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Native Hawaiian Self-Governance: Dexter Kaiama holds his own on a PBS program about Hawaiian Sovereignty

Dexter Kaiama, pro-independence attorney

Dexter Kaiama, pro-independence attorney

Dexter Kaiama was the only pro – independence guest on a panel of 4, but it was a good show, in that the contradictions and hypocrisy in the pro-occupation/ pro-federal and state recognition position were well articulated.  In a way it was fascinating to watch because to hear these pro-fed-rec and pro-state-rec people talk about securing federal or state funding for Hawaiian programs was like witnessing how a lie can echo and echo for generations until it becomes as normalized as the dependency it stems from.  Their position is intended to pander to the fears of Hawaiians, weaken them as individuals and as a people, not inspire them to stand up for themselves.

The most interesting, though, was former Governor John Waihee, who acknowledged the illegal occupation of Hawaii several times, which begs the question: if one is aware of the wrong, illegal, ongoing occupation, why continue to agree to it? Why promote the ongoing cover up? Why wish someone like Kaiama well, but do nothing to help him even though his cause is pono?  That’s like saying “Hey Hawaiians, yes, we know what the right thing is to do, but we, the privileged, elite, educated Hawaiian leaders and legal experts don’t believe you/we as a people are worth fighting for.”

I found it sadly ironic that Waihee and the other pro-state and federal Hawaiians, all of whom have made their careers working for the state and federal governments, want Hawaiians to vote on the creation of a Native Hawaiian governing entity.  But just like when the government they represent perpetrated the fraudulent statehood vote, the option for independence is not included in what Hawaiians will be invited to vote for.

Anywayz… it’s worth watching to see how well Dexter holds his position and how clear that position is.  He does it with the skill of a really good dentist.

Of course, now that I say that, in a way the whole show felt like going to the dentist: the horrible history and lost generations of Hawaiians who have been cheated out of their rights to land, liberty and sovereignty are discussed in such unemotional, ho-hum tones that it was like someone gave me a shot of novocaine.

I look forward to the day when Hawaiians stop talking about asserting rights to self-determination and de-occupation as if doing so is no big deal and politics is no big deal and you gotta do is read this book and see that film and whamo! Your liberation is at hand. Becaues IT IS A BIG DEAL to discuss and plan and hope for the day when the illegal occupation is no more.  Perhaps we can give ourselves permission to treat it as such. It takes courage to stand up for the right thing.  The correct emotional energy to go with that courage can only serve to ENcourage the Lahui.   Check it out: Dexter Kaiama on PBS

President Obama: “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”

ObamaBravo! Obama speaks about the history of racism against Black people in America.  Maybe this is the beginning of the kind of leadership on the matter of racism that a second-term presidency can represent.  Read on!

“… You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son.  Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.  And when you think about why, in the African American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.

There are very few African American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store.  That includes me.  There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars.  That happens to me — at least before I was a senator.  There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off.  That happens often…”

Go here for the rest of his statement: president-obama-speaks

Racism Against Micronesians in Hawaii Nei…

Russell Thoulag, The Fourth Branch

Russell Thoulag, The Fourth Branch

… is completely unacceptable.  It’s  particularly harsh when Oiwi are the ones perpetrating it.  As a people, we Hawaiians have lost so much through the institutionalized forms of racism that dominate life in Hawaii; generations of our people have endured unbelievable loss and grief.  So when any of us joins in or tolerates bigotry against others, especially other Pacific Islanders, it’s really hard to look at. Yet, the frustration behind it is in some ways understandable because to us, Micronesians are yet ANOTHER in a long line of uninvited settlers who are taking from us.

But here’s the thing: if we feel that way about them, then we should be willing to address the overall issue of settlers, not just pick on the newest, weakest ones.  And let’s be real about this- Micronesians are not coming to Hawaii as settlers the way rich and middle class haole people come here to retire in paradise, brah! They are coming to Hawaii because they are impoverished in their homelands, and theirs is a colonial type of poverty.  And they can come here because the federal government has given them permission to come here. Why? Because the United States owes them for what the US has done in their respective territories.

So, my Hawaiian brudahz and sistahz, we need to be aware of our own role, our own complicity in the causes of the Micronesian diaspora in Hawaii Nei.  And acknowledge that these aren’t people who were hired by plantation owners to slave in the pineapple fields.  And they didn’t come here because they want to end up homeless on our streets and in our parks, as so many of them now are.  And Micronesian children don’t enjoy poverty anymore than Hawaiian children, and it’s really, really hard for these little ones to be in Hawaii schools because a lot of times they don’t speak English and they are culturally displaced to da max.

And also, Micronesia is made up of a lot of different cultures, so any bigoted assessment of them as a people is incorrect.  Their respective cultures are complex.  To say “all Micronesians” is like saying all Pacific Islanders or all Asians or all Europeans.

Anywayz, here’s a link to a decent little JACL doco–  Micronesians in Hawaii — it features a friend of mine, Russell Thoulag, so have a look.   And also, read this (still fresh and relevant) piece Chad Blair wrote for the Honolulu Civil Beat a couple years back, No Aloha for Micronesians in Hawaii.

Does Truth Have a Tone? Jamaica Kincaid discusses race

Photo by Kenneth Noland

Photo by Kenneth Noland

This interview with author, Jamaica Kincaide, by Lauren K. Alleyne, appeared in the June 17th issue of Guernica/ a magazine of art & politics.  It is such a powerful, insightful discussion about race that I’ve read it and re-read it.  Here’s some of What Ms. Kincaide says:

Jamaica Kincaid: “Race.” I really can’t understand it as anything other than something people say. The people who have said that you and I are both “black” and therefore deserve a certain kind of interaction with the world, they make race. I can’t take them seriously. Not beyond the fact that they have the ability to say that you and I are a single race. You know, a piece of cloth that is called “linen” has more validity than calling you and me “black” or “negro.” “Cotton” has more validity as cotton than yours and my being “black.” It is true that our skin is sort of more or less the same shade. But is it true that our skin color makes us a distinctive race? No.

The people who invented race, who grouped us together as “black,” were inventing and categorizing their ability to do something vicious and wrong. I don’t see why I have to give them validity, or why I have to approach that label with any kind of seriousness. We give the people who make this category too much legitimacy by accepting it. We give them too much power. They ought to be left with the tawdriness of it, the stupidity of it. It’s a way of organizing a wrong thing, it’s a way of making a wrong thing easy. It’s too easy to say this or that is “race,” and that has been a vehicle for an incredible amount of wrong in the world.

Go here for the rest of the interview:  Jamaica Kincaid interview

White Supremacy Acquits George Zimmerman, by Aura Bogado

Aura Bogado

When I saw this piece by Aura Bogado, a former producer at FSRN, I decided to post it, not only because it’s well written, but because she didn’t hesitate to use the words “white supremacy.”

Here’s what she has to say:  Throughout the trial, the media repeatedly referred to an “all-woman jury” in that Seminole County courtroom, adding that most of them were mothers. That is true—but so is that five of the six jurors were white, and that is profoundly significant for cases like this one. We also know that the lone juror of color was seen apparently wiping a tear during the prosecution’s rebuttal yesterday. But that tear didn’t ultimately convince her or the white people on that jury that Zimmerman was guilty of anything. Not guilty. Not after stalking, shooting and killing a black child, a child that the defense insultingly argued was “armed with concrete.” Read the rest of it here:  Aura Bogado- The Nation

Although I can’t claim to have watched or read everything about the trial, the “stand your ground” law and the argument that Zimmerman was defending himself have been talked about countless times in the media.  But there wasn’t too much said about why a kid like Trayvon Martin would confront the man stalking him.  Somehow the fact that Martin courageously did “stand his ground” and “defend himself” was undercut by Zimmerman’s argument that he felt threatened, even though he was the one armed with a gun and in pursuit.

That’s one of the characteristics of white supremacy: the use of language to reverse things, create the illusion that white fear justifies homicide.  It is a tragically American habit to fear and act preemptively. It’s seen in the centuries of campaigns of genocide against indigenous peoples and enslavement of Africans, in occupations and wars and drones….  Personally, I don’t believe there’s anything “new” about a guy like Zimmerman following a kid like Martin knowing full well he has the power of a concealed weapon.

George Zimmerman’s defenders in and out of the courtroom decried, both he and Martin profiled each other, suggesting that there was some kind of equality between Zimmerman’s suspicion of Martin, and Martin’s  spot-on assessment of Zimmerman.

When Martin realized he was being followed by a grown man, he may have thought Zimmerman was a sexual predator– teenagers have a sense about these things.  Martin told his friend on the phone that he was being followed by “a creepy-ass cracker,” which to me suggests something menacing and predatory was taking place.

Did Zimmerman call out and say, “Hey, do you live around here?” or “Hey, you look lost,” or “Hey, I know you don’t live around here, so you must be lost… can I help you?” No, he did not.

Martin knew he had two choices: either run or turn and confront the strange guy trailing him with his loot of candy and soda.

There’s a similar trial underway in Honolulu right now.  It’s the trial of Christopher Deedy (Washington Post article), a federal agent accused of 2nd degree murder of a Hawaiian man, 23-year old Kollin Kealii Elderts.  During an altercation that took place in the early morning hours at a Waikiki McDonalds, a fight broke out and Elderts reportedly yelled something about Deedy being “a fuckin’ haole.”

To say someone is haole is to use a Hawaiian word that describes that person as white — I refer to myself as hapa-haole because I am Hawaiian and haole.  It’s the adjective or expletive in front of the world haole that describes the haole person’s nature.  But now, in the 21st century, to call someone an effing haole during a fight can lead to being arrested and tried for a hate crime.  Or as it turned out for Elderts, it led to being shot to death.

When the whiteness of someone, or rather the non-blackness or non-nativeness of someone is referenced, it comes across as racialized in a way that many people often have trouble understanding.  It’s like having baggage that’s been circling a luggage carousel for a few centuries suddenly thrown at them.  It should be no surprise when plenty white people don’t recognize that baggage as their own and, therefore, have no idea how to unpack it, or that they even should unpack it.  Ignorance tends to code as innocence.

But when someone says something accusatory about a white person/haole, what they are typically referencing in an emotional way is something about power.  Look at the language: “creepy-ass cracker;” however annoyed or defensive Martin was when he said it, he was saying there’s something “creepy,” as in scary, about this “cracker,” a word used to describe a white guy who whips slaves.  When Elderts called Deedy “a fuckin’ haole” he was saying what a lot of Hawaiians (and even non-Hawaiian residents) think and sometimes say when confronted with a white person who literally has no sense of how inappropriate it is to behave in an entitled, invasive, superior way… especially in Hawaii.

It is insulting and psychologically undermining, and it is the height of how individual white people express, without hesitation, their personal white supremacy.

Whether consciously or unconsciously inferred or conferred by the centuries of history spinning around that carousel, my sense is that people with power, however small that power may be, typically don’t want to relinquish it.

“Who Owns the Earth?” That’s the title of the commencement speech…

Photo by John Soares

Photo by John Soares

Noam Chomsky gave at the American University in Lebanon on June 14, 2013. It was syndicated by the New York Times and it’s linked here to the Truthout site.  It’s a powerful speech, as all of Chomsky’s speeches are– it’s about borders and environmental destruction and empire:

“Almost all borders have been imposed and maintained by violence, and are quite arbitrary. The Lebanon-Israel border was established a century ago by the Sykes-Picot Agreement, dividing up the former Ottoman Empire in the interests of British and French imperial power, with no concern for the people who happened to live there, or even for the terrain… Surveying the terrible conflicts in the world, it’s clear that almost all are the residue of imperial crimes and the borders that the great powers drew in their own interests…”

It’s a good read that connects gentrification in Turkey, NAFTA, pollution of the atmosphere, Palestinian independence and indigeneity, all of which we are typically used to seeing as separate issues:

          “Or to adopt the phrase used by indigenous people throughout much of the world, Who will defend the Earth? Who will uphold the rights of nature? Who will adopt the role of steward of the commons, our collective possession?
           That the Earth now desperately needs defense from impending environmental catastrophe is surely obvious to any rational and literate person. The different reactions to the crisis are a most remarkable feature of current history.
           At the forefront of the defense of nature are those often called “primitive”: members of indigenous and tribal groups, like the First Nations in Canada or the Aborigines in Australia – the remnants of peoples who have survived the imperial onslaught. At the forefront of the assault on nature are those who call themselves the most advanced and civilized: the richest and most powerful nations…”

Amy Goodman’s 4th of July podcast…

Amy Goodman… is like a people’s state of the union recap.  It’s a gorgeous piece of political writing, that opens with a reading, by James Earl Jones, of a speech that Frederick Douglass gave to the Rochester Ladies Anti-Slavery Society 160 years ago.  In it, Douglass asked, “What to the American slave is your 4th of July?” Then he proceeded to answer the question:

“To him, your celebration is a sham, your boasted liberty an unholy license, your  national greatness, swelling vanity, your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless, your denunciation of tyrants—brass-fronted impudence.  Your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery, your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety and hypocrisy…”

Then Amy went on to say:

“The United States has been, for well over two centuries, a beacon around the world for those who suffer under tyranny.  But the US also has been a prime global opponent of grassroots democratic movements.  Amazingly, South African President Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress were not taken off the US Terrorist Watch List till 2008; when the people of Chile elected Salvador Allende, the US backed a coup against him on September 11, 1973, ushering in the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who murdered thousands of his own citizens, crushing dissent; sadly, drone strikes and the US run prison at Guantanamo are not historical references, they’re current crimes committed by our own government…”

Have a listen: AmyGoodman’s-July4th-podcast