**TRIGGER WARNING: Gendered violence, sexual violence, colonialism/colonizaton, abuse**
Many of the strategies to address violence have further strengthened broad systems of colonial power, which are themselves inherently violent. We continue to appeal to the Canadian legal system to address physical violence, calling for more policing or better laws, while knowing this system is set up to oppress, rather than help, us. The same colonial mentality that created the Indian Act to privilege the rights of men over women, and instituted residential schools to break down our family systems, serves as the foundation for the Canadian legal system. Surely we must engage with this powerful system, but appealing to law alone will not stop the violence.
So how do we begin to change norms around gendered violence without reinforcing its roots in colonial power? As we strategize, we must be careful not to reproduce the systems and ideologies that colonialism has introduced. Sexist, racist and homophobic ideas have been internalized at many levels, but colonialism’s stealthy ways make them hard to recognize.
As an example, one consequence of developing broad public awareness about the prevalence of violence against Indigenous women has been the privileging of some women’s voices over others. Moving from Vancouver’s downtown east side to offices in Ottawa and other urban centers across Turtle Island, efforts to name gendered violence have shifted from grassroots discussions to slick poster campaigns. In these moves, certain voices have been left behind, enacting a form of silencing that I believe is in crucial need of reparation. Rather than calling on our sisters in the sex trade to speak for themselves, others are asked to speak on their behalf. We must ask ourselves how colonial values continue to shape whose voices are seen as legitimate, while working to center the voices of the most marginalized women in our communities rather than only those of us with a colonial education.
So colonial violence can be understood as more than just interpersonal abuse – it is inherent in the systems that have shaped how we define ourselves and relate to one another as Indigenous people. It should go without saying that healing from violence requires rebuilding our individual and collective strength rather than reinforcing the power of the state. By centering local Indigenous knowledge in our understandings of leadership, honor, strength and love, we can redefine ‘power’ as well as ‘violence’. This requires relearning our stories and our cultural teaching in order to raise up the girls in our communities and respect them as leaders, mothers, warriors and knowledge keepers.
“Additionally while media is rightfully honing in on voter suppression efforts across the country and pushback against these efforts, little attention is paid to the fact that Puerto Rican citizens on the island have no vote in the U.S. presidential election, nor Congressional representation yet are subject to U.S. law. There has been buzz about how this year’s plebiscite is allegedly different from those of years past because of the wording of the option and a two step process, but not much discussion on how no matter how the vote turns out, a Congressional bill would have to be introduced to Congress to change the island’s status. Not one article or post I have seen has mentioned the numerous hearings before the United Nations Decolonization Committee and that committee’s recommendations. There also has been hardly any noise heard within the U.S. media about allegations of electoral fraud within the island. Just like during the 2008 presidential campaign, this year both candidates have made much ado about the influence of the Latino vote by campaigning in Puerto Rico and the media has focused on the participation numbers of voters on the island in the primaries there.”
The reason that Cross and Marta go to the Philippines is to synthesize a super-soldier chemical compound pick-me-up that can only be produced in a US military lab in Manila. It’s believable that the US government would operate a covert lab in the Philippines because the plot draws on the actual history of US military presence in the region.
Downward camera angles also might seem militaristic because we experience similar aerial views on the news. We’re familiar with this gaze from images and video reportage on places and events of military interest, such as bombings that are reported in such a way as to instill confidence in the military’s ability to complete mission objectives. Aerial views allow us to see far and wide, giving us a sense of command as though we are military officers looking across the scope of the field of operations, deciding upon the appropriate strategic uses of its geographical features. But it’s not only in the context of formal war that we are asked to look from this militarized perspective. Often images of slums in news reports present these aerial views from helicopters, again to give us a sense of knowing something about an area, while allowing us to stay above and away from it.
Mimicking recent trends in the military basing practices, Cross is able to operate far and wide, without restriction, moving from the US to the Philippines and finding strategic pivot-points from which to protect his interests. He may fight the US government, but he does this by assuming its military operating model and gaze, which is biased, selecting the spaces of particular populations as appropriate battlegrounds, while understanding other spaces as off-limits.
Lamont Lilly: Dr. Cuevas, as only the second individual I know to describe themselves as Afro-Mexican can you share some insight on the cultural connections that exist within such a powerful ethic mix? And why have figures such as Gaspar Yanga and Emiliano Zapata been omitted from history’s reference of heralded freedom fighters?
Marco Polo Hernández-Cuevas: Well, the reason you haven’t heard many refer to themselves as Afro-Mexican is because this is a relatively new term that was first coined by Eurocentric scholars like Melville Herskovits. It was Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán who coined it in 1945 in Mexico City, during the foundational meeting of the Institute for African American Studies. However, that doesn’t mean that a color consciousness didn’t exist in Mexico. Prior to that, we had a host of names such as “Casta,” “Chilango,” “Jarocho,” and “Boshito,” all terms that refer to the lack of blood cleanliness of non-white persons. That would explain why many people in Mexico do not identify themselves as Afro-Mexican. They refer to themselves as Casta, or any of the other names previously mentioned. Recently however, there’s been a movement in the South Pacific side of Mexico whereby Afro-Mexicans do not want to be called Afro-Mexican. They just want to be called Nĕgro — Black. It erases the science and intellectuality of such embedded complexities.
In the case of Gaspar Yanga, his omission from history obviously has to do with the revolt he led in the late 16th and early 17th centuries against the Spaniards. Mexico did not actually exist at that time, and the Spanish rulers were not eager to historicize such pursuits of freedom. Yanga and others went against their rule. Only after Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán did Mexicans become aware in the early 1970s that the town of San Lorenzo de Los Negros would be called Yanga (in honor of this Afro warrior). So we know there was an African presence in the region.
As for Emiliano Zapata, he has actually not been omitted from history. Though not as celebrated here, Emiliano Zapata is a very prominent and well-known revolutionary. He’s one of the people who fought in the area of Morelos, a southern part of Mexico, during the Mexican Revolution. What is omitted from history is Zapata’s African descent. He was an Afro-Mexican. This can be proven even beyond appearances by the fact that his motto was that the land belongs to the people who work it. This is a millenary Bantu way of thinking, that may be as old as a couple million years.