Our commitment to racial justice

June 2, 2020

By now, you’ve seen the fight for racial justice across the country. At HCAN, we remember the names of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, and we stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Race is an uncomfortable topic in Hawaiʻi. We proudly and rightfully celebrate our diversity, but disparities and discrimination still run rampant, starting from our white colonial history. Today in Hawaiʻi, black and brown children and families are subjected to violence and systemic racism, from maternal health to the child welfare system to the suspension and expulsion of students. Even during COVID-19, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are at a disproportionate risk of contracting the disease.

Despite knowing this, many of us in Hawaiʻi, HCAN included, are accustomed to speaking in broader terms, like “inequality” and “inequity.” Although these terms are true, they are often insufficient in explaining the reason things are the way they are. This reluctance doesn’t stem from an inadequate desire to speak truth to power. Rather, we think it reflects the lack of an honest community conversation that too many of us have been hesitant to start.

At HCAN, we’re open to feedback about how we can better center racial justice, but we’re also committing ourselves to grapple with this question internally. We’re starting by re-reading about the history and context of black people in Hawaiʻi (mahalo, Pōpolo Project), prejudice toward Micronesians, and the complexities of race in our state. If you’d like to speak up, we’re listening — just email us at info@hawaii-can.org or leave an anonymous comment.

When Martin Luther King, Jr. visited Hawaiʻi in 1959, he told the Legislature that “we have a long, long way to go.” When he spoke to UH in 1964, he “called on Hawaiians to volunteer to go to the South this summer to help work for civil rights.” Sixty-one years later, we’re recommitting ourselves to this fight to dismantle systems of racial oppression in our islands and beyond — and we hope you join us.

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