Saturday, August 12, 2017

Thoughts on the Master's House OR Rumination on BIPOC Liberation from/within(?) the "Modern Western Herbalism" Movement

So, I just read an interesting article called Herbalism as a Tool for Social Justice.
And I started to think about how I'm glad it was written but how I felt something was lacking. I sat in reflection and came to the conclusion that I think where I stand right now, personally, is---

how can marginalized indigenous black and brown communities reconnect with our healing traditions (which all involve plant medicine) to work toward our liberation. And without the paternalism of our white allies who have been socialized in many ways to believe that they know what is better for us than us or that they can do it better than us. Also that their knowledge and ways of learning and understanding are superior.

How can we (BIPOC) be centered in the healing histories we are constantly exposed. How do we address that the majority of written/documented histories and research are written by those who value this written method over oral tradition? And I don't mean BIPOC didn't have written traditions, because we did. There's certain information that we don't write about because we have a responsibility as healers and medicine keepers to our communities and the medicine. And let's talk about the intentional killing of our knowledge keepers by colonizers and how once, we didn't have to worry about this sacred information being "lost" or stolen and watered down.

Anyway- good questions to think about answering are: how can our white allies work toward our liberation without

  • having us educate them
  • telling us how they think we should go about liberating ourselves or furthering their movement(s)
  • telling us we should be nicer to them or more appreciative that they are "at least trying" and that we should be giving them some kind of special recognition for going out of their way to learn about the ways in which BIPOC are oppressed.

And even when "anti-oppressive/anti-racist" white allies stop doing these things, how can we talk to them candidly about how they are still perpetuating racism, prejudice and discrimination by continuing to consciously and unconsciously uphold white supremacy, centering their colonized history, teachings and beliefs while using them as a model and standard for comparison while expecting kudos for including a few phrases about our traditions even as our knowledge is packaged as coming from a monolithic community (The Native Americans used this plant for....)

And sometimes the knowledge gained is thrown back at BIPOC and held over our head, becoming a weapon because we don't have the resources to travel to the places we're from, to study our traditions. We have to filter what is given to us from the white folks who can afford to learn from our people...our healers...our medicine makers. We have to sift through racist, white supremacist, discriminative views. We have to listen to the dominant narrative about how Europeans might not have invented plant medicine, but they perfected it. We have to listen to white folks- scholars and travelers- who put their nose in the air because they know more about our people than we do, know more about our medicine than we do. And some of us are broken open by this. Brought to our knees and we defect from your movements. Modern western herbalism and western holistic healing movements.

Anti-oppressive white medicine makers, here are my questions for you:

What good is liberation from chains when you're/we're still in prison? What good are the master's tools in our (BIPOC) hands when wanting to dismantle this peculiar house that's been built?