|Articles, History, Media Archive, Oceania, United States on 2014-06-04 19:22Z by Steven|
Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society
June 2014 (2014-06-02)
Maile Arvin, University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow
University of California, Santa Cruz
I confess: I avoided watching the 2011 Oscar award-winning movie The Descendants (directed by the acclaimed Alexander Payne of Sideways and Nebraska, starring George Clooney) for a long time. I had read the book of the same name, by Kaui Hart Hemmings, on which the movie is based. I have complicated feelings about the book—a witty and often wrenching portrayal of a rich Native Hawaiian family that doesn’t seem to feel, look, or know much about being Native Hawaiian. Though I recognize such struggles, about feeling or being disconnected from your own culture and nation, as a very Native story (or perhaps, more precisely, as the story of settler colonialism), I don’t recognize the ending of Hemmings’ story. After much turmoil, the protagonist of her novel decides not to sell the land he has inherited from his family. It is hard to connect with the rich protagonists of Hemmings’ novel because I don’t know any Native Hawaiians who have land to be inherited. I don’t know any Native Hawaiians who frequent yacht clubs. And I don’t know any Native Hawaiians who seem so completely unaware of the truly amazing achievements of recent cultural revitalization efforts in the Native Hawaiian community—from language revitalization to traditional seafaring (our beloved Hōkūleʻa has set sail on a round-the-world voyage this past week). But, to each her own, I thought.
When I did finally watch the movie, despite the fact that I knew the story, despite the fact that I spend most of my time writing, researching and thinking about whiteness and settler colonialism in the Pacific, and despite the fact that I attended (for a time) the very same, very white-dominated private high school in Honolulu that Hemmings (and, incidentally, President Obama) attended, I was stunned. In the film, the residents of Hawaiʻi are shown to be, almost entirely, white people…
…Another way that settler colonialism and white supremacy buttress each other, but are not exactly the same, is that “racial mixture” is encouraged under settler colonialism, in order to make Indigenous peoples, and their particular claims to land, less distinct from settlers. Any kind of “mixture” allows Indigenous peoples to be seen as less “authentic,” as “dying out.” However, the goal of settler colonialism is to mix the population in such a way that it is closer in proximity to whiteness. These ideologies filter down into Indigenous communities in subtle and sometimes surprising ways. For example, many Native Hawaiians are multiracial, and are widely accepted within Native Hawaiian communities if their “racial mix” includes white or Asian. Being Native Hawaiian and black, however, is often less embraced, less recognizable, and less valorized…
Read the entire article here.