Saturday, December 3, 2011
Why this pagan is voting to Decolonize Oakland.
Tomorrow, Sunday December 4th at 2pm the Oakland General Assembly will vote on a proposal to change the name of Occupy Oakland to Decolonize Oakland. This has been a somewhat controversial proposal and the vote tomorrow will surely be interesting.
First of all I want to say that as a pagan, as a white person committed to fighting against racism, and as an organizer, I wholeheartedly support this proposal.
I am a pagan, someone who practices earth based spirituality. This means my faith is filled with practices that honor our mother earth and this faith is a critical part of how I live my life. As a pagan of European ancestry I have the blood of colonizers in my veins who stole the land of this continent and destroyed life here. Before that, these ancestors rejected the ways of my and their indigenous ancestors and destroyed European indigenous traditions.
Colonization is the weapon that drove my ancestors away from right relationship with the earth and each other.
Colonization is the force that fuels the murderous ways of globalization.
Colonization is the voice that tells us that one life is worth more than another.
The use of the word "Occupy" has made me uneasy since the beginning of this beautiful movement. The day the camp in Oakland was born, my friend was visiting from the Kamloops band in Canada. I asked him if he wanted to go down to witness the birth of the encampment instead of coffee. He expressed his unease with the whole "occupy" movement.
"Don't people realize that this land is already occupied and has been for hundreds of years?", he asked.
My heart dropped and I felt a wave of shame wash over me. I felt ashamed of the sad reality that most Americans don't think about the fact that this land is already occupied. This proposal is an opportunity to begin to shift that paradigm. How can we expect to create anything different when we're using language that is charged with the history of imperialism and genocide?
My elders have taught me that words are powerful. When we do magic, we are always conscious of the language that we use because the words we use create the reality we manifest. Why should it be any different with our social movements?
When I was living in Patagonia working with the Mapuche people in their struggles to reclaim the land of their ancestors, I was blown away by how much support there was for the movement by non-native identified people. I remember sitting on a long bus ride with an evangelical Christian police man who to my shock and awe was overwhelmingly supportive to the Mapuche land struggle. People were making the connections between the stealing of land from the original people of South America and the stealing of resources from ALL of the current people of the country. After the economy crashed down there, people woke up to the fact that our struggles are connected.
I feel like we are in a moment where this is possible up north. People across this land are waking up. People are making the connections and Americans are beginning to understand that the 1% has been stealing from the people. I believe that people are ready to begin seeing the way that that theft is connected with the colonization of this country and the stealing of land from native people. This name change is a way to push this conversation forward.
You say it's not strategic right now, that our movement is to young and that we must keep the name "Occupy" so the public doesn't get confused. And I ask you when? When will the time be right for us to stand against genocide? When will the time be right for us to bring forth a new vision of the future? When will the time be right for us to abandon our dysfunctional relationships with each other? When will the time be right for us to move towards a respectful relationship with our mother?
Many times have people on the left said, "the time is not now". We've seen it in feminist movements when white feminists have argued, "we'll fight patriarchy first and then we'll dismantle racism". We've heard it in the LGBT movement when folks say, "We'll win protections for gays and lesbians, and then we'll work on transgender rights".
Do I need to point out how utterly ineffective these tactics have been?
We can't build the allies we need if we leave people behind.
The time is now.
Come join us tomorrow at Oscar Grant Plaza at 2pm.