North Texas Daily

Missionary work is just another name for colonization

Missionary work is just another name for colonization

Missionary work is just another name for colonization
October 12
19:00 2020

Colonialism is commonly misrepresented as a thing of the past despite being at the root of modern-day racism, and if white people are reluctant to acknowledge its influence, they are even less inclined to concede that it is an ongoing process. Missionary work and, sometimes, interracial adoption, are being weaponized against communities of color by white people with white savior complexes and little to no respect for religions and cultures besides their own.

Full disclosure: I am white, and the purpose of this article is to amplify the voices of people of color who have brought this issue to the table and subsequently been shut down. I am not the originator of this idea and should not be looked at as the foremost authority on this subject.

Missionary work has become so normalized within our society that the more sinister aspects of its fundamentals have gone, for the most part, unchallenged, despite the less than subtextual nature of their racism. Missionaries show blatant disrespect toward the cultures they have inserted themselves into by framing Christianity as a touchstone of civilization, a narrative that was historically used to justify the colonization of America itself.

Since the early aughts of American colonization, Christianity and missionary work have been used to rationalize the systematic elimination of Native American cultures. Early French and Spanish missionaries presented religious conversion to Native American tribes as nothing more than a dubious alternative to death, and laws dating as late as the 1970s outlawed the practice of Native American religions. Native American children were forced to attend Christian boarding schools and by extension, Christian services, and were not allowed to go by their birth names.

These themes of abduction and coercion have carried over into the colonization efforts of today.

The ethics of providing impoverished communities with resources under the caveat that they must humor shameless attempts to be colonized are debatable at best. Then there is the tricky business of interracial adoption.

I want to make it clear that I am not at all against the concept of interracial adoption, but that I do think going into the process of applying for adoption with any kind of white savior complex can cause irreparable harm to children of color. Children of color who grew up in white households have reported feeling as though they could not confide in their families about being subjected to racism, and of experiencing something akin to imposter syndrome when interacting with people of their same racial background. Changing a child’s name and neglecting to incorporate facets of their culture into their upbringing will not shield them from the realities of racism. In fact, actions of this nature only serve to deprive them of any positive associations they could make in regard to their racial identity. Any white person looking to adopt a child of color should be required to take courses on racial sensitivity.

The idea of white people adopting without first educating themselves on how to best raise children of color is a problem in and of itself. However, the implications of this are compounded by the sometimes unwarranted displacement of these children, as well as their adoption by religious whites actively looking to “save” them from a life of imagined hardship and heathenism. Children who were forcibly separated from their parents at the border have been adopted out to American families without their parents’ consent. Also, many religious organizations openly encourage their followers to adopt as many children as possible to help spread their ideology among those they perceive as being cut off from God.

A lot of this stylized colonialism can be attributed to American society’s cartoonish, and frankly stupid, ideas of what predominantly nonwhite countries, specifically African countries, look like. Not every African person lives in a hut or draws their water from a distant well, and some African countries such as South Africa, are actually very progressive both and technologically and policy-wise. Those that are not have likely been stunted by centuries of colonization, making efforts to help these countries using colonialist tactics both kind of ironic and most definitely futile.

We cannot begin to reckon with the toll colonialism has taken on our own country without first doing away with colonization. It’s impossible.

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

About Author

Rachel Card

Rachel Card

Rachel Card is a junior majoring in public relations and minoring in sociology. She was born in Austin, Texas, and is currently quarantining there with her family and three dogs.

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1 Comment

  1. Emma
    Emma October 12, 21:38

    Beautiful article! Keep white saviorism out of Africa!

    Reply to this comment

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