March 27, 2023
Legacy of Colonialism
A couple of years ago, Alaska and Hawaii held a virtual press conference at the Geneva Press Club to point out the UN's double standard regarding colonialism and the right to self-determination. It stirred up some spirited discussion and resulted a few months later with the Human Rights Council (HRC) passing Resolution HRC 48/7 titled: Negative impact of the legacies of colonialism on the enjoyment of human rights. The resolution calls on all UN bodies and UN member states to bring an end to the remaining vestiges of colonialism. The questions are: Is there the political will to do so? And if so, How to go about ending those vestiges of colonialism?
In the open debate about implementation of Resolution 48/7 this past September, about 80% of the Council members made strong statements decrying colonialism. But not a single suggestion was made on how to end colonialism. They all said it will be a difficult, monumental task, thus rationalizing inaction, when actually, decolonization does not have to be complicated at all.
From 2014–2016 the Decolonization Alliance a group that I chaired in New York, held a series of dialogs to jumpstart the United Nationsʻ decolonization process. Some of those talks were sponsored by the United Methodist Church asking what they could do to initiate acts of repentance to make amends for the damage they caused by their involvement in colonialism.
The Methodist Church is a prominent denomination in Palau so a few days after one of those dialogs, I had a conversation with Ambassador Caleb Otto from Palau and asked him what he would recommend the church could do as an act of repentance for its role in colonialism. Without hesitation, he said, “breastfeeding”. I was taken aback and asked, “what do you mean, breastfeeding”?
Ambassador Otto said that as an act of repentance, the Methodist Churches in Palau could start by encouraging young mothers and mothers-to-be, to breastfeed their babies. He said that the incessant decades-long campaign by milk-producing corporations (from colonizing countries) convinced Palauan mothers that baby formula was much better than breast-feeding. This has ruined the health of generations of formula-fed babies, and consequently ruined the health of his nation.
If the church as an act of repentance was to promote breastfeeding it would immediately improve the health of children of Palau, and eliminate many later-in-life diseases, thus strengthening the nation.
More importantly, it would serve to repudiate other insipid, manipulative colonial lies that were used to intimidate and subjugate people by denigrating their indigenous ways and introducing foreign ways that assert, “our way is much better than your way” and “we have come to free you ignorant savages from your miserable lives”...
What are those lies they propagated? We are lazy. We are stupid. We are inferior. We are incompetent. Our language, culture and traditional ways are antiquated and irrelevant. Over time, this denigration developed into a deep and pervasive lack of confidence in one's very existence, which in turn developed into the “Stockholm Syndrome” where people lose their own identity, values, lifestyle, culture and take on the identity and attributes of their tormentors.
Itʻs not complicated. As we approach the restoration of the Hawaiian Islands as a sovereign state, we need to huli (flip) the American colonial mindset and habits and restore our people's identity, dignity and confidence as Hawaiians in a Hawaiian nation...
Ua mau ke ea o ka ʻāina i ka pono. The sovereignty (life) of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.
For the latest news and developments about our progress at the United Nations in both New York and Geneva, tune in to Free Hawaii News at 6 PM, the first Friday of each month on ʻŌlelo Television, Channel 53.
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