What happened on a bus.
This post has been a long time coming and I really just need to rant about it. This is the fist time I’ve had the actual time.
So, I was on the bus with some friends to Unnamed Conference, oh fuck it. It’s World Model United Nations. Yeah. I’m a nerd, now lets get over it. The dress code is business formal and therefore I was in my formal clothes as were all of my friends.
We were joking back and forth because I’m an avid ranter about Western culture and Western, Eurocentric institutions (re: the UN). Anyway, at some point the sentence was uttered:
friend: so how do you feel in your colonizer suit?
I am trusting the joke is pretty obvious there, and in hindsight maybe it wasn’t the post politically correct comment but I mean, come on.
But, on every bus, sometimes a White supremacist hides behind their Jodi Picoult novel.*
The lady kept looking at me after this conversation had ended and finally, the following (we will call it) “discussion” occurred.
woman: what was meant by that?
me: pardon? meant by what?
woman: the colonizer joke.
me: ohh, um, well, um, you know. It was pointing out the half truths and ridiculousness of some states and interpretations of contemporary Indigenous identity, um, well, yeah, as an Indigenous person it kind of tickles a funny, um, yeah, so… yeah…. you know, because my people weren’t born in suits so they were brought over, um yeah. haha. (if you’ve ever heard me talk when I’m nervous you’ll understand the ums, wells, yeahs, and hahas).
woman: this “colonization” word is too over used today. It’s time to get over it and use a different word, or even move on in life. Colonization didn’t only happen in Canada it happened all over the entire world, you are too young to understand this.
me: Um, as an Indigenous woman, I understand the implications and legacy of colonialism, thank you. It’s not used too often, it can’t be, it’s still happening, in this country. It’s not talked about enough.
woman: I find it offensive that you’re having a laugh at the colonizer all the time. The colonizer doesn’t exist anymore. You forget that this country was founded on immigrants and you forget that people came to this country fleeing for their lives.
me: Colonization still exists, so therefore colonizers exist. I do not mean to erase anyone’s agency or own stories about coming to this country, but Canada was and still is a colonial nation, there is no way around that.
woman: You know what, as an obviously mixed Native person, you should be happy and thankful you were colonized. It is the only way you could be on this bus or going to your fancy university. Colonization has only benefitted your people in the long run, so maybe you should stop making these highly offensive jokes and perpetuating what is, one could argue, a reverse colonial attitude.
me: …. … …………….
In all honesty, after that, I couldn’t even reply. I felt like I had been punched in the face. I was crossed between crying and kicking the shit out of this lady on the bus. I just told her that I couldn’t talk to her anymore, then got off three stops early. I regret not fighting back, but I was a deer in the headlights. I know these people exist on the internet, but I have never run into a random one on the bus.
I mean, I’ve had racist and hurtful shit said to me before, but never, has anyone ever told me I should be thankful for colonization.
I am sure my grandma is thankful she was put into Residential School for being too Indian for the Settler society, or I am sure my family is thankful that they have never known how to properly function because they were raised with the intergenerational effects of what happened to their mother.
I am sure I am thankful somewhere in my heart that this lead to an unstable childhood where I raised myself because my mother didn’t know how to love me, because her parents didn’t know how to love her.
You know, I am sure Indigenous youth are thankful even though their suicide rates are 10-15% higher than non-Indigenous youth. I am sure Indigenous women are thankful when they see over sexualized representations of them on the screen, and make up to 25% less annually than non-Indigenous women.
And you know what, I am sure every Native elder is thankful when they know that their language and ways of life are becoming obsolete because they weren’t taught to the next generation, because they were too ashamed to speak them after the government tried to ‘kill the Indian in the child.’
Yeah, look at how thankful I am.
*I don’t think that there is a causal relationship between Jodi Picoult novels and White supremacy.
Colonialism was only ever good for white people, and only a white person would believe otherwise.
What burns me off was that this person, this racist white-saviour piece of shit feels so empowered to cast their supremacist nonsense wildly and in public.
That this person can co-opt our legitimate and long-standing grievances and in-turn take offence at being rightly recognized as a settler in colonial state would be shocking if it weren’t so very typical.
They can do this without fear of censure and that, if pressed, the polis will agree with them and support them. There is no mistaking the power that this person had over you. They, in their indignity, are wielding their privilege like a whip to keep you in line and the leering masses will cheer them for it.
You are, as we all are, just a indigenous person, and the privations inflicted upon generations of our ancestors will never approach the experiential trauma of affronted white dignity.
Take heart, and arm yourself. I got your back.
As a general rule, fuck people who think it’s their place to scold anyone for speaking out their own experiences, particularly against oppression. Fuck those people. I will always have anyone’s back on speaking truth to power.
But also, that narrative of colonialism— White people don’t realize PoC don’t get to turn it off. Ever. When you talk about legacies of brokenness in minority communities, family drama, rates of health issues, everything— how many generations are you removed from genocide?How many generations has it been since you and your family started to be legally considered full human beings? Citizens? Having the same rights? How many generations has your existence— biological, physical, personal identity— been something accepted and legal, or that wouldn’t be or wasn’t interfered with or questioned by supremacist individuals and organizations?
It would be easier to forget. People want you to forget. It hurts less to forget. Which is why we can’t. We can’t afford to.
And if that radical presence offendanyone who reads Jodi Picoult on the bus, fuck it— I am with you, staring down those ignorant assholes, angry crying and cursing until it gets so awkward for them that they get off the bus early next time.