The Stages of Modern Decolonization: A Pathway for Black Liberation

By: Noraa Maxey

Stage 1

I will refer to the divide between us as an illusion. It is only the most proper way to refer to it. In fact, the divide has been crossed more than once. I will be clear I am a dragon, a mythical creature, an animal; though I do believe at one point I was considered something more, outside my circle that I call home. One half of the us consist of people like me and the other half consist of “supernatural”, as I imagine they would like to be called, beings that recently arrived and have in record time already seems to have ruffled fur, feathers, and scales, mine included. So here is the story, the problem, and for some the immediate solution to our “supernatural” problem. I am talking in purely fantastical terms: gods, demigods, dragons, and the like do not sit around and talk in such a human way- but to speak of colonialism is to speak in a god and animal context with humans somewhere in the middle. I am a dragon, an animal if one is looking at the colonial context in the proper way- amongst other dragons I consider myself human because there is not biological separation between us, there is no animal distinction. But to make myself clear, you must think of me as a dragon who finds no difference between the pale white “gods”, me, and my classmate who tends to my flowers every other day or whenever she is in the mood. For the sake of visualization think of me as black and blue, with black and copper kinky hair, a long tail, and two sets of legs plus one pair of arms. I am a botanist. I arrange flowers, study soil, and observe the workings of nature in every context, including the colonization of it.

To begin the colonization started a couple of days after the first sighting of the colonizer, not yet known to me as the colonizer because there was just one and no violence took place. At first there was a sense of harmony in the trees and the forest, high above in the mountains, too, was peaceful. Then the other half arrived. I observed them from the carefully crafted veranda that I recently had made, for guest, plants, and the like. They were dressed in ruby red with a just as bright lip color to match, their hat shinned brightly in the evening sunlight. I thought it was a nice color, in fact I thought the clothing together looked quite fine if I was interested, I could even wear it, but my mind would later come to change once I saw the vicious package lying in the gentle folds. For perspective my veranda is on a mountain, just a little way above where the other half- later would be given the name “god”- stood. I thought of their manner as strange as the body they were living in, form where I see it body does not matter, essence was all there is. But for my equally observant acquaintance this was not the case. Her teeth bit at her bottom lip and quietly she gazed out across the rail, she was thinking, later she told me, that she knew things were going to change. It is a feeling that doesn’t seem right.

I nodded and kept looking out at forest. Soon the demigod left for the day, and I returned to my plants.

The sighting of the strangers caused no alarm to us on the hill, naturally. They were just like us in a weird sort of way, just living. Soon more joined the red “god” and they built their own little habitat next to our own. Not to long after that first sighting of the strange visitors did all hell break loose. A respected and well-known philanthropist in my town ran south of one of them, this was the first of a continuing series of violence initiated by them, it was clear to a tribe just to west of them that violence was all they were ever going to be, and they were right. They wanted nothing to do with us besides the fact that we were free, capable of labor, and sitting on land they did not think “animals” should have, how that idea came to fruition that I am still exploring. From what I could tell they were no different than us, we thought there was no biological difference only their status as “gods” marked them as something more. I was not convinced when I observed them on the first day, the “god” in red, but they had a very convincing system for non-believers like me: violence. Thus, I had my first physical encounter with the “god” in red, standing in red, the battlefield was covered in red, blood both theirs and mine. Violence was the only relationship we had with them, it was what kept their status as “gods” and ours as “animals.” However, with violence comes more violence and the power of our violence gave us and them a new identity as humans. Once we realized that nothing biological was keeping us separated a whole new consciousness took hold. But was it enough to uproot the consciousness of our previous status? Yes, with work would be the answer to the question.

This is of course a simple reimagining of what it must have been like to live in a world where the identity of humans was intentionally altered to give the gods and animal relationship merit. This is fantastical, naturally. I was not there to see it, so I could only imagine. Sometimes when I was walking along the street I wondered if the white guy who was walking and talking to me secretly had a biological anomaly, like the ability to control lighting or something, hidden behind his sweet smile.

Stage 2

I was no longer a dragon. I was now a human, living amongst other humans.

And living amongst humans was no easy feat. An acquaintance told me a story one time when we were sitting outside a restaurant staring at the subtle light of the stars. With the world being so amazing up there I wondered why life on earth could not be as peaceful. I said this aloud to my acquaintance. He chuckled. Even the world up there has their own set of problems. Asteroids, supernova, black holes, it is a wonder why we would want to go join them. I mean, those challenges are constant and naturally made, down here they don’t have to be constant, because they are man-made. He looked sadly from the sky to the city that expanded before us. How can the world be so big and yet, I feel trapped? I didn’t answer. I would be of no help. I could feel the cage shrinking and the chains getting tighter. Chains, chains, chains, for some reason my thoughts only focused on chains. The gruesome and cyclical violence of slavery was over but yet I am still in chains, talking to black intellectuals, like the person next to me, I realized that the struggle was not yet over, in fact it maybe beginning. The effects of colonialism not yet decolonized produces challenges, challenges that for some reason the world thinks are behind them, but I know better and the lively people chattering, and laughing about the way their momma did this and that, know it too. Many would like to think we live in some sort of magical post-racial society where everyone has the same opportunity as the person sitting next to us, that would be ideal but so far it has not happened. Fanon hoped to see Algeria decolonized. He never got to see it, not even in death. A particularly fatalistic girl in the Black Intellectuals group that I started, had no hope that the holes created by colonial society could ever be filled. The holes will only get bigger, because there will always be a supply of new ones, and the ones we thought we filled will only open again. And the world will cave in. If the world back then could not decolonize, could decolonization happen now? And the answer brushed past me leaving the lingering thought of black liberation. Turning back to my companion, I asked him what he thought of decolonization.

There have been many attempts and no successful outcome… so many of our people have been trying to fight and enemy on land, underwater. We have been fighting under the structure and not the structure itself. He took a sip of tea. Race is a distraction of sorts, a smoke screen, deployed by capitalism the true enemy, the problem is people have fell for this smoke screen and makes it as if it really does exist in real life. Once anything is made real it is hard to see anything past that. We are still fighting the smoke screen- and don’t get me wrong that is not bad, we have to dispel it at some point to get decolonization on the roll. I liked that outlook and told him so. We looked back at the city, together now, payed the bill and left.

Stage 3

Violence is an answer. It is what crafted the world that I live in. To full purge it of colonial remains, violence must take it out. But despite this fact violence is deeply frowned upon.

VIOLENCE is an answer.

NO violence is not an answer. It is bad and gets you in trouble. You don’t want to go to prison do you?

This violence is good though, it breaks a system and frees a people. And prison is slavery by another name- but violence is a good thing, pessimism is working under the system.

…Pessimism and peacefulness worked in the past; it can work now.

The chains are still on me, I am not free. Peacefulness is blending with the people around you trying to find the right footing at the starting line, finding it, only to take off only to realize that you are tied to the ground and pounded from above. Surely that is no way to live.

Trust me we tried peaceful but the only thing we got was violence and more violence, on top of the fact that we still have our chains. I do not wish to be chained.

This is how I imagine a conversation with a white pessimist would go, though from my own experience I found that they were mostly confused about the necessity.

Stage 4

Conforming is what I have been doing for most of my life. I wanted to fit in so much so that I cried myself to sleep because I wanted to be something else for a change. This is dangerous. Conforming is a way for the “gods and animal” complex to continue to exist. It inhibits the consciousness into the dangerous invention of whiteness, also a product of the friendly and oh so forgiving structure of capitalism. I asked one of the members what they thought about conforming black people. All they could do was sigh. It was a sad sigh. A weight returned back to one’s shoulders. My hair sighed like that once. Somewhere a black girl’s skin sighed like that once.

However, the nonconforming, independent, anti-integration black was something different entirely, it was a definition of blackness that was not defined by whiteness. But to live in this world is hard too. Luckily, I have gotten a taste of both. There is power amongst ones’ own, but someone once told me on a very windy day in Chicago that no liberation would be achieved that way.

You see you got to get that hard-working white slave to capitalism to bury their whiteness. You gotta’ show them that their enemy is not the black female working beside him, but the system that keeps them down. The wind rustled my hoodie. I looked up at the woman standing next to me. At that moment she gave me a glimpse of clarity. I thought black people could get our liberation on our own, this was a secret hope that we did not need a white savior. That day I found out that help is just what we needed to get the liberation we wanted. Help did not seem too bad that way.

Stage 5

Black liberation is real and within reach, now so more than ever especially with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, a movement that still needs better wheels to get rolling. It is the foundation for which the black liberation movement could get a breath of fresh air and plan out its next move, but capitalism needs to be gone first before any action gets started.

And there needs to be help too from the other side of the color line. Help but cautious help. Help that is approached from a point of understanding and awakening of consciousness. The decolonization of the mind plays the part of this, decolonization of white consciousness. Any other type of help is useless, it fans the flame, makes our struggle and the struggles before us futile. Caution is a reality for help.

My companion and I went on a walk. The earth seemed to be at peace on this particular day, yet I was on edge and so was my companion. I looked out for strange cars looking for trouble and he looked out for people looking for trouble. I did not want my name on someone’s mural and neither did he. Thinking of murals made me think of the BLM movement, the fact that it was even created says something about this colorblind and post-racial world we supposedly live in. Right now, BLM is focused on police brutality against black people, but what if it could be the starting point for the whole black liberation movement? The BLM movement called for another awakening in the consciousness in the world.

The question is would the world rise to meet it?


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Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

The Wretched of the Earth and Black Skin by Frantz Fanon

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Presentation: What matters about this movement? About this struggle? Future predictions?

Noraa Maxey

Hello, my name is Noraa Maxey and I am a senior here at Altamont. My interests range from neuroscience and medicine to programming and political theory (I have a special place in my heart for Black liberation philosophy). I like to read, write, learn, and make art (currently ceramics is my favorite top art form). I am a big believer in getting, "high on literature" because books are amazing and are the keys too so many doors, including my interest in writing.

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