Co-written by Liam Harwyn @liamharwyn_writer and Kanyon CoyoteWoman Sayers-Roods @kanyonkonsulting in 2019, we have since updated these 11 action guidelines that we envisioned together for creating guidelines for anyone to envision and form cultures which are decolonizing and anti-racist. The European diaspora is here defined as anyone of european descent and anyone impacted by white supremacist culture. Here we will go over the ideas behind each guideline one by one :
White supremacist culture was created as the negation of everything that is brown, black and indigenous.
The culture we were brought up in is predicated upon being violent toward + stealing from black, brown and indigenous people of color. “White culture” was designed this way, so there’s no getting around its true nature or its goals. We are all steeped in this culture from birth but people of color have no choice when it comes to its control over their lives, what it takes from them or how it will harm them.
“White people” do have a choice about what we are going to believe in and what we are going to perpetuate through our action and inactions.
We will talk more in later guidelines about the white mentality of exploitation and privatization, how to better understand community when it hasn’t been modeled for us by white supremacist culture and choosing to divest from whiteness, but today we can recognize that every way this world conforms to white supremacist culture disenfranchises our black, brown and indigenous neighbors, family and community members with very real, daily consequences to their wellbeing.
That is why our number one priority as accomplices to black, brown and indigenous people of color is to make sure that our basic everyday interactions are actually restorative. That means fair wages, fair compensation, uplifting reparations, being kind, respectful and being sure that we are putting our energy into movements LED by black and brown and indigenous people of color. We have not been taught to value fairly compensating black and brown and indigenous people of color by white culture. This basic level of justice must be the foundation of the cultures we create together.
What are your thoughts? How do we make sure our financial and social interactions are just and restorative? Do you have favorite resources on this subject? Let’s keep the conversation going!
#2 What has whiteness given us? Protection, anonymity, assurance that we are, on the whole, less likely to be swallowed by the prison industrial or military industrial complexes or killed by a police officer or terrorist. It means we are more likely to get the job, the loan, respect and welcome wherever we go.
“Whiteness” has given us a comfortable narrative of victory, innocence and saviorism that denies the reality of dominance and cruelty. For centuries we have used whiteness to excuse doing the same things to black, brown and indigenous people of color that were done to our European ancestors like public hangings, imprisonment, genocidal wars, unsafe working conditions, sexual assault and exploitation. The 1% of my English ancestors practiced these techniques on the 99% of my Welsh, Irish, Scottish and English ancestors who went to America and did the same things and worse to black, brown and indigenous people of color.
Jamie Utt writes for Everyday Feminism, “We can choose to divest from Whiteness. You see, Whiteness is not our skin color. Whiteness is not ‘stuff White people like.’ Whiteness is not our families or our culture. Whiteness is a system that was created by people who look like us for the sole purpose of consolidating power in the hands of a few. Whiteness is the system that has, for hundreds of years, instilled in us the ideology of White supremacy to keep our people from investing in common struggle with people of Color.”
If you are someone who checks off “White” or “Caucasian” on your ethnicity, have you ever considered what you would be if you weren’t “white?” Do you know how your ancestors identified themselves before “whiteness” was recently invented?
Have you ever considered that you have the option to divest from whiteness?
# 3 Waste:
The indigenous, land-based cultures of the planet Earth do not waste their resources, they have a reciprocal, highly intelligent relationship with the living beings around them. Nearly everything is used and valued and respected and if it isn’t usable to humans it will one day decompose back into the Earth and become digestable to the earth once more.
In white supremacist culture, we have created tools and materials that cannot go back into the ground and our culture tells us to buy as much as we can and throw it away as often as we can so we can buy more.
In white supremacist culture we call people who we are willing to waste for our personal goals “collateral damage.” We call people who we don’t value “trash.” We call people who produce these things for us “factory workers” and “laborers,” fragmenting their identities as brilliant craft-makers and unique humans, reducing them to part of a production line, paying them much less for doing the majority of the hidden labor we depend on every day.
Even in progressive communities, when we have a problem with somebody we’ll call them “canceled”– Emergent Strategy by @adriennemariebrown has made me think more critically about this, about the difference between call-ins and call-outs and how quick we are to throw somebody away when they make a mistake, instead of finding regenerative ways to teach, call in and value what everyone brings enough to first try to work it out. Still processing and learning more about this nuance of holding accountability without jumping right to throwing people away.
Honorable harvesting and respectful crafting of tools and materials we need should bring respect, regeneration and care to the earth and to everyone involved in its creation, use and decomposition. This is the future we envision.
#4 We are accomplices in ending the racialized pressure of the police state and its manifestations in violent policing, mass incarceration and the criminalization of drugs. We recognize that our justice systems have always benefited the people in power and perpetuated colonial superiority. We are inspired by and support regenerative ways of creating justice, led by the communities who are most affected by this system.
Straightforward and to the point. American police forces were created originally to be kidnappers of enslaved people who had liberated themselves from slavery. Learn #truthinhistory. Hold the policepeople and police departments you know accountable. AND STOP CALLING THE COPS ON PEOPLE OF COLOR. #prisonreformnow #blacklivesmatter #mmiw #amerikkka #legalizeit #warondrugs #schooltoprisonpipeline
#5 We respect and embrace uncolonial ways of knowing. These ways of thinking, beliefs and practices that are not approved by “western science” or “western logic” are numerous, diverse and valid and may include concepts that directly challenge “western” assumptions and beliefs. We listen to non-colonial ways of knowing and investigate our own biases as well as our own ancestral ways of knowing to rejuvenate the diversity of ways to witness and understand the world and our experiences within it. We give those people and beings who are ignored and diminished in this world– people of color, queer people, children, elderly people, people experiencing migration or fleeing violence, plants, animals and spirits—our listening and respect. We recognize we ourselves have limited time but that there will be future generations who look to what we have done and we think about the impact we have as future ancestors.
Do you follow any traditions or have you had experiences or communications in ways or with beings that Western Science does not approve of? Or believes is impossible, unreal, unscientific? I have gotten clear messages from plant beings, have strong intuitions that turn out to be correct and follow a nature-based thought and spiritual path. None of these are “approved” by “Western Science,” but that doesn’t make them any less REAL. “Western Science” is only one lens for understanding this world and when you understand it was built on racism, white supremacy and colonialism, that is is as biased as the people who uphold it, it is much easier to break free from its judgment and open our minds and hearts to all ways of knowing, which are as diverse as the world itself.6
#6 Ageing is normal. Death is natural. Decomposition is necessary. In white supremacist, capitalist culture we deny all of these natural functions of life.
This culture leaves us emotionally isolated when facing our own aging, death and eventual physical decomposition.
It puts plastic and other substances that don’t decompose into our soil, water and air, clogging this life cycle which for millenia has run smoothly from life into death back into life again.
We sell “solutions” to ageing instead of respecting it and allowing people to be comfortable in their bodies. We disrespect elders. We fear witnessing death and dying people. Elder care right now is rife with ignorance, abuse and discomfort. We hide our elders away and don’t ask their thoughts about the present, the future or believe what they need.
What would shift in the world if we all understood the life cycle, the importance of it and had strong cultural traditions and community support through all phases of life, birth, death, dying and remembering those who have passed? What if we could feel a connection to our ancestors and the future descendants when we face our own mortality?
I found this note on my phone: “I don’t consent to be devoured by [dominant culture]. I’ll only be “eaten” in service to the earth, to my family, to those I love, to those who need help, to myself, to my wounded ancestors and descendants. Because at least among them I’ll be decomposed, remembered and someday what I made and was will be made into something new again.”
There’s a promise of the eternal in healthy culture, to be remembered and become a part of something natural and communal, instead of the hyper-focus on individuality and the false immortality/agelessness we are accustomed to under capitalism and white supremacy.
#7 We choose to recall and speak true histories. We are an unstoppable force against historical and cultural amnesia. We choose to remember, reclaim, truth-tell and act as accomplices in calling on others to remember as well. We will respect oral histories and other suppressed and lost records of knowledge to find connections, bringing information from the forgotten past to the present, thereby making truthful futures possible. True history needs to be remembered so we can learn from the past, building on the good and dismantling the evils that we are currently building upon without awareness or acknowledgment. We recognize that witnessing as many diverse perspectives as we can brings us closer to the truth. We recognize we are responsible for assessing the accuracy and historical moment of the resources we draw from.
#8 When we “white” people hear that there is an issue of injustice, we should not ask what WE can do to change it. We should go to the black, brown, indigenous and queer leaders who already are changing it and have been for decades and learn what it means to find an appropriate place in service to a community, which is not a skill we learned from white supremacist, capitalist culture. We need to learn how to support and respect people of color and how to truly give what is needed by the community instead of coming in as outsiders with a “white savior” complex, wanting to be praised while we continue to oppress people.
Our current toxic culture teaches that the only way to be valuable and valid is to be successful as an individual in capitalist business with power over people. We must be recognized as “the leader” in order to have any value and what we create must make us more money and fame than everyone else involved.
In this culture leaders are people who monetize and privatize everything and exploit others.
This vision of success has always excluded people of color and indigenous people. White supremacist culture relies on the exploitation of the environment and black and brown bodies. White supremacist individualism makes us believe in scarcity and feel isolated, lonely and hungry in a misguided way so that we spend all of our time, energy and money reaching for what those in power want us to reach for: a constant mythology that we must dominate and surpass those around us, feeling unimportant and irrelevant unless we are the most powerful, # 1, at “the top of the heap.”
I have learned that restorative justice movements led by black, brown, indigenous and queer people of color do not operate on the myth of scarcity or the importance of individualistic privatization and profit. People of color are and have been uniting for their co-liberation, for their collective survival and to uplift everyone in their community so they can get what they need and thrive. In this context everybody is relevant without exploitation, dominance or profit.
I believe we have much to learn about “Community” before we ask to join one in service.
#9 Break #WhiteSilence on race and racism: those of us who are “white” should start conversations with our white family, friends, coworkers, strangers and become comfortable having them.
We can practice having these conversations and become more skilled at having them.
We should learn from black, brown and indigenous communities about what is important to say, what stereotypes and arguments it is important to address with misinformed and/or prejudiced white people and how to do it well. (See guideline 8 for more on being led by people of color and being in service to a community!)
#10 [Liam] I’m grateful that Kanyon @kanyonkonsulting envisioned this guideline! When they shared it with me for the first time I remember feeling like I’d been given permission to relax into my body a bit more and remembered my soil origins and earthly connection.
Follow Kanyon @kanyonkonsulting if you have liked or learned from what you’ve read and you can follow #RoamingOhlone to see just how many things they are doing on a daily and weekly basis: it’s a head-spinning amount of travel, speaking and teaching!! Support their important work on Patreon @kanyonkonsulting. Especially if you are living or working in the SF Bay Area don’t miss the chance to directly support and learn about how to respect Ohlone culture and people!
#11 More words direct from co-writer Kanyon CoyoteWoman Sayers-Roods @kanyonkonsulting @coyotewoman about personal responsibility and accountability!
I thank everybody for reading along, we would love to hear any thoughts and comments on these guidelines!
@hexratedwitches was kind enough to share some feedback that they received on # 10 and it reminded me how important it is to share all of these concepts together, because all of us who have been labeled “white” by dominant culture are benefiting from the privilege of this myth of whiteness and from white supremacy every day and it’s a very complicated issue trying to tease out what is wrong with our culture and envision how it could be different without all of these points working together! We can’t just focus on being free to connect to the Earth on slide number 10, we need to be living all of these points: being accountable, focusing on getting behind black, brown and indigenous leaders instead of centering our whiteness or seeing ourselves as “white saviors,” etc.
I [Liam] dream of a future where whiteness is no longer something that my descendants identify with and people can be humans, but there is a LOT of work that we need to do on ourselves and a lot of showing up that we need to do as accomplices first. It’s not simple, easy or straightforward and these guidelines do not aim to belittle or simplify how complicated divesting from whiteness will be. Or that this movement is and should primarily be being led by black brown and indigenous people of color, not by white people like myself! That’s just one reason why I knew it was important not to write this list on my own and I am grateful again for @kanyonkonsulting, please follow and support their work!
I hope that these will be conversation points about how we can envision a decolonizing, anti-racist culture and start imagining what it would be like to live in a world without whiteness or white supremacy, starting with slide number one: Support indigenous sovereignty and justice for black, brown and indigenous people of color through direct action!
Copyright Kanyon CoyoteWoman Sayers Roods and Liam Harwyn 2020