Throughout time, no matter how factual it may claim to be, history has relentlessly and inevitably been crippled and saturated with bias according to race, gender, religion, region, etc. In order to conform to this flawed and debauched practice, words associated to certain historic events, including “colonialism”, has been infused with the inappropriate connotations for the benefit of the specific groups at hand.
The negativity and condemnation following this word has virtually evaporated, as it has been replaced with patriotism driven by nationalism, suggesting “freedom,” “liberty,” and “independence” (from Great Britain in the case of America, Canada, Australia, etc.). Or in the events (often referred to as the “Scramble for Africa”) surrounding the continent of Africa, colonialism symbolizes an opportunity for the pursuit of materialistic success and power. The aforementioned example of insensitive euphemism not only “brightens up” the true definition of the word, but it cruelly disparages the devastating sufferings endured by generations upon generations of the native populations residing in such areas. The word practically expunges the blood and tearstains of the disregarded victims throughout the world that continue to pay the consequences of this devastating chapter of avarice-driven imperialism. The word “colonialism” itself, along with its definition, oddly suggests peace and nonviolence, as if implying that a pacific, friendly population of people is traveling to the “promised land” in the wishes of a happier future; it completely neglects to account for the hidden calamity that unfolds due to said actions.
The connotation serves as a reminder for the “freedom” and “independence” from the “evil” and “oppressive” monarchy, providing a cause to applaud certain unethical actions. The justification is deeply rooted in our society by patriotism, provoking guilt and shame when one’s thoughts and opinions do so much as to hint any contradictions. Due to this nationalism, society has immersed itself into a fabricated reality, identifying the wrong party, the colonists, as the oppressed as it plays on the individual’s pathos with connotations of the words “oppression,” “monarchy,” etc. In the perspective of an overwhelming majority of modern individuals, Native Americans are commonly thought of and referred to as the “helpers of pilgrims” or “uncivilized, violent savages,” but seldom as the actual victims of discrimination, slavery, rape, mass murder, etc. The clear and obvious historical truth that the colonists have driven the natives from their homes is strangely overlooked and swept under the rug like dust. Even when the settlers’ underhanded “gifts” of plague-ridden blankets are mentioned in an American history textbook, the native populations take the blame and responsibility for their ignorance of medicine and lack of immunity to smallpox and other diseases.
The ninety-three percent of the Native Americans that have deceased due to disease, starvation, murder, etc. are recurrently snubbed, hardly ever receiving even the proper recognition and sympathy as targets in this bloody act of genocide. Much like the populations currently living day by day in fear of ethnic “cleansing” in Bosnia and Rwanda, the connotation of “colonialism” simply fails to shine light on unfortunate events that continue in reservations throughout the United States; it is kept under the dark, blinding society in ignorance. The word itself has successfully muted out what little remains of the voice of the oppressed. After all, it is the winners that possess the “privilege” of telling the “his story” in the end. Regrettably, because of its frequent happenings throughout human history, the term “colonialism” has become the norm, its connotation acceptable, and the concept itself even expected.
The word no longer implies violence, murder, and rape, or even reflects a feeling of discomfort and sorrow, but implies an opportunity for success within authority and prosperity. Religion, such as Christianity, often served as a method of justification, for they claimed to bring the news of Christ to the unreached nations blinded by “evil” and untouched by the “truth of the gospel.” This “salvation”, however, was not anything more than a mere excuse to justify their sins; the colonists’ genuine purpose was money and power. This imperialism and exploitation that derives from the misfortune and weakness of others and coincidental strength in another has utterly lost its implications as it has become merely an additional inevitable, calamitous part of the past, present, and future. In the case of the “Scramble for Africa”, the procedure of depersonalizing the entire continent and civilization, then dehumanizing the African inhabitants themselves assisted significantly along this process of merciless imperialism. The set archetypes for appearance and beauty has successfully brainwashed this society, altering the ways of thinking to be prejudiced and to judge anything that is remotely out of the norm or unique, further mitigating colonialism for hundreds of years.
The natives were oppressed even below the worth of animals; even the basic right and acknowledgment as equal human beings were deprived of, as they were commonly referred to as “savages,” “beasts,” “cannibals,” “niggers,” etc. They were often taken as slaves, purposefully separated from families and tribes, either sold for money or kept for labor to aid against their will in the process of exploitation and manipulation of their own land and people. However, both paths were irrelevant since they became one in the end as they readied themselves to be greeted by death; many died from seasickness and other diseases in the boats before forcibly reaching their destination as the others were worked, deprived of the basic human needs and rights until the point death, beaten and starved. The previously established culture of the native Africans such as religion, customs, etc. were ignored and ridiculed, often labeled as the characteristics of a barbarous world.
The overpowering sense of superiority in culture and race, deeply rooted in Europeans society, vanished any feeling of remorse or compassion in an instant. This allowed for the absolute exploitation of the land and people driven by gluttony for land; avarice for power; and competition for unnecessary wealth through ivory, rubber, etc. The implications of “colonialism” have evolved to become a symbol for excessive materialistic success with a rather inappropriate positive connotation, with the cost of countless tears, blood, and death simply not accounted for. As a society and culture, the world began to accept war and genocide as a necessary part of life, and disconnected themselves from the events around their world, further vindicating such unpardonable motives and actions. “Colonialism” has lost its true image of unspeakably cruel and demoralizing events in a said society as it continues to oppress and dominate the weak for the determination of keeping the strong in power. This euphemism distracts the person from the inevitable truth that lies beyond the manipulated lies manifested by the symbolism and connotation: the agonizing cries of the men, women, and children that have suffered from this unfortunate accident.
Even though these events may be in the past, and there is not much that can be done to correct or reverse what has already occurred, it is essential to keep in mind the unwilling sacrifice made by the native populations before the establishment of the United States, as well as other currently existing countries that derive from colonialism.