Posts tagged colonialism
The little boy probably couldn’t answer all these questions, but he knew where his heart and allegiance belonged. It wasn’t to the flag whose stars each represented the plunder of someone else’s homeland, but to its colony that his mother taught him would one day be free. And in response, with a child’s dignity and intelligence, he sang the anthem that he knew: “La Borinqueña Revolucionaria.” Those words, echoed into the womb, he knew with assurance stood for freedom accompanied by a flag not stained with blood. But he sung it alone. His peers, plunged into an ethnocentric and uncritical curriculum, will probably never know about their heroes and symbols of greatness.
Lazy. Ungrateful. Primitive. Dependent. Loud. Pathological. These were the descriptors of Puerto Ricans in the U.S. media following the island’s November 6 non-binding referendum on its political status. Not only do such comments dehumanize millions of people but also says a lot about this society’s unwillingness to acknowledge its own racism and imperial policies….
Challenging colonialism - in its structure and symbols - is a long, painful process. But, one only needs to imagine the day when the coffin of Eugenio María de Hostos is finally brought from Quisqueya and buried in a liberated Borinquen - as he wished - to understand that we cannot let a struggle begun way before us to die in vain.
Too often we (and others) speak about the Boricua diaspora in terms of deficits.
We’re generally impoverished. Our youth are dropping out of school at all levels. Our communities are disintegrating due to gentrification. We have high rates of health problems, both physical and psychological. These are all true. We should talk about these things. We must collectively find solutions to them in culturally relevant and holistic ways. However, we must look at our strengths and celebrate one of our great accomplishments: we still exist as a people.
All of those social ills mentioned are manifestations of colonialism. The very essence of that imperial project is to rob us of our national spirit, our cultural identities. This is the intent behind our mass removal on and from the island and in the U.S. Still, after our encounters with theories of racial inferiority alà Social Darwinism imposed on us by the general media, schools, and government agencies we defiantly know that a one-stared flag that we constantly wave embodies our indomitable Zeitgeist. This just didn’t happen, we made it happen - through individual and institutional struggle.
So, be proud my Boricua people. A truly liberated future will one day come.
“No property taxes for five years. No closing fees and no capital-gains taxes. With a blitz of housing incentives set to expire Dec. 31, Puerto Rico is courting high-end home buyers—and sparking a real-estate revival.” - A Land Rush in Puerto Rico
While Puerto Rico’s population - most notably the formally educated “middle class” - declines rapidly and the economy continues to falter, we must ask: who could buy such homes? Probably wealthy white continental U.S. folks, spending their vacations on the island until its ripe enough to stay permanently. When the indigenous boricua population is in the minority, then Puerto Rico will become an incorporated territory, then a state, and finally the Golgotha of the Caribbean. Classic U.S. colonial strategies. Ironically, the very resource that attract such investors - the tropical beauty - is being destroyed by these developments. Ay bendito Borinquen….
At least there is a video talking about Puerto Rico’s colonial status, but she makes it sound more like a Sesame Street Special instead of an in depth and provocative conversation.
The abuse we commit on others - physical, sexual, psycho-emotional - is, in part, a result of the powerlessness we feel in our lives. This has everything to do with the abuse we faced in our own experiences, which is directly connected to colonialism, patriarchy, and capitalism.
“God bless America” read the Facebook post on the page of a Boricua student organization at a Public Ivy. “How is this possible?”, I thought.
How ironic (or sad) is it that ethnic organizations, which owe their existence to the anti-colonial and diaspora nationalist struggles of decades past, are now the ones who kiss the feet of the very country that carried-out their peoples near extinction!? The same government that funded and legally justified imperial excursions, chattle slavery, forced displacement, and the ghettoization of people of color. This is not to say that ethnic student organizations must be the vanguard of a “people’s revolution.” However, there must be something wrong with the political climate if such bodies are appropriating the same dogmatic slogans of white supremist nativist nationalism. There must be something problematic in how the radical activists of the past passed down the collective history of struggle and the reasons for their neccesity. It is as if those youth of color who make it through the ‘hood find themselves internalizing the racist stereotypes that plagued them their entire lives and believe themselves to be meritocratic exceptions worthy of assimilation (if anything, we now find petite bourgeoisie students of color in colleges while the ghetto nerds are forgotten). All the while these organizations allow the programs and departments, which created a possibility for them to attend such prestigious institutions, die.
We should have known that white supremacy and capitalism was so complex that it would eventually co-op our young people. Now we critique brown faces behind white men instead of us challenging our oppressors collectively (or has it always been that way?).
It’s always difficult to insert into a conversation the interconnectedness of personal agency and structural limitations. I was speaking today with a college professor doing a literary project on a particular gang-related murder in the ‘hood and the question that struck me the most was “didn’t these young men have a choice to murder an innocent person?” Yes, they absolutely did. However, what’s also a significant piece of the conversation is what did or didn’t this society do for that to happen; what exactly set the stage for violence and murder?
Oftentimes such a follow-up question is read as legitimizing such actions. Nope, it’s far too easy to saturate the discourse with this idea that there are bad people (of color), bad neighborhoods (of color), and bad choices (by folks of color out of ignorance or an inherent savagery). Let’s ALSO talk about inequities in education, health, income, housing; a history of colonialism, racism, patriarchy, and displacement. Lets talk about internalized hatred, building and supporting productive, healthy alternatives; and restructuring the prison industrial complex. If we continue to blame people and individual choices and ignore structural limitations instead of focusing on how we could make better communities for all of us unfortunately violence will continue to be a staple in many people’s lives. In other words, the stigmatization and criminalization of our youth of color, our Boricua youth will only beget more violence.