No One Colonizes Innocently

“Between colonizer and colonized there is only room for forced labor, intimidation, pressure, rape, contempt, mistrust arrogance, self-complacency…No human contact, but relations of domination and submission.”

Josaphat B. Kubayanda Minority Discourse and the African Collective: Examples from Latin American and Caribbean Literature

The aftermath of colonization is assimilation of the minority culture intro the norms of the majority culture. The underrepresented culture is stripped of its identity and forced into a mold of homogeneity. Anything that is unique and doesn’t fit into the mold is considered inferior and dismissed.

Assimilation forces outsiders to strive for a acceptability  measure that are exclusive to the inside group and unobtainable for outsider; fairer skin, increased social mobility, Eurocentric features, moving to exclusive neighborhoods, etc. These measures of success are promoted because their exclusivity permits the cycle of assimilation to continue, continuing the relationship between the colonizer as superior and the colonized as inferior.

Below I explain my take on the cultural destruction of assimilation in relation to the 1993 movie Sankofa

Assimilation and the Role of Acceptance

            Assimilation is the adoption of majority culture by the minority.  While assimilation has little or no effect on the majority, the forced to adapt minority is stripped of their culture.

`           Assimilation was heavily implemented during slavery and is a prevalent theme in the film Sankofa.  Slavery is remembered by its physical degradations, but the mind and spirit of the slaves were also tortured.  “Between the colonizer and the colonized there is only room for forced labor, intimidation, pressure…relations of dominant submission” (Kubayanda).  Slaves were expected to conform, and failure to meet these expectations resulted in swift or even fatal punishment.

Joe is the son of an African mother and an unknown white man.  Joe’s fair skin, lead him to be head slave and viewed as superior to other blacks. But Catholic values instill that Joe’s skin still makes him inferior to whites.  Joe seeks assimilation into white culture, by rejecting African culture in exchange for the religion of his white priest and master.  He reveres an Anglo-Saxon rendition of the Virgin Mary, which represents a religion he cannot partake in.  Assimilation is detrimental to the minority group, because the grounds of acceptance are unobtainable.  .

Mona also seeks unobtainable acceptance by being objectified by a photographer who represents American culture.  America frequently only accepts minorities who fit a stereotype.  Mona assimilates to American culture by devaluing herself as a black woman, rejecting her ancestry is saying, “I am not African, I am American,” in an attempt to fit into the societal norm.

Noble Ali struggles to achieve acceptance from the minority and majority.  As head slave, he continuously earns his master’s trust through obedience and reporting any non-conformance.  As he rejects his own people to gain his master’s approval, he is disliked by other slaves.  This represents the community and cultural division that assimilation causes.

Assimilation is a prevalent form of oppression even today.  As our society advocates for increased diversity, we must ensure members of minority populations are given the ability to express themselves as openly and comfortably as members majority populations, or we run the risk repeating history and eradicating cultures that can never be replaced.




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