I was supposed to post thig blog in October last year for Zambia’s independence day. I wasn’t sure if it was wise to do so, especially in light of some of the things mentioned here. Am still not sure about this. What I know now is that since I just share my opinions in these blogs, I guess it’s okay to write whatever comes to mind. I might step on some toes, it’s not my intention. It’s just the way I look at the particular issues that I will touch on. As usual, comments, discussions and disagreements are welcome. Just remember this is my opinion, which am willing to change, should I get an opposing yet plausible argument.
Independence days are the perfect days for us to reflect and be grateful for our heroes and heroines, the men and women who fought for our freedom. In the case of Zambia, we celebrated our 55th independence last year. Yes, it’s been 55 years since our country’s founding fathers fought against the British colonials to make Zambia the independent country it.
What really is independence anyway? Is it just not having people from another country controlling your government and institutions? Is it the freedom to choose a country’s laws, economic policies and who to trade with? Maybe a blend of these and many more? I think so. And if celebrating independence is all about this, then it’s a good thing that everyone should engage in. However, am not satisfied when I consider independence to only mean the things above and maybe a few more. When I look at the state of Zambia, be it from the socioeconomic, political, or judicial point of view, the scars of colonialism are still visible. In some cases, these scars are bleeding wounds, hurting society and the people. This is where we draw two ideas; Decolonisation and Decoloniality. Although these two terms sound very similar, they are fundamentally different. Let me try and explain them below.
Decolonisation: This is the simplest one of the two. It is the act of pulling out/leaving/withdrawing from a former colony. Example, Britain withdrew from Zambia in October, 1964, making Zambia decolonised. A lot of countries, have achieved decolonisation. Kudos!
Decoloniality: This is a bit more complicated. Decoloniality is the process of detaching and unlearning the imperialist-colonizing movement. Decoloniality has more to do with the substance of colonialism. Its more concerned with social constructions, practices, institutions and social power structures. The urban dictionary perhaps gives the best definition. It states, “Decoloniality denotes ways of thinking, knowing, being, and doing that began with, but also precede, the colonial enterprise and invasion. It implies the recognition and undoing of the hierarchical structures of race, gender, heteropatriarchy, and class that continue to control life, knowledge, spirituality, and thought, structures that are clearly intertwined with and constitutive of global capitalism and Western modernity. Moreover, it is indicative of the ongoing nature of struggles, constructions, and creations that continue to work within coloniality’s margins and fissures to affirm that which coloniality has attempted to negate.” I know, it’s very long. I hope it makes some sense.
You see, the colonial project was not all about some western countries coming into Africa to rule us and take our resources. It was much more than that. To some extent, colonialization was also a way of these countries trying to show dominance on the global stage, trying to prove which race was superior. Why should we care about this? Well, because we still experiencing it now.
Remember the famous or is it the infamous Berlin conference of 1884? If you don’t, it was the conference that pretty much drew the maps of African countries. Do you ever wonder why there are so many straight lines dividing countries on the African continent, something that rarely occurs naturally? Well, it is because some people met in Berlin with a map in hand and basically drew those lines. Yes, the Zambian map, as beautiful as it is, was not carefully drawn by people on the ground, it was some people in Berlin. Why does this matter? I will get there shortly. Am sure you have heard of the phrase “Divide and conquer.” Well, colonial masters used a similar approach called the “divide and rule” tactic. Using this tactic, they encouraged chiefs and missionaries to promote ethnic and religious differences. Wonder why Africa is ethnically diverse as it is, Elliott Green argues it is because of this divide and rule tactic. You can find his paper here. A divided people were less likely to rise against the colonial masters.
You know, you are almost guaranteed a win in war if you manage to beat your opponent psychologically, even before they surrender their guns. The next mission after dividing Africa was to make these divided people inferior and maybe in the process make them rise against each other. The process of making blacks inferior to whites was probably the worst thing that colonials did. I would argue, it was worse than taking our resources. Through ethnically-segregating practices and activities, they achieved this. To put that red cherry on top of the cake, they appointed some black people who would work much closer with whites. As innocent as this might seem, it had bad ramifications. Those blacks who were “fortunate” enough to work with the white man were now more superior than the other black people. Basically, the closer you got to the white man, the better. The more respect, the more dignity you got, the more humane one was. If you happened to be on the other end of the spectrum, well, good luck. Just a side note here. Try googling “evolution of man” and click images. Isn’t it interesting that for most pictures in color, the more man evolves, the whiter he gets? What does that mean to you?
Having a divided people, who believe they are inferior was the perfect condition needed for the colonial project to flourish, and so it did. For decades, Africans were under the colonial rule, a period that none of us would want to live in. Luckily enough, our forefathers found a way to secure freedom for us, and they did! We are decolonized, at last! However, how are we doing with Decoloniality? Eh?
It hurts me, whenever I meet some black people who think whites are generally smarter than blacks. I normally don’t feel the need to punch someone even if they do sometimes bad, however at times, I do. When a white person assumes they are smarter than me just because I have more melanin. The story doesn’t end here. How many of us black people try to look or act white? Whitening creams? Long hair? I always wonder why some black girls buy long, straight, artificial hair. Is it because it’s easier to take care of or long hair is pretty? If long, straight hair is pretty, ever thought why? I know not everything can and should be blamed on colonialism. Nevertheless, I think the seeds were sown by colonialism and Hollywood, Disney and others just capitalize on it. Why can a white person easily become an expert on Zambia but you would never hear of a Zambian who is an expert about the US? Why when you go to the Netherlands, they literally have a ceremony depicting black people as slaves to the whites? In the 21st century! Friends, this is coloniality. Colonialism may be long gone, however, 55 years down the line, coloniality is still here. The battle is half fought. We need to fight on until the color of someone’s skin does not determine the treatment they will get.
The dent is not only in people and between people relations. Look at how Africa is depicted in the media. The power dynamics at the global level. Some countries have much power than all the African countries combined and that is not only because they have bigger economies. Lack of cooperation between African states as you can tell from the poorly performing African Union. They made us believe the differences between us are much greater than what we have in common. This is not true at all. In addition to all this, they demolished the institutions they found and left institutions, some of which are doing us more harm than good (here, refer to institutions in the economic sense; the rules of the game in a society or, more formally, the humanly devised constraints that shape human interactions). The list of the remnant of colonialism goes on, and google has lots of them, find them yourself.
What now? The damage has already been done. Ours is the time to fight for Decoloniality. 55 years is a long time for us to simply sit and complain about the chaos Britain, France or Belgium brought and left us. Let us choose the Africa we want for ourselves. Let’s gather the positives that came from the colonial period and transform the negatives to draw the Africa we want to see.
I understand that this blog has been one sided, and that is by design. There is a dominant narrative that the white man went into Africa as a savior, taking civilization to an uncivilized people. I have personally had conversations with people who think colonization was just about bring light to the “dark continent.” I do not intend to build hatred between race. Rather, how are we going to have a society where the races are treated equally if we lack the understanding of where the supposed differences come from?