Saturday, January 31, 2009

KPD Blue- Chapter 26: What Boddah You?

KPD Blue

By Anthony Sommer

(Note: Today’s post marks the last regular chapter in our serialization of KPD Blue.

Over the next three weeks we will post three addenda from the book-
1) Regarding Sources,
2) About the Author and
3) An extensive Index

We’d like to thank author Anthony Sommer for allowing us to serialize his tome and for writing the book in the first place.

We ask those who have read the book here to also
buy a copy through and support the author’s efforts to open the eyes of the people of Kaua`i with the “real” story regarding events- as opposed to the “spin” put on them by the local press and county officials at the time

We serialized KPD Blue in hopes that the disinfectant of sunshine would cause some changes in the way the political powers that be conduct the people’s business.

Although some have decided to instead blame the messenger we would do it again any time- and we’re sure Sommer feels the same way.

We’d like to thank the many people who lived the nightmares described in the book and hope that in the long run their battles- whether winning or losing- were not fought in vain.

The book has been a bombshell in the community and an eye-opener for all who read it. Its factual content is, overall, irrefutably accurate. Its characterizations and opinions have spurred island-wide dialogue regarding racism and other biases in both the Kaua`i Police Department and county government- especially in employment.

We also hope the book serves as a vindication of Chief’s KC Lum and George Freitas.

We will continue to follow the story of the current
FBI investigation into matters raised by Sommer as more facts become available.

Andy Parx,
Parx News Net)

Chapter 26: What Boddah You?

“What boddah you?” is a Hawaii Pidgin expression meaning, literally, “What is bothering you?” or “What is your problem?” or “What are you upset about?”

“It’s the United States, but it’s not America,” a former newspaper editor on Kauai is fond of saying.

Another veteran Kauai journalist puts it this way: “Kauai is like the Wild, Wild West. The Constitution and the laws only apply here when it’s convenient. Otherwise, they make it up as they go along.”

Kauai lies 100 miles to the northwest of and 100 years behind the rest of the 50th state. Kauai is the most remote and the least developed (in every way) of the main Hawaiian Islands.

Look up the word “insular” in the dictionary and there is Kauai: 1) Suggestive of the isolated life of an island. 2) Circumscribed and detached in outlook and experience; narrow or provincial (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Tourists like to pretend they “discover” Kauai: Rural and quaint and, of course, stunningly beautiful. They take home pretty pictures.

Visiting Kauai is like dining at a fine restaurant. The ambience is superb. The food tastes delicious.

But, unless the yelling is especially loud that evening, tourists never would guess at the mayhem going on back in the kitchen.

Bigotry and racism, of course, exist throughout the United States and the world. What makes Kauai particularly unique is that racism, sexism and bigotry are ignored, indeed applauded, both officially and as a cultural norm.

Discrimination on Kauai is exactly the opposite of the racism found on the mainland. On Kauai, brown-skinned people are the majority and (for now, but not for much longer) whites are the minority.

Racism in any form is just as ugly.

Discrimination never is discussed on Kauai. It never is written about. No one wants to admit it exists.

In the recorded history of Kauai, no county employee ever has been disciplined for making racist comments or showing favoritism to locals with brown skin while discriminating against haoles with white skin.

To the contrary, discrimination and bigotry are rewarded in Kauai County government. Racism is what keeps Kauai’s politicians in office.

Consider this:

The overall labor force on Kauai is 40 percent white but only 8 percent of the employees in Kauai County government are Caucasian.

A visitor can walk around the Kauai County Building all day without seeing a white face.

Much more important: It is equally true that 60 percent of Kauai voters are local (meaning native Hawaiians and descendants of sugar workers, almost all with brown skin), not white.

And local—not white—approval is what Kauai’s politicians seek because, after all, the majority rules. So the government jobs all go to locals, and they and their families and friends and neighbors all remember that on Election Day.

What politics really is all about, always and everywhere, is power. The key to winning an election—and thus power— on Kauai is pandering to local voters and their dislike and distrust of outsiders.

That is the context in which the KPD exists. The police—a club that on Kauai is almost exclusively local and almost exclusively male—are both a creation and a reflection of both the government and the island’s society.

The KPD is run by and for locals. A haole police chief attempting to diversify the department is almost certain to run afoul of the local majority, and thus be opposed by politicians.

The inevitable result is a racist police department with a stamp of approval from Kauai County.

Government sponsored and approved racial discrimination is particularly hideous when it exists in the police department.

The KPD is the only county agency with the power to use deadly force, the power to incarcerate, and, especially, the power to intimidate.

The police also have the power to “look the other way” when a friend or relative is breaking the law. And, on Kauai, they often do.

Kauai County government operates outside the normal checks and balances designed into American democracy.

There is no friction and no separation of powers between the executive and legislative and judicial branches of government. Everything is agreed on in illegal secret meetings. And the court on Kauai approves.

Even the press, the Fourth Estate, doesn’t question. It serves as a lap dog rather than a watch dog. If there is a helicopter crash or a shark bite or a bursting dam, Honolulu reporters and photographers descend on Kauai in great herds. No expenses are spared to cover tragedy and

But coverage of social issues is considered “boring.” It doesn’t sell newspapers (at least in the minds of publishers, none of whom ever have worked a day in a newsroom).

And that is where the Hawaii press abdicates its most important role in a democratic society.

Kauai is the extreme example of a part of Hawaii stuck in the plantation past. It deserves inquiry.

Racial and ethnic conflict between locals and haoles is the single most dominant theme of life on Kauai, which is the furthest away, both geographically and socially, from the mainland United States.

In Asian-Pacific Islander culture, which dominates Kauai, the blade of grass that sticks up is cut off; the nail that sticks out is pounded in. Public acknowledgement of good deeds is just as bad as accusing a person of an evil act.

Asians and Pacific Islanders are much more likely to embrace leaders who are despots (as long as they remain reasonably benign).

If the island’s political leaders (and its courts) can choose which laws to obey and which laws to ignore, there really is no cultural conflict in the minds of Kauai locals. It’s perfectly acceptable. It’s what’s expected of the royalty (or alii, as the ruling class is called in Hawaii): They are free to make their own rules, at least up to a point..

It’s democracy that’s the stranger on Kauai. It’s the haoles, the outsiders and activists and protestors who deviate from the Kauai norm.

“The haoles never stay very long,” former Kauai Mayor Maryanne Kusaka is fond of pointing out, as though it is a criticism of white people. She openly advises employers on Kauai not to hire haoles and choose locals instead.

In fact, she should be asking why so many haoles— especially those with school-age children—leave Kauai. Maybe the answer lies in the way Kauai’s locals treat the haoles.

“Kill Haole Day” has been outlawed in the public schools, officially at least, but the brown kids beat up the white kids on a regular basis and the KPD officers assigned to the schools conveniently look the other way. So the white parents pack up their children and move to the mainland where the schools are both better and safer.

Maybe the Kauai government should set the example for tolerance and sensitivity and inclusion—but it doesn’t.

Bad government, bad schools and no opportunities (beyond making hotel beds and cutting resort lawns) result in what is called throughout Hawaii “The Brain Drain”:

The best and the brightest of Kauai’s children flee the island for better opportunities in Honolulu or the mainland as soon as they can.

Those left behind suffer from a massive inferiority complex. Kauai locals feel disempowered when they deal with the ever-increasing number of whites buying property and developing subdivisions and condos for even more whites. There is an anger born of past injustices (mostly real and mostly by whites).

Locals on Kauai are terrified of change and the very traditional island rapidly is morphing into something they don’t want: Becoming another Maui, over-commercialized and controlled by outside interests.

But that’s the way the haole developers and their local token hirelings are pointing them. The local officials gladly cozy up to the developers in hopes of payoffs, much like the Hawaiian royalty sold their kingdom to outsiders two centuries ago.

Local culture becomes dysfunctional is when it is layered on democracy. It’s just not a good fit, largely because the democracy never operates with all of the checks and balances it’s supposed to have.

Locals show great deference to authority and never openly challenge it. It is not in their cultural heritage and in a place as isolated as Kauai, their assimilation into the American mainstream has been painfully slow.

Kauai is one of very few places in the United States where the citizens—with good reason—fear their government:

Retaliation is essential for the government to keep the peasants in line.

The vast majority of Kauai’s locals want to go through life unnoticed. Certainly they would never speak up to defy authority.

It’s called “humility” but, in reality, it’s an attempt at hiding, as anonymously as possible, within the herd, the flock or the pack.

The island is remote and ignored, especially by the Honolulu news media and state and federal prosecutors, which should be paying more attention because Kauai is unique in all the wrong ways and thus worthy of at least some minimal attention.

The overall culture in Kauai County government and at the KPD is racist and sexist and corrupt. And the local politicians keep it that way.

And the local voters keep returning the same politicians to office.

1 comment:

Katy said...

It's no secret that I think Sommer approaches questions of race and racism froma skewed and decontextualized perspective. I'm disappointed that more of the haole progressives who have embraced his book haven't criticized the thinly-veiled insults to peoples of Asian and Hawaiian ancestry.

Sommer's narrative of "white suffering" strikes me as dangerously disingenous.

I have written about this on my blog: