A student and I wrote about a concept we call “everyday colonialism” a few days ago over on Aljazeera. We cannot take credit for the term entirely. It’s an adaptation from Philomena Essed’s concept of everyday racism, which encompasses the subtle but highly significant forms of normalized racism perpetrated – often times unconsciously – by majority group members against ethnic minorities on a regular basis.
The power of everyday racism lies in its repetitiveness. No one incident typically carries tremendous power. It’s the fact that everyday racism happens over and over; it wears and tears on minorities in a variety of ways that have harmful psychological and sociological consequences.
Other scholars have termed acts of everyday racism, microaggressions. Derald Sue and colleagues have conceptualized microaggressions by breaking them up into three categories: microassaults, microinsults, and microinvalidations. Although their work is in psychology, I find it incredibly related to sociology.
Another quick footnote, Paige Raibmon actually used the term everyday colonialism in a 2006 piece, but our approach is much more in line with Essed’s and Sue’s work.
We use the term everyday colonialism to describe the incessant ways that indigenous people are discriminated against regularly by majority group members, in particular those whose ancestry is tied to colonial powers. This is not to trivialize the seriousness of colonialism from yester-year, but rather to demonstrate how neocolonialism continues to operate today more stealthly on an everyday basis.
In Aotearoa (New Zealand), Maori are indigenous; they are tangata whenua (people of the land). Pacific people have a strong presence across Aotearoa, especially in Auckland, and have indigenous ties to neighboring countries, such as Tonga, Samoa, Niue, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu, and Tokelau. The nation-state of New Zealand has legal/colonial ties to Niue, Tokelau, the Cook Islands and Samoa.
Thus while Maori are tangata whenua, Maori and Pacific people can share a politicized pan-indigenous identity in the sense that they share similar experiences of colonization and racialization, both historically and in present time in this region of the world. Below is a particularly powerful example of everyday colonialism – a Pakeha (New Zealand European) bus driver is alleged to drive past visibly Maori pedestrians who are trying to catch the bus. A Maori passenger calls the bus driver out on his actions, making key historical and contemporary references. Watch/listen to the whole thing.
At 3:40, the passenger says, “We welcomed you here, and you deny everything for us. You broke the relationship between The Treaty (The Treaty of Waitangi, or more importantly Te Tiriti o Waitangi), and the Maori and the Pakeha!” It’s an incredibly powerful illustration of everyday colonialism and its connections to historical power imbalances.