Decolonize ALL The Things

The UNsettling reflections of a Decolonial Scientist in a Constant State of Rage

D.A.T.T. Critical Thinking Series

June 14, 2016
Shay-Akil

jake readingLast summer was the first time that I decided to run the freedom school.  I designed a syllabus, held the twitter chats, & I and my comrade Arash worked hard to get the reading summaries out to people.  They have operated as great tools that allow people to grasp not just the general argument in texts but also general arguments that help them understand how society and systems operate based on historical analysis.  While I think that the first way that I constructed the DATT Freedom School was useful and helpful to many people (they regularly shared their appreciation and gave their thanks), there are many of us who seek to learn this new information but we have our own reservations given tattered relationships to institutions of education and the use of education as a systematic means through which many marginalized people are told they are to learn in top-down fashions and are not seen as creators of history and new ways of being.  So this summer the DATT Freedom School is going to be a Critical Thinking series. 

I’m designing the DATT Summer Critical Thinking series to provide people with some introductory tools that will help them know how to better use texts like the ones provided in last summer’s DATT Freedom School.   Something that I have taken into consideration is that people lack confidence in themselves and struggle with learning because of the ways in which US education is set up.  As a child I was infinitely curious and when I had questions and teachers didn’t want to answer them I took myself to the library.  If there is one thing my mom instilled in me its that if I have a question and she doesn’t know the answer we could go to the library to find the answer.  I read. I lived in one of the poorest and most racially segregated cities in the United States, my education wasn’t great but I kept my head in books.  But that habit of self education, picking up on scientific methods to analyze concepts and test their validity is something I protected.  My curiosity was important to me, its what kept me fascinated with the world and reminded me that I wasn’t alone.  It still does.  And I think that before people can really take any text and learn what it has to offer critically they just need to re-learn critical thinking and practice those skills, engage texts, and better equip them to understand the world around them.  That is what I want people to be able to do instead of relying on a failing public education system (one that has always failed the most vulnerable).

You see, when I decided to do the DATT Freedom School last summer, I wanted people to be able to have the same information that I have.  I was hoping it would be something to help people.  What I struggled to address is that there’s a myriad of reasons that people may not take advantage of something like that because they don’t feel ready.  Learning and education have come to be difficult and scary because of the ways in which such institutions have engaged in socializing us all into colonial ways of being and knowing (e.g. whiteness, andro-centrism (centering cishet men), patriarchy, capitalism, queerphobia, biological determinism, etc.).  While I knew this, it was something on my mind, I didn’t know what to do about it.  After spending this past year thinking and tweeting about it more (& reading and re-reading, talking to people, etc.), I came to realize that people need to be able to empower themselves through information and construct historically informed arguments.  But many people need to learn to validate what they know, know how to verify it, and hopefully that knowledge will contribute to helping them understand the social problems that plague their lives and how they can engage in social action to do something about it (e.g. like organize in their community).  I don’t want to tell people what to think, I want to teach them HOW to think.  I want people to know the methods, know how to check and verify that something is true, what the context is, and be self-reflexive about the things we think & say that are oppressive.

So this summer I’m planning on instead posting a series of articles about critical thinking skills and using them to understand larger social systems and problems.  So that means I’ll cover texts like that of Paulo Friere, C. Wright Mills, etc..  The goal is for people to learn ways to critically think about the things around them and hence be able to confidently utilize other texts needed to further their political education.  This series then will break down some of the processes that I highlighted in another article on critical consciousness.  But something for those interested in taking advantage of such articles & resources is that this series is not something designed to feed into people’s egos.  The goal is to change the colonial ways that we all typically engage the process of learning & ‘education’.  The goal is to transform the ways in which you think about ‘intelligence’ & WHO gets to produce knowledge.  This is not for you to use to hit other people over the head with to feel better about yourself and the process of critical thinking and self reflection are not ones that are completely comforting.  The goal is to provide people with the tools to begin their own paths down ideological transformation.  I want to help better equip people with what they need to question colonial regimes of truth.  Such processes are ones of GROWTH.  Growth is not always comfortable but it is always worth it.

We cannot move forward as colonized peoples without being able to learn from what history has to teach us.  History holds lessons of what worked, didn’t work, and helps equip us to better understand how systems and societies work in our lives now.  But we can’t do that by only engaging famous quotes of anti-colonial intellectuals to then make a liberal multiculturalist statement.

“With no education you’ll have neocolonialism instead of colonialism like ya got in Africa now & like you’ve got in Haiti.  If the people were educated they would’ve said we don’t hate white people, we hate the oppressor whether he be white, Black, or Brown.  If the people don’t have education, they won’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing. You might get people caught up in emotional movements or you might get people caught up cause they poor & they want something.  If they’re not educated they’ll want more & before ya know it they’ll be capitalists & before ya know it we’ll have Negro imperialists.” – Fred Hampton

We have brilliant scholars in our communities.  Some amazing anti-colonial thinkers have come out of marginalized communities over our collective histories.  They wrote what they wrote and did the work they did to provide us with that information to then take and utilize for our liberation, for us to continue to fight to be able to live in a world that doesn’t nest existence on systematically living at the expense of other forms of life (humans and non-human life).  When you educate people, they can’t be tricked anymore. They aren’t led by anybody. They LEAD. And not in the paternalistic sense.  We all have responsibilities to do the work necessary for our communities to move towards liberation.  The reality is that educated people are difficult to dominate.  Political education provides people with ways to be aware of history, societal structures, and possible social actions that align with their political principles not based on the rules of logic defined by colonialism.

I want people in my community to know that they too can produce knowledge because they already do and our ancestors always have.  Marginalized peoples produce knowledge on a regular basis to only have it validated by white institutions and white researchers’ extractive research projects.  My goal then is to provide those who read the upcoming articles and apply them in their lives to begin the political education processes that they need in order for them to begin to learn how they can take acts to resist the settler colonial status quo.  I don’t want people to need to rely on me for that.  You are all able to do that on your own in your own ways and words.  This is only as effective as YOU MAKE IT.  That means you MUST be an active participant in your own learning process.  Learning to ask questions, look things up, and deciphering the meaning, context, and validity of ‘things’ in critical ways.  I hope these articles help bring people with the confidence to invest in their curiosity and desire to solve their community’s problems through informed and strategic action.  The series will run through the rest of this summer.  The goal is for me to get the first post out to everyone during the first week of July.  I look forward to a summer of intellectual investigation and progressive decolonial growth.

 

 

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