What settler colonialism does is that it sets a ceiling on what the future can be such that we cannot even imagine a future without genocide. This tendency then leaves us to develop critical visions only within the constraints of the possible and then infects all the work that we do.
For instance if we look at the Academic Industrial Complex. We whine and complain about how racist it is. As if the only problem is a few racist administrators who need to be fired. And if we just convince them how great Ethnic Studies is, they’d just give us more money. But if we were actually to imagine a liberatory educational system would this be it? Professors, do we say, “Tenure was the most fun thing I’ve ever done, I wish I could do it again”? Do students say, “You know, I love it when I work really hard for my finals and then get a bad grade anyway, how empowering was that”? We don’t even try to imagine building an alternative to the Academic Industrial Complex. We act as if the problem is that there is racism in the academy, not that the academy is structured by racism. And here’s where we can learn from the Prison Industrial Complex. Is not that the organizing against the Prison Industrial Complex puts forth a model of abolition that doesn’t just say that it’s about tearing down prison walls now but it’s about building alternatives that squeeze out the current system. Similarly, while we might have day jobs in the academic system, why can’t we start building alternatives to this system, build the educational system that we would actually like to see that could then squeeze out the current system as it develops. So, for instance, when Arizona says something like they’re going to ban Ethnic Studies, we think, “Oh no, there’s not going to be Ethnic Studies because the State says so!” We presume the state owns Ethnic Studies and it actually can ban it. We don’t say, “Uh, whatever, Arizona! Ethnic Studies is not a gift from the Academic Industrial Complex or from the state. It’s a product of social movements for social justice, and as long as they exist there will be Ethnic Studies wherever and whenever we go.” And did we ever really think Ethnic Studies was going to be legitimate in a white supremacist and settler colonialist academy? And if ever did become legitimate, we would know we had failed in our task.