Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Does Guam Need a Haunani-Kay Trask?

In my post last month Yobimizu, I wrote some of my thoughts about the Chamorro decolonization movement and progressive movement in general on Guam, and how the paralysis sometimes stems from the need to wait for the right leader to come along and bring sense to un gof kaduku na tano'.

During the course of the past week, a statement related to that conversation came up. It was one I'd heard before in the precise form in which it was stated, but also the general sort of form that it carries is something we all hear in some way or another. The statement was basically a wish that Chamorros or Guam movements have their own "Haunani-Kay Trask." As I said, I've heard this diniseha uttered before amongst Chamorros, so it wasn't new, but hearing it this time made me reflect a bit more on what I was hearing.

For those who don't know, Haunani-Kay Trask is a long time academic and activist in the Hawaiian sovereignty movement. She is one of the most well-known voices it has, one the movement's most direct and blunt voices, and therefore is often considered to be its most controversial. When I say controversial, I don't mean for me, but from a mainstream Hawai'i perspective. She is reviled amongst many in Hawai'i for her words condemning non-Native Hawaiians in Hawai'i as settlers, and also discussing the tourism industry in Hawai'i as one based on exploitation and theft of culture, and something that should be stopped. She is vehemently opposed to militarization in Hawai'i as well.

If you are in the United States and you've taken an Asian American Studies intro or general course, Trask is usually the voice that gets thrown in to reflect the Pacific Islander side. Hers is the voice which makes students of all colors who fantasize about Hawai'i as a great place with nothing but surf, sun and sex, squirm in their seats. Her position in the pantheon of Asian American Studies is an interesting one. She is meant to reflect a sort of critique of the Asian American "Americanizing" experience. Her politics and settle colonial critiques are meant to be a check against Hawai'i as a huge monument to Asian American success and achievement. But at the same time, by being just thrown in and not situated as part of a larger framework, she ends up being the evil demon of a class reading list. Something which will ensure that a lively discussion takes place, but will do so by firing up the stupidest and most defensive parts of students' brains. Once activated these students tend to become imprevious to any understanding of colonialism or imperialism, and are only able to speak in the language of first world wounded privilege, which manifests in speech in the twittering forms of "but I want to learn to hula!" or "but Hawai'i is part of America, why does she have the right to tell me whether I can go there or not?" or "why do I have to feel guilty about this, I listen to Jack Johnson!"

I've met Haunani-Kay Trask several times over the years, and heard her speak a few times as well. She plays an important role in the Hawaiian sovereignty movement as I see it, achokka' buente ti ha konfotme i sinangan-hu. She is someone who uses her public position as a scholar very effectively to speak the colonial truths of Hawai'i's contemporary life. These truths are naturally unpopular, because if they were popular, then Hawai'i would be in the midst of a jaw-breaking, mind-blowing anti-colonial movement right now. I don't envy her position. It is a tough one. I meggaina na taotao (pi'ot i ti mannatibu), siempre ma gof chatli'e' hao. Lao gi entre i mannatibu giya Hawai'i, siempre meggai ti ma guaiya hao lokkue'. Ya guse'na ma to'la'i hao, kinu ma pakpaki.

Other work that she is less known for, is working with others to determine what a Native Hawaiian sovereign state would look like again. When I last heard her speak, she was discussing the difficult task of figuring out how Native Hawaiians should govern themselves today, what sort of political infrastructure or modes of governance should they be using and how can they establish them?

Hearing someone mention to me about Guam needing its own Haunani-Kay Trask, didn't make me think so much about her in particular, but how over the years I've regularly heard people provide a commentary on the state of Chamorro sovereignty and decolonization movements through an assessment based on which famous activist or revolutionary figure they recommend that Guam needs. I've heard people call for a Nelson Mandela for Guam, a Che Guevara, a Martin Luther King Jr., a Cesar Chavez, a Mahatma Gandhi, even the girl Pai from Whalerider.

Obviously I don't have any inherent problems with these sorts of calls. As I said, these recommendations can actually function as practical assessments, and you can get a sort of metaphorical overview of the movement, where its going and what it needs, based on which famous person is argued to be desperately needed. So if someone calls for Guam to get a Gandhi in its movement, then they are most likely referring to the need for Guam to develop a series of non-violent large scale protests. Or they could mean that Guam needs to start developing its own industries, and people need to start weaving their own clothes, or need to start making their salt from the ocean instead of importing it.

One reason that I'm not inherently against calling for Guam to have a Bono or a Mother Theresa, is that it can help extend the realm of the possible in Guam and hopefully get people to reach beyond the easy or the expected when they consider what they can do or what their island is capable of. When you cite these larger than life figures, you hopefully bring a piece of their revolutionary character into your speech in Guam and hopefully can infuse some of that vision, some of that hope into those who hear it.

But at the same time, whenever these sorts of conversations get started I always get a bit apprehensive as well. Guam is a small place, and therefore suffers from a constant need to be recognized, to be interpolated into a larger place, to somehow become bigger than this lowly rock on the edge of the Marianas Trench. We have a tendency to look then at larger and more established places, and see them as being perfect or ideal in a way that we are not. So for instance, when activists on Guam look at movements for demilitarization or decolonization in other places in Asia or in the Pacific, they look like sen fayi yan sen kalamya na pros! Everyone seems to be way-freakin-better at this sort of thing then we are. When you think about Guam's tiny, grassroots movements, we are like baby's dragging our daggan around in diapers. We can't compare at all, we are light years behind.

Ti para bai hu puni, na este i hinasso-ku siha annai estaba yu' giya Hawai'i. When I was in Hawai'i earlier this year, I will admit that I had some of these thoughts. Although those I spoke to lamented not having enough support, power, funds for their particular struggles for land or for sovereignty, I saw all the ways in which people there were resisting and the ways in which the resistance had been formalizing into groups, non-profits or other types of spaces and practices, I was mampos nina'hosguan, very jealous. They seemed to be so far ahead of things, to have already figured out things which Chamorros and their allies still can't.

But even though I felt this, I had to caution myself. It is important to see where we can learn from others, but also not feel like we are somehow behind if we haven't reached the point that others have. Although its easy to forget given the pan-colonial rhetoric of Fanon's Wretched of the Earth, but one of his key points was that each colony represents its own particular and historical context, and it is very important not to extrapolate one for another, and lose the attentiveness to the specificity of your struggle. There are numerous reasons why Guam came so late into the game of decolonization in the 20th century, and they hold most of the keys to its decolonization, both within and without the island. Furthermore, Guam is smaller than most places, just in general, which means that much of what manifests elsewhere would take blue-whale-loads of work in order to bring to Guam, simply because it has less money and less people. There are no international celebrities in Guam's decolonization movement. There are plenty of people working, but there is no single movement or group to work for. There is less money involved in it, since there are no mampos riku Chamorro or non-Chamorro families out there, who want a decolonized Guam since it would mean more money for them and more control over the island's economy! And there are just no geftao yan gefsaga' people out there who want to fund organizations or get movements started with seed money.

As we develop our own movement, its very important to learn from others, to see their linachi and their ginanna', but to never pretend for a moment that we are "behind" or that Guam is just a Hawai'i that hasn't hit puberty yet. So to finally answer the obvious question as to whether not Guam needs its own Haunani-Kay Trask, my answer is basically hekkua'. There are already people out here now who you could argue are doing what she does in Hawai'i. Guam's decolonization movement is full of strong female leaders, it also has plenty of academics, and it also has polemical people or bomb throwers as I call them. But you could also argue that when you say that Guam needs someone like her, what they are really wishing for is a new infusion of vitality or life, that they want a Trask like figure to emerge, who can energize people, or shake things up. Lastly, you could say simply "hunggan," the more the better, Guam's movement is so small, that anyone, especially someone like Haunani-Kay Trask getting involved would be fantstic! So in other words, i ineppe'-ku ta'lo put este na finaisen, hekkua'. The answer "yes" or "no" isn't interesting to me, what's interesting is analyzing why someone would say "yes" or "no."

Pues pa'go, in honor of Haunani-Kay Trask, for whom this post was both not about and absolutely about, I thought I would post below a speech of hers, given in 2002 at Iolani Palace. I'm guessing that the climate in which it was given was following the Supreme Court Decision of the United States on Rice v. Cayetano.


Hunauni Kay Trask, 2002 in front of Iolani Palace

Aloha, my people, aloha.

I want to talk today about the causes, both historical and contemporary, for the situation that we, the native people of Hawai'i, now find ourselves in.

If we go back in time to contact with the syphilitic Captain Cook, what we realize is that the first thing that was a gift of Western civilization was disease. The second thing that was a gift of Western civilization was violence -- they tried to take our chief hostage, and as a result of that we killed him. That was called Justice. Death to the conqueror is justice, that's what it is.

In 1848 the missionaries -- the disease-laden racists -- that's a very good word. Racism. Racist. Race. Very very good words. These were racist people. They came here to colonize us because we didn't have the right gods. Who were they to say we didn't have the right gods? Who were they to say that? And what are their descendants doing today -- Mr. Freddy Rice, taking away our entitlements. That is the geneology of racism. They came with racism in their hearts, they lived here with racism in their hearts, and they are still racists today.

And Hawaiians, do not be afraid to name the enemy. The enemy is racism. Your own people can practice racism. Your own people can tell you, as they always tell me, "Don't be so angry!" Why not? Why not? Do we think Kamehameha was a peacemaker? Only when he defeated his enemies.

Don't let anybody tell you not to be angry. We have every right to be angry. We have every reason to be angry. And we ARE angry. And the reason that we're angry -- the reason we are angry -- is because this is OUR country, and they took our government and imprisoned our queen -- right here she was imprisoned in her palace. And they banned our language. And then they forcibly made us a state of the racist, colonialist United States of colonial America. Do you have a right to be angry? Of course you do. Of course you do!

Never, never forget your own history. We don't need to know what the haole is telling us. What we need to know is what really happened to our people. Who brought the disease? Who created private property? Who overthrew our queen? You won't find any Hawaiians there. There were FOREIGNERS who overthrew our queen. There were FOREIGNERS who made us a state. There were FOREIGNERS. And they are still FOREIGNERS today. Rice. Conklin. Burgess. They are FOREIGNERS. This is OUR country Hawaiians.

And you have to stand up and tell the truth. That is our job. That is what the great black American leader said. [chanting] "Tell the truth. Tell the truth." His name was Malcolm X. We must tell the truth. And that is the truth.

Foreigners came. They conquered. They took our lands. They imprisoned our queen. And THEY divided us by blood quantum. THEY did. Isn't it ironic that a HAOLE -- Freddy Rice -- Mr. missionary, whose illustrious ancestor overthrew Kalakaua and created the bayonet constitution that that racist man, who received so much of our land, now says that we are racists. IMPOSSIBLE! That is impossible!

You have to have power to be a racist. Number one. Do we have power? No. But Freddy Rice does. Ken Conklin does. Burgess does. They all have power. The power of white supremacy. The power of white courts. The power of a white country called the United States of white America.

I don't understand why Hawaiians aren't angry. I don't understand it. Every time somebody tells me I'm so angry at 5 ft. 4, 120 pounds my answer to them is "And why aren't you?" What is the matter with our people that they are not angry! It's not enough to pray to the kupuna, to pray to gods. It's not enough to participate in culture. Those things are important, but they are not important as politics.

Politics has to do with power. Who has it and who doesn't. Do WE have power? No! If we have power, what are we doing here? They took away the queen's land. They did. Who is "they?"

The city council. Hawaiians didn't have city council. That was created during after the overthrow, during the Territory. That's not OUR political form. Why do we have to be subjugated to them? Why do we have to be subjugated to the state? To the federal government? The racist Bush "bomb every dark person" federal government.

Why are WE, as native people, subjugated in our own land? Why are we made to be afraid? Because we are colonized. We live in a colony. The United States of America. All that military theft of our lands, our homelands, our ceded lands, all of that, all of that was done by the United States of America.

All you Hawaiians who think the United States is good think again. Take my class. Hawaiian Studies 390. Read the Blount Report. Read the report that shows what the haoles [white people] thought of us. They think the same thing today. That's where we get Rice and Conklin and Burgess. These are your ENEMIES Hawaiians, your ENEMIES. When Kamehameha was getting ready to go to war, he didn't sit there and think, "Oh gee I wonder if we should make nice. I wonder if I should go over to Kahekili and say hey, let's have a little pa'ina [party]." No.

When you gonna make war, you get your facts down and you make war. The opposition knows that. Aren't they making war against us? You bet they are. Who do you think is funding that war? The guy who owns the Advertiser that's who. Whose illustrious ancestor overthrew the queen, created the Mahele. Learn your history, and then you will know which side of history you belong on.

And you do not belong on the American side. You do not belong on the Hawai'i state side. You belong on the side of your people --lahui Hawai'i [racially defined Hawaiians] -- that's the side you belong on.

And if people are upset, so what? So what? I'm so tired of people telling me I make them feel bad. Good! Ten flights a day. United Airlines. Beat it!

If this is our country then we have to ACT like it is our country. I don't want to see people walking around at the University of Hawai'i walking like this [shuffling, downcast]. I never walk like that. And I'm only five feet four and a half inches. I never walk like that. If this is your country then BEHAVE like it's your country. You tell those racist haoles "You're a racist haole." That's the word we need to use. RACIST!

Racism. That is what is going on right here and right now in Hawai'i. The same thing that's going on against black Americans. The same thing that's going on by Bush. Bush wants to bomb Islamic countries. Why? Because he's a racist. Because Islamic people don't believe in Christianity. Because they have their own region of the world, called the Middle East. Who bombed us? Wasn't Hawaiians.

We need to think very, very clearly about who the enemy is. The enemy is the United States of America, and everybody who supports it. Rice. Conklin. Burgess.

You have to know which side of history you're on, and who is there with you. They are not there with you, Hawaiians. They want to take every single thing away from you.

And now, let us go to the city council. Where is the position on the city council? They want the land. The queen's land. Every time somebody says the queen was racist, I laugh. If she was a racist, why did she leave her entitlements to orphan Hawaiian children? Why did Bernice leave her moneys and lands to the Kamehameha Schools? Not because they were racists. But because they understood as ali'i their job was to care for their people -- for lahui Hawai'i. And right now, right now what we have is another foreign entity named the city council, filled with FOREIGNERS, named city council persons, who want to take away our land. When your children say to you, "Auntie, why are they doing that?" "Mom and Dad, why are they doing that?" Your answer is "Because they are racists. Because they want to take every last entitlement that Hawaiians have, and replace our own people with FOREIGNERS."

We have the largest diaspora in Hawai'i, which means people out-migrated. And who are those people? The native people of Hawai'i, that's who they are. The native people. This is what is affecting us today is RACISM. And we have to tell it like it is. As black people say, it's not [inaudible], it's racism. That's what it is. You are not a racist because you fight racism. You're a warrior, like I am. You are a warrior.

You name it. You name -- you name the enemy. You name the enemy so your people know who the enemy is. The enemy is anybody who takes anything from Hawaiian people. I don't care who they are. I don't care what their position is. That is your enemy. And we need Hawaiians to understand that.

We need to have an analysis of the current situation and understand that. And once we understand that we will not be afraid to speak the truth. Malcolm X used to always say "Speak the truth brother, speak the truth." What's wrong with the truth? It's the truth. That's why nobody wants us to speak the truth. And that's what we need to do. And that's what the purpose of this rally is today. To speak the truth.

And the truth is, that racists are taking everything away from Hawaiians, and they will not be content until Hawai'i has no Hawaiians left. That IS the truth. And I don't care what their names are. That is their intent. Ku'e! [resist] Ku'e! Ku'e! Mahalo nui. [thanks very much]


Pablo (yo) said...

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Pablo from Argentina

rods world said...

its about time someone stands up to the almighty dollar.


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