A Self-Criticism of Our Approach to Decolonization


Those of us who are fortunate enough to have been exposed to liberation ideologies sometimes go through an initial holier-than-thou phase. We go on to reinforce and reproduce the same victim-blaming positions and attitudes of those who oppress our communities. We selfishly ignore that we, too, were “unwoke” at some point and someone else’s condescending and pretentious temperament was not what woke us up at all.

“Slapping the colonization out of people,” as some activists have recently put it, is not just a condescending position to take, but one that will offend, irritate and repel potential allies and collaborators in our communities. Indeed, arousing revolutionary sentiments and activity in the diaspora can sometimes be frustrating and feelings of anger are justified. We should keep in mind, always, that this anger should be reserved for our oppressors and their capitalist-imperialist system.

In his essay on combating liberalism, Mao Zedong reminded us that one of the types of destructive behaviors in a revolutionary party is “to give pride of place to one’s own opinions” and “to indulge in personal attacks, pick quarrels, vent personal spite or seek revenge instead of entering into an argument … for the sake of unity and progress.” Whether we are part of an organization (such as a party) or we are individual activists, we should keep in mind that antagonizing our own communities with smugness will not help us achieve our goals and will instead steer people further into the tight grip of our enemies.

Ironically, although we proclaim to be fighting for decolonization, this sanctimonious position can be traced to Western educational models and attitudes where “child-like savages” must be taught for their own good; to “civilize” them. This type of guidance and instruction, where you stand pointing your judgmental finger at the ignorance of your seated pupils, discourages a genuine revolutionary pedagogy and potential mobilization.

Unfortunately, from my own personal experience, social media platforms help to incite and amplify this type of attitude in otherwise well-meaning activists. Our original motive of revolutionary justice can quickly be transformed into attacks directed at our communities condemning them for their own ignorance and precarious social conditions. We shamelessly and arrogantly partake in the already widespread victim-blaming constantly launched against our people by capitalist-imperialist enemies.

Revolutionary consciousness — or “wokeness” — cannot be forced down people’s throats. The idea that we can deliver a beating with love should be done away with and thrown into the dustbin of history. Let us invoke the humble, respectful and revolutionary love of our teachers who have demonstrated a deep sea of patience. That does not mean we sit back and wait but rather that we redirect our energies, often filled with legitimate anger, towards innovative and captivating methods that will win our community’s hearts and minds. That incendiary status update or meme mocking our communities may get a few hundred likes but it will not help us build revolutionary potential.

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