In the plight of xenophobia, racism, and populism that has made an aggressive comeback just when we were on the track of improvement ever since our dear POTUS entered the office, or any other nation where politics seems like a blood bath, sometimes we are so focused on current struggles that we forget a marginalization that has been occurring for centuries.
Although not every country can tangibly relate to anti-blackness, war on drugs, or child labor, there are two related system that have infected every corner of the earth: colonialism and imperialism; the conflict between the “savage” and the “civilized.” Yes, every continent, with perhaps the exception of Antarctica, has experienced these seemingly foreign concepts (shocker: it’s not always the Caucasian that is the “civilized”).
- North and South America: most famously, the Europeans/Anglo-Americans v. the Native Americans
- Africa: The Scramble for Africa
- Europe: Greek attitudes toward Persia
- Asia: Tibetans and the Han Chinese
- Australia: Britain’s conquest of Australia
Rather than discussing the history behind each of these imperialistic relationships, this post will explore an ideology that is shared between all of them, and is still prevalent in society today. The concept of the settler futurity is often obscured because everyone, even POC, are conflicted about which side to stand on.
First, what exactly does the term “settler futurity” mean? Since I am no scholar on settler colonialism and imperialism, here is how Tuck & Gaztambide-Fernández define settler futurity in their book Curriculum, Replacement, and Settler Futurity:
“Settler Futurity. The settler colonial curricular project of replacement is invested in
settler futurity, or what Andrew Baldwin calls the “permanent virtuality” of the settler on stolen land (2012, p. 173)”. …”which always indivisibly means the continued and complete eradication of the original inhabitants of contested land. Anything that seeks to recuperate and not interrupt settler colonialism, to reform the settlement and incorporate Indigenous peoples into the multicultural settler colonial nation state is fettered to settler futurity.”
Essentially, it’s the preservation of settler bodies while the erasure of indigenous bodies is completely accepted or ignored. But how does this manifest in current society?
You may have heard of “utilitarianism,” or a moral doctrine that favors benefiting the most amount of people. In these types of decision making factors, it is often the “settler” who gets to make the choice of which route to take: should we build train tracks all over Native American territory to enhance transportation for all Americans, or should we keep the Treaty of Greenville and allow other European countries to surpass us? And in a non-colonial context: should we nuke Japan to officially stop WWII, or should we wait an unknown amount of time for the war to end?
But often in these situations, the two choices are not weighed equally–the side that benefits the preservation of the most settler bodies is un-proportionally favored. Similarly, attempts at avoiding extinction scenarios and the obsession of the settler to avoid their own demise, often trade off with the lives of indigenous peoples: The containment of the Indigenous in reservations is key for economic development; only eradicating their culture will prevent barbarism and danger; yada yada yada.
When asked, they hold a guise and say “but preventing extinction and war is beneficial for all people!”, but isn’t this the same concept as the “All Lives Matter” debate? Even if everyone stays alive biologically, Indigenous peoples face daily psychological warfare, decreased quality of life, heightened suicide rates, and cultural genocide that essentially means the loss of identity. If even their biological lives don’t have as much meaning as the one of the settler, then indigenous folk have no way of benefiting in any situation.
Furthermore, these extinction scenarios have so little probability yet they are still preferred above the status quo structural impacts; here we are worrying about nuclear war even though deterrence, interdependence, international norms, and pure science all indicate that North Korea would hardly have a chance of bombing the United States, while Indigenous peoples across the globe wake up each day in fear of their culture slowly disappearing until they are completely assimilated and lost from any distinct identity…
The settler is phenomenal at imagining scenarios that threaten their existence, and does everything possible (create policies, establish organizations, etc) to ensure that they will continue to exist. Their futurity lacks space for the indigenous: “this is my home and I intend to live in it.”
But since when did they ever consider how the perpetuation of the dominant culture, of the settler futurity, is killing the identity of the indigenous?