unsettling-narrative on home

resistance training: running-Culturite’s #nationhood mixtape

i cannot write this piece without prefacing it with my knowledge of self in the current moment. The last ten years of my life have been an ongoing process of healing trauma. i have fractured narratives of family and home, i have the memory of the home that my mother created, and the world that existed after she died. This is a piece about the erasure and creation of history. It is about my mother’s narrative of erasure, of familial displacement and diasporic identity-the tiny fragments of which, i can hold in a singular palm, yet whose influence draws a map across my skin contouring my social conditions of existence.

this may be the most honest and intimate piece of writing that i have shared, mostly because i am ambivalent about divulging the personal on digital platforms, practices in vulnerability  in digital spaces are often met with abuse and dismissal of experience. the last few days have been an internal struggle, my body had been a battle ground between my personal inclinations and understanding of place, and the pull of familial responsibility.

my brother is facing foreclosure on our childhood home and land. my small sister has created a gofundme, and is devoting her energies to asking people to help them save it. i have remained largely silent on social media, not using my social capital to help them share this desire and asking. i feel like i owe them an explanation, but this reasoning and logic is something that i want to make public, to create a larger discourse. i cannot practice decolonialism in only the aspects of my life that are convenient, as Eve Tuck argues, “decolonization is not a metaphor“, this being said, i do not believe that the land ownership that my family practices should continue, because this land is a space we have no claim to, we are non-indigenous. the land ownership practiced is part of the larger process and legacy of settler colonialism, which must actively be ended. the current alternative of a bank seizing the house and the land is absolutely not a preferred option. the interplay of capitalism, systems of debt and land degradation are what is coming for the land. the forests will be logged, the land parceled into smaller pieces, and no doubt the water system of the area vis-à-vis the porous limestone in the ground will be effected.  so what then is the desired alternative?

relationship, history and self-locationi have a very conflicted relationship to the space where i grew up, i had the privilege of growing up in immense natural beauty. the land is home to one of the largest cave systems in the state, and my grandfather who was one of the only stable fixtures in my life, taught me the importance of putting hands to soil and growing abundance. my mother taught me that our relationship with land was simple, we were not a part from it, but rather a part of it. when a landfill polluted our spring water and began to damage the systems of life that existed in the caves, she worked tirelessly to shut it down, i once saw her nurse my sister with one arm while petitioning Kentucky State legislators at the capitol, (yeah she was a g). she was a radical educator who made sure that her children understood the complicities of violence that we participated in by living in the US. i remember a summer vacation spent retracing parts of the path indigenous peoples were forced to walk during the Indian Removal Act of 1830, we covered spaces in NC, TN and KY on foot and journaled about the experience (at the time i just wanted to go to Disneyland, but looking back the lessons she imparted are invaluable to my current knowledge). she rarely talked about her life before she met my father, she allowed most of our history to be informed by his familial history. i knew only tiny fragments of who she was, tales of diasporic identity, the experience of homelessness as a youth, and a desire to remain rooted in her Jewishness, those tiny pieces were the strongest threads that wove my understanding of identity. my brown skin in a white space (rural kentucky) lead to many radicalized experiences of violence, many of which i am just processing through now.  but this narrative ends abruptly, my mother passed when i was twelve years old. 

at this point, the narratives and experiences of my siblings and myself diverge. for my sister, who lost both her parents by age thirteen, it is the only space she has ever known her family (even if many of those memories exist in the realm of the imaginary). she has idealized, sweet notions of the love that our parents had for one another (which i do not entirely dispute, but i do not want to over simplify the complexity of relationships). for my brother idk, we don’t talk like that, which is unfortunate and an ongoing process of coming to terms with social conditions. for me, after the passing of my mother, the place of home because one of extreme distress, psychological and physical abuse. my father who up until my mother died was largely a peripheral character in my life due in part to his working conditions of long hours far from home, and in part i think because he internalized notions of patriarchy which said it was my mother’s responsibility to raise children, could not cope with his grief. my father embodied the pathology of white male settler privilege, his entitlement and possessiveness extended to the land he occupied as well as to the bodies of his wife and children. 0ur bodies very much became in his mind property and commodities. this was most easily seen after my mother died, the desecration of land and his own body through pollution, in my mind became the antithesis of my mother’s struggles to defend the land and water from these effects. i remember clearly how quickly he turned to alcohol to assuage that grief . i have the (un)fortunate consequence of looking very much like my mother, and resembling the rest of my family very little. in my process of healing, this is something that i have coming to love about myself, however during the years directly following her death, it was a sources of great pain. my father often said things like “i just pretend you died” or “you are invisible, i only see your mother”. (a huge mind fuck for a growing youth.) in addition to the anger and sorrow that often manifested in his response and reaction to me in the space, there was physical abuse at times when he was drunk, when i recently mentioned this to a family friend, her response was “but i loved your dad, he was a good man” this dismissal of my experience has been something that i have dealt with every time i have tried to speak about my past. this has made me extremely guarded in my response to my personal history. i rarely share aspects of my youth with people, for many people outside of the “fam” (and by fam, i mean my chosen family), who know me both online or in “real life”, this will be the first they have ever read about my experiences. 

unsettling-but why am i choosing to share this now? i think that it is important to have a context to understand my social conditions and relationship to place. we cannot hope to move forward with projects of decolonization without acknowledging how our personal subjectivities interact with the projects we are a part of (the act of self-location is both political and performative-see Snelgrove, Dhamoon & Corntassel). being non-indigenous means that i will always be a part of the settler narrative, i do not believe that there are “good settlers” or that i can act with benevolence, i do however believe that i have a responsibility to be not an ally but and accomplice, i want my actions, writings, and work to be positioned in a way that actively disrupts settler “ownership”.

while i do not wish my siblings to suffer the physical and emotional displacement of losing their home, i do think that we need to be accountable to the legacy land ownership makes us a part of. it is imperative to to think about other options; what is practical, realistic and equitable?  for me, the process of foreclosure that my siblings are going through, is connected to the projects of gentrification that we are actively fighting against in our communities, is the continual recolonizing of space based on displacement of the poor for either urban renewal or resource extraction. (Dhamoon pg 7, argues that “settling is a mode of masculinity in which land is married to exploitative capital.”) my thoughts draw on ideas of indigenous resurgence to frame my forward motion, indigenous resurgence focuses on actively repositioning, it is the restoration of indigenous nationhoods and the repatriation of land.  so what then is the best possible outcome? if my brother is displaced due to this foreclosure, will he not just then go on to (re)settle somewhere new? i am not sure how to challenge the systemic forces of the banking industry and capital as they relate to the individual experience, and i am not sure one should. this land, which again my family has no legitimate claim to, needs to be integrated into a larger process of repatriating land. i don’t have solutions, and maybe that is why in part i chose to write this, i want a way to disrupt this land grab by the bank in a way that does not leave stewardship in the hands of my brother, how does land get returned to nationhoods?

any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.-scz 

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2 thoughts on “unsettling-narrative on home

  1. two thoughts…I hope neither is too scary.
    – would it be possible for some non-profit like (but not identical to) the Nature Conservancy to transform the land into something to be preserved?
    – it seems to me like you’re coming to terms with a *lack* of connection to a place that you’re expected to love – but that you don’t. and that’s okay: it holds different things for you than for your siblings. you can let it go.

    • Thank you for your thoughts. I like the idea of Nature Conservancy, I am hoping that is the route Josh goes, i’ve bee trying to speak with him about it, but he is not very communicative.

      neither is too scary, thanks you again.

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