Recently I've had the good fortune to engage meaningfully with a member of the decolonization community. After some discussion it became clear I've had many thoughts related to decolonization but no base vocabulary or insights that would allow me to engage with or enter the community. This wonderful human has been very patient with me and has helped guide my path into decolonization.
This wonderful human has also given me a lot of great resources that will hopefully help me become an accomplice to the community. The sheer volume of reading material and resources has been impressive and I cannot thank them enough for their time, effort and energies they have invested in teaching me. I have a long way to go at this point but I hope to continue putting in the necessary effort to aid decolonization work being performed.
During our discourse regarding decolonization they likened me to Thomas Wentworth Higginson. Until the comparison was made I had no idea who Thomas Wentworth Higginson was as a human. I also wasn't expecting to be compared to what is clearly a White Man's name. Sadly American history is full of Really Toxic White Men and few Decent White Men. At this point in our conversation I'm curious what just happened and lookup Thomas Wentworth Higginson. There is nothing wrong with this series of events but it was an unexpected moment for me. I get these moments a lot as I learn.
Turns out Higginson can be categorized as a Decent White Man that lived from 1823 to 1911. Not what I was expecting... but it's a good comparison and I can see the similarities being put forth. This comparison was also incredibly validating. If I was on the wrong path and not connecting with the resources I have been provided, it couldn't be made. Granted, it's a middling comparison but it's a positive one.
Hubris Begets Humility
With that bit of hubris and ego inflation I doubled down on my reading and learning. As I worked my way through research, articles and started becoming active in a small community... I realized Higginson as a comparison is nice, but certainly not enough.
Accomplices Not Allies in particular deflated any hubris and ego I had acquired along this path. This article caused me to immediately stop and start thinking. Other material I've read has had a similar effect but not this level of show stopping. Only the story of Iktomi and the ducks has had this kind of effect so far. Yes, I have a LOT more reading and understanding left... I also realize this is only the beginning of a path.
Reading 'Accomplices Not Allies' (and the story about Iktomi) was akin to the time I ruined my jaw and teeth (literal, I am missing teeth and have arthritis in my jaw from my injury). You find yourself flying through the air, land face first, shake off a daze, look around very confounded and need a minute to collect yourself. Then reality hits... and you're left questioning your life choices.
Those 'bam!' kind of moments are the best. Everything you thought you knew leaks out your ears and all you can do is fall apart or reflect upon what just happened.
I choose the latter.
My 'bam!' moments range from profound to boring. No matter how profound or boring. I actually enjoy and appreciate these moments. It's an opportunity to reframe my view upon perceived reality and assess my assumptions, beliefs and opinions. 'bam!' moments are the perfect opportunity to grow as a human and adjust my path forward for the benefit of everyone and everything.
For almost 20 years I've had this nagging feeling at the back of my mind and I could never pin it down. Turns out I've had a base level of decolonizing thought rattling around my brain for a long time. I never had the vocabulary or ability to specify what was going on in my own mind.
I still don't have a complete or robust vocabulary/understanding built regarding decolonizing but I am actively working to improve, grow and contribute. I hope I can build these without draining the wonderful humans who have worked so hard to make decolonizing a reality.
Back to Higginson
After some introspection, being likened to Higginson is definitely a positive moment in life. Especially as a human who aims to get involved in a way that is considered positive by the community. I'm not upset by the comparison and I'm glad I have made it to the point where it was considered valid.
That said: I believe I can do better.
Higginson may be a positive life moment but I aim to do more. Through direct and indirect actions I hope I can be considered an accomplice.
Being considered an accomplice...
I hope one day I'm worthy of such a moniker.