Flags remain at half-staff due to the passing of a heroic giant in the march for social justice in the United States of America. John Robert Lewis was the son of sharecroppers who survived a brutal police beating during the landmark 1965 march in Selma, Alabama. He encouraged all Americans to “get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
“He was honored and respected as the conscience of the U.S. Congress and an icon of American history, but we knew him as a loving father and brother. He was a stalwart champion in the on-going struggle to demand respect for the dignity and worth of every human being. He dedicated his entire life to non-violent activism and was an outspoken advocate in the struggle for equal justice in America.”
John Robert Lewis: Conscience of a Nation
“My philosophy is very simple,” Lewis told Harvard graduates and others in the audience in 2018. “When you see something that’s not right, not fair, not just, stand up, say something, and speak out.”
This is how my parents raised my sisters and me. When I was born, my father was on athletic scholarship at the University of Southern Mississippi. Jim Crow was alive. Black athletes couldn’t play for school. This was radically repressive for my parents. My father had served in the war fighting next to Black men. As a youngster in Illinois, he had completed regularly against Black athletes. He saw color. Color of skin mattered not to him.
I grew up during racial strife of the 1960s. Parents were teachers and marched for Civil Rights. They never forget the horrific discrimination they witnessed in Mississippi, and tolerated no racial disharmony in our home or from friends.
My mother taught first grade in a predominantly African American community. She had many poor Black and White students. Yet she committed to reaching Black students, particularly boys. As teachers, my parents didn’t have extra money raising three kids. Yet she always found a way to fill her car’s backseat with milk, cereals and lunch fixing for her hungry students.
She would bring boys home to live with us frequently so she could provide additional tutoring as well as instill discipline. My bedroom was under her workroom in our home. Fell asleep countless nights as she sewed clothes on a second-hand machine she had purchased to make clothes for needy students.
Although she had no specific training, she authored numerous federal grants to launch both Head Start and Follow Through in our district. She believed “reading was fundamental” and that children couldn’t learn with empty bellies. She was and remains my conscience.
Say Something and Speak Out
As a graduate student in the ’90s, provided criminal justice analysis to the state and public health research to the Department of Health. Serving both interests, I directed programs to keep youngsters from initiating smoking, drinking alcohol or engaging in use of illicit substances.
My father served as a school counselor and trained me to work with Behavioral Disadvantaged (BD) youth. I regularly rode with officers in Community Policing programs, and mentored inmates in jails and prisons. Working as a public school Special Ed instructor, I was called to the office one afternoon in late October. My 15-year-old female students was cowered in the corner sobbing uncontrollably.
Jessica was on a “watch list,” as she tried to take her own life the previous year after her parents were killed in a car accident. Fragile, slumped over in a chair, I watched as four male administrators shamed her repeatedly by calling her a “hoe” for holding hands with a senior boy at lunch.
Saw something. Spoke out. After consulting with her female counselor, I filed a grievance with our female principal about the inappropriate treatment. A female district representative spoke with me a couple days later. They fired two weeks later.
In 2010 I entered a specialized national program to battle the opioid epidemic, which was killing over 50,000 Americans annually. Was also the union rep with the state Workers’ Compensation administration. For protecting my female and POC coworkers, the agency stripped one promotion and fired me twice. Saw something. Spoke out.
Had successfully defended my coworkers. Was unable to protect myself. John Lewis had powerful friends. He served 17 terms in Congress. I’m just a Menehune. Harvard President Larry Bacow said:
“Throughout his life, John Lewis challenged us to be our best selves, to recognize the decency and value of every human being. His life reminds us of the power of one human being to change the world.”
Racism in Hawai’i
White people are despised in Hawai’i. I’ve lived in many nations in Latin America where I was the only gringo. Been deep into Mexico and worked around Brown people who wanted little to do with White Americans. My wife is Mexican American.
As a pro athlete, trained in Black-dominated areas of Compton, Inglewood and South Central LA where most White people were not welcomed. Racism in Hawai’i is the most intense I have experienced.
A Honolulu police officer, 44-year-old John Rabago, recently tortured and beat a White homeless man forcing him to lick a public urinal. Reginald Ramones, accompanying HPD officer, did nothing to stop the crime. Rabago initially laughed about the incident and later denied it happened.
“You took from him his only possession: his dignity as a human being.”
U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi to John Rabago
Common bumper sticker in the islands: Aloha Means Hello & Good-bye. No Forget Go Home. When political officials bickered on mainland recently, some suggested AOC and her squad go home. America reeled at this horrendous lack of civility. Such behavior is championed and encouraged here.
Locals rally now to remove statues and monuments related to British Captain Cook. He was the first European to make contact with Polynesian people on Kaua’i January 1778. Killed him on Big Island February 1779.
Asked Malia and friends why they were angry with this British explorer, as American business interests led the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893. “White Supremacy,” they responded. “Plus, he and crew brought disease.”
They forget their history. Kamehameha I, the Great One, revered the British. He considered King George III to be an emperor and wanted to be like him. His flag displays the British Union Jack. But royalty is racism. Monarchs consider their blood better than yours or mine. This is why American founders said, “All men were created equal.”
The Great One procured canons and heavy weapons from the British. He turned these weapons of mass destruction on peaceful Polynesian villages. His fierce warriors pushed opponents off rocky cliffs to their death. Wasn’t the British or Americans who claimed supremacy in the Sandwich Islands. It was a Tahitian.
One story about the Hawaiian flag is the king flew it out of respect for King George III and as a sign of friendship with Britain. During the War of 1812, Americans on the islands were unhappy with such a partisan act. When Kamehameha commissioned a flag for the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1816, the designer incorporated the “Union Jack” and stripes to represent the eight major islands — the flag incorporated elements of both nations.
White Americans living here feel the negative vibes and micro-aggressions. As a group, White people are a minority. The Republican political party remains anemic, as they’re still blamed for the overthrow. Conservatives and Liberals fill the Democrat party.
Asians are the dominate subpopulation with Filipinos (14%), Japanese (14%) and Chinese (5%) making up the cohort. Native Hawaiians (Kanaka) represent about six percent of the total, while Black Americans and Koreans add about two percent each. About 25% here are of mixed race.
Institutional Racism in Hawai’i
The stain of slavery continues to rip our nation apart. Greatest injustice comes from our criminal justice system and the War on Drugs. The nation watched in horror as police drained the life out of George Floyd. We cannot accept the brutal murder and cruel treatment of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African-American EMT.
Police were investigating two men they believed were selling drugs. Drugs! Taylor was shot at least eight times and pronounced dead at the scene. No drugs were found in the apartment.
Portugal and Spain decriminalized ALL illicit substances in 2000. They treat drug abuse as a mental health issue, not a matter for law enforcement. Both nations have been highly successful. Similar to our national failure with COVID-19 disease, America leads the world in number of people killed by police, as well as incarcerated in jails and prisons.
Racially-motivated officials in the 1930s criminalized cannabis to oppress Black and Brown Americans. Although some 33+ states (Hawai’i in 2000), the District of Columbia, and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs legalized the prescribed use of medical cannabis, some 11+ states legalized recreational cannabis, and the U.S. government legalized hemp (cannabis with 0.3% or less THC), Americans are still punished. Why?
Hawaiian Electric stripped me of my dignity after a successful stint with the company due to my medical cannabis prescription, although I never medicated before or during work. HR director called me a danger to the company, coworkers and general public. She had never met me and the 30+ professionals who worked closely with me would not make such a slanderous claim.
Hawaiian Electric’s prestigious lawyers, Susan Li and Thao Tran, questioned my truthfulness, integrity and denied corporate responsibility. Although I have a legal prescription in two states, all claimed I was engaged in “illegal activity.” [see Hawaiian Electric Position Statement, April 12, 2019] It appears the company now blacklists/blackballs me, while Hawaii’s Civil Rights commission cheats me and over 30,000+ suffering patients in the state by blocking my case from moving forward.
“What matters in life is not great deeds, but great love.”
St. Therese of the Little Flower or of the Child Jesus
Hawaiian Electric CEO & President Constance Hee Lau and my U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard refuse to even discuss the matter with me. I’ve served Tulsi since 2014 — most recently during her presidential bid for president. Heroic Civil Rights activist and Congressman Lewis asked Americans when they see something that’s not right, not fair or not just to stand up, say something and speak out. Connie and Tulsi see. They hide and say nothing.
Neither will earn the respect and admiration from America as did John Robert Lewis. Bernard-Henri Lévy says to take pity on the U.S.A. “America was a force on the world. Today? No. The shining city up on a hill is barricaded inside its borders, looking inside of itself, and turning its back to the rest of the world.”
Yes, take pity on the cowards who bask in their arrogance and claims of worldly deeds. They do not best represent America. Thank you for guiding me all these years, Congressman Lewis. No doubt I’ve lived my life “getting in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
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Ko’olau of Kaua’i. I am the Defiant One
“I Believe We Can”