Decolonization is a messy desk,
and that can be taken literally or metaphorically.
— amenaje, 06/18/2020
My decolonization process began in late 2014, in my second-to-last semester of college (undergraduate studies). The term “decolonization” did not enter into my vocabulary yet, but its intense presence was felt at the time. It was from reading Carlos Bulosan’s seminal book, America Is In The Heart. A personal perspective on the history of America that was never taught to me before—one of many histories not told in the main narrative of the United States’ formation as a nation.
My official entry into decolonization, as a commitment to lifelong examination & practice, was in early 2016, when I joined the first generation of Raised Pinay. (My teacher, Jana Lynne “JL” Umipig, whom I am forever grateful for igniting the spark.) It became a long investigation and interrogation into how I live, perceive, and move as a Pinay/Filipina American person.
It has now been four and a half years since I made the vow to decolonize, for myself and for those who did not have the privileges to actively do it, because of the need to survive. But in the current moment, with higher calls for action in the fight for Black lives, there is greater urgency to go deeper and decolonize how I have been decolonizing up to now, for the sake of the many communities I am a part of.
How well do I know the interconnected histories of the Philippines and America, Black folx and Filipinos? Did I truly cut into and unlearn my own biases & privilege because of my approximation to whiteness? Have I fostered my friendships and relations with Black & Brown folx? What am I doing with/in my position as a light-skinned Pinay with a higher education? Am I holding myself and others accountable enough, as a non-Black POC?
Decolonization work is like my desk, in its current state.
Checking planners for important dates to remember and for recorded activities on certain days, to correspond with or validate certain memories.
Taking numerous notes on any piece of new information in notebooks that have their own designation: “for future writing pieces”, “for specific research”, “need to read more on”, “will keep in mind”, “my private thoughts & feelings that don’t need to be shared online or in public”.
Having piles of books occupying the shelves above/around/near your desk (and the spaces on the floor in piles), hoping to find the right time to read them attentively. Using two laptops for doing online work, attending virtual meetings, saving/transferring files, and scrolling for updates on various media platforms. (Also switching between smartphones for checking the same websites that appear on the laptops, but as phone apps.) (Information overload, indeed.)
Keeping one pair of prescription eyeglasses at hand, in order to carefully read the text in front of you. (Then remove them to let the information sink in and close your eyes from the strain of staring at a white space for long periods of time.)
Struggling to find a pen/cil… ALWAYS! (“Oh wait—*checks under a pile of stuff*— here it is!“)
And three feet away from my desk is my bed, where I will sometimes lay facedown for a few seconds, wishing I could just sleep off all the thinking, analyzing, reflecting, writing, reading, recalibrating, shifting, re-membering—all of it, gone into non-existence.
Because it all seems too hard to live in this kind of existence, where you know too much to be able to go back to the old times…
But that is what decolonization looks like—a disorganized mess, but it is also an attempt to organize the Self to become better. Planners keep track of the days lived and the progress made. Notes show an engaged, processing mind. Books are especially picked for growing knowledge and gaining perspective. Electronics are becoming essential tools for spreading & finding information that can be useful for others who may need it. Vision allows us to see clearly what we would not have been able to observe without (like with “lost pen/cils” that were hidden under something else). And of course, we need rest. To allow ourselves a break will allow us to clean up the desk so that new work can begin, and it will become a cycle of mess and re-organization.
Anjelica Enaje (amenaje) is a second-generation Filipina American with Bikolano roots. She is currently working on a memoir called Maria Clara Speaks. Her website: amenaje.com