Precarious Performances: The Thirty Meter Telescope and Settler State Policing of Kānaka Maoli

by David Uahikeaikaleiʻohu Maile

Settler states criminalize protectors of Indigenous life, land, and water by labeling them ‘threats of violence.’ But, Indigenous protectors are exposing policing to be a precarious performance of settler sovereignty.

“The state reinforces a system that produces criminals out of those it has dispossessed.” –Macarena Gómez-Barris

The State of Hawaiʻi was founded on land stolen from Kānaka ‘Ōiwi. To be clear, it is a U.S. settler state. It formed initially in the wake of the illegal U.S. overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893. As the Republic of Hawaiʻi, it granted the unlawful annexation of the Hawaiian islands and transferal of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s national lands to the U.S. federal government in 1898. After being the Territory of Hawaiʻi, the U.S. federal government manufactured the “State of Hawai‘i” in 1959 and institutionalized it as the so-called fiftieth state, without consent from Kānaka Maoli. The legal, economic, political, and social processes for settlement of Hawaiʻi are ongoing to this very day. One pivotal way that settlement has continued is through the criminalization of Kānaka ‘Ōiwi. Particularly, the U.S. settler state in Hawai‘i turns Kānaka ‘Ōiwi into criminals to be detained, incarcerated, maimed, removed, murdered, and disappeared. The criminalization of Indigenous people—from Hawai‘i to the Americas, Palestine, and elsewhere—is an eliminatory technique for colonial dispossession. As Kānaka Maoli have been labeled threats of violence to be criminalized for defending our sacred mountain Mauna a Wākea from the Thirty Meter Telescope, water protectors of Mnisose, the Missouri River, have been also as a way to build the Dakota Access Pipeline. Accusations of violence were used to unleash dog attacks, strip search women, bag heads in hoods, rip flesh from bone with water cannons. The assault on Indigenous life, land, and water at Standing Rock clarifies how, as Chickasaw scholar Jodi A. Byrd laments, “in the United States, the Indian is the original enemy combatant.” For legal historian Lisa Ford, the criminalization of Indigenous populations, across Oceania and America, is an original feature of settler sovereignty. She writes, “The exercise of jurisdiction over indigenous crime performs the myth of settler sovereignty over and over.” What Ford refers to as legal myth literary critic Mark Rifkin calls the empty sign of settler sovereignty, which, performed obsessively over and over again, reveals a hollowness in settler state power to be targeted and antagonized.

But how does the state materially reinforce a system that produces criminals out of those it has dispossessed? In this essay, I suggest it is through the management of threats of violence. To support this argument, I explore settler state policing from the vantage of Kanaka Maoli opposition to the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), a development project for the astronomy industry at our sacred mountain Mauna a Wākea on Hawai‘i island. Analyzing three material objects—an emergency rule, bullet hole, and knee—I track how symbolic threats of violence are manufactured to obscure and exact concrete violences. But, what can an administrative law, image of a hole in a door, and body part of a police officer tell us about threats of violence? Indeed, these legal, visual, and fleshy objects are quite revealing. Interrogating discourses mingling through and amongst them, I argue ‘threats of violence’ is a discursive formation produced by the settler state and dispersed through its institutions of media and police. Weaving together scholarship from Critical Police, Hawaiian, and Indigenous Studies, I demonstrate ‘threats of violence’ maintains a dual function. First, suggesting that Kānaka Maoli who defend Mauna a Wākea from the TMT threaten acts of violence, and are violent threats themselves, rationalizes police intervention by the U.S. settler state. In other words, figurative threats of alleged violence from kia‘i, the guardians and protectors of our mountain, condone material violence against them by police. Second, ‘threats of violence’ defers and tries to erase not only the colonial violence animating the U.S. settler state in Hawai‘i, and its deployment of police and their militarized interventions, but also the diversity of violence that TMT does. In what follows, I mine three material objects, offer two interventions, and conclude with one mo‘olelo—a story that lays bare how settler state policing of Kānaka Maoli is a performance of precarity.

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Aggrieved Whiteness: White Identity Politics and Modern American Racial Formation

by Mike King

Recent social psychological research, opinion polls, and political movements, such as the Tea Party and the candidacy and election of Donald Trump, have highlighted an increasingly widespread sentiment among white Americans that they are a structurally oppressed racial group. In spite of persistent socio-cultural and political economic structures of white supremacy, real racial inequalities that serve to privilege rather than oppress white people as a group, a politics of aggrieved whiteness has become increasingly prevalent. Aggrieved whiteness is a white identity politics aimed at maintaining white socio-political hegemony through challenging efforts to combat actual material racial inequality, while supporting heavily racialized investments in policing, prisons, and the military, and positing a narrative of antiwhite racial oppression loosely rooted in an assortment of racialized threats. This political manifestation of white supremacy does not deviate from previous incarnations; it lacks a legitimate grounding in reason and fact, but still produces very real social consequences. This article will sketch how W.E.B. Du Bois’s concept of socio-psychological wages of whiteness, Paula Ioanide’s discussion of modern racial affect, and Wendy Brown’s application of ressentiment to modern political conceptions of identity can help provide a contextualized understanding of aggrieved whiteness and the challenges it poses to pursuits for genuine racial justice.

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All of Durham is a Checkpoint for Black and Brown People

by Durham Beyond Policing

We have been told over and over again that there are “good cops”. Everyday Black people in Durham are targeted by police. Nearly 80% of people held at the Durham County Jail are Black while Durham is only 40% Black. Is that the role of “good cops”? To fill our jails with Black people? Is the role of a “good cop” to disproportionately stop and search Black drivers in Durham? Is the role of a “good cop” to detain and deport family members? Is the role of a “good cop” to murder Black people in Durham without any consequences? Kenny Bailey, Levante Biggs, Frank Clark, these people are not disposable. None of us are disposable.

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Abuse Thrives on Silence: The #VaughnRebellion in Context

– by Kim Wilson –

The #VaughnRebellion cannot be disconnected from the broader struggle against extra-judicial police killings of Black people in the United States. Freedom from abuse from corrections officers and other prison staff is part of the same struggle to end police violence.

The #VaughnRebellion read thusly, is also a direct response to unjust federal policies that are likely to influence the conditions within state prisons in Delaware and around the country. At a time when the federal government has targeted vulnerable groups of people in this country, the #VaughnRebellion should be seen as a signal that solidarity includes solidarity with incarcerated people.

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#ResistCapitalism to #FundBlackFutures: Black Youth, Political Economy, and the 21st Century Black Radical Imagination

– by David C. Turner III –
Critical Black Youth Politics takes all forms of resistance into account, & suggests that riots are just as important for democratic repair as nonviolent civil disobedience. … Black youth are engaging in forms of activism that deeply connect systems of oppression, especially how these systems are monetized, and no singular theoretical analysis can possibly capture all of it. Our youth are giving us new ways to re-imagine and think about the world: it’s about time we pay attention.

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A Failure of Imagination: Donald Trump, the US-Brazil’s White Nationalism and the Need for an African Diasporic Abolitionist Program

– by Jaime Amparo Alves –
Trump’s election, as much as the Brazilian parliamentary coup, are not signals of democracy’s dysfunctionality, but rather quite the contrary. Trumpism is the product of democracy’s vitality, not its bankruptcy. If that is the case, the route to black liberation begins by giving up faith in liberal democracy. The abolitionist praxis would have to be translated into pedagogical strategies in the classroom, in the workplace, and on the streets to demystify the political establishment as inherently anti-black.

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