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.
Norris Thomlinson of Deep Green Resistance Hawai’i wrote a review recently of the documentary Open Sesame: The Story of Seeds. He analyzes it from a liberal vs radical perspective, ultimately coming away disappointed that the film didn’t offer anything more than a typical liberal approach to systemic problems of power.
The film shows beautiful time lapse sequences of seeds sprouting and shooting into new life. Even rarer, it shows people feeling very emotional about seeds, displaying extra-human connections we normally only see with domesticated pets, and hinting at the human responsibility of respectful relationship with all beings described by so many indigenous people. The movie highlights great projects from seed schools and the Seed Broadcast truck educating people on why and how to save seed, to William Woys Weaver and others within Seed Savers Exchange doing the on-the-ground work of saving varieties from extinction, to Hudson Valley Seed Library trying to create a viable business as a local organic seed company.
The Deep Green Resistance Youtube Channel has an excellent comparison of Liberal vs Radical ways of analyzing and addressing problems. In short, liberalism focuses on individual mindsets and changing individual attitudes, and thus prioritizes education for achieving social change. Radicalism recognizes that some classes wield more power than others and directly benefit from the oppressions and problems of civilization. Radicalism holds these are not “mistakes” out of which people can be educated; we need to confront and dismantle systems of power, and redistribute that power. Both approaches are necessary: we need to stop the ability of the powerful to destroy the planet, and simultaneously to repair and rebuild local systems. But as a radical environmentalist, I found the exclusively liberal focus of Open Sesame disappointing. There’s nothing inherently wrong with its take on seed sovereignty; the film is good for what it is; and I’m in no way criticizing the interviewees doing such great and important work around seed saving and education. But there are already so many liberal analyses and proposed solutions in the environmental realm that this film’s treatment doesn’t really add anything new to the discussion.
Read the entire review of Open Sesame at the Deep Green Resistance News Service.