Rread Another day in the colony brought me back to Sister Girl by Jackie Huggins. Not just Jackie: I went back to Aileen Moreton-Robinson. I went back to Audre Lorde. I returned to Talking Back and Feminist Theory of Bell Hooks. That’s the beauty of Chelsea Watego’s debut: it puts us in dialogue with the work and the women we have known and loved for years. Or, if you don’t know them – to paraphrase the great scholar Alanis Morissette – women you should know.
Watego’s history is healthy. Her work is illuminated by bringing black people back into conversations where they have often been ignored – black women in particular.
Another Day in the Colony mixes memory, philosophy and analysis to tell us, quite simply: “Fuck of hope”. This invocation is a critique of hope as complacency, the deferred dream.
What Watego seeks instead of hope is “the emancipatory possibility of not giving a damn”. “Some people may think that calls to withdraw hope from nihilism are irresponsible,” she writes. “But what is irresponsible is forcing us to maintain the status quo of keeping black bodies connected to survival machines that they have been deemed unable to get rid of.”
White critics can dance around knowing that this book is not written for white people. But why bother? There is power in having non-whites as a supposed audience. There is power in talking to the crowd.
For First Nations, this discursive trust is usually considered impossible; as if the marginalized don’t have the luxury of guessing. But if First Nations are sovereign – if, as Dr Lilla Watson tells Watego in this book, “we haven’t budged” and therefore “the violence we endure for holding on is not our fault – so shouldn’t some hypotheses be possible? And shouldn’t one of those assumptions be that power and joy are possible now? Our existence – and, by extension, the existence of joy – are not marginal. Marginal for whom? Marginal to what?
The penultimate chapter, titled “Fuck Hope,” ponders this question. It’s a merciless laugh. As a reviewer, my only response was to stress. I have nothing to add; everything is true. “Fuck hope,” said Watego: why not? Hope, she writes, is something we can hold onto temporarily, a breath taken before we dive in: “It doesn’t give your lungs oxygen, it just keeps water out.” This murder is not a metaphor.
Desperation doesn’t mean giving up, Watego adds. It means accepting the idea that if joy and sovereignty don’t exist right now, then they never have. But they did, and they still do. The strength of this idea lies in the way it penetrates under the skin. It speaks to us emotionally; we recognize its veracity in our body.
It’s an idea that Watego, quoting Paul Beatty, describes as: “Unmitigated Blackness”. “Tarneen Onus-Williams’ kind of darkness’ burn it ‘.” Beatty calls it “nihilism that makes life worth living.” However, as Watego continues: “While there is something liberating about not giving a fuck anymore, I don’t think I necessarily found the promised freedom there, because the strength to do nothing usually feels as good as possible. . once there is nothing left to lose. Yet it is “the closest thing to embodied sovereignty that I have heard articulated”.
The guiding idea behind white supremacy is that whiteness is neutral. That he has humanity, a humanity that everyone lacks. Those who are not imbued with this humanity, this “whiteness,” are seen as needing rectification – or, as Watego puts it, fatherly benevolence. The money allocated to First Nations “wallets” rests on colonial control, the fantasy that First Nations are first and foremost a problem to be solved. It is a concept, writes Watego, “informed by the same racialized ideologies that allow them to forget that where they came from is not the land in which we became human.”
Two journeys separated from each other: a people who remain and a people who have forgotten – and who continue to forget – their history to mark out a new one. Yet this story is never really new. It is cultural amnesia; the white supremacist aspiring to a homeland who will never be able to admit all the homes he left behind. The only homes he knows how to live are those of others.
Watson, who Watego mentions as one of his mentors while writing this book, might agree. Watego writes of Watson’s call that we “imagine a future as long as the past behind us.” “[T]the act of living demands from us a refusal, a refusal to accept their account of things and a refusal to let them rob us of our joy, our life and our land ”.
“She told me,” Watego later adds, “that we are never to see justice, in that we will never have given back what they took. She then asked me why I needed it. to win. Why was my existence in the world based on snatching something away from the protagonist of the colonizer, knowing that it would not completely restore us? She reminded me that being our conditions is winning, everyday kind.
By the time I got to the end of this chapter – with only a few pages of the book left – I was shaking my head in appreciation. Reading Watego, I remembered how Mohawk political scientist Taiaiake Alfred and Anishinaabe feminist Leanne Betasamosake Simpson take a skeptical stance on the idea of liberalism. evolution, or what Watego calls “the referendum of 67 was a sign of progress” a kind of blackness. They do not seek to be included in colonial society, but to flourish; self-determination based on love and resistance “as we always have”.
It is flourishing on our terms. No sanction. No permissions. No slaves. No masters.