written by kanishka sikri
anti-racist & post-de-colonial toolkit
A complicated dynamic in which some communities hold greater manufactured ability in the economic, social and political sense to marginalize and control other communities. Power is not only a physical act, but is made possible through language and discourse. For instance, through historical documentation of the white man as a site for objective knowledge creation and production, white men are able to assert, define, and (re)manufacture certain narratives that enable them power. The creation of this discourse is then a creation of power. The order of this discourse then produces a specific reality, and excludes the possibility of any other social fabrics from existing.
Oppression refers to the institutional power to wield control, discipline, and punishment; and consequently is the systematic act of dehumanization, subjugation, and marginalization of specific communities, which is done to benefit the oppressors at the expense of the oppressed. Oppression manifests in a wide range of mediums from women’s reproductive oppression, such as the control of abortion rights, to the continued repression of certain religious groups, such as the Rohingya Muslims in Burma (Myanmar).
Race is a social construction aimed at categorizing and grouping communities of people together based on shared perceivable characteristics.
Ethnicity is a construct that attempts to hegemonically characterize individuals into groups of communities based on shared characteristics, including but not limited to values, language, geospatial contexts, education, and geopolitical histories (colonial hierarchies).
Culture, a relative term to each individual environment, refers to the shared meanings and behaviours between groups of people as a collective community. Culture has an underlying code, social, moral, economic, and political, for when individuals choose to participate in that community they tacitly agree to the unspoken rules of conduct.
(In)active differential treatment of individuals and communities based on various identity markers or perceived markers, including but not limited to, race, age, culture, ethnicity, religion, biological identity, gender, orientation, and able-bodiedness.
The act of discrimination, coupled with the power to be able to exercise that hatred against specific communities. Racism and discrimination are not the same, it is the power balance that determines its expression.
Individual racism is the exercise of power and dominance among individuals supported by an oppressive transnational structure of white supremacy. These acts of racism can be deliberate and unintentional, but their intent does not excuse their exercise.
Also known as structural racism, institutional racism refers to the acts of power laced with and embedded within coloniality, discrimination, power imbalances, white supremacy, etc. Individual racism is able to function, through the institutional racism which provides it legitimacy.
Internalized racism is an extension of white supremacy, in which the supremacist and oppressive system rewards people of colour when perpetuating hatred against their fellow community and/or upholding whiteness. It is not just the idea of the “white body” perpetuating racism, but the ideology that white body perpetuates, which can, and most definitely will spread to people of color communities.
Privileges are advantages we hold over others, whether that be of resources, opportunities, institutions, or representations. We all hold some type of privilege; it is not a binary but rather a range we fall on and between. It is also important to note, that privilege is environmentally formed–meaning in some geopolitical and social contexts, you may hold more privileges that in other spaces. Privileges are not fixed, but rather, fluid. We can then understand them as a spectrum, from which sometimes we, even without intentional consent, still tacitly hold the upper hand. Let’s use an example in which there are two women: one is Indian and one is white. In this case, yes, both are women, but one is also an Indian woman, a racialized and marginalized individual, thus giving the white woman an upper hand in advantage and privilege. The purpose of this example is to illustrate that our privileges are not fixed and stagnant beings, but are malleable to the different natural and social environments we are in. More importantly, privileges and intersections of domination are ever changing as our relation to others is changing. What advantages we have, don’t have, and wish to have are contingent upon the ways in which we navigate our social and cultural spaces.
Colonialism refers to the dispossession, marginalization, and oppression of certain geospatial areas by other people, communities, and nations. This can be physical settlement, commonly referred to as settler colonialism; military occupation of an area; resource extraction and exploitation; trade imbalances; and forceful state coercion. Colonization produces an unequal power relation between the colonizer and the colonized, thus resulting in structural inequities governing the geopolitical climate of different areas, altering the lived realities and fabric through which colonized communities navigate their day to day lives. Many postcolonial thinkers, rightfully so, argue the emergence of development as an extension of neocolonial power that reproduce over and over again the narratives that keep colonizer communities at an advantage.
“The production of knowledge and the planning of development by western institutions is something that third world countries and regions find it hard to escape from. The process of dominating, restructuring, and establishing authority progresses in three stages:
(1) The progressive identification of third world problems, to be treated by specific interventions. This creates a “field of the interventions of power.”
(2) The professionalization of development; the recasting of political problems into neutral scientific terms (poverty indicators, for example), leading to a regime of truth and norms, or a “field of the control of knowledge.”
(3) The institutionalization of development to treat these ‘problems’, and the formation of a network of new sites of power/knowledge that bind people to certain behaviors and rationalities (in rural development discourse, “produce or perish” became one such norm.”
— Escobar 1995: 157
Appropriation refers to the theft of property, both intellectual and material from different cultures and communities for individual and mass consumption, without recognition and understanding of the use and meaning behind different “cultural elements”. This is a reinforcer of colonial narratives, in which white communities feel a natural right to steal, utilize, and profit from people of colour.
Appreciation, living within the same space as appropriation, serves to broaden one’s understandings and respect for other cultures through cross cultural exchange, rather than its counter which serves to steal property for its benefit. It is a mutual space of respect and reciprocal sharing, rather than domination.
To be an ally is to be consciously aware of the privileges we hold, and use that consciousness in an attempt to sustain solidarity within and between different marginalized communities. I think it is important to recognize the binary model of allyship as one that has major flaws within it. Through discussions of privileges and advantages, we have analyzed the ways in which privileges change depending on the geospatial and social dynamics we are navigating through. During the changes in our privileges within different social environments, we need to become allies to those we hold certain privileges over. Allyship is not just a binary between white people and people of colour, but can, and should exist within people of colour communities.