Dear Everyone: Stop trying to Empower by Colby TootoosisTweet
“If you want to contribute to the continuation of oppression towards children and youth, empower them.”
Empowering our youth, empowering our communities, empowering our women, empowering others, empowering the world, empowering, empowering, empowering…. Stop, stop, and stop!
To empower is to assume that people are powerless and that someone who is perceived to have authority is required to grant or give power. The word maintains an oppressive state of mind. It fuels dependency on external sources to provide a gross sense of belonging that allows and permits happiness, freedom and peace. Empowering or to empower, is a short-lived experience. It can cycle victim hood, preserve savior mentalities, and sabotage any hope for long lasting change both individually and communally.
Close to 9 years ago we did a process of forgiveness in one of the workshops we offered. One of the participants shared at the end of the process that she did not forgive those in her process. I inquired and was interested in why she didn’t forgive. She reluctantly opened and admitted that it was the colonizers who were in her process. “How can I forgive those who are continuing to commit injustice and attempt genocide? How can I forgive something that is still happening to this day?” she stated. A valid point, no doubt. She went on to say, “I did forgive in my process though, I needed to forgive myself, I needed to forgive myself for giving my power away to the colonizer.” “How does that feel?” I asked. “It feels good! It feels like I reclaimed my power, it reaffirms the work that I am doing and will continue to do!” she replied. Her sharing really hit home for the group that weekend.
The truth is, it’s not about “empowering others”. It’s about holding space for people to open to the power that already exists within, to open into ‘self-power’ by reclaiming that power, through self-responsibility.
A conscious approach to being a part of long-lasting change is to understand that people have the resources within themselves to obtain happiness, freedom and peace. Even though you are not necessarily needed for them to experience this truth. You can definitely be an anchor, a reflection, or a reminder of who they are by embodying and practicing this for yourself.
If you want to continue to be a part of the oppression of those struggling due to social injustice, empower them. If you want to contribute to positive, long-lasting changes, hold yourself and others accountable to the truth within.
A friend of mine inboxed me on facebook awhile back and asked about a different word to use for a hashtag, besides empowerment. She was aware of my views on the word and wanted to avoid using it. In our conversation she came up with the word, “InPowerment”.
InPowerment: The embodiment of self-responsibility/self-power through self-awareness and conscious choices, while holding others accountable to their truth within themselves – a practice of non-personal awareness while letting go of any form of control over others.
Let’s make InPowerment common knowledge for all those who are working in communities, with children and youth, and who are organizing events and programs for liberation. I’d like to acknowledge the amazing works of Shana Pasapa and Power our Women, Reclaim your Power: Strong, Resilient, Indigenous apparel company, as well as Leah Arcand and the Miyopimatsowin program she teaches.