The Snare of Racism: Hōhonu no ke kawa.

Hōhonu no ke kawa.
A deep diving place indeed.
A topic that requires deep thinking.
-ʻŌlelo Noʻeau #1022

Ua ola loko i ke aloha.
Love gives life within.
Love is imperative to one’s mental and physical welfare.
-ʻŌlelo Noʻeau #2836

Aloha hoa aloha and ʻohana,

George Floyd was murdered by police on camera. The world erupted.

The brilliant, courageous, and committed organizing of Black-led movements, including Black Lives Matter, over many years, decades, was and is the hei — the net to catch the energy of shared outrage towards action, to dig out systemic causes of deep pain in black, brown, immigrant, and native communities who are over-policed, over-prosecuted, and over-jailed. Some of these communities are our own.

As staff at KUA, the kua of KUA, we admit we had not, before this moment, committed a lot of time to really talk with intention about race and inclusion as a hui. Over the last several weeks, we’ve been on personal journeys that have begun to weave into our group journey — looking at the origin story of policing in Hawaiʻi, the origin story of police in America, our own origin stories, individually and as KUA. No lie, it’s super awkward and uncomfortable. We try to give each other the blessing of grace and empathy in what we don’t know, in de-centering ourselves and our own relationships with racism, in acknowledging where we feel shame and anger, and we are figuring out how to support each other in not getting stuck there. We are also working to be courageous in our conversations. We’re listening and looking at data. We’re working to understand how we make action with intention. This is the work.

We’ve noticed that fast-kine reactions of judgment of ourselves or others, picking apart language, shame — all the things — block us from our empathy and our natural desire to know when someone is in pain — WHY? We’ve been taking breath — deep kine — looking at recommendations on use-of-force policies and what it means to divest or re-imagine policing and invest in local community-driven solutions for security, housing, jobs, and education. We’ve been really thinking about the American concept of police and what it would mean to de-colonize policing. We invite you to do this too.

It feels like a global mahiki is underway. We’re trying to understand and be a part of it.

What is our oiaʻiʻoWe affirm profoundly the truth that anti-blackness and racism exist in Hawai’i. There is comfort in the dominant story — Hawaiʻi is a “melting pot” and it’s all love and rainbows over here. And yes, there is a lot in our relationships to each other that we as local people can celebrate. There are also painful truths about racism in Hawaiʻi that too often go unspoken, and unspoken continue to hurt us and keep us from the whole, abundant, Hawaiʻi — the ‘āina momona — the unseen future we hold for our children and moʻos and moʻo’s moʻos and on…

For some of us at KUA, community leaders in black-led movements have been among our most important teachers. We want to acknowledge with deep gratitude these teachers, and through our teachers, the wisdom of Black activism in the genealogy of KUA itself. We continue to learn from Black-led movements and community leaders. This is one way Blackness lives in Hawaiʻi. We’re grateful to the work of the Pōpolo Project for their commitment to uplift Black stories and Black lives in Hawaiʻi — redefining what it means to be Black in Hawai‘i and in the world. We hear the kāhea from those at the center of this māhiki. We support their efforts. If you aren’t already, we urge you to be supporters, donors, and allies too.

Resources we’ve been looking at:
Black Lives Matter
Campaign Zero (Campaign #8CANTWAIT)
Essay by James Baldwin,  “Stranger In A Village”
Dismantling Racism: Article by Tema Okun on “White Supremacy Culture”
“137 Ways to Donate in Support of Black Lives and Communities of Color”
Hawaii-based resources: 
Pōpolo Project
Anti-Racism Resources for the Hawai‘i Community (FLUX)
A Response to “All Lives Matter” (Kanaeokana)
Prison Policy Initiative: Hawaii Profile

To close, the poem below was shared with us by our dear friend Melanie Allen, who has over the years helped us see and uplift the ways in which our stories in Hawaiʻi are woven with her stories, her communities, her ancestors and her lands.

A Small Needful Fact

Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.
~ Ross Gay

Aloha nō,
Miwa, Kev, Alex, Brenda, Wally, Lauren, Kim, Niegel, Ginger, Malia, and ʻohana.

ʻUmia ka hanu! Hoʻokāhi ka umauma ke kīpoʻohiwi i ke kīpoʻohiwi.
Hold the breath! Walk abreast, shoulder to shoulder.
Be of one accord, as in exerting every effort to lift a heavy weight to the shoulder and to keep together in carrying it along.
-ʻŌlelo Noʻeau #2876

Pūpūkahi i holomua.
Unite in order to progress.
-ʻŌlelo Noʻeau #2758

photo credit : Lianne Rozzelle (@goodbyeelliot)


2 thoughts on “The Snare of Racism: Hōhonu no ke kawa.

  1. Aloha. Excellent and inspiring mana`o. I would add that there is also racism against white people – albeit sometimes in reaction to their behavior or ignorance, but also a defensive mechanism among locals in reaction to how island people were treated by the haole luna mentality of the past two centuries. How do we recover and rise above that? I believe our people have the capability, the mana, that is strong enough to demonstrate patience, compassion and aloha to people of all colors and no color – but it’s a process to re-learn how we view others and how we feel inside.

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