The Decolonial Parent

a continuous work in progress

on being enough

Photo by Dương Nhân from Pexels

Neocolonialism is just another name for colonialism, the media-friendly offshore tax haven of imperialism, whereby those in power set a standard for the rest of us to fall short of. Neocolonialism hinges on our core belief that we are not enough, and must therefore buy products and services that improve us sufficiently to become acceptable, like the popular brand names shipped from shore to shore; symbols of participation in a status quo that we have neither ownership of nor equity in. Neocolonialism is globalized standards of beauty, neurology, culture and customs, including food (what you eat, where, when, how, and who with). And it’s utter bullshit.

Growing up in England in the 90s, my siblings and I lamented our very un-British-sounding names. Almost every new teacher we had at school either refused to say them, failed to say them correctly, or attempted to replace them with more culturally acceptable (cough, normative) versions. Hence Ella, Mel, anything other than Mirella enunciated in all its 3-syllable, 3-vowel sounds, 3-consonant sounds, 7-letter glory. Most of our acquaintances had at least Anglo-sounding names, even if they weren’t common in 1990s UK, but not us. And we hated it.

For me, my European-sounding name was deeply connected to a lot of the shortcomings I felt I had. I threw myself into British and Scottish history, literature and culture, supporting the work of British and Scottish artists and athletes, taking vacations in parts of the country I hadn’t visited as a child (because international family means international travel). Yet no matter how much I embraced the culture, it refused to embrace me as fully. It took me a long time to realize that my name and the flaws it had come to symbolize were all essential parts of me, just as much as the parts that worked within the culture I existed in – so long, it took me another period of time to work through the shame and embarrassment I felt at that. Working through my feelings of inadequacy at every turn, I realized that I was utterly irreparably flawed and broken in countless ways… and that, in itself, is absolutely okay.

Fuck what global capitalism tells us we need to look like, act like, speak like, dress like, love like, eat like, or live like. We are not stereotypes. We are not walking showrooms for products made by companies who are destroying our planet and communities while we line their wallets with our hard-earned wages from the low-grade jobs in their subsidiaries or partners. Any wonder we don’t feel like enough when we aren’t paid enough, aren’t given enough leisure time, aren’t respected enough by the same system that stands on our shoulders?

Take a moment, if you will, to check in with yourself. Check your own assumptions about who you should be. Where is this “should” coming from? What would happen if you let it go? Where could it take you? Wouldn’t you like to find out?