In my personal life, decolonization has been and is an important part of my political development. The mainstream consumer culture has atomized people and destroyed political life in America, by making people identify first as consumers, and not as members of a body politic. This is problematic because it puts each person in competition with everyone around them to consume the “correct” products, whether it be shampoo or politics. It’s a never ending treadmill of “authenticity.” The identity of member, however is different, because it first and foremost puts one in cooperation with ones fellow humans.
Additionally, decolonization to me is the process of challenging the dominance of the “white makes right” assumptions that so often underpin mainstream American thinking. That kind of thinking is what lead the radical right to systematically dismantle the working institutions of government, because its members feared any benefits flowing to those who were not white. As individuals, we should absolutely be engaged in that process, and lend our support to others around us who are doing the same.
However, I think the name change is a bad idea. This is because it forks what we are doing in Oakland from the rest of the OWS support in the US, and I can’t see how that is a good thing. It’s our numbers that give us power, and cutting us off from the numbers will only make us weaker.
For 30 years the privilege/decolonize discourse has pretty much failed to stop the onslaught of neo-liberal economic destruction. It has been good to the extent that it made overt racism normatively unacceptable among the mainstream. However, as a basis for mass organizing in favor of economic egalitarianism, it has failed– and if it hadn’t failed, we wouldn’t be in this situation right now. It seems to me that changing the name to Decolonize and Liberate Oakland is cutting us off from wider support. We’re the underdog, and as the underdog we always want to connect to a many other people as we can to mobilize support.
Part of my issue with the privilege/decolonize discourse as a tool of political organizing is that it focuses on non-measurable, personal outcomes. How will we ever measure if a person has _truly_ decolonized their mind? And the answer is, we can’t– which is what leads to the endless rounds of self-purification and the quest for some kind of “authentic” decolonized self. Since this process can never be completed, nor measured, it creates a political black hole. This is because no one can ever truly prove that they’ve decolonized themselves, or that an institution (made up of people) has decolonized itself.
On the other hand, focusing on concrete objectives such as putting people back in their homes, housing the homeless, feeding the hungry and democratizing the creation of economic value are measurable outcomes. It allows us to see if our movement is succeeding or failing, very clearly. If 10 years from now, Oakland is still suffering from homelessness, foreclosures, job loss and economic exploitation then we can say for sure that our movement has failed. To actualize those goals, we have to have numbers. Changing our name to Decolonize and LIberate Oakland cuts us off from those numbers.