Like most people, I am only partway through my decolonisation journey. But I’ve been on this path a while and I have some insights that I thought might be useful for others just starting out or interested in exploring.
As a person with very mixed white and Jewish European heritage, born in American to 2nd generation immigrants, now living in New Zealand Aotearoa, I’ve collated some resources I have found helpful in my journey towards educating and decolonising myself.
- First of all I recommend looking at the Harvard University Implicit Bias tests. The race test in particular can be quite revealing, but I encourage everyone to explore as many tests as they can.
- Between the world and me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of the most powerful works I have ever read about privilege.
- Invisible man by Ralph Ellison is another power piece of literature exploring privilege and society.
- I recommend Waking up white by Debbie Irving but with caveats – the auther sometimes doesn’t seem to be aware of her own privilege, even though the whole book is about becoming aware of that privilege, and the book is pretty cringe-worthily-self-indulgent at times, there are some useful discussion questions included in each chapter I think do make really good reflective exercises.
- E-tanagta is a great resource, full of excellent articles
- BWB is similarly just full of great things to explore, including an excellent collection of For those of us in NZ, you should have access to the online fulltext collection of BWB from your local public library through the EPIC database. Check your local library’s website for details!
- I highly recommend following Constanza Eliana Chinea on her website or Instragram from some great commentary about colonisation and its on-going impact. I would love to create this kind of content!
There is so much more but these are good places to get started. I may add to this list as things come to mind. The main thing, for me, is just about cultivating empathy. Anything you can do to put yourself in someone else’s shoes will help you check your own privilege and place in society.
WTF do I know?
What authority do I have to write on this subject? Not much as a cis-white lady immigrant to NZ but I have put in some work. I don’t want to harp on too much about myself too much but I think it is important to contextualise what I am sharing here today. Every decolonisation journey is different and rooted in the lived experiences of the individual.
For me it stemmed from my experiences growing up in an extremely while, middle-class suburb of Chicago, and then going to study at the University of Illinois at Chicago (one of the most diverse universities in the world) and living in Pilsen, Chicago (one of the the largest Mexican communities outside of Mexico). I feel very lucky to have grown up with a solo-mother who always encouraged me to go deeper in my naturally empathetic nature. She also modelled inclusivity by never judging people by their class or race, teaching me to do the same, and supporting me and encouraging me when I made friends with kids from other cultural backgrounds.
After I finished my undergrad at UIC, I got rejected from the only Master’s programme I had applied to. I didn’t have a back up plan, so I joined the Peace Corps and moved to West Africa for 2 years. So much serendipity influenced that chain of events it’s almost scary to me.
Looking back I was extremely devastated at the time, but now I truly feel blessed to have taken the path I did. My experience in West Africa was incredibly formative. Before I finished my undergrad I had been dabbling in radical politics but once I lived without a toilet or running water I realised what a privileged place I had been interacting with the world from. This really kickstarted a passion for me to learn about and do something about inequity in our world.
After that I moved to Montreal to do my MLIS, and then Laos for a year to volunteer as a librarian. The experience in Laos led me towards a PhD programme in Wellington, and now here I find myself, many years later, feeling good about where I have been, but knowing I have a lot more work to do.
My PhD looked at the cultural issues affecting how people engage with information, using Laos and Lao people as an example. You can look at my thesis here, or an article I wrote about how to decontextualise information behaviour research. It’s quite academic. I feel like this work should have naturally developed into an exploration of how to decolonise information behaviour, but so far I haven’t had the energy to go down that path. One day, with an appropriate co-investigator, I hope I will continue this work.
For now, creating pottery with silly activist messages is what I am enjoying doing. If you have any other resources you suggest I check out, or ideas for mugs, please leave them in the comments below!