Why Have “We” Written This Narrative into Geology and Greater Society?

In “A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None,” Yusoff details the marginalization of POC through their depictions and relations to materials, much as how “we” have treated the resources of the natural Earth. I liked Yusoff’s framing of “we” in this text. In one passage, Yusoff states, “This unmaking of subjects constitutes a warp of dispossession in the progressive narrative of collective accumulation or geologic commons in which “we” all share” (Yusoff, 16). The author makes it clear that “we” is not an all-inclusive term. POC have continuously and aggressively been excluded from this collective “we” and have instead been labelled as nonbeings, or inhuman. POC have had no input into the exploitation and dehumanization of their lands and lives.

Yusoff goes on to state, “Rendering subjects as inhuman matter, not as persons, thereby facilitated and incorporated the historical fact of extraction of personhood as a quality of geology at its inception” (Yusoff, 17). POC have been seen, and quite frankly continue to be seen, as simply resources of the Earth for White Men to extract and use at their will to further their “innovation”. But this innovation has come with this price of corrupting not only the cultures of many groups, but also their land, or as “we” see it, territory to be expanded and pillaged. In the field of Geology, and in my opinion many others, Black and Brown People are referenced as simply property to be used to further ideation. They are used as simple tropes, tokens, or cherry-picked evidence of innocence or inspiration. In the words of Yusoff, “Why is it that the language of geology allows for the exchange of a person as a material object of property and properties” (Yusoff, 18). This line of questioning parallels the greater discussions surrounding why societal institutions have been built in such a way as to allow for racism to become institutionalized and permeable throughout society.

Yusoff makes a clear point that in order to truly examine this Anthropocene, we need to understand Geology’s origins and what made such exchanges of property that resulted the geological and societal crises possible. This needs to be uncovered while maintaining the thought that society today has constantly been profiting off the backs of POC communities – resulting in both innovations, and the degradation of the environment. Without the labor and resources of POC, our current era would not have come into being, yet time and time again they are treated as inhuman.

Photo by Bruna Fiscuk on Unsplash

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