Yesterday, thousands of youth boycotted the presidential elections in Algeria in protest of the likely success of an ailing president who is now in office for his fourth term. But ultimately, the roots of the protests ran much deeper: state institutions that uphold the status quo, an economy too reliant on oil exports, and the lack of economic and employment opportunities for the younger generations. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s National Liberation Front, which won the election even amongst rumors of fraud and the president’s own poor health, was once a political party that claimed liberation. Now, it has adopted many of the ways of the colonialist empire.
For me, a woman of color whose family, native to Algeria, left for France and later for the United States, the political state of Algeria is a reality that is complicated to sit with — and one that reminds me of the nuances of building a truly liberatory multiracial movement.
Sometimes I think it’s a miracle that my people have survived long enough to birth me. For years, imperialism and capitalism have attempted to exterminate us through colonization, militarism and forced economic development. Even as Algeria forced out the European settlers, decolonized our lands, and gained independence in July 1962, the dominant culture attempted to do away with our traditional heritage. The media demonized our people, casting all Arabs as dirty and dangerous. Imperialist nations have benefited just as much from colonialism and the theft of our lands as they have from the indoctrination of our minds through the erasure of our ancient ways, memories, traditions and cultures.
What my own history has taught me, as a person born at the intersections of colonized and settler culture, is that in today’s world being a person of color is complex. Our identities go beyond skin color or ethnicity, because the systems within which we exist and the oppressions they perpetuate are complex.
The complexities that have been used for generations to divide communities of color now also shed light on the journey ahead and begin to answer the questions of how we liberate our minds and how we begin the process of coming together. The mainstream culture has pitted our people against one another and left us fighting for crumbs from the master’s table. As people of color, we need to unite to fight back, whatever our class, gender or ethnicity may be. From there, we can genuinely talk about building a multiracial movement that includes those who’ve been on the margins for generations.