A Word for the Victims of Ethnocide

Ethnocidee (eth-no-side-e) • noun

Definition: A group of people that is a victim of ethnocide

Origin: The Sustainable Culture Lab

When discussing ethnocide, there are groups of people that are the perpetrators and groups of victims. We need specific terms for each group, but determining these names is not as simple as following the nomenclature of its sibling word, genocide. With genocide, at least in the modern sense, perpetrators engage in an obvious social regression with the intent to exterminate or remove another group of people. The intent is clear, so it makes sense to define the perpetrators as genocidaires (international law relies heavily on French, and adding the French -aire indicates that the word is for a person who commits genocide). Genocide also represents a tragic, forced regression into a state of oppression and terror for the victims, so it would be unfair to define the victims via the genocide they have suffered. However, this is not the same with ethnocide. Ethnocide can be a terror that lasts a handful of years where you can mark a clear beginning and end similar to genocide, but it can also be generations of ongoing oppression. Therefore, one’s entire life and culture can be shaped by the perpetual struggle to liberate oneself and others from ethnocide.

Within an ethnocidal society, such as America, ethnocide nearly encompasses the entire life experiences of the perpetrators and the victims. Some of the perpetrators of ethnocide may not even be aware of the fact that they are perpetuating a destructive norm, and others might consciously revel and embrace the destruction. There may need to be more than one term for the perpetrators, which I will discuss in future installments of The Word. However for the victims, the concern is not with their awareness of ethnocide, but with the impact it has on them and their communities. To them, ethnocide is not a specific moment of unimaginable destruction, but lifetimes of normalized terror. Surviving under this constant fear from the implementers of ethnocide now becomes a defining feature of their culture and not a dystopian aberration. 

At SCL, we use the term ethnocidee to refer to the victims of ethnocide, and in today’s newsletter, I will talk about how ethnocide can shape the culture of the ethnocidee.

The Dichotomy of the Ethnocidee

Despite being in a position of subjugation and perpetual exploitation, the ethnocidee is also the main source of non-ethnocidal culture within an ethnocidal society. The ethnocidee does not survive off the extraction of other people’s culture as the perpetrators do. The survival of the ethnocidee depends on their ability to create a culture that will allow them to exist within this exploitative society. The ethnocidee must turn what the perpetrators of ethnocide consider trash into their own treasure. The necessity of turning nothing into something creates a resilient and inventive culture that the perpetrators cannot match. Ethnocide relies on finding value or generating revenue from turning that priceless something into a commodified nothing, so the culture of the capitalistic oppressors encourages a way of life that is diametrically opposed to that of the ethnocidee.

In America, the Black community has always been an ethnocidee and it is simple to see how this dichotomy manifests in society as long as you know what to look for. For example, it is easy for people both inside and outside America to imagine America to be far less oppressive than it actually is due to the prevalence of many celebrated Black cultural icons. When people think about American sports, the first names they think of are probably Michael Jordan, LeBron James, or Steph Curry. When it comes to music, Beyonce is at the top of the list, and for a long time, Michael Jackson was the biggest pop star in the world. President Barack Obama is still considered the most respected man in America by both Americans and the international community. 

Black cultural success could appear to be an indicator of a non-oppressive state, but it is in fact, an indicator of widespread systemic oppression. Black Americans become the pillars of celebrated American culture because they are constantly tasked with the role of creating culture within a society that devalues it for profit. Black Americans become America’s cultural heroes when beneath the surface, ethnocide brings them the spotlight in order to have a continual source of cultural production. Purveyors of ethnocide are not celebrated cultural icons, but often are the richest people in America. They have a cultureless culture of making money and are the tragic icons for an audience that prioritizes money ahead of existence. In summary, Black cultural success comes from the innovative, resilient culture that the ethnocidee must create in order to survive in a culturally-destructive society.

Appropriation and the Ethnocidee

However, despite being the originators of most of the sustainable and celebrated culture within ethnocide, the ethnocidee is less likely to make a living or become wealthy from their cultural creations. America has a long history of Black artists being taken advantage of by white-owned corporations, and far too much money will go to the record label while hardly any go to the artists who created the culture and art. 

Sometimes this exploitation will occur because of sinister intent, but within ethnocide, there has never been a foundation for an equitable exchange of goods and services between the perpetrators and victims of ethnocide. The system is built for exploitation, and if an ethnocidal society developed an equitable exchange it would no longer be ethnocidal. The intent matters, but regardless of the intent an exploitative exchange will inevitably occur as we see through examples of cultural appropriation.

If the ethnocidee has a vibrant culture committed to cultivating an independent and sustainable culture, while the perpetrator of ethnocide exhibits an unsustainable, parasitic behavior that consumes the culture of others to gain profit, cultural appropriation will always be a part of the outcome. The ethnocidee will have brilliantly turned a supposedly worthless nothing into a priceless something, and then the ethnocidal exchange with an oppressive consumer will turn the priceless something back into a worthless nothing for the monetary benefit of the oppressor’s rampant consumption.

The ethnocidee is, therefore, always in an endless cycle of creating culture, having it taken away, and then creating culture again. This is the dystopian cultural fuel of an ethnocidal system.

Erasure Without Destruction

Unlike genocide, ethnocide’s end game is not the destruction of the ethnocidee, but the perpetual subjugation of them while still relying on the ethnocidee to create the culture of the society. By extracting the culture of the ethnocidee, the perpetrators can propagate narratives that have erased the fact that the ethnocidee created the culture they now claim as their own.

Violent confrontations occur within ethnocidal societies when the ethnocidee fights to retain ownership of their culture and to engage in equitable exchanges with the other. The absence of exploitation destroys the status quo of ethnocide, and in response, the perpetrators of ethnocide will often resort to violence in order to sustain their exploitative way of life. The destruction of Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma was due to Black Tulsans building up their economy and strengthening their community so that it was on par with their white neighbors. The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and the Civil War of the 1860s all derive from the Black community demanding an equitable, non-exploitative cultural exchange with white Americans, and large-scale violence ensued as white Americans fought to sustain ethnocide.

From before the founding of America, Freecano people have fought for equality and have not expressed a desire to live off of the exploitation of white people. They have fought for the opportunity to live equitably alongside white people and all people in America, which in response acts with violence or dismisses these cries. Ethnocidal America would prefer Black people and other people of color to “know their place,” remain subjugated, and continue to generate the culture that ethnocidal consumers need. This is what erasure without destruction looks like.

Ethnocide destroys the perpetrators and the victims, and the more we realize how catastrophically destructive ethnocide has always been, the more committed to cultivating Eǔtopia we will become.

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