the nerve to pretend as if occupy people had nothing to do with the permit is ridiculous. the fact that occupy wants to pin this solely on decolonize--who were a small fraction of the coalition--instead of the many other groups there is just manipulative. I understand that you are likely just listening to rumors and, because you were not at the meetings, you don't know this and are mistaken.

But that is really nether here nor there. Yvonne is reaching out to Decolonize Seattle folks in the hopes of starting a conversation. Lets step back and allow it

by -A-
Tuesday Sep 11th, 2012 3:30 PM
Does anybody agree with asking their slave master permission to revolt? What if permission is granted? Are there rules to how far you can rebel? What if permission is denied? Will you rebel anyway? This is why anarchy is so much more desirable imo. It is the rejection of the state and its illegitimate authority. The only purpose for a permit is to respect the surrounding business establishment and make sure that commerce is flowing evenly uninterrupted. That is the machine I'm talking about here. The same machine we are going to dismantle via disruption once we organize this shit. This monster has to go. Too many people are still caught up in thinking they need permission to make life easier and not realizing they are preventing it from coming to reality by asking permission to protest. And what is a protest anyway? Isn't it just a demand/cry for mercy and justice and not a declaration of war to end it? Why ask mercy now? Why from a system that shows no mercy and no justice, only more of the same. FUCK OBAMA!

Where are all the smart people who no better than to worship their controllers and beg them for a better standard of living and accountability with in the system? How can you pretend as if the system ever had everyone's interest at heart? As if patience ever got us anywhere? It never did for women and people of color. Only small improvements and these improvements were only used to pit every marginalized group against each other rather than bring groups together and make them realize they are all human as one. It never did for LBGT either. It never did for the underclass poor. This government and the media and the police never sufficiently addressed the shitty situation and always placed emphasis on the middle and upper class while making the upper class its top priority and you only want to protest? FUCK THAT SHIT! I WANT WAR!


Where is your anger and frustration? How can you act so calm when everything is so un-equal and pretend peaceful protest is going to fix it? In the end you know that peaceful shit is just going to tame the resistance so that people will burn out and give up when it doesn;t change anything. Peaceful protest and violence are both a means to an end. Once is meant to reform which always comes in small packages and falls short to help everyone enough. There is never radical reform. The other is a refusal to keep putting up with crap for the rest of your life by living with your enemy. How can you follow any rules by the system that were only set up to maintain and sustain that system of inequality you claim to be against? Aren;t you preventing the revolution by doing this? I find this equating to stealing hope and stealing away from all of a much better word and brighter future.

How can anybody respect cops when you know they will turn on you with out thinking to protect one class over the other with the top class being the biggest priority? This is just madness. I don't want to ask permission. I want to kill these bastards. This whole thing, this reality, how can you stand it any longer and not want to just explode with total rage? Where is the genuine frustration in the streets? Where is the revolution/insurrection? Where the voice for the fed up people who want to destroy? I'm not hearing it. That voice is absent and always being drowned out by reformists who want to work together with their wage slave masters, pigs. Fuck negotiating.
by r
Friday Sep 14th, 2012 7:02 AM
Yvonne is reaching out to Decolonize Seattle folks in the hopes of starting a conversation. Lets step back and allow it