Language is important. The words we use matter, and the ways we use them are fundamental to our communication. With this in mind, Will Falk of Deep Green Resistance wrote a primer for members of settler culture to better understand the struggles around Hawaiian sovereignty, and the occupation on Mauna Kea to stop construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.
The terms I define in this essay — haole, racism, white supremacy and genocide — are experienced in a very real way by oppressed peoples around the world. It is not my place to explain these terms to people experiencing genocide in the most vivid ways, so I write to those privileged enough to be free from these realities. The first step to acting in true solidarity is accepting the truth and to accept the truth we must communicate with the most honest words.
One thing I’ve noticed in my attempts to work in solidarity with people of color is that many white people hate being reminded of their whiteness. When I was a public defender bemoaning statistical realities like the fact that there are more black men in prison today than were enslaved in 1850 to a roomful of white judges, prosecutors and cops, I was shouted down and told we live today in a colorblind society. When I was at the Unist’ot’en Camp pipeline blockade in so-called British Columbia and our Unist’ot’en hosts explained the need for separate indigenous and settler camps due to the reality that many indigenous peoples felt more safe expressing their opinions away from settlers, there was always a white person who tried to set up in the indigenous camp with the logic that we’re all one human family.
So, the question becomes: Why do white people hate being reminded of their whiteness?
Although uncomfortable, it is crucial that those of us in positions of privilege examine the oppressions from which we benefit. Falk’s essay is an excellent start for understanding the colonial situation in Hawai’i, or the basics of white supremacy anywhere in the world. Please read Protecting Mauna Kea: Vocabulary for Haoles.