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Settler Fragility: Why Settler Privilege Is So Hard to Talk About

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Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Settler fragility stems from settler privilege, which is similar to white privilege in that it is systemic, structural, and based on white supremacy, making it difficult to identify. Only in some ways, settler privilege is far more covert and cunning. The reason is because of the ubiquitous ways the US is normalized; that is, the US settler state is the “water we swim in.” US citizens of all races and ethnic groups have been indoctrinated their entire lives with messages designed to foster a sense of national pride and belonging in the making of what has been called an “imagined community,” which always occurs on Indigenous lands. Their citizenship and their very identity are taken for granted without critical consciousness about the US’s contradictory foundational structures and narratives.

Settler colonialism is said to be a structure, not an historic event, whose endgame is always the elimination of the Natives in order to acquire their land, which it does in countless seen and unseen ways. These techniques are woven throughout the US’s national discourse at all levels of society. Manifest Destiny—that is, the US’s divinely sanctioned inevitability—is like a computer program always operating unnoticeably in the background. In this program, genocide and land dispossession are continually both justified and denied. More here.

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