Sex, Lies, and Colonial Identities

With Dr. Tamari: Kitossa

Dr. Tamari Kitossa:   Yeah, my sabbatical ends, June 30. And this book, Appealing and Appalling, has to be sent to the publishers May 30. So I’m really working really hard with a whole bunch of contributors to finalize their papers. And it’s absolutely exhausting work, but it’s so exhilarating. Just some of the amazing work that people are doing. Just trying to make sense of this phenomenon, which is a global phenomenon and it’s not really considered all that much.

And one of the things that I’m thinking about right now, and if I can squirrel away the time to actually type it into my computer, I’ve been making handwritten notes is the killing of Ahmaud Arbery and the killing of Breonna Taylor. She was killed in Louisville, Kentucky. And one of the things that I think people are really missing when they talk about police violence and when we talk about white violence against First Nations people, Native Americans, you know, people of colour, is that many of these acts of violence are in fact sexually motivated.


I’m sorry, they aren’t or are,

Tamari:   They are. They are in fact sexually motivated. These are acts of sexual aggression. And we don’t like to think of it in those terms, but it we need to go to the really primal level to explain what fear is it that white people have at this point that could lead them to break into a woman’s house and within less than two seconds shoot her to death.  A guy’s running jogging down the street, you trail him, and then you kill him. What fear is it that is being triggered by the manifestation of Blackness in the when it when you are presented with it, what sort of Primal Fear is triggered? And I think we need to go to that level.

When you know like the last time that we talked, I said, we really need to peel back the layer of talking about sex as this vulgar act. It is a defining aspect of how we imagine the world because we imagine others very often through the lens of the rules of sexual norms and sexual representation. And so we imagine people as either civilized or uncivilized, based on a certain narrative and construction about how we imagine sex. And so Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, were literally imagined as the predator and the alien. And we need to go to that level of the visceral and the primal to make sense of this or else we’ll never be able to make sense of it.

Kerry:  I think from a fundamental space, as you just so eloquently mentioned, we really do have to take this examination of our primal instinctual spaces, our understanding of how we have been through the colonial system programmed and reset in some ways to really restructure how we see ourselves in a sexual standpoint and placement and how that has been used. I mean, when we think about when they were originally were enslaving our peoples or enslaving our, you know, starting this whole Middle Passage and, and the system of slavery to which we exist in North America, and when you think about, you know, some of the techniques that were used like buck breaking,

Tamari:   yes.

Kerry:  The idea about buck breaking and when you know they would they would have our sisters would be you know, raped in plain sight and our men are were raped equally as often in plain sight for everyone to witness the shame that that speaks to something that is very deeply innate, not only as the as the recipients of such a visceral atrocity, but also it speaks to what is happening on the other side that they could even, you know, create and put forward such a demonic and I am going to use that word, kind of interaction with  another human person.

Tamari:   Yeah. And when you think about like, for example, like the killing of  [Coulten] Boushie you like we’d like all of these, like Neil Stonechild, like, when we come back to a lot of these murders, right? We have to come back to the construction of First Nations men as sexual predators, right, that are like these white people still imagine that we’re still on the frontier like, quote unquote, frontier. And so the frontier is literally the policing of the Civilized versus the Savage. And this is exactly what Freud was talking about and we haven’t gotten away from this. And part of the issue is because like, James Baldwin and Franz Fanon said, like, because we don’t confront these issues, about the way in which sexual neurosis is a fundamental part of colonial interactions, we never really get to have a conversation about how people are actually mobilizing these primal fears and anxieties, which are easily manipulated by politicians and easily manipulated by the media and easily manipulated by the people who are manipulated by it.


Have you seen the new Kent Malcolm and painting? What you’re saying is making me think of the new Kent Monkman painting?


No, No, I haven’t. I’m not familiar with his work.

Patty:   So he released a series of images, it’s one painting. And he released a series of images of the painting just kind of cropping bits and pieces of it. Its taking place in a lodge and in a wooden circular Lodge and there’s women that are laughing and they’re laughing at something that’s happening in the center. And as these pictures unfold, what you wind up seeing is Trudeau on hands and knees with his pants pulled down with a woman hanging on to him. You’ve got Miss Chief Testickle who’s kind of Kent Monkman’s Alter Ego holding these called her praying hands. They’re red hands. It’s a butt plug.

And the way the images are released, it looks as if he’s about to be raped. Yeah, all these women are standing around laughing. And then Monkman releases a statement afterward, you know, his picture as a whole. And there’s a hanky in there. And it’s called Hanky Panky. It has to do with stuff that happened in gay clubs, you know, the hanky, it designated what you were into, and that this was a consensual scene. But he’s also talking about it in terms of retribution. And the red hands evoking the missing and murdered and his statement talks about them. So he’s talking so he’s saying that this scene is consensual, but then he’s also saying that it has to do with retribution and judgment. And yeah, anyway, so the internet exploded. Indigenous women were not happy, queer  and Two Spirit people were not happy, you know,  trans people are not happy. Nobody’s happy. Nobody’s happy with this piece except for Senator Sinclair comes out and says the victim has become the victim. The victim has become the victimizer. This is power. This is not power. That’s  terrible.

Kerry:  Interesting.

Patty:   Yeah. Anyway, so just when you were talking about that we need to, you know, kind of look at the way, the way that we have been sexualized and I’ve been listening to Stamped from the Beginning again, and it’s the part where Kendi’s talking about the way Black women and Sally , not Sally, Sarah. The woman who was displayed her skeleton was displayed her genitals were displayed.

Kerry:  The Hottentot Venus

Patty:  Yes

Tamari: Sarah Baartman

Patty:  Yes . The way she was displayed right up until the 70s. And then it took Mandela to argue for her remains to be sent home and interred properly, so they could be taken care of properly. So just as you were talking about that this is kind of what’s been going on in my head, right listening to this chapter from stamped from the beginning. And then Monkman’s painting coming out just really, in a disastrous kind of way. Because we do need to talk, but we do need to talk about it. I think he was trying to, but just, it failed and artists fail sometimes.

Tamari:   You know, what do they do artists fail?

Patty:  Well, I think everybody falls flat sometimes.

Kerry:  I think that it’s such an interesting commentary. I, I’m looking at the picture, I’m actually gonna make sure I’ll send you there’s an article that was just released 21 hours ago by the CBC, discussing.

Patty:   Oh, that’s the one with Sinclair’s comment.

Kerry:  But what I found is, is it’s I think it’s, it’s an interesting this is his interpretation. And to me it’s so representative of what is happening in our psyches. There’s so many different pieces and overflows that he’s bringing up like, you know, the idea of the women laughing in the background, the idea of the Hanky Panky, the idea of Trudeau being on his knees. There’s his ideal that he’s trying to express, really, to me is almost encapsulating of how this issue is so intertwined. In so many different realms that we touch. When we think about sexuality, politics, our standings as Indigenous as Black people, all of it is so interconnected, and it evokes such emotion, such different places of where it meets all in the center. That I find interesting as we look at it, you know,

Patty:   That’s white fear isn’t it that we’re gonna do to them what they did to us?  I mean, that was part of what I saw when I looked at that is that’s exactly what why people think we’re going to do.

Kerry:  It’s interesting.  I hear you on that, you know, there is a deep, deep seated fear and I think that is, is a core element of this and will dialog, open that space up? Will we be able, what are we capable of and what is in the truth of who we are? I think it will only happen once those discussions and true honesty of where we come from in the sexual dynamic is explored, because that is the fundamental basis of it. This idea of being you know, raped in the butt most, most men, which is a visceral fear. What do women you know, let’s Let’s just that is just a human fear, the idea of being violated at such a raw level, personally, your personage, so I find it an interesting you know, I’m not quick to condemn it. I really I love the idea of the dialogue around it. And he’s apologizing now he’s like, I didn’t mean to offend anybody, but what I will  ..


Yeah. He made a really he made a really good apology. It wasn’t. He wasn’t worried that he offended people, which is a terrible apology. He made a good apology and that what he, what he communicated to people was not. He didn’t mean to hurt people. And he recognized that he did. He recognized that in what he had done. He had hurt the very people he was trying to, he was trying to lift up. So he did he did a really good job of listening, which I thought

Kerry:  and I agree, but I love that as a result of this. There is such dialogue. We’re talking about it. And I think that’s a fundamental space.

Tamari:   Now you know what it seems to me that while this is all new to me just seeing this just now and you notice my my response, which is that why should an artist apologize?

I think that one of the issues we have to deal with is not only the fear and the dread, but also the desire around the way that sex and sexuality are imagined. But it seems to me that we also need to take a step back to look at the way that certain, the way that we construct identities around sex and sexuality as themselves contrived, right? The Gay identity, that’s something new that did not always exist. That’s like 30, 40, 50 years old. Right?

So for when people identify in a particular way or build their psychology around an identity, it has the character or the presumption that the identity is pre-political, it always existed. No, it didn’t. Right? And I think if, if people were to take a step back and read some good anthropological work, there’s an excellent book called Sex and Conquest by a guy named Richard Trexler. And what he’s looking at is the relationship between sex, conquest, and domination, not simply from the vantage point of view European colonialism, but also looking at the ways in which Indigenous peoples across the Americas themselves used sex as an instrument of domination to regulate relations among those groups that were superordinate and those groups that were subordinate. Right? So we need to take a step back from our investment in our identities, ironically, to be able to interpret what Monkman is offering us beyond our immediate investment in identity, I’m sorry, in identities that are not any older than 50 years old.

Kerry:  I love that and I am so that that, you know, is touches a space to my heart. I’ve mentioned before in this in this realm, this book here called Sex at Dawn and it is by Christopher Ryan, and he, too, is examining those spaces as well. And what he talks about is he takes it from an anthropological look, takes it back pre agricultural age, and looks at what we were, how we were acting and creating our love and sexual dynamics when we were hunters and gatherers, and he takes those phases into how we have now evolved into this, this, how the colonial system and the idea of agriculturalism has affected the way that we have created our sexual dynamic. And not only does he take it there he actually then looks at our closest relatives in the animal kingdom and how that has also been expressed and understood and how it has also been perceived through you know, most of we’ve talked about often on the show Patty, how most of the scientists and anthropologists that are considered accredited, it comes from a white lens, right. So how those perceptions have influenced the way that we see it. This book has revolutionized how I have actually been able to perceive and think about sex. And I recognize that it is there as much as we have these urges and desires and understanding, it is shaped so much by these landscapes that have been created for us as well. And it’s tapping into those uncomfortable senses, those feelings that are coming up to really just breathe through it a second, so that we can all have a dialogue, have a conversation, connect, so that we don’t have these preconceived issues or ways of thinking that hold us into those places.

Tamari:   That’s one of the things I really appreciate about James Baldwin, is one of the things that Baldwin is really encouraging us to do is to come to terms with sensuality. And one of the things that he’s forever harping on is that United States culture, there’s a fear of intimacy. The very thing which sustains us, makes us possible, not simply in terms of reproduction and procreation, but to sustain intimate loving relationships with one another. And he took that to the level of politics, where, you know, he’s got this, he’s got one of the phrases that he has that really I think it’s just absolutely amazing is he talks about fear and love and power. And he says that when the lovers come to power, or when sexual despair comes to power, the sexuality of the object is either a threat or fantasy, and it could be both. Right? And so we need to bring love as Baldwin is encouraging us and like Martin Luther King talks about, this agape there’s tough love. That is not this wussy, wishy washy thing. It’s where people are held accountable, but you’re also invested in each other across a whole range of differences.

Kerry:  Love it, so the truth and and just to tie that in, because I think it’s so powerful into where we are even today it’s an interesting thought, because I’ve been thinking about how as we are sitting in these times of COVID, that to me, what you just expressed is fundamentally one of the things that is the idea of intimacy, the idea of us being able to touch to hold to connect in those ways, is just being so stripped during this this time that we are sitting in even now, and for me, it’s heightened my awareness of how valuable it is.  I don’t know if you guys are noticing it in the same way but when I’m stepping out the door, there is this there’s a tension in the air, the fear is just so visceral. And I, I’m recognizing that tempers are higher. I was I just went to Home Depot to take a look at, you know, some gardening tools. And I ended up just smiling with a lady, kept my social distancing. But I smiled to the lady and I laughed with her. And she turned around and said to me, do you know you’re the first person I’ve heard laugh all day? Thank you for that. And I thought, Wow, we have, we really have, I believe, to work a little bit. It’s more important more than ever, to keep this front and center to recognize the value that we offer each other as we build into these spaces of intimacy. It’s I don’t know how we’re going to do it because you know, we have what we have in the way But we have to keep sight of it as we keep moving forward, because there’s going to be a new normal.

Tamari:   That’s such an interesting experience. Because it’s making me think that when I go out because I wear a mask, and I see other people wearing masks, and the thing that comes to my mind is the burqa and the veil. And there’s all this anxiety in Quebec about, oh, you know, we can’t see people’s faces and so on and so forth. And everybody was in a tizzy, you know, really freaking out, oh, we can’t see their faces. But at this very moment, every virtually everyone who goes out and wears a mask is either burqa’d or veiled. How does it feel now, to know that a year ago, two years ago, three years ago, you were criminalizing a whole religion, based on the fact that women wore the veil or the burqa.

Now as I go out in public, and literally, I watch white people because that’s what I do. I watch them. Because they’re the center of my universe and I’m peripheral to their reality. As much as my peripheralness is at the core of their reality. I watched the ways in which people communicate now with their eyes. The eyes soften now to communicate, I’m not a threat, because you can’t use your mouth, you can’t show your teeth, you can’t smile to indicate that you’re not a threat. So the way that people use their body language now and their eyes and the way that they tilt their heads to communicate that they’re non-threatening or not threatening, really, I think is important in helping people to take a step back, even if they’re never conscious of it, to reflect on the ways that 2, 3, 4 years ago they used to treat other people and now in the immediate when people are anxious about someone else stepping into their quote unquote, social space.

Now you know what it’s like to be racially profiled. Now you know what it’s like for someone to fear you to step away from you. I’m hoping that at some point that intuitive experience goes to a deeper level to enable people to reflect on Oh shit, well, how did I act in ways that were prejudicial or biased to others that actually harmed them? How did I make decisions on the basis of what they look like what they wore, that led me to throw their job application in the garbage? led me give them a ticket, beat them up, whatever the case may be. Right? I think this is now an opportunity for us to say to people who have certain privileges, you’re actually in the shoes of other people. This is the moment if you feel put off, that someone takes a step back from you. Right? This is what other people feel. You were the perpetrator of it not in the sense of you the person, but as a member of a culture that did those sorts of things. So like the woman in Home Depot was like, recognizing that, you know, this is a moment to recognize the solidarity and the humanity of other people. I’m hoping that this is a moment where people can begin to recognize the capacity for solidarity and the humanity of others.

Kerry:  I I try to stay optimistic and I so hear you it is it is very real. Another experience when you’re speaking about wearing the mass that came very real was a pivotal moment for me was I had to take one of my children to the hospital over the last couple of weeks and you step into the hospital space. It is a whole other world. You can just feel how the nurses are the nurses and the doctors are just on another level of their, you know, the stress and and their own fear as they are dealing with, you know, people coming in and out day to day. And you know, you walk in, and you’ve got a security guard, and a nurse, and a whole pile of masks and the form, and you fill out the form. And basically this tells you them if they’re going to check you for COVID or they’re not. Right, well, we ended up being on the check for COVID lists.

And so they have a COVID section and they have like, normal section, but you got to put that mask on. You got to wash those hands. You stand back now from the triage desk. And, you know, you got to speak from a distance and they’re like, don’t touch the glass. Just talk from where you are. She puts her ear up and you get through that way. That’s first thing. So while you sit, they come around. There are nurses Coming around, and they’re fixing your mask. They’re like, hey, just so you know, you know, the sides are down, can you just fix your mask? And if you’ve got a little person, like two, three years old, Hey, little guy, your mask isn’t on, right? We fix that. Let’s fix it for you. It is this, this. It’s just this other surreal space.

So we went in now, and we came to where they do that first examination. And my, my daughter needs somebody to kind of interpret for her because sometimes she doesn’t articulate her message very well. And so right now, they don’t want two people in at the same time. So I kinda, I kind of had to, and I get that right. So I was like, you know, my doctor called in advance with a specific set of instructions. So I was like, you know, letting them know, this is what it is, and the nurse for the first time. …  I work off my body language. And so the first time ever, she was really hostile. I walked in and she was already just not in a great space. And she’s got her mask on, she can’t approach you. So she’s looking at you from that two meter distance. And she was focused on my daughter. So she’s only hearing me from the sidelines, and she just got edgy automatically. And normally, I don’t react. I’m kind of cool. I found myself get a little testy myself because she was being kind of ig’nant and I was like, you’re not ignorant, you’re ig’nant and give me a minute. What I found I had to do just as a testimony to what you were saying tomorrow, is I had to stop her. I was like, Okay, this is this is feeling a little bit hostile. Can we just take a minute, both of us and I said, I would just love if you could move over a little bit so I can see you front and center so you can see my eyes.

And it was then an acknowledgement I said, I recognize how stressful this situation is for you. We don’t want to be any trouble. I am simply here to make sure that this care for my daughter runs as smooth as we can. And it was only until I could look her directly eye to eye that we were able to come to a common ground and I saw those eyes soften. I saw her demeanor kind of slip, you know, relax a bit. And we were able then to really go through and service her in the best way. And she stopped me afterwards and said, I really appreciate you just taking that minute and not flying off the handle. She was like,  I’ve had a couple of rough runs before you.

So this, this, I recognize from that experience, how the challenge as we move forward, is going to be to be able to save to keep our humanity to find the new ways to comment. I use my hands a lot, you know, I’m trying to really, really get people to look at me front and center because it’s the only way it is it is just all tied in and I do I believe that there’s some sexual you know, aggressions and heightened needs that aren’t being met because we’re in the space of isolation for a lot of people, and these things do factor in. So I think what you’re saying is so valid, I do hope that we have, we stop for a minute to take the time to think about things and to maybe give different perspectives. I just, I just think it’s moving really fast right now. And I wonder. 

What are you thinking Patty?

Patty:  I’m not hopeful about, about people seeing themselves and understanding.  I mean, like in Quebec, you can get a fine for not wearing a mask and be fined for wearing a burqa. So, you know, so that’s like, you could be hit with both, could be hit with that. And there’s just, there’s just too many people that are too eager to open everything up. They’re just too eager to, you know, get their manicures and their haircuts and go golfing.  I don’t think that we are inclined as much towards empathy and towards care as we could be. We, I think we see very much our own hurts and our own wounds.

And I really recognize that a lot of that is what’s going on with our reaction to Monkman’s painting is that so many of us have been victimized sexually. And so to think of ourselves as cheering on the victimization of somebody else is horrifying.

You know, so I don’t know.  I think you made a really interesting comment, and I’m kind of switching gears in this. In one of your emails Tamari, you said, “We are far away from meaningful solidarity as long as Indigenous identity is narrowly defined by land occupation and ignorant of the facts of our own history.”  That’s kind of a paraphrase of what you said. And just like we were talking about, you know, kind of solidarity and changes that that might come forward out of this, and that, I think you noticed I stopped responding to your emails after that. *laughter* I needed to think you’ve given me a lot of articles to read.

And I don’t disagree with that. I think I had just never seen it encapsulated in that way. I mean, one of the, one  of the big conversations that I’m part of on Twitter right now is also a result of the Monkman painting, but it has to do with the anti Blackness  in Indigenous communities. And you know, and many of us are willing to look at it at it, a lot of us are not, we’re not even we’re not even willing to talk about it. You know, so, you know, so that you know, so that comment and that kind of thread in your email I had to. Yeah, like I didn’t disagree with it, but I’d never seen I’d not kind of seen it. Because land is so important to us, right. And so I kind of had to reread it and rethink about it that you weren’t, you’re not rejecting connection to land and land occupation. But it’s that narrow definition that we have, as if that is all that we are, and rejecting those histories of ourselves that you had alluded to, as well, you know, with the book that you had talked about looking at our own histories, we are also victims, you know, victims of, you know, the noble savage thing, thinking of ourselves as these, you know, pristine forest sprites. We’re not valid because we were these pristine forest people we’re valid because we were here and we’re people, you know, we’re human. That’s what makes us valid. Not this, you know, kind of weird investment we have in being, I don’t know, children have Eden or something I don’t know. So I’d like you to unpack that a little bit.

Tamari:   Well, I think I’m, I think I should say first of all, that I’m coming to that perspective realization, from my own sense of myself as a person in exile. I am in permanent exile. I have no attachment to land. I have no attachment to any nation state. I am a citizen of Canada. I was born in Jamaica. But what do those accidents of birth really mean? Right. What do they entitle me to versus the right to deprive billion, 2 billion other people, to consign them to live on $1 a day. $15 a month, right? So I have no for me I have no investment to land. And there’s there’s a reggae group from the Virgin Islands called Midnight. And in one of their songs they say that the sun shines on us all and the earth is for none. Right?

One of the things if you look at Indigenous cultures around the world, they’ve always established if, if they have not dispossessed another Indigenous group from that land, which occurred in Canada. Right It occurred in South America. Remember we had empires in those places, and the only problem is that they were displaced by another imperial power, and that some of those subordinate groups actually worked with those imperial powers because external imperial powers because they didn’t want to be dominated by the Aztec or the Incas. Right?

So when we’re talking about land in that way, as if time immemorial, people were always tied to land in the context of a nation state. I think that is such a troubling fiction that I don’t know where to go with it, because it can end up leading to, I think, really xenophobic, racist positions that treats occupancy of land in a really mystical and romantic way, rather than to say that the land is for all of us to be protected by all of us, for those future generations whose voice is here because they cannot speak. And until we get to that point, I don’t give a damn whether you’re Indigenous so called or not, you’re not talking my language. And I just I’m just I don’t have the time for it.

Kerry:  I get Patty why you needed to kind of process that that is that is that is powerful that is that is it even for myself. Because I can relate to that idea of being an exile. And for us, it’s, it’s in perpetuity, like we’re just all here, you know, as Black people who who were of slaves, you know, we don’t have one, one space that we can call ours in that way. It gives me a different perspective. Because we’re looking at finding these ally ships, you know, and and finding ways for us to be able to to allow our voices to get louder and to be in solidarity, and what you just said Tamari really offers a perspective that I’ve never even thought of in how we interrelate as Black and Indigenous peoples. And I think that it there’s some validity there because it’s kind of strips away some of the stuff that keeps us separated. If we all see how we are guardians and and of this earth together, it lends for a certain space between us all or closes those spaces between us all. That’s interesting.

I’m curious Patty, what are your thoughts is you you kind of hear it, like what comes up for you? What are you thinking?

Patty:    The Anishnaabe story is .. So like I’m from Northwestern Ontario, right when I say I’m from Northwestern Ontario, I was born north. I was born in Thunder Bay, I lived whole 18 months up there and then I spent the rest of my life in the Niagara region. But that’s what my Indigenous people are. Right? That’s where my dad’s family is. So that’s, that’s what that’s where my history is, you know, if I want to go backwards to my ancestors, I’ve also got ancestors in the Ukraine as well. So kind of from from those two places,

But the Anishinaabe a story is a migration story. We started out east. We did not start in Northwestern Ontario. That’s not where we emerged as people. We started on the east coast. And we made our way West there was a you know, a series of prophecies, basically saying the white people are coming you need to get out. Paraphrasing. So, so the Mik’maq and the Abenaki and those ones, they stayed We made our way West and as we made our way West, we went through Haudenosaunee territory we went through Huron territory, we left people behind all along, like so, Anishnaabeg, they really go from, you know, kind of the St. Lawrence Seaway area across Northern Ontario, all the way to Northwestern Ontario and on both sides of the Great Lakes splitting up at Niagara Falls kind of going around.

So our, our emergence as a people is tied to migration. Right? It’s not tied to emerging as people in this place like other, you know, like maybe the Navajo, you know, the Dine people their story is of emerging from holes in the ground in this place. So our story, our emergence as people happened during migration. Happened in a kind of diaspora moving from the place of our birth. I think it was a period of four or 500 years it took us to migrate, and stopping and all of these different places and so the Mississauga Anishnaabeg are different from the Nbipssing Anishnaabeg are different from the Ojicree, which would be my people. We’re the same, we have same language. But we all were also different because we’re informed by the geography that we lived in.

So for me, the Anishnaabe creation story, not the creation story that we would tell the creation story, but like our emergence as people is one of learning to have relationship with the land where we are, as opposed to emerging as people in this place. And so I think that positioned me to hear your words in a way that made sense, that I was able to make sense of, because what you’re talking about isn’t so much as you know, is it isn’t I came from the land and this is my land and this is who I am. It’s I learned how to have relationship with this land. That is what informed me as a people, and that’s something that’s open to everybody. That’s,  because we migrated to these places, we didn’t emerge out of holes the way the Dine did. And they’re in their place. We learned how to have relationships, not just with, you know, the humans of the place, because we made treaties along the way. But also with all with the land and the animals. And I think that’s something that’s available to anybody. And so maybe that’s, that’s a model that we can that will make sense to some Indigenous people, the Dine might not appreciate that, because they’re, you know, their creation story is much different.

Kerry:  Depending on where you work from, right,

Patty:  yeah, but that’s the trick right here. We got to understand where how we understand ourselves to exist as people if we’re going to, if we’re going to have relationships,

Tamari:  yes, yes.

Patty:   If we’re going to have those kinds of caring, holding each other accountable, but not in the space of having arguments all the time about who’s doing what and all these kind of cross accusations we can make. Because we do have Indigenous people, we do need to talk about the anti Blackness. And Black communities need to talk about Indigenous erasure, we need to talk about those things, but we need to be able to do it in ways that support and build community.

Tamari:   So I think that all of that is absolutely critical to get to a point where we can begin to have these conversations, right. And I think it’s really, really important Patty that that people come to terms with the way that they come to be in places and spaces in different ways.

And one of the things that I’m interested in is the way that we conceptualize Indigenous as a property of First Nations people in Canada. Right. So Indigenous now means any person whose nation origin stems from pre colonial contact groups? Right.

Then on the other hand, we have Black, as if they are not Indigenous. So when did African people stop being Indigenous? Right? Where along the line did we stop being Indigenous and become Black? And are there not Black or African groups in the Americas that have the status of Indigenous recognized as such as tribes by their nation states. Or you have certain groups in Belize and Central America that are expressly created as a consequence of the dynamic interaction between, the melding between African people, people that were there prior to contact. So I’m, for me, I have a lot of problems with the way that we treat terminology, as if it’s not political is political.

And I think we need to recognize that such and then we can begin to have different sorts of conversations because I’m particularly interested in understanding the ways in which colonialism brings all of us into that as a total regime.

What I mean by that, for example is the Dutch went to Ghana, the Gold Coast and actually hired Ghanian in soldiers, Akan soldiers and others who went back to Indonesia,  in the middle to the late 1800’s  to work in the military for the Dutch. What do you call those people? Right? They’re not up they were not slaves, okay. But they they They were participants with the colonial regime. So colonialism is pretty complicated. I’ve been asked myself, okay, so what do we make of? Kyle Brown and Clayton Matchi? who go to who go to Somalia?

Right? These are Indigenous if we want to use that term, these are Indigenous and on other people’s land on behalf of the Canadian government, torturing and sodomized Shideh, Rohan and others. Can we have a conversation about that? I don’t know if we have the capacity to have a conversation about that because the way that we conceptualize colonialism is in these neat silos. And we imagine that you have the colonizers, the settlers, and you have the Indigenous people, and that these two silos never do they meet.

Well, I think History is far more complicated than that. Life is far more complicated than that. And I think that one of the things we have to be careful of is to we have to be careful not to pursue a politics of moral innocence. We can’t have conversation then, if we’re having a conversation about moral innocence, because someone is obviously innocent, more sinned against and sinning, and they become the identity of this imagination, but it’s an imaginary. You are the victim of current manifestations of oppression. You are technically speaking, not your ancestors because it is simply an accident of birth that you’re born who you are. And this will be offensive. I know. I know. Too many people it will be offensive. Well, this is just my reality in my truth. Doesn’t have to be anybody else’s.

Kerry:  I, I love this, I see this. This is the kinds of dialogues, being able to open up. And as I was talking about, it’s messy. It’s being okay that it’s messy, because as you said, We are basing our entire fundamentals on a history that was written by the conquerors. And it is going to be laid out in ways that are Black and white. But we know that some of our own people, as we’re talking about the Gold Coast, were, you know, dropping us off to be enslaved and set off on this Middle Passage. You know, those white folks that were delivered on to that continent didn’t know how to get into the interiors to go get some of us where we were deep in, somebody had to show them the way.

And I agree with you that it’s until, this to me is when we sit back And talk about that level of healing that we need to do as peoples and really feel into it and be okay. That certain choices and decisions that have been laid out, as you said, We are just accidents of the birth of our birth. Until we can get to a fundamental space where we can sit and learn, really feel into that. Can these conversations start to happen? I I’m, I’m with you. We got to be willing man to just say hey, I mean, I may not like some of the things we’re gonna hear. But

Tamari:   it will be difficult and I so Patty, I have to like literally feel like I need to apologize because I’m not trying to offend you. Or any First Nation person in Canada. I’m not trying to offend. Some will take offense to say that, Hey, man, you’re on my land. And I don’t want to have to come back and say, Well, you know, the unpaid labor, not simply the labor, but the millions of people that are at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean because the sharks are following the ships. I really don’t want to have to talk to you about that. But if this is what the level of the debate that it goes to, I’m checking out. We don’t, this is not a debate that I’m prepared to have. I can have a conversation with you about how we came to be and how we might understand how we come to be in a counter intuitive way. One that does not lock us into these sort of essential frames of reference.  One that recognizes that look, as a Black person as an African person in the Western Hemisphere, I am the creation of colonialism. TI am a child of the West, the Western world created me. The Western world did not exist until the Western world created me and in creating me the west created itself. We’re locked together. We have to find a way out of this. Yeah.

Patty:   Because we have to, we have to be able to talk about racial realities. Right? Like there are racial realities about being Black about being Indigenous. Being Indigenous is also a political identity. You know, we’re governed under the Indian act. We do have, you know, we have, we have reserves, we have land that we never ceded to the Canadian government, you know, so we have to be able to talk about those realities. But we also past, is it isn’t really the word I’m looking for, of talking past or talking past it. But that’s also the like, those things, those identities that we’re so invested in are also not everything. And I think you and I keep talking about it Ibram Kendi because I think he’s on the right track in terms of shifting the conversation. with racism, anti-racism, looking at the ways in which we are complicit, and we are holding up,  Kim Tallbear talks about the ways in which we hold up the settler colonial project, as opposed to talking about being racist or not racist she talks about the ways in which we, we are we support the project, or we don’t support the project.

And we do that as Black and Indigenous people. And we do that, like in some ways, I’m complicit in other ways I oppose it. Like, I’m not fully one or fully the other. I’m working towards working towards being anti settler colonial. But it’s going to be a lifetime process. I mean, it’s a destination. I’m never going to get there because there’s so much of who I am, like you said, was created by that. That’s who I am. It’s all. So yeah, so we have to recognize those categories, but also find a way to talk that doesn’t limit us to those categories, does that make sense?  I’m thinking out loud.  

Tamari:   Yes, yes, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Kerry:  Absolutely. I love this we’re really starting to unpack. Um, you know, these, these are these are riveting topics. And it’s it’s a very new way like I, as I’m hearing both of you speak, I’m sitting here going, Wow. Yeah, this is this is very it lends to an opening. I could see this being yet another conversation.

One of the things that’s a major portion of what Patty and I do is we’re very, very much about and I know for me on this journey with Patty over the last couple of years, we have talked a lot about the idea of ally ship, and how do we start to create it, and as we build in our own resistances, we love to identify people, and we talk to people who are holding those spaces, but I really think that somewhere in it Patty, and I’m speaking one of my my spaces of why this matters to me is that we, I believe the strength comes from the numbers. I think the strength comes from us being able to accept love, you know, adore respect each other’s differences, but when we join together, it becomes so much more of a powerful front.  As we know we may never reach, you know, unification 100% but at least this is the beginnings of it. And I like to think that we are starting and impacting in just the union of what we have with M4R.  That to me is a space and I think this is an opening. This is a really real I’d love for us to spend some more time to dissect this idea and how we sit in this or what I call the uncomfortable spaces. Grow and evolve from them. Um, it’s very powerful to me,

Tamari:   Between mature people that are trying to politically and historically makes sense of how we come to be. I think it’s important that we have spaces for these conversations. And I don’t want to have to, you know, set it down in always in an academic format, that only five other people will ever read and cite.

Patty:  maybe eight. *laughter*

Tamari:  yeah, maybe eight.

Kerry:  This is fantastic. And I don’t know, I see this. I think this is so important. I know. I learned a ton from our conversation tonight. Like it’s, it’s been fascinating. I have to, like take a moment after we get off this phone and just start the story off this call and just process you. You open me up to some incredible you know what I always find with that though, Tamari What it is, is you have this beautiful way of being able to just articulate what is sitting in the hearts of men. I do believe that you and women

Patty:  People

Tamari:  let me let me say thank you, but also I cannot take credit for it. I have many people that I have conversations with many people that send me emails and notes that just leave me thinking about my own position. So I’m constantly in a position to think and rethink and these sorts of conversations that I’m having with both of you right now, Patty, and Kerry, is part of that process of helping me to clarify, refine, rethink my ideas. And, you know, I think it’s important that for me that I have these opportunities because when I get in front of students more that this should help you to be clear about what your position is, and that your position may change in the future, based on your, you know, continued conversations, and so on and so forth. But the whole point is that we need to be engaging in more of these sorts of conversations.

Patty:   Mm hmm. Well, I know some of my ideas, my ideas shift all the time, I think, right from when we first started talking. And so because we do we talk to such interesting people that it, it makes me think of something. I hadn’t put those two ideas together before, okay, like, you know, today, I was thinking out loud, you know, just, you know, things that I’m reading and listening to and what you know, and we’re talking about just kind of colliding in really interesting ways.

We have to, what we’re doing right now isn’t working, right, in terms of in terms of our communities, you know, in terms of solidarity in terms of moving forward against this whole project, what we’re doing isn’t working. So we have to challenge the way we think and we have to ..  we have to think uncomfortable things.

Tamari:   Absolutely, yes.

Patty:   And we have to not be so invested in these identities that have been created for us, like you said at the beginning.

Tamari:   It’s a tough thing to do.

Patty:   Well, that’s huge. We’re so invested in them. Because without that, who are we?

Tamari:   Exactly, exactly

Patty:   it was created for us.  Yes, that’s, I think, and one of the emails I sent you, I’m really interested in the idea of emerging identities. Yes. Because I think that’s, that’s something that we have to be open to, is that our children or grandchildren will not be who we are. And these emerging peoples, these emerging identities are what we need in order to move forward.

Tamari:  And at the same time, those emerging identities, need clean water, clean air, good food, shelter over their heads, you know, like all of the fundamentals that enable people to grow, to develop and to be able to reflect on their humanity. So I mean, those we you know, those things, those two things have to go in tandem.

Patty:  Mmm, hmm

Kerry:  It I, I’m really just, as I said, taking it all in. And I, I agree, Patty, I think we, we just touched something here Tamari, you’ve opened something up, where this is a forum, and our forum can offer some unique spaces to hold this idea of touching these uncomfortable places, and seeing what can emerge as we as we move forward, because you’re right, we it’s leaving enough spaciousness in this reality so that those who do come after us have this opportunity to evolve, evolve in safe ways that are anchored in the ancestors and what we have known to be true, but there’s room for them to take it as they move forward. That’s what that is what we are to do that is, that’s evolution at its core.

Tamari:  Mm hmm.

Kerry:  And I see some things here. We definitely have to continue these conversations. No doubt.

Tamari:   Absolutely. Thank you both so very much. This is wonderful.

Patty:   I’m glad you enjoy. So I’ll just plan the fall season, um Tamari once a month. Yeah.

Kerry:  Right.


Tamari:   We’ll work this out Tamari.

Patty:   All right. Thank you. It was so, it was all it’s always interesting. All right.

Kerry:  Always.

Tamari: Thank you so much, Patty, Kerry. Take care. Bye. Now

Kerry: We’ll connect Tamari

Tamari:  Okay

Transcribed by

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