Written by Ophélie Lawson
Colonisation and the process of decolonisation
Colonisation, in simple words, is the process by which one power settles among and establishes control over the people of an area against their will. It is the action of appropriating a place or domain for one’s own use. Establishing itself in an area that is not ours and reclaiming it as ours.
Decolonisation is the ‘freeing of minds from colonial ideology’ in particular by challenging the ingrained and deep rooted idea that to be colonised was to be inferior. Decolonisation critiques positions of power and dominant culture. It is a process in which we rethink and reconstruct ideas that preserve the Europe-centred, colonial lens and withdraw political, military and governmental rule imposed by invaders on a colonised land.
Colonisation erases, from the society under its control, entire ways of life, replacing indigenous social structures with supposedly ‘enlightened’ governance. Through the creation of deadly stereotypes and stigmas, as well as preconceived overtly racist ideas of others, the colonisers justify their invasion, enslavement and genocide. It takes deep root in the subjugated people’s thoughts and ideas.
The history of African colonisation by the western world is a long and complex one. It created detrimental biases about what it means to be African and black in the western world.
Colonisation, and its tool of racism, deeply embedded an idea that anyone of African descent in Europe is an imposter and that they are inferior. This deadly idea lives in many of the white westerners’ minds. Anti-black racism is a concept deeply internalised in the western world. This racist discriminative social construct works by referring to different types of human bodies and from there determining what they are entitled to.
The African Diaspora has made lasting contributions to the western world. Part of the African European diaspora are largely the descendants of enslaved people who were brought from their African homelands to the Western world by force to help build Europe and the US. These contributions often go intentionally unrecognised and people of African descent have long been denied economic, social, and political equality.
It also meant that most African people coming to the Western world after colonisation were directly labeled economic migrants, generating fears that ‘they’ were coming to Europe to steal opportunities .This narrative can survive in the western world due to the distinct lack of acknowledgement of how much wealth from Africa lives in western cities. So much unacknowledged theft has happened that many westerners are unaware of what their governments, countries, have stolen, and corporations continue to steal. It has often never occurred in the eyes of the Westerners that people coming from Africa were not migrants by choice but rather forced migrants. They cannot see how the comfort of the white man was built upon the back of the Black man’s suffering.
Governance of terror
What the white man did to Africa is more than just create economic hardship and commit theft. The systems they put into place corrupted African governments to serve the white man’s interest, it also created an environment of fear in which most opposition was met with violence, suppressed, and countered with systemic political murder.
The effect of this in the citizens of many African countries was a total breakdown of the social fabric of their society. The lack of trust gave way to a culture of paranoia.
The same tactics imposed by Stalin in Eastern Europe were exported by the enemies of Stalin for use in Africa. A society of political repression, paranoia and clandestine murders was the enemy against which The West so righteously struggled. During the time of their “righteous fight,” they had no qualms about instituting the same policies upon the people of Africa. Europe had learned very well the effectiveness of terror in controlling populations. In such an environment the continual exploitation of a nation’s natural resources is easy.
The breakdown of the social fabric due to colonisation is identical to the breakdown of the social fabric due to civil war, or any kind of war.
Their nation has been taken from them whether it’s from war or colonisation, in either case, through violence.
Most of the time, even in the case of an African living upon the land of their ancestors, through the process of colonisation they have become a stateless person.
What is a refugee ?
Refugees are people who have fled war, violence, conflict or persecution and have crossed an international border to find safety in another country according to the UNHCR definition.
A migrant is a person who moves from one place to another, especially in order to find work or better living conditions.
The status of ‘refugee’ is defined by the white western man. The same group who continue to not recognise the impact of their ancestors and the ruins of colonisation. The same group who have benefited and are still benefiting from colonisation. Their control over this definition provides another tool to discriminate against African men, women and children who are seeking safety due to what colonisation did to their states. If it is a term used for Black people, economic migrants are stealing selfish individuals, while referring to white people, economic migrants are simply called expats.
Defining certain groups as migrants enables them to become stuck in a system due to the colour of their skin. This shows how colonisation continues to live in the fabric of our society. It is dangerous, unjust and detrimental to all people. As a result of that thousands of Black people are being trapped in Greek refugee camps, continuously receiving rejections to their asylum claims. Living in the worst living conditions for months.
Within the refugee crisis there’s a lot of racist imagery towards refugees coming from Central Africa. This imagery is being perpetrated by the media and its audience, we are putting labels on those populations and therefore treating them differently than a person and a refugee fleeing from persecution, conflict, torture and so on. Those are labels we put based on aesthetics of how someone looks and that is impacting their experience, also the experience as humans who have human rights that are not being respected because of the label boxes we put them into.
The refugee crisis needs decolonisation, to restore justice, equality, and to fight the neglect in which our black brothers and sisters fleeing their countries are exposed to and trapped into.