The Language of Colonization – Daily Trojan

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Words matter.

The post-colonial is defined as “occurring or existing after the end of colonial domination”. This should not be confused with the unhyphenated version of the word “postcolonialism”, which is defined as “the historical period or state of affairs representing the aftermath of Western colonialism”. Although the word is constructed using the prefix “post”, it does not claim that the effects of colonialism have ended. Instead, he is concerned with understanding how Western colonization has shaped the imbalanced dynamics of global power.

These effects are visible today within our own student body. The way we talk, dress, eat, and understand the world is based on a western, or more specifically white, understanding of the world, even though many of us are not racially white or of white ethnicity. USC has made progress in diversifying its student body demographics, but the school is still predominantly white. This does not mean that USC is responsible for colonization in the world, but rather that it is structured in such a way that it reflects colonialism.

Postcolonial theory is one way to dissect USC, but the word is subject to misinterpretation. There are words that better describe the issue of colonialism today, such as neocolonialism.

The word neocolonialism is created by adding the Greek prefix neos, meaning “new”, to colonialism. Neocolonialism means the new colonialism, but the definition is not so simple. Neocolonialism holds that colonizing countries use economic, cultural, and political pressure to control countries, especially those that were under their colonial rule. This word is more active in its attempt to define modern colonialism versus postcolonialism, but does not address the issue directly.

So why fix something that isn’t broken? Colonialism is the perfect word to describe colonialism today.

Colonialism is defined as “the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically”. Colonialism was once entirely state-sponsored, as when the French crown colonized Haiti, but colonialism is now state-sponsored and corporate-led. Much of the exploitation of labour, the promotion of white ideologies such as beauty standards and land occupation is done by corporations.

Modern businesses employ methods similar to those of the 16th century colonizers. For example, the political and economic control of Central America by the United Fruit Company in the 20th century shaped the problems in countries like Honduras and Guatemala.

USC was not and remains immune or separate from colonialism. If colonialism is a body, then racism is its arms and legs, and capitalism is its torso. Colonialism works on racism to keep capitalism afloat.

Racism developed alongside colonialism. Its existence is not a residue, but rather proof of the continued existence of colonialism. It is not just physical but also metaphysical and includes the spread of ideologies that often come in physical forms like patriarchy.

USC has struggled to confront its racism stemming both from its faculty and from itself as an institution. In 2020, they removed the name of former USC president Rufus B. von KleinSmid, a proponent of eugenics, from the now named Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow Center for International and Public Affairs. However, the school did not change the name of Cromwell Field, named after Dean Cromwell, who was anti-Semitic and racist.

Changing the names of the buildings is only symbolic, however. Other changes may be more effective in reinforcing the school’s proximity to whiteness.

More indicative of racism within USC than the names of its buildings, and more importantly, are its student demographics. The school’s Hispanic student population was 15.6% for the 2021-22 school year. Let’s be diligent in remembering that Hispanic is an ethnicity, not a race, which means the school’s whiteness is not exclusive to its categorization as “white” alone. The black student population for the same school year was 5.8%, an extremely low number. Not surprisingly, the largest population in the 2021-2022 school year was the white population, with a total of 27.3%.

The demographics of faculty are even less diverse. Whites make up 64% of USC’s faculty. While that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll impart a white worldview to their students, during my time at USC, faculty haven’t been the most diligent in using the work of scholars of color who promote worldviews outside of whiteness in their Classes.

Speaking of colonialism, we cannot ignore its role in gentrification. Pushing blacks and browns out of their neighborhoods is only morally possible because of the worldview that colonialism has proliferated. It depends on the mindset that white people deserve the land, that the land is for them, and that the blacks and browns who live there should give way to them. It is manifest destiny repackaged. Colonialism is what made racism morally acceptable in white spaces and colonialism is what continues to make it thrive.

Neocolonialism and postcolonialism are words we must honor because of the scholars who spent time deconstructing the imbalanced systems of power that affected all people of color, but black and brown people most intensely. But from now on, let’s call it what it is. No new words are needed to describe the modern socio-political world. The word colonialism has already done that for us.

Words matter.

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