Recap: Decolonizing the Mind for Liberation & Systems Change

Insights from our LinkedIn audio event

Hello friends,

Remember the event I did with Asmara Kazmi on cognitive dissonance and anti-racism?

Well, we followed up that event with another one on Decolonizing the Mind for Liberation & Systems Change. At this event we were joined by my Mission Equality colleague AJ Singh, and by Dr LisaRose Blanchette. Here’s a flavour of our discussion....

Recognising the colonisation of our minds

LisaRose: “there was a lot of cognitive dissonance in my upbringing, because I would look in the mirror and I would not see a white person, but also embedded in our upbringing were all the negative stereotypes of Black people and I don't have to go into those, I'm sure. But I carried those around with myself. So I didn't realise that until I became a teacher and I had to start confronting some of my internal racism… I had to work on myself in order to be the best teacher for my students.”

Sharon: “it's hard for me to pinpoint a time when I realised I had to decolonize my mind, but if I had to pick one, it was probably when I was working on the master's thesis that eventually turned into Exploring Shadeism, which was all about colorism and I touched a lot on Fanon and this idea of double consciousness, of perceiving how you're seen out in the world with what you know yourself to be, and realising that the ideas that we’re often raised within formerly colonised countries continue to reinforce that colonised mindset. That was … the genesis of a journey because I don't think that my mind is totally decolonized. I keep on peeling layers and finding more things, more ideas about the world that I want to think differently about.”

AJ: “as I started to get to know kind of more aspects of myself, I realised that I was non binary, I realised that I was autistic. And I just seemed to be growing further and further away from the reality around me. And really, it wasn't, it was unravelling…this kind of construct of whiteness and extractive capitalism that I've been performing for so long. You know, it kind of started to crumble. And there was a specific moment a few years ago… And I said out loud, if I don't decolonize my life, I'm not going to make it. And … it just felt like the truest thing I'd ever said.”

Asmara: “I hadn't realised just how much colonialism and then the partition of trauma is embedded in the psyche of so many people and and we don't even notice it. It's like air. It's so pervasive. So my first experience of that was I was very, very young, probably six or seven years old. And.. I would like to play outside a lot. And when I was younger, and I was a toddler like I was born very fair skinned and then kind of elevated to this lovely toasted almond colour. And I remember when I my skin started getting darker there were aunties that would like come by the house and they would like have coffee or tea with my mom and then there would be all this conversation about like, you know, Asmara she's, she's getting a little bit dark now, you know, and if she gets too dark who is going to marry her? I was six years old. Why are y'all worried about me getting married when I'm six? And I think that colorism plays into that, you know, internalised white supremacy…and I think that that's probably where it started for me”

White supremacy as a system

Asmara: “Another thing that really sticks out to me is this idea of artificial urgency as an instrument of thr colonised mindset. This idea of like, okay, well, if we systemically deprive you of all of the basic necessities of just existence, then you will not have sufficient time and energy to actually process these things and call out the bullshit and see things for the veneer that is just over them. And that is all absolutely intentional. And that is categorically by design. …At first blush, you would think like, Oh, what is the link between colourism and you know, our current obsession with productivity? It's like, well, it has the same common denominator, friends, and it's that dysfunctional paradigm of, of white supremacy, of misogyny as well.”

Beginning to decolonise

Sharon: “just picking up on the importance of language of rejecting labels that don't work for us and coming up with new ways to talk about the things. You know, it makes a difference. Whether you consider someone a minority or a person of the global majority. It makes a difference whether you describe someone as a slave or someone as an enslaved person. Right, all of those, they seem like small things, but they're huge things, their mindset shifts, and they're part of decolonizing the mind, changing the language we use to put accountability and responsibility where it lies. And so I think that is definitely something that we can all do is be intentional about the language that we use as part of the process of decolonization.”

LisaRose: “when you think about self transformation and I do believe that this needs to begin with self transformation, you acknowledge the problem, right? You acknowledge that something's wrong or something's not quite working. So then next step is you start looking for solution. Then my my part is, my next steps are also having that accountability partner, someone who's going to be honest and hold me to my newfound truth. So for example, I have a couple of people, one in particular, with whom I will go to and say so here's the situation, and I want to make sure that I have not reacted in a racist fashion that maybe I am upholding a more anti-racist point of view.”

AJ: “the community element is so important and it's also incredibly lonely and confusing and depressing to have realisations alone. And I think that can drive people to dark places. And I think sometimes that's how people end up manifesting in areas that end up harming other people because there isn't this accountability, this you know, the softness is important, but the accountability is also important. And sometimes I think, and I particularly seen this with kind of white, queer autistic spaces that there's a lot of softness and there's very little accountability… And I think that reflecting on that because we haven't because it's coming out of that individualist culture and not knowing how to build community... And that's something that needs to be reclaimed.”

There were also several insightful comments from the audience, which you won’t want to miss. You can check out the full conversation on Otter.

I’m interested to hear what resonated with you from this conversation.

Thanks for reading,


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© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2023. All Rights Reserved.

Cover photo courtesy of Canva.

I am an anti-racism educator and activist, Co-Founder of Mission Equality, the author of “I’m Tired of Racism”, and co-host of The Introvert Sisters podcast.

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