Pamela Scott Washington | USA


First, I would like to acknowledge His Holiness Pope Francis in his absence today, and thank him for creating the opportunity for us to gather here at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and engage in this very necessary dialogue on Colonialism, Decolonialization & Neocolonialism. I pray for his speedy recovery and return to good health.

I would also like to acknowledge the exceptional contributions of Judge Mina Sougrati (Morocco) and Sociologist Ramón Grosfoguel (Puerto Rico/USA) to our discussion on decolonization from a legal and social justice perspective. And of course, I agree with Judge Mina Sougrati; judicial independence can provide the freedom for judicial officers to interpret laws and make fair and impartial decisions, free of the influence of neocolonialism. While I recognize judicial independence is crucial to achieving fair and impartial decisions if justice is to be achieved, still, it is not enough to overcome the ongoing impact of colonization and neocolonization entrenched in our world today. Judges are administrators of justice and justice demands truth, accountability, and repentance.

Judges in the United States enjoy judicial independence. However, the United States is a chief colonizer; taking possession of a land and enslaving its people. Our history is reflective of a tainted legal process that elevated European white immigrants and reduced the indigenous people and transported enslaved Africans to horrendous subhuman conditions. Even after great advancements in the CIVIL RIGHTS OF ALL, the impact of colonialism remains embedded in our systems of justice – systemically, structurally, implicitly, and explicitly.

The impact of colonization is evident here. The Roman Catholic Church is a colonizer. I do not believe anyone here today would dispute this fact. Of the thousands of images of Jesus on display in the Vatican Museum, I only saw images of European white Jesus. Not one image of Jesus that looked like he was from Africa, Palestine, or the Middle East; places where he would have been from.

Unlike my colleagues from the United States who came to America as immigrants, I arrived on the shores of what is now known as the United States in Portuguese Slave ships as CARGO… dehumanized, enslaved, cargo.

I would like to thank Professor Boaventura DeSousa for acknowledging the historical responsibility of the Portuguese for their role as colonizers. Victims of colonization & neocolonization are still navigating the aftermath.

Colonizers have the power and resources to make amends for their abuses. Can justice be achieved if colonizers cannot acknowledge the injustices to indigenous, marginalized, black and brown people, REPENT of their wrongdoing and MAKE REPARATIONS TO THE INJURED COUNTRIES & PEOPLE?

For example, instead of the reliance on the International Criminal Court, reparations can empower African countries to set up their own systems of justice, shore up their institutions and infrastructure, control and develop their own natural resources, and ACHIEVE INDEPENDENCE and freedom from neocolonialism. Colonizers can help African countries build capacity and drive their own improvement process. This process of TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION IS THE WAY FORWARD.

I am honored to be the first Black American Woman appointed to the bench in Alaska’s State history. I am proud to be from a state where the indigenous people brokered the largest land claims deal in history – giving Alaska natives sovereign ownership & control of 44 million acres of land and resources – including oil, gold, and salmon, and over 900 million dollars for diverse tribes of Alaska natives.

Our residents routinely acknowledge publicly that the lands holding government buildings, including court houses, are tribal lands. I am also proud to be in a state where our judiciary share concurrent jurisdiction with tribal courts and all family, custody, and child-in-need of aid matters, and we also have rules that allow us to utilize the Alaska native circle sentencing model for criminal defendants. This is certainly not an example of a perfect result, but it is an example of acknowledging the wrongs done and a huge step towards reconciliation.

We should begin with TRUTH & RECONCILIATION if we endeavor to achieve JUSTICE, free of neocolonialism where honor, power, and preference to cultural and tribal traditions are restored to indigenous people and other victims of colonization and neocolonization.