Interventions in Decolonial Thought & Whiteness Studies


Prof. Zeus Leonardo, Education
Samuel Bañales, Anthropology

Prof. Zeus Leonardo, Education opened the forum by focusing on the ways in which people of color and their lived experiences impact the sociological construction of "whiteness," what he describes in terms of the unconsicous embodiment of ideological privilege that comes with majority status.

Prof. Leonardo believes that in order to make a direct impact on the racial hierarchies that exist in the U.S., the very notion of whiteness as a dominant ideology needs to be unlearned by both whites and people of color. This process involves actively interogating the beliefs taken for granted about the "white experience," and learning to recognize how such assumptions directly and indirectly inform race relations. Although people of color have historically recognized whiteness as a racial construction, Leonardo believes that delineating and describing whiteness as a category of racial experience is an important step towards unlearning the inequity and privileges historically associated with whiteness.

According to Leonardo, a goal of "Whiteness Studies" should be to educate people to recognize the privileges attached to racial identity, and to ask them to actively work to dissolve theses privilege in order to “lead a movement against themselves.” While such an intervention may seem like an unrealistic, if not impossible task, Leonardo urged the audience to consider the critical next steps. He believes that in order to realize a truly equitable society, both whites and people of color alike must be actively involved in understanding the creation and upholding of racial power structures, lest they be otherwise unintentionally responsible for the production and perpetuation of social inequity.

Samuel Bañales’ concluded the forum with his talk entitled, “Age, Race, and Decolonial Thought,” in which he challenged the audience to examine the ways in which concepts of coloniality and modernity—specifically as they relate to age—have impacted youth of color in the San Francisco Bay Area.

To help contextualize and support his claims, Bañales began by sharing a few instances in which seemingly progressive people have neglected the issue of age. For example, a professor who assumes that a young person would be unable to understand the concepts of their class, or a community organizer who hosts a fundraiser at a bar, are both neglecting the implications and limitations of age on a critical level. Instead they contribute to the ways in which adulthood has become naturalized and unmarked by "mainstream" society.

Banales believes that Eurocentric constructions of youth have heavily impacted the ways in which young people have been incorporated, if at all, within society. The criminalization of youth of color along with the many ways in which young people and their lived experiences have been left out of spaces of knowledge production, show the ways in which an intervention is needed in order to fully address living forms of coloniality.

He goes on to talk about the way that the erasure of age and its importance leaves out the ways in which knowledge production is ultimately anti-youth and that a decolonial project should have at its center an understanding of the ways in which the naturalization of adulthood and age based oppression helps to justify many other forms of oppression.

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