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Which languages are going extinct under Colonialism?

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Which languages are going extinct under Colonialism?

By Comrade Saint

Colonized people immediately police the way they talk the moment they enter white spaces. It’s called code-switching, and it ain’t nothing new. Whether you’re light-skinned, dark-skinned, African, Asian, Indigenous, young, old it doesn’t matter: if you’re a poor and working class person of color, you’ve probably learned how to code-switch for your own safety.

Code-switching, or learning how to talk like a white person in front of white people, is one of those survival tactics that we have become so familiar with, we don’t recognize when we do it anymore. Changing who we are has become second nature to survive the white gaze in society.

So, why do Colonized people code-switch? What are it’s consequences?

Linguistic purity is another tool of miseducation to force colonized people to assimilate to white power, and put us beneath it’s boot. It’s the belief that one language is better than others. In practice, it’s another way of comparing ourselves physically to white people.

The natural ways that poor and working class colonized people speak will always be judged “inferior” to the language that forced onto us by Colonialism.

Colonized people have been looted, shamed, and raped of our ancestral lands, but also our cultures. No matter how hard we fight to keep that connection, assimilating into white supremacist society erases ancient ways of speaking.

Building and destroying language

This breakdown of language is intentional. Language isn’t just how we communicate with each other, it’s how we create ideas. Like a tool, language is used to build, or it is used to destroy, to commit violence. When the colonizer grabs hold of the way we talk to each other, he is controlling the very tool we use to understand the world.

In order to decolonize completely, we have to break down linguistic purity at its root. 

Code-switching is an obvious example because it visibly affects the way that Colonized people communicate, but decolonizing language needs to be done all the way down to fundamental practices.

For example, Colonialism enforces the belief that language must only be verbal. We see this in racist stereotypes for clicking consonants in languages like Xhosa and Yeyi that are used in comedy sketches to indicate primitive culture or lesser intelligence. 

This also happens with the appropriation of AAVE (African American Vernacular English) with clapping as punctuation. This familiar way of communicating among Black people is used as a meme to belittle our rage.

 Cultural genocides

The link between dying languages and dying cultures is clear when we look at which languages go extinct under colonialism. Most languages that are in danger of dying out exist in Colonized nations. In the last ten years alone, 17 languages (that are publicly known) have gone extinct, and 14 of those languages were from Colonized nations.

Seke speakers in a Brooklyn apartment.

We are even seeing this play out in real time in places like Queens, New York, one of the most ethnically diverse cities on Earth. Queens has speakers from more than 10% of the world’s 7,117 languages. One of these is Seke, a language from the mountain villages of Nepal, spoken by only 700 people. 100 of these speakers live in Queens.

One of the rarest languages on the planet was pushed further to extinction because of the amerikkkan government’s push to segregate the COVID-19 virus into colonized communities.

This is the full strategy of genocide, not just to murder us, but to wipe us from history. Linguistic purity doesn’t just divide Colonized people from each other, it divides us from our revolutionary ancestors — the people who fought and died to preserve their histories against colonization.

While white academics are fighting to preserve Latin, languages like BASL (Black american sign language) are rarely considered. Here again, we can see the links between language and survival. In response to a desperate lack of education in segregated amerikkka, BASL was created to improve the lives of deaf African children. 

An attack on our languages is an attack on our very lives. 

If poor and working class people want to decolonize the land, a good place to start is decolonizing our mouths. The way we talk affects the way we think. And the way we think affects who we see as our friends, and who we see as enemies.

Colonialism is the enemy. Assimilation means our misery and death.

Black Hammer wants more than survival for Colonized people. We want our people to flourish.

That’s only possible in a place like Hammer City, where white people aren’t allowed to set foot.

Hammer City is giving full control of the land back to Indigenous and Colonized people, where we don’t have to compromise anything for white power.

We refuse to allow any more extinctions! We will build Hammer City!

Land Back!


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