Internalized Colonization

image c/o decolonizing yoga (www.decolonizingyoga.com)

image c/o decolonizing yoga (www.decolonizingyoga.com)

So my new favorite idea/site/awesome is DecolonizingYoga which, at the time of this writing, doesn’t have much on their website but man is their Facebook Page blowing up with knowledge! I am loving this perspective on yoga which, is few and far between!

Yoga is such an immensely deep and spiritual practice that has all its roots in religion or non-white cultures and here in the West it’s been white-washed and divorced of its depth for so long a lot of people feel disenfranchised and, for lack of a more eloquent descriptor, over it. I’m not supposing that people who hate yoga or are tired of yoga feel this way because yoga is white-washed, I’m supposing that because there is a major component of yoga missing– it’s cultural roots and practice– whatever the mainstream nonsense that’s being perpetuated on the large scale is driving people away because they sense it’s not aligned with how the asanas (physical movements) make them feel. In other words, yoga makes you feel good and the pretentious and judgmental nature of the Western yoga community makes you feel bad. Therefore, something is not right.

But this piece isn’t about how mainstream yoga isn’t aligned with yoga in the traditional Hindu or Buddhist sense. It’s a statement on how colonialisation of your mind and culture negatively impacts youth and adults– people. Via Decolonize Yoga FB page (droppin’ the knowledge bombs!) there comes a nice piece of prose/poetry by Jana Rae called “The Unravelling of a Colonized Mind”:

“Sure everybody struggles. But to be born an Indigenous person, you are born into struggle. My struggle. Your struggle. Our struggle. The colonial struggle. There are many layers to this struggle. For the longest time, I didn’t even know what the true struggle was about yet I couldn’t escape it. It consumed me. Colonialism, as I have been forced to discover, is like a cancer. But instead of the cells in your body betraying itself, the thoughts in your mind work against you and eat you up from the inside out. You’re like the walking dead and you don’t even know it because you are so blinded.”

Please take time to read the whole piece (linked above). It’s really quite illuminating whether you are indigenous American or not.  Because colonialism, like misogyny or anything else where one group of people lords power and control over another, impacts all– especially the victims of it.  Teaching your children about the effects of colonialism is teaching your children how to critically think about and engage with the world in a way that is positive and empowering.

When little girls and boys do not grow up with pride in their mothers, father, sisters, brothers or even cultural heritage, this creates broken people. From the stories of immigrants refusing to teach their children their native language for fear of ridicule to forced assimilation of native Americans to slavery and beyond, colonialism and the mindset it perpetuates are a huge part of our everyday existence whether it is acknowledged or not.

For some reason children are “shielded” from the negative acts that people have done and continue to do to each other. Conveniently racism is often left out of discussions with children even though racism persists. Children deserve to know that while Martin Luther King Jr. may have had a dream, there are still many instances where black people are mistreated or a double standard in favor of white people persists. Children deserve to know that Thanksgiving is more than just native Americans supposedly offering food to starving settlers (is this a noble savage archetype at play?) but rather full of odd facts and even scandal for the uninitiated (i.e. complicit in digesting the mythology around colonialism). Children deserve to know that while the American flag represents the unity between 50 states and the struggle of the founding patriarchy, there is the blood of indigenous, blacks, and disenfranchised people (like women!) interwoven into each part of the country’s identity.

When children are not told the truth or fed a watered down version of the truth, they do not have an accurate perception of the world. This inaccurate perception of things perpetuates harmful ignorance and alienates children of color and white children from making progressive and meaningful changes to racist institutions together. White children internalize racism from oppressive mindsets and institutions while children of color suffer.

Children desperately need the truth about life– not just that Martin Luther King Jr. was a fighter or his favorite word was “peace” but that MLKJ fought for freedom from oppression because black people were being killed, because black people were being treated worse than animals, because black people deserve to be treated the same as white people or any other race, ethnicity, sexual orientation. And children deserve to know that while many steps forward in equality have been made, the world is far from equal and black people still suffer. That “black history month” or any other history month for that matter, isn’t racist because until the history books accurately reflect the history and story of all people of all races, ethnicities, cultures, and origins (not just white people)…

This is what internalizing the colonial mindsets means and how colonialism hurts children. Take it upon yourself, parents, to really challenge the knowledge that your children are getting from school and media and bring consciousness into their world so they can feel equal, not inferior, and promote equality, not further perpetuate racism. Because colonialism goes far beyond yoga but, like yoga, the same politics are at play. Only wealthy and privileged white people can afford yoga and the same cultural appropriations, elitism and racism finds its way into even the benign asanas that are supposed to heal, not hinder.

The sooner and more deeply that we, as parents, rise to consciousness and knowledge, the less pain we cause our children and the children of others. 🙂

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