Disclaimer: I write this piece through a 2nd generation Filipinx lens. Although I can try to speak for Filipinx folx in the diaspora, I acknowledge that this work may be especially difficult for those experiencing ongoing oppression and silencing by governing institutions. I Empathize for where you are coming from and please treat yourself with kindness and patience throughout the healing process.
Where to Start?
Embarking on your decolonization journey is no easy task but it is immensely valuable and worthy of respect. Most days when we are doing this work, it feels heavy and uncomfortable; some days you might find yourself utterly overwhelmed with emotion.
I remember the start of my journey being filled with a lot of anger and unannounced cry-fests. Now, I take each day at a time and I’m filled with gratitude more than anything.
Gratitude that I'm living in a time where decolonization is possible and that we are connected* to people and resources that can help us on our journey towards Awakening.
*Connecting to the Filipinx diaspora online has been a valuable resource. Other resources can come in written, visual, and oral works, and through the people around us. Now more than ever, the Internet is playing a very important role in connecting the diaspora
When emotions are too much for words, your body will transform them into tears. It is the pure alchemy of the Spirit. - Tasha Jade Banate
3 Steps to Start Your Decolonization Journey
Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better. - Maya Angelou
1. Identify Intergenerational Trauma
Intergenerational trauma and decolonization are like two peas in a pod. If we don’t acknowledge the traumas passed on to us generationally, then we can’t start the process of decolonization. The things that our parents and grandparents experienced can likely contribute to our current challenges. These things are not for us to point to and blame, but they are things worth understanding and empathizing with. Undoing traumas that have been passed onto us, starts in the present.
REFLECT: What happened to my family (and ancestors) that contributes to our present perspectives/ treatment towards ourselves and others/ love languages/ challenges/ hardships?
ACTION: What can I do today to start changing these perspectives/ attitudes within me?
2. Undo Colonial Conditioning
We all experience conditioning, especially in our early childhood years; which are amongst the most formative moments in our lives. We might’ve been taught things that are false or deeply damaging to our healthy development. Many folx may find themselves struggling to remove the conditioned perspectives and comparisons created by the colonizer’s ideals.
An important form of colonial conditioning to acknowledge is colourism: the discrimination based on skin colour and the shade of one’s skin. In many cultures we are taught to believe that the lighter the skin and the more caucasian one’s features are, the more beautiful and desirable a person is.
REFLECT: How have I been conditioned to “play it small” or believe certain narratives about myself and my culture?
ACTION: Reverse the language of these beliefs to create a healthier counter-statement.
“I am not beautiful because of my skin and the shape of my nose.”
“I am beautiful because I look like like me. My beauty reflects the genetics of my Ancestry.”
“I can’t do _______ since no one who looks like me (or from my culture) has done that before”
“I can do _______ and be amongst the first people to revolutionize it.”
Reversing our language will take time and constant self-correction, but it is a valuable part of the process.
3. Healing Cultural Genocide
Cultural genocide* takes us to a painful root of the decolonization movement. Many cultures, belief systems, customs, and languages have been erased and drastically changed as a byproduct of colonial brainwashing. When we (re)educate ourselves about our culture and begin to (re)live our Ancestral customs, we are bringing life and healing to things that have been destroyed or lost.
*It is important to acknowledge the complexities of this healing work, as many folx in the diaspora may not have the same resources or access to information as others. For folx around the world, the ability to be outspoken or public about this journey, is not always easy or even possible, due to ongoing oppression and silencing.
REFLECT: What parts of my identity might feel at a loss or missing? Where do I feel unfulfilled in my connection to my culture?
ACTION: In what way can I start learning, re-educating myself, and growing closer to my cultural roots today?
For example: If you never grew up learning how to speak or write your Ancestral language, you might be interested in taking a course or speaking with Elders to revive certain terminology.
Being unafraid (if and when possible) to use cultural terms in everyday settings (in the workplace, in school, in community, and amongst friends) can also be a step towards bringing gentle awareness and sharing knowledge with those around you.
It goes without saying, but there is no easy way to address decolonization. Despite the times when you feel frustrated or lost on this journey, it is an incredibly valuable path to commit to.
Hold space for yourself and others when possible. Allow yourself to experience and learn from your emotions. Be inquisitive and proud of your work, but also be thankful that you are living in a day and age where we are virtually connected.
Now more than ever we need one another to grow, collectively.
Supporting you virtually,
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