1. Racial Capitalism and Colonialism
In this module we discussed the exploitation and harm of humans required to sustain our current global system, capitalism. We discussed how capitalism functions through a racial hierarchy (racial capitalism), creating categories of unequal humans. We discussed how the enclosure of the commons, the formation of the nation-state system and colonization on a global scale are all key elements of our global systems today. And that the conditions of exploitation and expropriation are foundational and necessary to the very functioning of capitalism itself. Because of this, conditions of slavery and indenturement persist today.
These are heavy and hard topics. It is easy to fall into and get stuck in pain, grief, or rage. In guilt, shame, or horror. It is also tempting to just not think about it all– a form of denial. We might try asking, “how can I use those feelings to generate change?” While holding space for these realities and doing the work to understand how our current systems operate, it is essential to remember that none of these systems and ways of organizing as humans are set in stone. These are not natural nor normal ways of existing: we humans make our social systems, and we can change them.
Yes, these are the dominant systems globally at this particular moment in time. But there are many who have been resisting these systems, advocating for change, and creating and sustaining different possibilities, from the very onset of what we now know as racial capitalism and colonialism. We encourage you to spend time exploring the power, beauty and hope present in past and present movements for change at the individual and collective level. This is an important source of sustenance to continue to move towards different ways of relating to one another.
Abolitionist and anti-colonial struggles are key examples of the powerful and ongoing work to push back against these dominant systems, while also creating space to build something different. These movements and ways of being are increasing in momentum, as the realities of harm and violence that are racial capitalism and colonialism are no longer able to hide. It is increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to reason or excuse the supposed necessity of a way of living based on violence, oppression and structural inequity.
Below we have shared a video of El Jones, a spoken word poet, an educator, journalist, and a community activist living in African Nova Scotia. El Jones was the fifth Poet Laureate of Halifax. In the video below El Jones performs at the Women’s March at Grand Parade in Halifax in January of 2017. For the full text of the poem see the Halifax Examiner’s publication “El Jones: “Still We Rise”“.
Additional Resources (Diving Deeper)
There are many resources on decolonization/anti-colonial struggle and abolition, as well as many diverse perspectives on both. Below are a few. We encourage you to do your own research and exploration to learn more. And to share resources with others, either from this list or your own!
To begin, check out the video produced by Yellowhead Institute that explores the questions of #LandBack from the perspective of First Nation land defenders (4 minutes).
We also invite you to revisit Nikki Sanchez’s talk at TEDxSFU titled “Decolonization Is for Everyone” (13 minutes).
New to abolition and what it’s all about? We started talking about this in our section on Prison Labour. To really dig into what abolition is all about, including its historical roots and contemporary manifestations, check out the episode of the podcast Word Bomb that focuses on defining the mission of abolition (23 minutes). Hosts Pippa and Karina talk about abolition with Rinaldo Walcott, Associate Professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE).
To hear more from Rinaldo Walcott, check out Idil Mussa’s conversation with Walcott “On Property with Rinaldo Walcott” presented in collaboration with the Ottawa Public Library at the Ottawa International Writers Festival (1 hour).
In “Beyond Pipelines and Prisons:Infrastructures of Abolition with Ruth Wilson Gilmore & Winona LaDuke,” a conversation hosted by Social Justice Week at X University, Gilmore and LaDuke explore what a decolonized, ecologically and socially just future might look like (1 hour and 30 minutes).
In “Feasting the Future: Pow Wow and Black-Indigenous Futures,” a conversation hosted within XU PowWow between Karyn Recollet, Megan Scribe and Karina Vernon images how Black and Indigenous co-conspirators can work towards a decolonial future (1 hour).
In “Homebound: Embodying the Revolution with brontë velez,” an episode from the podcast For The Wild velez explores critical ecology, radical imagination and decomposition as rebellion, throughout focusing on the prioritization of Black wellness.
- Karina Vernon, “Black-Indigenous Futures in Art, Literature and #BlackLivesMatter,” July 7th, 2020
- Megan Scribe, Sefanit Habtom, “To Breathe Together: Co-Conspirators for Decolonial Futures,” Yellowhead Institute, June 2, 2022
- Sidney Madden, Sam Leeds, Rodney Carmichael, “‘I Want Us To Dream A Little Bigger’: Noname and Mariame Kaba On Art and Abolition,” NPR, December 19, 2020
- Harsha Walia, “Decolonizing together: Moving beyond a politics of solidarity toward a practice of decolonization,” Briarpatch, January 1, 2012
- Bram Hubbell, “People Who Have Interrupted Empire: African and Indigenous Resistance to the Portuguese and Spanish Empires in the Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries,” Liberating Narratives, October 13, 2020
- Idle No More, Resources & Education
- Abolition Now, Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art, Winnipeg, Manitoba
For a transcript of the lyrics for the song above visit Genius’s page for Stand Up / Stand N Rock.
Please note that a transcript for the lyrics of the song above is not currently available. We apologize for the inconvenience.
For a transcript of the lyrics for the song above visit Genius’s page for Shock.
Watch this video to learn more about Ana Tijoux and her music: Democracy Now, Chilean Musician Ana Tijoux on Politics, Feminism, Motherood & Hip-Hop as “a Land for the Landless”, July 10, 2014
Enter your reflection journal and respond to the following questions:
- Think back on when you may have first heard the terms abolition and/or decolonization. What did they mean to you at the time?
- Consider examples of abolitionist and/or decolonial/anti-colonial organizing and resistance. For example, individuals or organizations in your community.
- Consider the similarities and differences between abolition and decolonization/anti-colonial struggle.
Note: to access your reflection journal please review the Introduction section of the Racial Capitalism and Colonialism module.