lundi 28 septembre 2020

"Be in but not of the university..."

It was entirely foreseeable that mainstream media was going to riff on sensationalist violence (frustrated white males with persecution fantasies and emboldened alt right groups in the UCP's Alberta clashing with anti-racists and land defenders) and mine personal stories of trauma in their reporting - individualized storytelling and the drawing of false equivalencies under the umbrella of abstract liberalism do not, after all, undermine the racial status quo and its power differentials and the role of mainstream media in sustaining these. It was also entirely foreseeable that the Twitterati of the university wasn't going to pass on a chance to leverage student activism for personal publicity stunts and ego strokes whilst they kept their WokeAF™ asses comfortably off campus on a Saturday afternoon.

So, for those who need to hear or rehear it, I've made available audio from a speech I was invited to deliver at yesterday's (September 26th, 2020) anti-racist student protest held at Mount Royal University's East Gate. I argue that it will not be enough to simply add more dark faces, more safe spaces, more training and a more comprehensive curriculum to an institution designed to manage and perpetuate the "existing unjust and unacceptable allocations of dignity, wealth and power" (G. Lipsitz) and that Black students shouldn't relinquish their agency and grant legitimacy to neoliberal places of higher harming by pleading for inclusion and recognition within an institution incapable of loving them. Instead, I ask them to consider Fred Moten and Stefano Harney's advocacy for refuge in and sabotage from the undercommons: "It cannot be denied that the university is a place of refuge, and it cannot be accepted that the university is a place of enlightenment. In the face of these conditions one can only sneak into the university and steal what one can."


dimanche 7 juin 2020

No Black Lament For This "Nation"...

Rinaldo Walcott and Idil Abdillahi on what it means in the era of Black Lives Matter to continue to ignore and deny the violence that is the foundation of the Canadian nation state. What is meant by the ongoing destruction, erasure and death of Black people in this “country” all made acceptable throughout white western culture, enacted by state structures draped under the benevolent lie of multiculturalism and modernist ideology that regulates our thinking on migration and movement. What it is for BlackLife to survive exhausted as Dionne Brand states, “in this inexplicable space”. “Canada” has consistently been in denial of its deep imbrications in the Atlantic world of slavery, its practices, its economies, its ideologies and its logics and so has always had a problem with Black folx. “Canada” smugly and tellingly states that it is “anything but the USA” so that it may keep at bay its lethal fear of how blackness there occupies a contestatory space vis a vis whiteness and so that it may continue to cajole itself with its white fiction of national founding. 

From BlackLife: Post BLM and the Struggle for Freedom, 2019.

“In George Grant’s (1965) “Lament for a Nation: The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism” he trades in the continued lie, or to be more generous, the myth of the “two original peoples” who founded Canada. These two peoples in Grant’s nationalist and ethnocentric fears he termed “French and Catholic, British and Protestant, united precariously in their desire not to be a part of the Great Republic; but their reasons were quite different”. One could read Grant’s comment here as a kind of collusion – a collusion that works against all the others. While Grant is defending Canadian-ness vis a vis disdain for the US and its mid-twentieth century empire, his defence – his lament – consecrates the myth of the founding of the nation as one that is both ordained in a certain way as English and French and also destined to be so. The logic of Grant’s claim is to place all those outside the category of (white) English and French as adjuncts to the nation. Multiculturalism later formalizes these adjuncts into communities, allowing for some to enter whiteness against the block of non-white others.

Now, of course Grant is also writing against the USA. And it would not be too trivial to suggest that blackness bears down heavily on what is at stake for him, even when he does not directly address blackness. At the time of Grant’s writing the civil rights movement is at its peak and the spectre of blackness haunts his text in all kinds of ways. Thus we might also read Grant’s fear of the US as too steeped in the fear of how blackness there occupies a contestatory space vis a vis whiteness and its own claims of national founding. One significant way that Grant’s lament works is to also rhetorically deny blackness historical space in Canada. This denial that is endemic to Grant’s text runs across the works of Canadian white male philosophers like Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan too.

A Canada that cannot or refuses to conceptualize its relation to transatlantic slavery and its formation, as a part of the post-Columbus slave-world is a Canada that will continually have difficulty with Black people. This argument goes beyond making the evidence of slavery in Canada appear and be present and a part of our conservation, to also suggest that Canada’s own place in the Atlantic world is imbued with slave logics; the evidence of slavery’s existence here is but only one part of a larger history, dynamic and consciousness. We think, for example, of Canada’s historic trade in salted cod used to feed those enslaved in the Anglo-Caribbean as one example of the suppression of Canada’s deep imbrication in the Atlantic world of slavery, its practices, its economies, its ideologies and its logics. Indeed, Grant and Innis, in particular, in their attempts to produce a political philosophy that centres Canada as a nation-state have both failed, one might argue, or deliberately decided to engage Canada’s place in the slave-holding Atlantic world as central to its founding and thus its ongoing existence.

The myth of two original peoples then allows for others to be imagined in the nation as always recent, as always having just arrived, just migrated. And it simultaneously allows white settlers to claim a natural belonging and to have a history of arrival at the same time. Indeed, to inhabit a history of arrival and to offer reconciliation is a masterful political move. In that move a new compact is being created; it is a compact that [not only] asks Indigenous peoples to enter Canada (…) but also to enter a Canada that was founded to always already exclude them. (…) [R]econciliation is not much different from Bartolomé de las Casas in his decree that Indigenous peoples had a soul and therefore should not be enslaved, but Africans were fair game for the brutal subjugation of mining and plantation slavery. Reconciliation, then, still demands an Indigenous less-than-human-self that might be rescued, but it is a self nonetheless. Black selfhood remains in this moment still outside the category of European Man. In this moment the question is one of how national institutionality responds to reconciliation from multiple sites of guilt, privilege and power to exactly state what reconciliation looks like. And, we should be clear that reconciliation is not transformation, remaking and decolonization.

Flowing from this, Canadian (literary, cultural, social and political) Studies’ liberal multicultural approaches to Black Canada remain steeped in (anti-)blackness as only constituting the example to and for something else. In real terms, then, Black people and their gifts are still commodified in service of producing whiteness and white people in an unbroken relation to slavery (with their adjuncts now sometimes more included). How many of you are working to institute forms of Black knowledges and their production, meaning Black thinkers, into your various institutions? How might it be in this moment of white reconciliation that white people, especially white scholars, speak a “we of settlers,” meant to enfold Black people in that plurality? How is the thought, the idea, even possible, if Grant’s thinking is still not in some way underwriting what Canada is and means? And if Black people’s enslavement remains out of the purview of the definition of colonization being used? We pose these as dead serious questions because in this moment of reconciliation, white desires, demands, and order of knowledge continue to proliferate. We pose these as questions seeking to ask how might Black knowledges show up as more than possessions for white performative identity making? We pose these as questions because we see continually who moves across our institutions, who matters to them, who gets the call for the interview, who gets the job. We are exhausted by Canadian (literary, cultural, social and political) Studies’ anti-blackness posing as engagement with Black people and their expressive cultures. One might make the analogy between the use of Black literary products and knowledges as not unlike the historic trade in salted fish and rum. White folks profit, once sugar is king, until no longer needed; bounty then, now obsolete. And in that process from profit to obsolescence the story of Black people’s relation to the formation of Canada goes missing. We are exhausted by a Canadian (literary, cultural, social and political) Studies that prefers Black products minus Black people; as Dionne Brand states, “Our inheritance in the Diaspora is to live in this inexplicable space”. Such an inexplicable space is one in which Black people get folded into the category of settler by white people and some Indigenous people, but never do Black people get others to account for the theft of our subjectivity as the enslaved in the Americas. How do you reconcile that?"

jeudi 14 mai 2020

The Real Prairie McCoy

Friday Pattern Co.'s Wilder Gown made from a remnant of gold laminated and rose printed Italian silk Georgette by Paolo Rossetti found at Joel + Son Fabrics and Mokuba silk satin ribbon. Worn with Clyde  sueded angora wide brimmed hat and Coclico clogs.

lundi 23 décembre 2019

Jumpsuit Realness

Channeling all of my inner Pam Grier + Stevie Ray Vaughan in this bombass vintage Zandra Rhodes jumpsuit (Vogue 1617) stitched from a carnival striped + monogrammed Nina Ricci silk crêpe de Chine + navy heavy silk habutai.

lundi 29 juillet 2019

So White So Toxic

@stragiertissus , the luxury historical Belgian fabric mill, haberdasher and store, has decided to grace our inboxes with a poem. For those that don't read French, it goes a little something like this...

* Born To Be White *
We like its freshness, its brightness, its purity.
Ageless, it is at once the symbol of innocence and the colouring of wisdom.
The colour of empty space, it opens the doors of liberty onto the realm of possibilities.
Determined and solid like marble
Cold and ephemeral like snow
Luminous and enigmatic like the moon
White is so simple and yet complex at the same time…

The July 30th, 2019 newsletter, titled ”White Party” is peppered with "inspo" photos of white, cis, able-bodied female models of stick thin, heteropatriarchal, white supremacist proportions and all white decors. It highlights a handful of white fabrics described as an “overview of fabrics void of artifice; for the sake of the beauty and elegance of sobriety”. This is how ytness is hammered into all of us on the daily from the minute we are born to the one we expire, through seemingly discrete, innocuous and dismissible means like this one, positioning itself and reminding all of us through repetition, visual and otherwise, of its globalized reach, aspirational value, absolute virtue and domination. The white racial frame and its requisite world racial order is in constant operation.

Interestingly, Stragier's poets, in an idiotic play on the Steppenwolf song title “Born To Be Wild” (an homage to toxic yt male settler colonial violence) have used the English "white" in the title instead of the French "blanc". This “born to be white” is also an unabashed illustration of yt racial capital that includes not only economic, political and educational capital but also value assignation and symbolic capital. Joe Feagin explains:” This valuable capital is at best half-consciously recognized by most whites. Among other features, it encompasses the shared assumptions, understandings, and inclinations to interact in certain traditional ways that whites have mostly learned in families and other networks. Symbolic capital, including white skin privilege, is a central part of the dominant racial frame and operates to relate and link both white acquaintances and white strangers. Perceiving and accenting white skin privilege in daily interactions is one outcome of holding that dominant frame in one’s head. (…) Whites do not have to say explicitly to other whites that “I am white like you and need to use my racial capital to gain privileges” in order to get privileges and benefits. Symbolic capital enables whites to avoid many interactive problems (…) and it facilitates positive interactions among whites in many social settings (…). Messages of “I am white like you” are routinely sent out by the physical and cultural markers of whiteness. Living in a society where the dominant framing constantly maintains the prized white identity, and denigrates the identities of racialized “others,” a white person is typically taken as having positive symbolic capital and thus worthy of racial privileges. This symbolic capital makes it much easier for whites to interact in most societal arenas, and it often shapes how decisions are made and what their outcomes will be. The everyday use or operation of this symbolic capital is often subtle and hard for many whites even to see.” I am white like you. We were born white and we deserve the world on our white plates.

I have already briefly discussed (in IG posts on a recent exhibition, “Le modèle noir” at the musée d’Orsay in Paris) France's state prescribed and legal, cultural, social reinforcement of irrational, wish fulfillment colourblindness, zealous assimilationist republicanism, willful white supremacist denial, racial illiteracy and auto-congratulatory epistemologies of ignorance as seen through the unwillingness to name the race-making colours (of its own slaveholding and colonial doing) in its own language. This example is certainly illustrative of this (Belgium is a neighbouring francophone country and similarly, a former colonizing nation). Not naming racist realities in your own language and with your own words means that you are able to forget and forego confronting your racist realities through othering and exotifying in another language, with other words. Moreover, the use of the English "white" within a French text is in keeping with the English language's colonization, past and ongoing, of global linguistic and cultural spaces – a fitting partner and vehicle, then, for global white supremacy. “Blanc” is named only once at the end of the text, reminding us that ytness circumvents naming, it simply is, naturally, unquestionably, under the guise of cataphora with pronouns like “il” (it) and possessive adjectives like “sa” (its).

The use of “white” to designate Europeans and European descended colonists came into regular use during the seventeenth century. Feagin again: “In the English language of the colonists, prior to the development of African American enslavement, the word “white” had uses that were mostly positive, such as “gleaming brightly,” as for a candle, while the word “black” had mostly negative meanings like “sooted.” The word “black” had long been used by residents of England metaphorically, to describe evil and the devil. It was soon adopted by the early English colonists for the purpose of naming dark-skinned Africans. (…) Both “white” and”black” were not temporary or unattached words, for they were defined and delimited within the ever growing white racial frame. In its racial usage the word “white” was mainly conceptualized in contrast to the word “black” – initially and most powerfully by those who defined themselves as “white.” These English language developments were a clear indication of the thorough institutionalization of African American slavery [and arguably, chattel slavery the world over] and of its racialized rationalization. Increasingly, the word white defined who European Americans [and Europeans] were, and who they were not. Whiteness was indeed a “terrible invention” as W.E.B. Du Bois once put it, one that further solidified European thinking into an extensive either/or framework and that came to symbolize for whites civilization and the “ownership of the earth.”

This limp lyrical saunter stresses whiteness as a distinct entity and with it, a shared cultural heritage inscribed in a clear hierarchy where the refuse gets triaged out. What the poem implies, stopping short of saying it out loud is that coloured complexions are not fresh, bright and pure, are not wise and free of artifice, are not Liberty’s doors held wide open to the feast of possibility and taking and taking and taking, are not determined and solid and cold and rational and therefore judicious and valid, are not luminous and moonlike, are not elegant and sober and beautiful. 

If it's a market for pure white percale sheeting Stragier is looking for, the oldest running terrorist organization in the world is constantly renewing its wardrobe (cross burnings be messy). White is so predictable and yet so harmful at the same time…

You know what to do:  @stragiertissus

jeudi 21 février 2019

The Trouble With Whiteness

Montage from with images from Prada, Moncler and Gucci

In 1979, Ahmed Ali Giama, a homeless Somali man, was burned alive for being black and poor in the Piazza della Pace, in the centre of Rome. In 1985, Giacomo Valent, a 16-year-old, was stabbed 63 times in a frenzied racist attack. In 2008, Abba, a young Afro-Italian was beaten to death with a crowbar, his killer claiming he hadn’t paid for a packet of biscuits. In 2012 an Italian right-wing extremist shot two street sellers dead and wounded three others in a racist rampage. In 2018, Idy Dienec, a Senegalese street vendor was shot dead at close range as he sold leather bags, umbrellas and trinkets on a bridge in Florence, one of Italy’s most popular tourist destinations. Earlier that same year a neo-Nazi sympathizer with ties to the League, (an anti-immigrant party, recently electorally crowned second biggest in the Italian parliament with a penchant for portraying migrants as criminals) opened fire on African migrants in the city of Macerata, wounding six before he was captured. Italy’s 2018 parliamentary election of the League and the 5-Star Movement, which emerged as the largest party in the vote, both have promised to ramp up deportations of irregular migrants. 

Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, announced that she was sending staff to Italy to look into the protection of migrants after an “alarming escalation of attacks” against asylum seekers and Roma people.  

Elaborate and persistent webs of denial and tales of victimization spun by the state, the academe and the media have allowed Italy to consistently escape blame and responsibility for massive atrocities committed before and during the Second World War. Of more than 1,200 Italians sought for war crimes in Africa and the Balkans, not one has faced justice. Mussolini's soldiers murdered many thousands of civilians, bombed the Red Cross, dropped poison gas, starved infants in concentration camps and tried to annihilate cultures deemed inferior. American University of Rome historian James Walston states, "There has been little or no coming to terms with fascist crimes comparable to the French concern with Vichy or even the Japanese recognition of its wartime and prewar responsibilities". 

Italy didn’t require Hitler’s help in concocting its 1938 discrimination laws against Italian Jews. 

Italy’s colonising of Libya, Eritrea, Somalia and its occupation of Ethiopia, its gassing of, raping of, humiliation of Black subjects, its discriminatory laws and segregation of space, its poisoning of African land, its racist legacy and coloniality remain largely silenced and unaddressed. 

Cécile Kyenge, Italy’s minister for integration and the country’s first Black minister has faced constant racist abuse and death threats and lives under police protection. A fellow Italian MEP, Mario Borghezio, called her appointment “a shitty choice” by a “bongo-bongo” government, adding that she had “the face of a housewife”. A former vice-president of the Italian Senate, Roberto Calderoli, said in a public meeting: “When I see pictures of Kyenge I can’t help but think of the features of an orangutan.” Other extreme-right politicians have called her “Zulu” and “Congolese monkey” and have used imagery on social media to depict  the minister as an ape. Matteo Salvini, the interior minister from Lega, compared African immigrants to slaves prompting Luxembourg’s foreign affairs minister seated nearby to angrily respond in French: “Merde, alors !” 

Present day Italy is, by all accounts, a historically sanctioned and ongoing toxic stewpot of Afrophobia, anti-Black racism, antisemitism, anti-Muslim hatred, xenophobia, anti-migrant hatred, homophobia, class domination, patriarchal misogyny, cissexism and heterosexism.

I want you to think of all of these things when luxury fashion brands like Prada, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and Moncler currently embroiled in racist scandal and widespread criticism, wring their hands in public and claim racial ignorance and cultural naiveté when they get caught assed out. These racist corporate goblins know exactly what they are doing. They have been trained in colonial imagery and mythmaking and primed for the racial status quo. They bask, like gnocchi in butter, in carefully cultivated hatreds, generations old. This they enforce with relish, beknighted as they are by centuries of white racial legitimacy and superiority and artistic untouchability. At worst, they know the old adage to be true, bad publicity is still publicity. Don’t expect moral compasses where ruthless capitalism and engagement stats prowl. 

When Alessandro Michele, Gucci designer behind the blackface balaclava valiantly grasps at straws and laments that this was no blackface but indeed an homage to the late Leigh Bowery, a performance artist, club promoter and fashion designer fond of flamboyant face makeup and costumes; and a cursory Google search of Bowery reveals a slew of images of exaggerated makeup on exclusively white foundations, know that this is whiteness protecting itself at all costs even and especially when this runs counter to basic logic. 

When Marco Bizzarri, Gucci’s president and CEO, states that “the lack of knowledge of diversity and the consequent understanding are not at the level we expected, despite all the efforts we did inside the company in the last four years” and that Gucci is now “evaluating all the processes” to ensure “the right level of awareness and visibility” understand that this is rich white man speak for a continued agenda of rich white man gatekeeping with a light spackling of commodified, tokenized, whitewashed, ineffectual black and brownness unthreatening to white supremacist hierarchies and interests. 

Current luxury fashion cannot be reformed for “diversity” and “inclusion”. It is unfit for sustainability. Unfit for humanity. Unfit for existence on this planet. It is not salvageable. It needs to be scrapped. To believe that this industry can be made to care about Black bodies and to be attentive to Black pain is ahistorical foolishness. Concentrating on individual racist imagery and products, individual brands and designers is also problematic as it obscures the larger poisonous picture – the systemically racist society from which they emerged and which continues to cultivate, institutionalize and normalize colonial imperialism, capitalist violence and white supremacist ideals.

jeudi 10 janvier 2019

Deconstruction as Healing

Illustration by Hanna Barczyk

There are serious and dangerous consequences to giving platforms to proponents of white supremacist capitalist patriarchal systems of oppression and exploitation and packaging social and climate justice issues as a dichotomous showdown between two equal and equally legitimate parties – something the white helmed mainstream media in Canada has a hard time comprehending, perhaps because they too also participate in and benefit from these self-affirming systems. This false equivalence or the fallacy of inconsistency is a readily occurring phenomenon in modern day journalism that relies on oversimplification, generalization, dominant viewpoints and ignorance to make its points quickly in the blitzkrieg format it is forced to operate in. In this case, journalists would want you to consider the hand-wringing anxiety and rage of a couple of professional white wailers who represent, benefit from and perpetuate oppressive white supremacist, patriarchal and capitalist systems that threaten Indigenous survival and well-being and who have un-ironically appointed themselves as beleaguered, as holding the same weight and as being worthy of the same consideration as the fight for justice and self-determination of historically disenfranchised Indigenous peoples standing against and protecting themselves from the unending violence of white supremacist systems. White journalists in Calgary were unable or unwilling to identify and call out a freely operating white supremacist troll in their ranks. When the spewing of toxic untruths and bias is left unaccompanied and unchecked by a critical frame through which they can be viewed and broken down, these words are left to resonate as legitimate, reasonable and accurate in the minds of many. So let’s do something Canadian media thinks we’re too stupid to do… grab your brains and your metaphorical scissors, we’re gonna deconstruct some of the egregious bile and bullshit, filmed, transmitted and left uncommented, that came out of the mouths of angry, white men at the indecent counter rally that took place in front of the glistening corporate beacon of colonial spoliation that is TransCanada HQ in the place white people stole and called Calgary.

A note also before beginning… This took me an evening to write and contains knowledge gleaned through years of study, unlearning and examination. I don’t take this burden lightly, it’s important and necessary work to do. But it is a choice that costs. A lifetime of writing and reading, some of it excruciating, a lifetime of learning how to decolonize, deconstruct, heal and build fresh, raw exposure to the pain and alienation caused by misogyny, white wrath, resentment and denial - this is my daily reality. White people, white men are allowed to contaminate and destroy, self-righteous and unimpeded as they have always done, as they have been taught is their historically and racially sanctioned right to do - this is their daily reality. Their pollution is immediate and hallowed in minute long news segments. Don’t you dare tell me that this is a just world.

“These people have to respect the rule of law.”

‘These people’ is textbook othering. Othering allows the speaker to keep the inherent humanity of those that he others at bay, making the deriding, the dismissal and the ultimate destruction of their persons and their demands that much easier to accomplish. Claims that 'others' should be respecting the rule of law is especially rich coming from representatives of white settler society – Canadian history is littered with broken treaty promises on the part of the white settler state and, as we have seen unfold, Canada and its provinces have repeatedly proven themselves incapable of respecting their own laws, Supreme Court rulings, undertakings and signed declarations (UNDRIP) where Indigenous title and rights and law are concerned. Furthermore, white men’s laws and injunctions have no bearing on unceded Indigenous territory and do not supersede Indigenous duty to stewardship and protection of the land, the water, their beings and for future generations. Claiming otherwise is a clear alignment with white racial and white cultural supremacy theories and views. The settler "legal" system has been wielded against Indigenous peoples and their territories time and time again and must therefore be systematically and critically scrutinized.

“You all came here in your cars. You all wear Gore-Tex and have phones in your pockets made from petroleum products. The indigenous heat their homes with natural gas.”

Speak for yourself colonizer! My entire wardrobe on that day, save for the elastic in my underwear, was made from plant, mineral and animal material and was made and bought within my fibershed. I have never owned a mobile phone. I took collective transportation to and from the rally. 

The white racial lens or the white racial frame of reference is universalism on white supremacist crack and posits that white consumer experience of the world is a centralized, universally shared experience, the only way anyone experiences the world. I wear Gore-Tex therefore you wear Gore-Tex. I take my SUV to the Costco and fill it full of shit I don’t need and so do you. I trash the Earth for profit therefore you must do the same. Not naming the power that implemented unsustainability as a forced lifestyle for everyone is not only bad faith argumentation, it serves to maintain the dominance and the interests of the speaker. Petroleum based products, fossil fuel energy sources and associated lifestyles are considered inevitable, inescapable and final whilst still being painted as a choice. If I truly had choices at my disposal, if ancestral knowledge hadn’t been hammered out of my lineage through slavery, displacement, colonization, assimilation and oppression, if life on this planet was not ruled by unequal access to capital, if I wasn’t obligated to live in the sterile concrete of cities, if cities were not built of sterile concrete, if the housing stock available to us wasn't systematically outfitted with unsustainable heating and cooling systems, I would not be heating my house with natural gas. 

By not naming industrialisation, forced assimilation and relocation, the stripping of agency away from everyone not identified as white, the foundational violence and politics of erasure of settler societies, Eurocentric notions of progress, globalization and urbanisation under white supremacist, capitalist, imperialist and patriarchal systems that ruptured and swept away older, small scale, local and harmonious land based modes of existence as the reasons behind our current unsustainable lifestyles, dominant white power and interests are never acknowledged and challenged, cowing us into submission and postponing effective exploration of better alternatives. This is something that I often repeat to myself in my textile practice as a mantra, and is inspired by Kate Fletcher’s work: Realize that things are the way they are now because dominant cultural conditions intentionally created and maintained the current set up, squeezing out alternatives or making them appear unattractive. We deserve better alternatives. The first step towards this is liberating ourselves from the imposition of unsustainable white capitalist power and narratives and their insistence that they be our only reality.

“TransCanada has the approval of First Nations’ along the pipeline route.”

Knowing that the so-called “negotiations” regularly carried out between Indigenous communities and representatives of the white settler state and corporate colonialists are never conducted on truly equal footing, the word “approval” rings with hyperbolic mendacity. Arthur Manuel, in his book, “Unsettling Canada: A National Wake Up Call” traces a history of capitulation through coercion, trickery and desperation as the regular modus operandi during these “termination” table talks. One also has to address the problems within Indigenous communities of internalized racism and the espousal of white settler values garnered through state sponsored impoverishment, forced assimilation, cultural genocide, inter-generational trauma, interrupted knowledge inheritance systems and flat out “extinguishment” schemes and the problems of compromised and out of touch Indigenous leadership warped by decades of government and corporate funding. 

One of the Indigenous organizers of the solidarity event in Calgary declared on camera that for her, consent was “working hard to get a yes”. When colonial governments and corporations control the outcomes of any negotiation with First Nations and refuse to change anything in policy or approach or ends, when the inevitability of capitulation is accepted as a given on both sides, when opportunistic and self-serving Indigenous leaders and “the professional Indian negotiating class (…) negotiate to create processes because processes ensure them jobs and money, since government processes come with government funding pots” (A. Manuel, “Unsettling Canada”)… we are no longer talking about negotiation, we are not talking about approval and we are certainly not talking about consent. This is a tragic vaudeville paid for by impoverished Indigenous communities punished on all sides. The white man and those allied to his power don’t get to define the terms of consent. As explained previously, white men’s laws and injunctions have no bearing on unceded Indigenous territory and do not supersede Indigenous duty to stewardship and protection of the land, the water, their beings and for future generations. White Canada does not have and has never had the free, prior and informed consent of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and therefore has no claims to development on this land. The approval of elected band members who operate only within the confines of their individual jurisdictions does not supersede or challenge the refusal of the hereditary chiefs. White settler illiteracy in understanding Indigenous hierarchies and the terms of engagement of Indigenous leadership is here greatly apparent.

“We won’t be ruled by a minority.”

The historical silencing of oppositional and marginalized voices by those in dominant positionalities is nothing new. How does this claim work? Accustomed to being top dog, anything contravening what is deemed as the natural order, the unassailable status quo, is met with aggressive silencing tactics and rationalization of oppression. Here, the threat is clear – settler whiteness painted as the right kind of majority will put its righteous boot in the face of the wrong kind of minority brown-ness. The numbers game is used to legitimize certain views and dismiss those who do not share in these views and stand opposed to their unhindered continuation. A perceived white majority can bowl over the claims of a perceived brown minority and their unwashed hippie allies because this sort of oppression is seen as human nature and inescapable, reinforced by history told through a white racial frame of reference and white supremacist socialization. The perceived reversal of this status quo is considered heresy, unnatural and translates the terror of white men at losing their dominant positionalities. White men in power, white men with money will do whatever it takes to maintain that power and that money and the systems that produce that money and that power at the expense of those that they see as expendable. They will also not hesitate to be bad at math – a couple dozen corporate clowns and underlings and their political overlords vs. a country up in arms and a world discovering Canada’s true trappings does not a majority make.

“They use the courts when it suits their purpose and get angry when it doesn’t work.”

White settler society needs to understand that Indigenous peoples are not beholden to white legal frames. Colonial legal recourses are used, and often at great cost to Indigenous communities, when they are seen as beneficial to upholding Indigenous rights and title. This is illustration enough of the insidious ways in which white supremacy operates – that those whose responsibility is chiefly to the land and to future generations and to all life forms, must make their plight fit into short sighted, anthropocentric white legal and cultural frames of reference in the hopes of being heard, respected, understood and frankly, left the fuck alone by white settler society’s grubby, grabby, capitalist hands. The inability by the white settler state to respect the rulings of its own colonial courts – the landmark Delgamuukw-Gisday'wa ruling that recognized continued Indigenous proprietorship over their territories and the Tsilhqot’in decision that recognized Aboriginal title on the ground to almost two thousand square kilometres of Tsilhqot’in territory by the Supreme Court of Canada and the signing of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by Canada in 2016, is proof that white people’s words aren’t worth the paper they sully. Indigenous peoples are rightfully angry and tired of being repeatedly bullied and discounted by the hypocritical, ethnocentric white settler state. 

Article 40 of UNDRIP states: “Indigenous peoples have the right to access to and prompt decision through just and fair procedures for the resolution of conflicts and disputes with States or other parties, as well as to effective remedies for all infringements of their individual and collective rights. Such a decision shall give due consideration to the customs, traditions, rules and legal systems of the indigenous peoples concerned and international human rights”. In short, Indigenous peoples have right of access to fair and just legal procedures. There is no downside to Indigenous peoples seeking justice and demanding that we respect their right to self-determination. We are all saved (often from our own damn selves) by this. Those who have been serving as stewards of the land for thousands of years, who have that knowledge and commitment woven into their cosmologies and cultures, the very things that we lack or have been divorced from, are the ones best suited to build a better, fairer, sustainable world for all of us. 

It is important to note the white victimhood at play in this statement – when white people don’t get their way, they lash out or start crying, and as any black or brown person knows, white tears are toxic and burdensome and potentially lethal. White victimization – the ability of dominant groups to swap the cloak of power for the one of persecution at will whenever their unending stream of privileges is interrupted or threatened - insulates white society from taking a hard and long look at itself and addressing the ugliness of its truth. Whiteness also has a history of whitewashing its crimes. The media has played a central role in the amplification and the justification of this, normalizing the white racial frame and pushing white perspectives and writers, racist ideology and the justification of racist animus to the fore. White settler interests paint themselves as benign, at worst, and usually beneficial and legitimate. Any challenge is therefore seen as an unforgivable attack, necessarily illegitimate that must be quashed at once. This statement invalidates Indigenous peoples seeking justice by reducing this quest to some sort of game stacked against self-appointed white victims. Relaying it, providing a platform for its free and unchallenged expression demonstrates complicity and vested interest in the racist status quo. The need to entertain the opinions of neon nazis and angry corporate colonizers should always be resisted.