Opinion Advocates for ideas and draws conclusions based on the author/producer’s interpretation of facts and data.
Decolonizing Our Dreams
We live in a country of colonized cultures. The project that is the United States is a melting pot of bodies that have been marginalized from its inception. Still today, those who have been othered by supremacy culture continue to strive to cultivate a sense of belonging and freedom despite the perpetual attempts to oppress us.
I believe that many of our recent efforts to abolish harmful systems of oppression are being done with consideration of the white gaze, through a lens of scarcity and lack. Our responses to oppression have been colonized. If we are to be successful at dismantling the systems of white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, and anthropocentrism that enforce domination and oppression over people and ecosystems, we have to start seeing our abundance. It’s imperative for us to move forward and live in right relationship with each other and the planet.
The late Grace Lee Boggs said, “The time has come for a new dream, that’s what being a revolutionary is. I don’t know what the next American revolution is going to be like, but you might be able to imagine it, if your imagination were rich enough.” How do we liberate ourselves from all supremacy culture to dream the new dream that Boggs speaks of? Dreams are an essential part of our human cognition, identity, and being. They allow us to bring our whole selves and our communities into imagining new worlds and realities. They conjure the unseen and unknown, while redesigning our notions of what is possible.
I often reflect on the dreams of my parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1973. Like many other immigrants from the Global Majority, they arrived here with very few possessions—and a dream. One of economic and physical security for their newly arrived family, their family back home in India, and also their future generations. Their dream of familial economic and physical security is not exclusive; it’s a dream that all people have, but the oppressive structures that exist in this country and around the world actively prevent queer, trans, Black, Indigenous, and other people of color from realizing our dreams.
When we remind ourselves that we are enough, we can decolonize our dreams to decolonize our responses to oppressive structures so that we can move through the portal toward liberation.
My parents raised me in the South Asian faith of Jainism, where the core tenets of Ahimsa and nonviolence hold that all life is sacred and interconnected as kin. I also grew up in a part of rural Indiana that was a Ku Klux Klan stronghold and where the KKK still held rallies during the time I was in school. Although the nearby farming families, most if not all of them White, held a close and intimate connection to the land, this intimacy wasn’t extended to me and my family. I faced the paradoxical reality that my identity and behaviors were all wrong and threatening outside of my home, while I was fully loved and accepted inside my home. Holding both of these realities confused and limited me. Why was I not enough?
To this day, I often experience moments of insecurity and question the authenticity of my behavior—if my intelligence is enough, if my hustle is enough—even around my friends of color.
It’s then I’m reminded of adrienne maree brown’s words in her book, Pleasure Activism: “Do you understand that you, as you are, who you are, is enough?”
Affirmations like this one, along with the foundation of security my parents laid help me to have my own dreams—of total liberation where the sacrality of all life-forms is honored. This is why I work for a Just Transition that builds economic and political power to move us from an extractive economy to a regenerative one. But I also believe that a Just Transition gets us to the first step and beginning of the work toward liberation and a society that is fully able to live up to the potential of what it is to be human. And it is also why I see the current dreams and imaginings of abolishing systems of persecution as reactive and conditioned to our current reality. Our dreams have been colonized. The focus on abolition, while necessary for the survival of our people, also limits us by centering the world that supremacy culture built. How can we do the vital work of abolition while also dreaming beyond the world they built to one that is for us and by us?
I acknowledge my own privilege in this sentiment and that I have had time, space, and support for healing for my own trauma. I acknowledge that I have the privilege of being asked what my dreams are and have been supported in pursuing those dreams. What about those who are in everyday trauma, who don’t get access or space for healing? Who gets to heal and to dream? How do we support others on their pathway of healing and knowing that they are enough? When we remind ourselves that we are enough, we can decolonize our dreams to decolonize our responses to oppressive structures so that we can move through the portal toward liberation.
We can liberate our dreams from reacting to our current reality into dreaming of entire new realities and ways of being that tap into the mosaic of our ancestral cultures and stories. Dreams of a new economics where the currency and capital are banked on interdependence and liberation; widespread ecological and community designs that are braided by Indigenous designers from across the continents; bioregional forms of governance that see the watershed as the geopolitical entity where we all come together, rural and urban, to be in true right relationship and belonging with each other and ecosystems; Black reparations and Native rematriation meld together to form new models of justice and stewardship, recognizing that land doesn’t have to be owned by humans to support habitats for our and other species. These are my dreams for my people and my kin—the vulnerable who are part of the seed bank of my soul, waiting for sunlight, nourishment, and hydration so that they can spring up and root down.
Perhaps my parents would think that these dreams are not for us or that they are too much. Perhaps because of the collective trauma of people who have been marginalized by supremacy culture over the past decades and centuries, it is too difficult for many of us to dream beyond abolition or even our current day to day survival. Others who work for a Just Transition might say that these dreams might not be practical. But dreams aren’t practical, they are a vision of what is possible.
We have to shed these oppressive structures that contain us so that we can dream of new realities where we can freely be who we already are—enough.
Samir Doshi is an ecologist and organizer working on food and land sovereignty, climate justice, and worker justice. He is a Race and Technology Practitioner Fellow at Stanford University's Digital Civil Society Lab.