Colonialism, Martin Luther King, and Ukrainians

In a postcolonial, post-Soviet world, the horrors of the past come to haunt us as ghosts. These ghosts exhibit themselves in the language of individual clinical pathologies: depression, compulsions, addictions, narcissism, eating disorders, states of mania, panic attacks, anxiety disorders, etc. Kelly Oliver’s (2004) psychoanalytic critique of social theory advances colonialist theory one step further by framing oppression as the colonization of psychic space itself. The positionality of an imperial power demands the aggressive subjugation of the other and is expressed in ideas, language, actions, and economies which separates the world into the civilized and the barbaric. As Oliver aptly points out, even the breathing of those who are colonized is an “occupied breathing.” “Colonialism affects the economy, the infrastructure, the physical environment, but it also affects the psyche, the sense of self, the bodies, and the very being of the colonized” (p. 49).

The emotional fallout of oppression is anger, shame, depression, and alienation. Women, racialized others, and sexual minorities are denied full participation in the political, cultural, educational, and social institutions of the power elite (Oliver, 2004). Images culled from the colonization and oppression of the Ukrainian people through the centuries reflect a psychic colonization that is similar in most respects to the colonized and oppressed peoples of the so-called “third world.”

The universal prevalence of current day pathologies, such as the objectification of women and sex trafficking, the high rate of alcoholism and drug addiction, a recent spike in HIV infection and AIDS, growing homelessness, a sense of helplessness and depression, high levels of unemployment and underemployment, substandard healthcare, growing crime, and an exodus of workers into the global pipeline of cheap laborers is a daily reality.

The icon of Martin Luther King written by brothers Robert Lentz OFM to honor his fight for justice, freedom, and equality.  We Ukrainian-Americans, Canadians, and every other hyphenated form are struggling to free ourselves from every form of Russian colonialism: denial of acts of genocide, the encouragement of corruption and robbery, the denial of language, the demonization of patriots as Nazis, the enslavement of souls to a bankrupt Russian Orthodox church, the destruction of culture, and so on.

We have a lot in common with oppressed minorities and especially African-Americans. When our Ukrainian Genocide  Famine Foundation exhibited a collection of posters on the Holodomor in the Thompson Center in Chicago, the majority of visitors who viewed the exhibit were African-Americans who expressed their sympathy and support. Others just walked by.  A few condemned the exhibit as “nationalist propaganda.”

Ukrainians were killed and killed and killed. We honor those who fight for justice those who are martyred for freedom and those killed by sniper fire—-Martin Luther King and the Heavenly Hundred.




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