sHe led me to drive Another Day in the Colony back to Jackie Huggins’ sister. Not just Jackie: I’m back with Eileen Moreton Robinson. Back to Audrey Lorde. I went back to Bell Hooks’ regression and feminist theory. That’s the beauty of Chelsea Watigo’s debut: It puts us in dialogue with the work and the women we’ve known and loved for years. Or, if you are not familiar with them – to paraphrase the great researcher Alanis Morissette – you should know them.
Watijo’s background in health. Her work is inferred by bringing black people back into conversations where they are often overlooked – black women in particular.
Another Day in the Colony combines memoir, philosophy, and analysis to tell us simply: “Damn hope.” This supplication is a critique of hope as complacency, a deferred dream.
What Watijo seeks rather than hope is the “liberating possibility of not exaggerating”. “Some people may think that calls to withdraw hope from nihilism are irresponsible,” she wrote. “But what is irresponsible is our demand to maintain the status quo of keeping black bodies connected to life support machines that were deemed unable to disembark at all.”
White critics may dance around the fact that they know this book is not written for whites. But why do you care? There is strength in non-white people being the supposed audience. There is power in talking to the mob.
For First Nations, such rhetorical confidence is usually considered impossible; As if the marginalized do not have the luxury of assumptions. But if the First Nations were sovereign—as Dr. Lella Watson tells Watego in this book, “we did not move” and thus “the violence we face because we hold on to our land was not of our own making”—then shouldn’t the possible assumptions? Nor should one of these assumptions be that of strength and joy Probably currently? Our existence – and therefore the existence of joy – are not marginal. marginal for whom? marginal on what?
The penultimate chapter, titled “Fuck Hope,” ponders this question. It’s a careless laugh. As a critic, my only response was confirmation. I have something to add; This is all true. “Damn hope,” says Watigo. Why not? She wrote that hope is something we can hold on to temporarily, which is breathing before diving: “It doesn’t give oxygen to your lungs, it just keeps water from getting in.” This killing is not a metaphor.
Watgo adds that stripping hope does not mean giving up. It means grasping the idea that if happiness and sovereignty did not exist at the present time, they would not exist at all. But they did, and they still do. The strength of this idea lies in how it gets under the skin. He speaks to us emotionally. We realize its health in our bodies.
It’s an idea that Watego describes, quoting Paul Beatty, as: “undiluted blackness.” Burning Taryn Onos Williams ‘a kind of blackness.’ Betty calls it ‘the nihilism that makes life worth living.’ However, as Watego says, ‘while something is no longer having sex with others, I don’t think I necessarily found the freedom that I promised it, because the power of not exaggerating was usually possible to the fullest extent once there was nothing left to lose.” However, it is “the closest thing to an Embodied Sovereign I have ever heard of expressing.”
The basic idea behind white supremacy is that whiteness is neutral. That she has a humanity, a humanity that others lack. Those who are not imbued with this humanity, this “whiteness,” are seen as in need of correction—or, in the words of Watigo, paternal benevolence. Funds earmarked for First Nations “portfolios” are based on colonial control, and they depict First Nations as, above all else, a problem to be solved. Watego writes that it is a concept that is “inspired by the same racist ideologies that enable them to forget that where they come from is not the land we became human.”
Two journeys, each separated from the other: a people who survived and a people who forgot – and remained forgotten – their history in order to wager a new one. However, this history is not really new. It’s cultural amnesia. The white supremacist who longs for a homeland can never enter all the homes he leaves behind. The only house that knows how to dwell is those that belong to others.
Watson, who was mentioned by Watigo as one of her mentors in writing this book, might agree with this view. Watego writes of Watson’s attraction that we “imagining a future as long as the past is behind us.” “[T]The act of living requires us to refuse, a refusal to accept their version of things and a refusal to allow them to rob us anymore of our joy, our life, and our land.”
Watigo later adds, “She advised me that we would never see justice, because we would never return to us what they took. Then she asked me why I needed to win. Why was my existence in the world based on taking something from the colonial protagonist, knowing that he wouldn’t bring us all back? She reminded me That being on our terms is a win-win, of the everyday kind.”
By the time I reached the end of this chapter – with only a few pages left of the book – I was shaking my head in appreciation. Reading Watigo, I was reminded of how Mohawk political scientist Alfred Taiyaki and Anishinaabe feminist Leanne Betasamosake Simpson take a skeptical attitude toward the idea of liberalism Evolution, or what Watego calls “the plebiscite of 67 was a sign of progress” kind of blacked out. They do not seek to integrate into the settler colonial society, but rather to prosper; Self-determination based on love and resistance “as we have always done”.
This is thriving on our terms. No penalties. No permissions. No slaves. not the masters.