Introduction: The Decolonize Issue
“How White allies can dismantle White supremacy is probably the crucial social issue of our current time. White people have the power and the privilege, and nothing will change until we change it.”
That was a recent message from a YES! reader (thank you!), and we couldn’t agree more. It points to why we decided to do an issue on decolonization. Because the idea of white supremacy didn’t sprout on American soil; it arrived here with European colonizers, and it came with the usual colonizer package: racial superiority, capitalist exploitation, patriarchy, oppression, hegemony. We cannot talk about ending white supremacy without talking about dismantling the entire power structure that is colonialism’s legacy.
After Standing Rock awakened so many to the idea of decolonization, YES! editors decided to present an issue that explored the extent to which ending economic, cultural, and racial oppression is possible. What movements are countering the colonialist power structures? What’s working to support self-determination? We turned to Indigenous writers and photographers to tell those stories.
Mark Trahant is our guest editor. He’s been a journalist for 40 years. He asks us to consider decolonization more in terms of disruptive forces.
Colonialism is a framework that we think of as forever. It has many names: Pax Romana, the British Empire, Ancien Régime, Manifest Destiny, “Corporations are people, my friend,” hegemony, oligarchy, and white supremacy. These are forces of near absolute power (or so they seem at the time) that have been with us for much of human history. But history also shows how things can change quickly.
Disruption is a force that redefines the norm and brings innovation. Exactly what we need right now.
The best journalism explores “what if?” What would it take for humans to meet the challenges of justice and climate? A more inclusive, democratic path that recognizes global citizenship is the only reasonable answer. The United States is only 4 percent of the world’s population yet consumes so much more than its share, exerting colonial power as if only it matters. What if … that’s no longer the case? What if … the world governs itself as if the planet (and its future) matters? The systems of the past are incapable of bringing us together to solve the problems of today. We need to bury the rule of a few over the many.
The stories in this issue describe what that could look like and how it might be accomplished — how it is being accomplished — and what justice and self-determination would mean not only for the world’s Indigenous people, but for all the people.
Tracy Matsue Loeffelholz is the former creative director at YES!, where she directed artistic and visual components of YES! Magazine, and drove branding across the organization for nearly 15 years. She specializes in infographic research and design, and currently works with The Nation, in addition to YES! She previously worked at The Seattle Times, The Virginian-Pilot, Scripps Howard Newspapers, Rocky Mountain News, The Denver Post, The Connecticut Post, The San Diego Tribune, The Honolulu Advertiser. She lives on Bainbridge Island, Washington, and currently serves on the board of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial Association. Tracy speaks English.
Shannan Lenke Stoll is a former environmental justice and Native leadership editor at YES!
Mark Trahant is editor-at-large for Indian Country Today. Trahant leads the Indigenous Economics Project, a comprehensive look at Indigenous economics, including market-based initiatives. Trahant is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and has written about American Indian and Alaska Native issues for more than three decades. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has held endowed chairs at the University of North Dakota and University of Alaska Anchorage, and has worked as a journalist since 1976. Trahant is a YES! contributing editor.