It is heartwarming to see activists here in Hawaii grapple with the ongoing civil rights struggle in the continental United States for statues that honor the so-called “heroes” of Confederation. These particular statues don’t exist here, but that doesn’t mean we don’t face the same underlying issues.
The fight is not, as white supremacists like to say, the erasure of history. This fight was lost, both in the Americas and here in Hawaii, a long time ago. Statues and monuments play a role in teaching history, of course, but most of the time, they simply honor the individuals and events the establishment cherishes.
In the southern United States, this meant that towns and villages wishing to push back the era of civil rights erected a ton of statues at the Confederates (the majority of statues under fire today in the United States were erected during the Jim Crow era as a means of both reassuring whites who feared that a true meritocracy, devoid of any race-based calculation, was looming on the horizon and intimidating black citizens who wanted to have their say. say in society The removal of these statues now sends a powerful message that white supremacy was and remains vile.
The same is happening here. On Sunday, August 20, a group of activists marched through McKinley High School in Honolulu, calling for the removal of the statue of President William McKinley there.
“He led the takeovers of Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines and Cuba,” said Khara Jabola-Carolus, co-founder of AF3IRM Hawaii, in this August 20 Hawaii News Now history. “His legacy is painful for people of color in Hawaii and throughout the Pacific. “
It makes sense that AF3IRM is so important in this action. As their website notes, they’re not kidding.
“Hawai’i is not the playground of the new golden age,” says the AF3IRM Hawaii site. “We are a battleground for the self-determination of natives, immigrants and women. We are focused on the fight for the betterment of women’s daily lives on all fronts, including the legislature, city council, courtroom, boardroom and classroom.
But I digress. As president, McKinley made the United States a powerful world power by harnessing the resources and labor of the peoples conquered in the Caribbean and the Pacific. Honoring him now is an affront to our modern notions of justice and civil rights.
Of course, we shouldn’t stop there. If the McKinley statue were to fall, the various statues and monuments honoring Captain James Cook around Hawaii would also have to fall. I can’t think of a more blatant expression of white supremacist imperialism than a statue of Cook (of course, the question of which symbols to cut down is highly subjective: a friend of the newspaper, when asked what ‘he would like to see come on, simply said, “Take down Waikiki and flip the kalo!”).
At the same time, how about erecting new statues that honor whitewashed individuals and events? It’s good that Maui has statues of Queen Ka’ahumanu (albeit in a mall instead of public property) and Chinese doctor and revolutionary Sun Yat Sen, but what about that of David Malo? And while we’re at it, put up some sort of monument in Olowalu to commemorate the hundred or so victims of the 1790 massacre there.
“Olowalu is Special”, specialist in Native Hawaiian culture Clifford Naeole told me in 2016. “Olowalu is a place that matters. But Olowalu as a place is not really recognized. He must have his own sense of place. There must be an altar, a temple set up there, just like Wounded Knee.
Photo of McKinley High School in Honolulu: Joel Bradshaw / Wikimedia Commons