maya mikdashi explains what settler colonialism is
Hummus is to Palestine as wild rice is to Native America. But of course, this is insufficient. There is so much more I could try, and fail, to say.
Settler colonialism is criminalization: Drunks, drug addicts, and terrorists. It is the miscreant, the danger and the distrust in Lid, in Sabra, and on the Bad River Reservation. It is how these spaces open up to others where the good native and the good Palestinian reside. It is minority scholarships given to those who have maybe been once to a reservation, but have the requisite blood quota to allow a university to claim diversity points.
Settler colonialism is an inherited silence where you know memories are supposed to be. It is knowing that these memories have been purposely excised due to pain and the hope for a better future, if only the next generation could just forget. It is a man aging into regret for having shut out his children and grandchildren from his life and the lives of his loved ones. It is his granddaughter wanting to go back in time to beat up whoever called him names in grade school. It is finding papers, land allotments and photos of relatives who “look Indian” that you have never seen because they were in a locked suitcase for decades. It is watching these photos, wondering the names of these people and knowing that even if you knew the names you would not know how to pronounce them or understand what meaning they were supposed to impart. It is understanding that these family documents and photos could belong to a museum, and that they would tell the twinned story of genocide and nation building. It is thinking that your brother has the same shaped eyes as a great-great grandmother, and then admonishing yourself for seeing things that are not, and cannot be, there. It is waiting to feel something beyond anger and guilt, and feeling consumed by the weight of waiting.
Settler colonialism is being unable to fill in the blanks. It is the history of a family split between natives and settlers. It is the logic of superiority, of primacy, of genocide. It is the colonization of memory and of events that come to be known as “History.” It is visiting a reservation or a refugee camp and wondering how this could have been your life. It is being thankful that this is not your life, that this is only a visit or a passion, a choice to be here. It is realizing that this confidence in one’s place has been bought with the logic and practice of settler colonialism. It is wanting answers to inquiries you cannot yet, and probably will never, articulate. It is seeking epiphany through writing and finding only the proliferation of questions, of doubts, and of histories. Like these questions, and more than anything, settler colonialism is ongoing.
Maya Mikdashi, in an incisive piece entitled ‘What is Settler Colonialism?’, in Jadaliyya. Definitely worth a look.
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