Episode #6: Decolonization, Explained for Social Work


Several episodes into this project, and we take a leap back to offer some further groundwork for what we mean when we say “decolonization” in social work but also in society. We hope to clarify that, to paraphrase Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang, that decolonization is not a metaphor for a different or better version of the same old social work. Prepare to get out of our comfort zones, everybody!

Full Transcript:

Ondine:               You’re listening to Decolonize Social Work, a conversation about social work, oppression, and liberation. I’m your cohost Ondine.

Drew:                   And I’m your cohost, Drew.

Ondine:               Well, here we are again.

Drew:                   Here we are. Hello.

Ondine:               Hi.

Drew:                   Old friends.

Ondine:               Indeed.

Drew:                   We’ve gotten some new friends in the lull between episodes too.

Ondine:               Yeah. I really love how much this podcast is sparking conversation-

Drew:                   All over the world.

Ondine:               … all over the world.

Drew:                   We’re big in Australia.

Ondine:               Yeah.

Drew:                   Not really.

Ondine:               No. But we’ve had folks from Australia reach out to us about the content and telling us that they’re listening and it’s sparking conversation. So that’s been really neat.

Drew:                   I know. It’s been awesome. So for whatever apology we owe, apologies for the gap, I had some things going on. I have changed jobs twice-

Ondine:               That’s a lot.

Drew:                   … since the last episode. It is a lot. I left the job I was at when we started this podcast, and then the job I left actually had an opening for a higher up position. So I applied for that and went back to that position, which I-

Ondine:               It’s called flip flopping.

Drew:                   Yeah. And I just started that job a couple of weeks ago. So it kind of has allowed to recenter and get focused on this.

Ondine:               That’s a lot to think about.

Drew:                   It is. What have you been doing?

Ondine:               Well, I am working on getting my certification to be a sexuality educator.

Drew:                   Nice.

Ondine:               So I am currently in supervision. So I am looking for opportunities to do sexuality education with people in the community. Been putting together some stuff, facilitating some groups. Yeah. I’ve put a lot of energy into that lately.

Drew:                   That’s awesome.

Ondine:               Yeah. It’s been a lot of fun. I feel like I’m learning a lot. I mean, lifelong learning is a thing.

Drew:                   It is a thing.

Ondine:               It is a thing.

Drew:                   It is a thing.

Ondine:               It’s fun too. I like these conversations.

Drew:                   Yeah. Have you been doing anything else?

Ondine:               Gosh, probably.

Drew:                   I mean, I know you said that’s fun and that’s something that you want to do, but is there something that’s just mindlessly fun that you’ve been doing?

Ondine:               Yes.

Drew:                   I’m putting you on the spot.

Ondine:               You are.

Drew:                   I know.

Ondine:               Yes. So I hope folks will be okay with going down this short detour, but there’s a-

Drew:                   Not giving them a choice.

Ondine:               No, I’m not. There’s this amazing fast food restaurant called Taco Bell. It is one of my favorites. And recently Taco Bell released that they were going to be eliminating approximately 10 items from their menu on September 12th. So you’ve been a part of this project.

Drew:                   I have.

Ondine:               I thought it would be a great idea to sample those items and write reviews and put this together as a zin, which you cleverly title sunset to menu at Taco Bell.

Drew:                   The Taco Bell sunset menu.

Ondine:               Yeah. So actually in the last couple of weeks I have been eating a lot of fast food and taking photos of food that all looks the same. And-

Drew:                   At least in the photos. It didn’t-

Ondine:               That’s true.

Drew:                   … in person.

Ondine:               I feel like I’ve been drinking a lot of water because my sodium intake has been so high. I’m just really excited to share this with the world. Thank you so much for giving me a platform to talk about this.

Drew:                   That’s what we do here.

Ondine:               So yeah, sex ed and Taco Bell, that’s what I’ve been up to.

Drew:                   That relates to so many people. So many people can connect to that.

Ondine:               If you live in a place where there is not access to Taco Bell, that’s maybe good because maybe that means the nasty reach of capitalism hasn’t gotten to your corner. It also means that you haven’t been able to taste the delicious, delicious menu.

Drew:                   Salty, savoriness.

Ondine:               Salty goodness.

Drew:                   What was your favorite thing that you tried that is on the sunset menu?

Ondine:               Well, I’ve got to be honest. Most of those things are nothing to write home about.

Drew:                   [inaudible 00:04:06].

Ondine:               As much as I enjoy Taco bell I wasn’t eating those things. So that says something. But I will say, well, firstly I want people to read the zin. So I can’t give it all away.

Drew:                   Yeah. Actually I just realized I asked you that. But will this spoil things when the zin comes out?

Ondine:               There is one item that I am actually sad to see go, but again, you can read all about it when the zin is ready. I don’t really know how people will get a copy of that. I’ll just have to figure that out.

Drew:                   It’s too bad. There’s just not this vast information network that we can’t distribute this through.

Ondine:               Yeah. I don’t know how you get things to people.

Drew:                   I have no idea. Someday-

Ondine:               Someday.

Drew:                   … we’ll live in a time that you can actually connect everybody from everybody’s home or computer pockets.

Ondine:               What a time that will be.

Drew:                   I can’t wait for the future. So we’re not here to just talk about Taco bell though, as much as I could probably talk about Taco Bell for the duration of the episode. We’re actually, and we mentioned this in the little blurb we had to let everybody know that we’re still alive and that this podcast is still alive, which is cutely what we say when we say decolonization. What are we talking about when we talk about decolonizing social work? And in some ways I guess you could think of this as maybe the episode that we should have had first, right?

Ondine:               I was just going to say that. We have so much to talk about today and I think it’s really important. And yeah, this probably should have gone before our other episodes. So I’m glad we’re doing it now. And if you’re recommending this podcast to a friend maybe have them listen to this one first.

Drew:                   So we’re going to be talking about… Ondine, just looked at me like, “Okay. When are you going in?” So what we’re going to be talking about again, the foundation of what we mean by decolonization, not really what we mean, but what people before us have written about and discussed and theorized about the concept of decolonization and how that affects not just the way we move through the world individually, but also our society and ultimately for the purpose of this podcast how this informs or doesn’t inform social work. So that said, I don’t know, I was thinking just diving right in. What is the basis of decolonization at it’s very just most ground level understanding?

Ondine:               First I just wanted to mention that we’re going to reference several different texts and websites and we’ll make sure that those links are available on our social media. I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to frantically grab a pen and jot some the titles down. So there’s that. We’re going to provide a transcript to this episode. It will be available on our website. So I just want to lift that up too. We in our research for this episode have come to an understanding around there being this very base definition of decolonization. But the purpose of also bringing in some of these perspectives from a variety of authors and sources is to highlight that there’s a broad conversation around decolonization too, and that in some ways there’s probably a spectrum of agreement and disagreement. I don’t know if that makes sense about what it actually means, the process of decolonization. So I just wanted to lift that up.

Drew:                   So what is the base definition that we’ve come to understand as decolonization from some of the things that we’ve been reading about this?

Ondine:               Well, let me start then with the first thing that I dug into, and it’s a paper called Decolonization Is Not A Metaphor by Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Young. Sorry, K. Wayne Yang. And as I’ve been researching more I find that this is one of those articles that everybody is looking toward.

Drew:                   Kind of the cornerstone of this discussion I guess.

Ondine:               Mm-hmm (affirmative). And so I think in, and you chime in, but some of the major points that are made in this article, the biggest point is that decolonization is about returning land to indigenous people. And it is not a metaphor. It is not a metaphor for social justice or it’s not synonymous with social justice or synonymous with anti-imperialist work. The activism and work that would be called social justice work can live alongside decolonization, but the end goals might be different. So you can’t talk about decolonizing if you don’t talk about returning land to indigenous people.

Drew:                   Yeah. And I think that’s the definition that is shared throughout some of the other things. One of the, I guess, more famous decolonize station texts, Wretched of The Earth by Frantz Fanon has been the baseline. This paper, Decolonization Is Not A Metaphor, even leads with two excerpts from Wretched Of The Earth because it’s considered to be the groundwork for decolonization theory. And that Fanon also says decolonization at its most direct is about the return of stolen land to indigenous people.

Drew:                   So [inaudible 00:09:31] said a good point too about how this isn’t synonymous with social justice. And that took me a long time to kind of read through and process and kind of understand it because just to remind everybody too, I’ve come to understand that not only do I have a white identity and a privileged identity I also have a settler identity. And there’s been a lot of talk between us off of the podcast about what does that mean, and ultimately getting around to a thing of it not being something that immediately instills shame in you. There might be some guilt about what has happened, but the shame as the quote, somebody else who we’re going to talk about, Anna Soole who did this webinar for Everyday Feminism called Practical Decolonization. She said shame is a tool of colonization.

Ondine:               Yeah, I know. And social workers love them, some Brene Brown. So in case you haven’t heard Brene Brown is a social work researcher and her work is specifically around shame. And it was from her that I first heard this distinction made. This may also come from others. So I want to lift that up. But she talks about shame being about feeling bad about who you are, whereas guilt is feeling bad about-

Drew:                   About what you did.

Ondine:               … what you did. And that that distinction is really important because people aren’t motivated often to change or to action through shaming tactics. And when they are it’s to avoid feeling the nasty feeling of shame but not actually maybe to do the right thing or to really grow. So Drew and I are talking about how there’s a lot of shame with accepting a settler identity, and we have to figure out ways, those of us who are settlers, to accept that and take responsibility for it but not get so bogged down in the shame of it that we’re not motivated towards action or we actually motivate ourselves towards actions, which aren’t helpful and don’t move towards decolonization.

Drew:                   For me too kind of that work or process was analogous to a lot of the work I’ve done with white folks, trying to understand that being white and being told you have privilege isn’t somebody trying to shame you for something. It’s an acknowledgement of just unearned benefit you have and that maybe there’s a responsibility to use that as well to help dismantle systems that, wow, they’ve given you benefits, have also been at the expense of other people where those benefits have been withheld, but also those people have been targeted with the opposite of benefits, which was oppression and violence and agony hunger. So for me that helped to understand that a little bit of that analogy of working through the white guilt feelings and kind of coming around to that and the white shame kind of also-

Ondine:               Working through the settler guilt and settler-

Drew:                   Exactly.

Ondine:               … shame feelings. And we also chatted in preparation for this article about, well, what does it mean for us to talk about decolonization as settlers? And I want to get into that a little bit more about the sort of how my personal experience with processing that as an identity. But one thing that we agreed upon was that just like it’s the work of white folks to talk about racism and resist white supremacy and to not put the burden on folks of color and black people in particular, to teach them what to do and how to be it is the responsibility of those of us who are settlers to be pushing this conversation and to be doing the work of decolonization.

Drew:                   Yeah. So you mentioned too lifting up something about these texts that we’ve read and that concept of decolonization. I just want to own outright that these aren’t original theories or ideas that we’ve had. This is the work of indigenous folks that we’re talking about today. And Frantz Fanon was… I forget where he was from.

Ondine:               Martinique, I think.

Drew:                   Martinique. Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. And he had worked in Algeria Liberation Front in Northern Africa, and so he had been involved with… He was also part of a colonized people as well. But yeah, so all of this thinking, all of this thought, all of this construction is from indigenous work. And I just want to lift that up and acknowledge we’re talking about this work today, but make no mistake, this is only possible because of the hard work that’s been done in the text that we’re going to be talking about today.

Ondine:               And I want to add too that like we try to do at the end of each episode and kind of more tightly tie this to social work, we intend to do that today. But I just want a name right now that I have seen decolonize, decolonization. I’ve seen this word a lot in conferences. I’ve seen macro social workers talking about this, social justice educators, and we need to know what the heck we’re talking about. And that’s part of this conversation today, is that if you don’t know as a social worker that decolonization is about returning stolen land then you probably shouldn’t be using that word.

Drew:                   Right. And I think there might be some folks who are confused about that too. It’s like if decolonization is about stolen land then how does that work into the framework of social work? Because I think social work as a profession, as a practice, might actually be incompatible with decolonization. It exists in this country of stolen unseeded land to do good stuff in theory, and a lot of times in practice, but you can’t overlook the fact that all of it is happening on land that is unrecognized and that was unlawfully taken from people.

Ondine:               And then a lot of social work practice, and I think the foundation for some social work, it was imported from white Europe. So we were chatting on a dog walk about Elizabethan poor laws.

Drew:                   The worthy poor.

Ondine:               The worthy poor. Most folks who’ve been through social work school at some point had to read and learn about that, that there were these specific ways of defining who is poor and who deserves and doesn’t deserve charity. And that is still very alive and well in the way we do social work.

Drew:                   Right. And so if it’s hard to even reconcile social work with a decolonized movement why are we even talking about it? So I’ve kind of worked with this in my head about what does it even mean to decolonize social work if inherently you can never decolonize it? And I think more broadly, and we’re going to talk about this, about some folks who have written a lot of great stuff about decolonization, I think rather than thinking of how we can decolonize social work I think we have to address the symptoms of colonization within social work to eventually lead toward decolonization. Would you say that’s about accurate?

Ondine:               Yeah. So I just want to summarize what you’re saying, and tell me if I’m wrong, but basically what you’re saying is that it is possible that social work practice as we know it is not ultimately compatible with decolonization, and firstly that that has to be okay. We have to sit in that tension and be okay with it.

Drew:                   Yeah. It’s always going to be a settler practice.

Ondine:               And that secondly then that doesn’t mean that we don’t try to move towards decolonization in our social work practice.

Drew:                   Right. Because there are things that are tools of colonization like the disconnection or disconnecting of people from communities. Capitalism is a big one we’ve talked about. These are things that we can address.

Ondine:               White supremacy.

Drew:                   White supremacy culture. Absolutely. Misogyny. These are things that through social work we can address, but these have to be in the movement towards decolonization, which is far beyond the goals of social work because, again, decolonization ultimately would see that the stolen land is returned to the indigenous people that it was taken from. So that said, we’re going to juggle all this social work stuff alongside of decolonization and try to help you understand how understanding decolonization will help out with your social work practice. But like you said, it’s not possible to actually have a decolonized social work practice.

Ondine:               Not here.

Drew:                   Not here.

Ondine:               Not in the United States. And I just want to create some space too for the fact that we’ve learned there are listeners from all over the world. So I would love to hear other folks’ perspectives, particularly the perspectives of indigenous people doing social work and what that looks like and sort of your reflections on what we’re talking about.

Drew:                   Indigenous folks doing social work on their land-

Ondine:               Where they live-

Drew:                   Yeah, where they live.

Ondine:               … on their land.

Drew:                   Yeah. I know that would be interesting because that almost seems like… I would wonder what the decolonization work looks like at that point when the land is already there. So what next? Kind of would help maybe be a guide for what happens for us here. Okay. So we’ve talked about Decolonization Is Not A metaphor, and I mentioned a couple of other things. Why don’t we just kind of sit in that Tuck and Yang article for a minute. I mentioned this a second ago. This was a really hard read.

Ondine:               Oh, my gosh. So yeah.

Drew:                   And not academically. I could read it, even though it is kind of dense, but it just brought a lot of feelings up for me that I think I hadn’t been privy to or exposed to or had reflected on a lot. It was funny. Like I said, I understand it through an analogy of working through white identity and I know a lot about that, and it was weird just to know what happens when people are confronted with uncomfortable truths in that kind of work, and then to also be taking off guard by those same sorts of things. Like the guilt, the denial, the defensiveness, all that stuff kind of happened for me.

Drew:                   And I read this, I don’t know, three weeks ago, and it took that long for me to kind of stew in it. And I’m still not… I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered it but I’ve accepted it. And I think that’s the big part for me is understanding this is a really big, big thing to be grappling with.

Ondine:               I’m having a similar experience and processing my feelings around this. Firstly, I recommend everybody read it. Something else I want to just lift up as we dig into how this article made us feel is that… I may have mentioned, you may have mentioned, Dr. Adrienne Keene on previous podcasts. I just can’t remember. We talk about so much.

Drew:                   I don’t know. It’s been a long time since our last recording. Remind everybody who Adrienne Keene is.

Ondine:               So Dr. Keene is an indigenous scholar here in our country, in the United States, and she’s the cohost of a podcast called All My Relations, which I just adore. So I feel so privileged to get to hear them talk on that podcast. But one of the very first things she said on the podcast, All My relations, is that early in her career someone shared with her this concept or this idea of consenting to learn in public.

Ondine:               And I am trying to embrace that and I’m trying to embrace that through our podcast really because this is some scary shit to get to record yourself kind of processing aloud your thoughts and your feelings. And I’m always afraid I’m going to say the wrong thing and piss everybody off and then get canceled or something. And then I have to remember that I have to do this work and it’s important to do it publicly because that’s how I hold myself accountable. And it’s okay if people call me in because I’ve misstepped. What matters is how I respond to those missteps.

Ondine:               So this is something I encourage you guys also to sit with and embrace, is this idea of consenting to learn in public. And that doesn’t mean you’re consenting to being abused by people. It’s not the same as like letting folks pile on and reduce you to a shame puddle. But this is me saying I might say some fucked up shit on this podcast today and it’s because I’m a learner and I will apologize and own it.

Drew:                   That’s so hard. Oh, my god.

Ondine:               So hard. But here’s the thing.

Drew:                   Oh, my god.

Ondine:               If we are social workers who care about social work then we also have to model what it is to to bumble forward and grow.

Drew:                   I think that’s one of the things not just that’s important to decolonization and understanding this but to being just decent social worker is to walk in humility, to understand that you’re going to fuck up. I think I told you the other day I feel like the more information I get about decolonization the less I feel like I know.

Ondine:               You’re just sitting around confused all the time.

Drew:                   I know. I don’t know what anything means and it all should just go away. And it’s good and I accept it and that’s what it should do. Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang talk about how decolonization is unsettling, and it’s literally unsettling. It’s removing the settlers from the land. But I read that in two ways. It’s unsettling in the feeling you get too. It unsettles your core, it unsettles the peace that you have or you’re able to. And I think again that’s a good thing, but you just have to kind of be courageous enough to accept it and not let it scare you off of this work because that’s just… again, you’re going to move away from decolonization as a goal and more likely you’re going to reinforce settler colonial frameworks and harm through your social work.

Ondine:               So one of the points in this article… you’re drinking that water.

Drew:                   Thirsty.

Ondine:               What other points of this article that unsettled me quite a bit and I’m still sitting with is the identity actually, like taking on a settler identity and what that means because in some ways I think the article is fairly binary. You’re either indigenous to this place or you are a settler. And I don’t disagree with that. And also my mother is not from this country, and depending on who you talk to in the family she and her family are either refugees or political asylees and didn’t want to come to the United States and didn’t expect to stay here but were not able to return. And so my immediate read, when I read that at first I would felt defensive. I felt really defensive. And I’m flipping papers here because I’ve got the article in front of me.

Drew:                   And that kind of migration, even though it’s under the umbrella, in this article at least, under the umbrella of settler, it is described as coerced immigration.

Ondine:               Yeah. Right. So right here I have highlighted this section where it says colonial subjects were displaced by external colonialism as well as racialized and minoritized by internal colonialism, still occupy and settle stolen indigenous land. Settlers are diverse, not just of white European descent and include people of color even from other colonial contexts. So I identify as a Latin X person of color. And so, again, my first reaction to that was, “Oh, that feels not okay.” Now, my father and his family are definitely some fucking settlers, Irish settlers. And that feels easier to own for me but-

Drew:                   So this funny thing just happened. We were recording and apparently-

Ondine:               Then we weren’t.

Drew:                   Then we weren’t. And all of the things we said are lost forever. But in the spirit of Marcel Duchamp, when the sculpture of the bicycle wheel was lost the third time, or rather when it was lost the second time, he replaced it a third time and said it’s just as good as the first one.

Ondine:               That’s some arty shit right there.

Drew:                   That is some arty shit and I’m going to-

Ondine:               Some learned-

Drew:                   I’m going to evoke that. What we’re about to say is just as good as what was lost to wherever that recording went. So you talk about having some hard feelings reading this. There was something that I read that came up with me. So in this article Tuck and Yang talk about moves to innocence and how people try to avoid the responsibility of being a settler. And there’s one part called Free Your Mind And The Rest Will Follow, which I think that’s En Vogue.

Ondine:               I think so.

Drew:                   I’m pretty sure that’s in Vogue.

Ondine:               What’d you call us? Elder millennials.

Drew:                   Elder millennials.

Ondine:               That we should know things like that.

Drew:                   Yeah, we were made in the ’80s.

Ondine:               That’s right.

Drew:                   Yup. The best decade.

Ondine:               Oh, my God. No. The worst. The decade that set the stage for the new liberal hell hole shit hole dumpster fire that we are currently experiencing now.

Drew:                   Gosh, the kids that were born in this decade, well, this is their ’80s. Wow! So anyways, so yeah, Free Your Mind And The rest Will follow, there’s a sentence here, “We wonder whether another settler move to innocence is to focus on decolonizing the mind as if it were the sole activity of decolonization to allow conscientiazation to stand in for the more uncomfortable task of relinquishing stolen land.” And I read that the first time and I was like, “But I’m reading all this stuff and I’m doing all this thinking, this is good work. Dammit.”

Ondine:               You are doing it.

Drew:                   “I’m a good person. How dare you?” I got my Karen hair and just got real indignant and wanted to talk to the manager, and it took me awhile to come around to it. And actually I was rereading this I missed a key operator in this statement, which was as if it were the sole activity. And so that really changed it for me. It’s okay to obviously learn about this. We hope that you are learning about this. We had to learn a lot about this and all of that, but it’s kind of useless if it doesn’t then turn into action that is in the movement of decolonization.

Ondine:               Yes. Yes.

Drew:                   And so that said… and I think that’s where, kind of tying it back into the purpose of this, I think that’s where social work is going to fit in. And it also reminds me of another resource that we’ve got too that is a pretty cool website Decolonize All The Things. You want to tell us a little bit?

Ondine:               I would love to, yeah.

Drew:                   Awesome.

Ondine:               Decolonize All The Things is what it sounds like. So it’s a great resource just to learn and grow and read. But there are also sort of practical tools and tips about what it could look like to decolonize all the things. It’s the project of Shay-Akil McLean who is a queer trans man racialized as black who is a PhD biology student and kind of all around badass. You can follow them on Twitter at @Hood_biologist. I would recommend it-

Drew:                   I do. I’ve learned a lot from them.

Ondine:               Yeah, very good. Very good. So he lives up a couple of Audre Lorde quotes actually at the beginning, kind of the about section of his site that I want to share because I think they’re just excellent. And really relevant to this conversation.

Drew:                   And Audre Lorde is awesome.

Ondine:               Audre Lorde is awesome. Did we lose the bit where I talked about my Goodreads challenge?

Drew:                   We did. And you have to repeat it because you talked about we could just read Audre Lorde books on there.

Ondine:               I did. I was like, we could just read Audre Lorde on the podcast. That would be fine.

Drew:                   So how is that going to work out for your Goodreads challenge-

Ondine:               You’re right.

Drew:                   … this 2019? How’s that going?

Ondine:               So for anyone who may not know, Goodreads is a website where you can log the books you’ve read, write reviews, read reviews, be in sort of book club communities and set challenges for yourself. Well, last year, 2018, I set the biggest, longest book challenge that I have ever set 24 books in a year and I was successful, which was kind of a huge feat because I was in school for part of that time.

Drew:                   I was going to say I got to gas you up because you were in grad school for half that year. That’s awesome.

Ondine:               I did, yes. Yeah. And I didn’t count any of the books that I had to read for school because I was mad about that.

Drew:                   And honest.

Ondine:               And honestly. I did read a lot of graphic novels and-

Drew:                   That’s literature though. That counts.

Ondine:               So I was so proud of myself that I upped my book limit or my book challenge to 30 books for 2019.

Drew:                   Nice.

Ondine:               So we’re in September and I am at-

Drew:                   The end of September.

Ondine:               The end of… hater. We’re in the middle of September and I have completed eight books. So you can find me in the young adult section of the public library this October, November, and December as I frantically try to get myself to 30.

Drew:                   Also now you all know if we don’t have another episode until January what we’re doing with ourselves.

Ondine:               They’re like, “Oh, that bitch is reading. That’s all she’s doing.”

Drew:                   It’s okay. I have a similar trajectory where I thought I was doing really awesome last year and upped my Goodreads challenge, I think last year was 20. And so I was like, “Piece of cake. What you got Goodreads?” And then I upped it to 40 and I’ve read-

Ondine:               That’s so [inaudible 00:31:22].

Drew:                   I’ve read eight books. So yeah, I am right in the shit with you, as Gordon Ramsey would say.

Ondine:               Yeah. I’ll get back to the point here in a second, but I feel some shame around not having read more.

Drew:                   What is that telling you? What is that shame?

Ondine:               That it’s something about me.

Drew:                   Right? And that’s what we talked about though. We mentioned this. Anna Soole says that shame is a tool of colonizers. It’s a shame of… Fuck me. It’s a tool of the-

Ondine:               Take a breath.

Drew:                   It’s a tool of the colonizer.

Ondine:               Yeah. So back to Audre Lord. So first quote, “Without community there is no liberation, but community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.” So I just think we could probably open multiple conversations with that quote. We’re living in a moment where diversity, diversity, diversity, that’s sort of the buzzword. Actually it’s been for a little while.

Drew:                   You go to a diversity training, “Oh, our organization is instantly better.” And you actually don’t change any of the way you do things.

Ondine:               Yeah. Or holding onto this idea of being colorblind, which we’ve addressed in previous episodes. It’s actually good to acknowledge that we’re different and to dig into that and what that means.

Drew:                   Difference is a big, big awesome thing to acknowledge.

Ondine:               Yeah. And this other piece, this quote, as Paulo Freire shows so well in Pedagogy of The Oppressed, “The true focus of revolutionary change is never merely the oppressive situations which we seek to escape, but that piece of the oppressor which is planted deep within us and which knows only the oppressor’s tactics and the oppressors relationships.” That resonates with me as we have this conversation about what decolonization means, what it means to decolonize, because it’s external work. It’s also some deep self work. We have all been indoctrinated into this system of patriarchy and white supremacy and capitalism, and that shit lives in our bones. And even on the best of days I know that I do things that perpetuate that system. And decolonization process would mean every day taking a look at that.

Drew:                   It does. And again, that is kind of tiptoeing back towards some guilt about the things you didn’t do. And I’m not trying to absolve any of us over the responsibility to move towards decolonization, but I do want to at least lift up a quote from Wretched Of The Earth. Again, that’s Frantz Fanon’s text about decolonization, this very brief sentence, “At a descriptive level any decolonization is a success.” And that was a kind of refreshing. I actually highlight it because I was-

Ondine:               Can you read that again?

Drew:                   Yeah, I can. “At a descriptive level any colonization is a success.” Again, all of those being on a continuum it tells me that this work that I’m doing on at least learning how to move through the world in a way that will ultimately lead to decolonization is worthwhile. You have to learn how to do it first. And so again, that goes back to that operators. It can’t just be the sole action that you do, just kind of educating yourself and learning about it, but it has to lead to action. So again, that sort of precursory work of learning about it is still moving towards success.

Ondine:               Yeah. Gosh, it’s life’s work, right? On Decolonize All The Things there’s a great post piece written called Decolonization: What Ought To be, and we’ll link directly to that. But I’ve read this a couple of times. I’ve printed it out. I have it in front of me, and I’ve just been thinking about some of these points. There’s one that when I read it I was like, “Holy shit, I got to read this again.” Is, “May our everyday-ness be a perpetual questioning of Europe’s claim to have a grip on what defines what is and what ought to be.” And I don’t remember if this got cut out or not, but when we were talking about Elizabethan poor laws-

Drew:                   And the worthy poor.

Ondine:               … and the worthy poor, and that’s something that we you learn in social work school, that framework for who deserves charity and how much charity is imported from Europe, and we still use it as a way of providing services to people today. In this we need to be questioning that.

Drew:                   And we punish people who are not poor enough and are not worthy of our help.

Ondine:               Yeah. We need to be asking the question, who decided that this is what ought to be? There’s another also pulling from Decolonize All The Things. It says here, “Embody decolonization. Live the language. Meet needs in your community. Interrogate the things taken for granted. Reflect on how you can build healthier relationships. Interrogate what is, what has been. Think about, discuss, and try to do and to bring about what ought to be.” So this is taking what can feel like a really big topic into something hopefully a little bit more tangible for people.

Ondine:               I love this quote too. “We’re not going to eliminate imperialism by shouting insults at it.” That one got me into the fields about the echo chamber that is Facebook and the internet. And I think also lots of people that I respect in my personal life and sometimes even me, guilty of talking shit about a system or a problem or situation, calling it out, but then offering no tangible steps forward. That’s not really who I want to be.

Drew:                   I think also shouting insults at imperialism. Imperialism has some pretty thick skin.

Ondine:               Fuck yeah.

Drew:                   They don’t give a shit about it. So yeah.

Ondine:               And decolonization is a process that’s… it’s long, it’s painstaking, it’s messy. And that was something that another moment of unsettling for me when I read Decolonizing Is Not A Metaphor. Immediately I wanted to jump to this place of, “Well, what would it look like to return land and what will happen to everybody who’s been here and for a long time, even if they are settlers? Where are they going to go? And what does this mean for me? I don’t actually own any land. What can I give back if I don’t own land? And what about other people who don’t own land?”

Ondine:               I just got caught in this spiral of this isn’t really possible because it seems impractical. And that’s a deflection and it’s not helpful, and in this article he talks about the discordance between what we say and what we do has to change. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know the answer to that question.

Drew:                   That would maybe even undermine the way that we approach the movement to decolonization too, is if you were more worried about the outcome of it than the-

Ondine:               Than the process.

Drew:                   … process itself. Yeah.

Ondine:               Another piece of this article that really spoke to me, and I’m pretty certain spoke to you because of your work in housing, but it says here, “Decolonization starts with working out all of the different ways we can interact with others without denying their self determination.” Social work buzzword. “Decolonization starts with questioning the notions of private property and endlessly seeking profit and how we can build different relations.” You had mentioned in a conversation before about how that… you work with landlords and housing discrimination. At the heart of all this is this notion of private property.

Drew:                   Yeah. I think when the hardest part for me is because I do work in basically keeping people in their homes and I work in housing. And my whole idea about the immorality of land ownership altogether in this development of this consciousness and this awareness of it and this action that I want to take is absolutely in the opposite direction of where we’re going as a society as more land as consolidated by people. People can’t even afford to buy land to live on and they’re just being… and that’s all fucking immoral and wrong too. But then I’m also struggling with this idea that none of it should even be happening in the first place because you shouldn’t be allowed to have the land. It’s not yours to even deal in.

Ondine:               It’s not ours to own.

Drew:                   Yeah. And I have yet to reconcile that and I struggle with it a lot because sometimes I’m just like, “Oh, well, let’s just go burn their fucking apartment buildings down if they want to kick people out. We’ll really give them an eviction.” And obviously I can’t do that. I’m not going to do that.

Ondine:               He’s not going to do that.

Drew:                   I’m not going to do that.

Ondine:               He’s not going to do that, nor has he ever done that and never will do that.

Drew:                   I’ve never planned to. I don’t even know how to set a fire. I was never given a name. So it’s just-

Ondine:               It’s a deep cut.

Drew:                   Yeah, it’s a deep cut. So it’s just hard to really wrap my mind around all of it. And it is immense and it’s unsettling. It’s uncomfortable, and it makes me mad. It makes me mad I don’t have the answer to it. But that’s part of the process [crosstalk 00:40:39].

Ondine:               Yeah. This is uncomfortable. It’s just uncomfortable. And it should be. We’re asking you guys to be uncomfortable. By you guys I particularly mean settlers. This conversation is different-

Drew:                   Non-indigenous people.

Ondine:               … for indigenous folks.

Drew:                   Yeah. Talking about it being uncomfortable reminds me, we did one more thing. We watched this really cool webinar by Anna Soole who was a Red River Metis indigenous person in Canada, and this webinar was hosted by Everyday Feminism. And Everyday-

Ondine:               I just dropped my computer. I’m sorry everyone. What is Everyday Feminism again?

Drew:                   Funny you should ask as you are a not making any commotions over there on your side of the table.

Ondine:               My bad.

Drew:                   Everyday Feminism is a website that posts a lot of articles, guidance. It’s a pretty good information resource for all things feminism. They keep a pretty good focus on intersectional feminism at that. And sometimes it’s just a how tos and self-awareness for how you can do better feminism in your everyday life.

Ondine:               Everyday life.

Drew:                   Hence the name. But Anna Soole in this webinar, Practical Decolonization: How To Live It Daily, talked about how this is heavy work and requires a lot of self reflection and action. And it’s not supposed to be fun. You’re not going to get pats on the back. You’re not going to feel good doing this process and working towards it. And I think that’s what makes it so important is you have to be brave and courageous and determined to do it because everything will want you to not do it.

Ondine:               Yeah. Get in touch with your values because if you want to be in alignment with them and walk with integrity likely if your values are anywhere close to mine it means sitting in this discomfort and doing this work.

Drew:                   Yeah. And I have to sit in that discomfort a lot. Like I said, everything from the industry I work in housing to the fact that I’ve got the paperwork, I’ve seen where my ancestors came from. They are all just white settlers, started in Virginia and kind of worked their way up through Southern Virginia and up through Kentucky. And then the other side of my family, they’re immigrants, but they’re immigrants to a land that they maybe didn’t have a right to immigrate to.

Ondine:               Yeah. I mean, in Eve Tuck’s article there’s no such thing as an immigrant. You’re a settler or not.

Drew:                   Right. So indisputably that’s who I am. And that was not a fun process coming around to being able to call myself that without shame being attached to it.

Ondine:               I just wanted to say a couple other things about the webinar. She talked about some practical things people can do. One of those things was to learn and practice your ancestral ways. So that’s something I suggest for folks who are listening who are not indigenous. If you’re not already sort of connected to your ancestral practices explore what those are. And I think that connects to conversations around cultural appropriation because I think when people are not connected to where they came from, but you’re looking for connection it’s really easy to take things that don’t belong to you.

Ondine:               And I remember getting into… I’ve gotten into a few conversations with folks of color around our ability to appropriate. We have to also to pay attention to the things that we’re taking that don’t belong to us.

Drew:                   And that’s hard to. We talked about this, you and I did the other day after we watched the webinar. As I just told you my family is all settlers, and I think our ancestral practice is to take shit that’s not ours. And so what does that mean? I was stuck because my most immediate family member who emigrated is English, and I’m thinking like fucking English people been doing shit, taking land for a thousand years. How far back do I have to go with it? And I kind of came around to the fact that as important as it is to connect with your ancestral practices and all that, it’s also never too late to start developing new practices that the people that come after us are going to benefit from.

Drew:                   And I think that’s one part that’s especially valuable to white people is start now developing the identity of people who fight for justice and who have responsibility over these capitalist, white supremacist, colonialists structures, and the legacy that you can leave behind that you are somebody who fought it, one, piss in the wind that your ancestors who set this up but two, also you are working to dismantle those things.

Ondine:               Yeah. I mean, you need to have role models. You need to have Anne Bradens and John Browns and white people look up to.

Drew:                   Yeah. Those are the people whose ancestor ancestral ways I want to practice, the sacking of Harpers Ferry sort of shit. Yeah.

Ondine:               Something else that really struck me from the Practical Decolonization webinar. Was that one thing you need to do is to literally locate yourself and socially locate yourself. And I hope you weren’t going to talk about this and I’m stealing on your thunder, but part of doing that is knowing who’s ancestral lands you’re on. And there’s amazing resource for doing so. It’s called Native-land.ca. You can go online and put in where you live and it’ll tell you whose lands you’re on.

Drew:                   I don’t want to end our talk about the webinar, but there is one thing that just fits in so well from a book we’ve talked about before, which is Decolonizing Social Work, which is written and edited by Mel gray, John Coates, Michael Yellow Bird, and Tiani Hetherington, and the end of the book and the conclusion continuing the de-colonization agenda, and they’re talking about decolonization and social work, and they say, “Decolonizing social work requires that we either discard colonial names or point them out for what they are.” And I think kind of locating yourself as a social worker is one way that we can do this using the tool, like you said, Native-land.ca.

Ondine:               Yeah. And do this as often and everywhere that you can, and do it earnestly. So when you’re starting a meeting or a workshop or a conference start with land acknowledgements, but not just, “So glad to be here today. We are on Cherokee lands. All right. Great. Thanks for coming, blah blah blah.” But actually spend some time thinking about what that means and locating yourself too socially. So if you’re a settler, naming that. That’s important.

Drew:                   And part of that might be something else that came from that webinar, which was reevaluating your values.

Ondine:               So kind of an amalgamation of all of the resources we absorbed for the purpose of this conversation, most constantly thinking about how do we make this tangible for social workers. And I think we’ve tried to do a good job of that throughout. I think very explicitly social workers need to know what this word means, not use it flippantly and understand that when we talk about decolonizing social work the end game is returning land.

Drew:                   The end game is there is no social work.

Ondine:               There’s no social work because it’s-

Drew:                   I mean, you say that already, right? If you work at a nonprofit you always say, “Oh, our job is to work ourselves out of a job.”

Ondine:               Work ourselves out of a job.

Drew:                   Think of it in a different way. Social work can be used towards decolonization, but if… not if, but when we get to that point social work won’t exist. You can’t decolonize social work so long as we are in a settler society.

Ondine:               And actually profiting off poverty and oppression and keeping ourselves employed through the nonprofit industrial complex.

Drew:                   Right. Yeah. I mean, that is a definitely some settler shit.

Ondine:               So know what that word means. Don’t use it without using it in that way. Know whose land you’re on. Do land acknowledgements and acknowledge also your position on the land. So if you are a settler then you should name that. These are things you can do at the beginning of a lot of a lot of spaces. Something else that stuck out to me as we were digesting all of this too was that keeping people separate is also a tool of colonialism. And one way that that can manifest is through the prison industrial complex, is that we remove private prisons but also ICE detention centers. We remove people from their families. We strip people from their communities, and we isolate them in this way. And the opposite of that right is community and connection and keeping people together.

Ondine:               And that reminded me of our conversation around dual relationships and around social workers choosing not to live in the communities where they work when really they need to, that that’s a colonial tool of isolation. Interrogate that. Think about that in your life.

Drew:                   One thing I want to kind of, as we wind down here, there is another just short place I want to read from Decolonizing Social Work to kind of… I think it summarizes a lot of things and also kind of points to some practical things that we continue to do as social workers until decolonization, and they write, “Decolonization can be seen as an extension of the critical tradition and social work such as structural, feminist, and anti-oppressive perspectives and environmental social work that draws attention to the oppressive and exploitative elements inherent in societies.” So as long your a social work practice is anticapitalist, is pro-feminist, is pro immigrant, is-

Ondine:               It’s about collective liberation.

Drew:                   … labor friendly. It’s about collective liberation. You can form social work as a vehicle towards decolonization.

Ondine:               Yes.

Drew:                   And that’s what we want. That’s what the purpose of this podcast is to talk about. That’s what we are emphasizing. So yeah.

Ondine:               So this is some heavy ass shit.

Drew:                   It is.

Ondine:               Thank you guys for going on this journey with us. And again, just want to lift up that we’re also learning.

Drew:                   We are learning in public with you and we’d love to hear your feedback about this. If [inaudible 00:51:04] said something that you feel like we got the read wrong, let us know. Again, there’s got to be a development that keeps going. We’re by no means experts in this. I mean we barely have a grasp on it to talk about it.

Ondine:               Just enough to know that we have a responsibility.

Drew:                   Yeah, to talk about it and to plan after we’ve talked about it. But yeah. So I think we have had a hiatus of sorts, but we are on the ground moving. So our next episode is going to be pretty awesome too, right?

Ondine:               Yeah. I’m excited. We’re planning an episode around labor and labor organizing and labor unions and social work.

Drew:                   That’s going to be dope. That’s nice. So yeah. So hopefully it won’t be another six months before you hear from us because, like I said, we’ve got that in the works already. But thank you again and thanks for sticking with us because this is related to us as we’re being social workers, even though we’re still talking about land.

Ondine:               That’s right.

Drew:                   But it’s all related.

Ondine:               That’s right. And-

Drew:                   What are you going to read next for your Goodreads challenge?

Ondine:               Oh, my gosh. There’s a little book about restorative justice that I’m reading. I’m almost done with that. So I need to finish that.

Drew:                   You’re reading Illness as Metaphor.

Ondine:               Illness as Metaphor by Susan Sontag. That shit is not light.

Drew:                   It’s not a bedtimer-

Ondine:               It’s not bed time reading.

Drew:                   … at all. It is not.

Ondine:               So I think maybe next it might be a graphic novel.

Drew:                   I need a graphic novel.

Ondine:               You need a graphic novel.

Drew:                   You need something to buffer it. You do. Yup. Okay.

Ondine:               All right. Take care everybody. Till next time.

Drew:                   Till next time. Thanks. Bye.

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