I am writing this letter in support of the YWCA of Kaua‘i’s Stand against Racism Hawai‘i Challenge addressing the importance of exercising criticality about social constructs that impact our lived realities such as race and gender. I write this as a wahine who is born and raised on Kaua‘i, whose passion is giving back to her community, and who recently graduated with a Ph.D. in Educational administration and Policy with a scholarly specialty in critical race and gender studies and Indigenous epistemologies.
Critical Race Theory (CRT) developed out of critical legal scholarship in the 1970s as a response to racism in the U.S. legal system. CRT has since been expanded across disciplines and asserts that racism is endemic to society. CRT responds in opposition to the structural inequities created by systems that place Eurocentric ways of being, relating, and understanding above that of people of color. CRT has adapted over the years to focus on the specific needs of various communities. Kanaka ‘Oiwi Crit, for example, is a branch of CRT that is responsive to the unique positioning of Native Hawaiians within macro-level systems of power.
Although CRT is not a new theory, it has recently been under fire in United States public educational policy. CRT being placed at the center of controversy about what to teach and not teach our children in public schools is a direct reflection of unsolved tensions we have with our own history and each other as racialized humans existing in this space and time. CRT being taught in our public schools can most simply look like providing an accurate recounting of history and what can be done to move forward with a sense of balance through healing of the past.
For example, in Hawai‘i this can look like teaching youth (and all people) that the introduction of Missionaries to Hawai‘i in 1820 helped to shift Hawai‘i into a capitalistic way of valuing ‘aina and labor that set the foundation early on for our economic conditions of today. In practice, this can look like bringing keiki to malama ‘aina at a conservation-based nonprofit and intentionally tying this behavior into why it is important that they do this work beyond that it is “good” (i.e., because our land has been hurt by the introduction of invasive species and it is our kuleana to help the ‘aina heal so we can continue living here in a healthy way).
One of the best ways to learn more about CRT, especially if you are experiencing feelings of confusion or frustration surrounding it, is to look to credible sources in educating yourself more about CRT (i.e., not from mainstream media outlets or social media), engaging in critical discussions about race and gender with those who are different than yourself, and challenging yourself to engage in this topic with a sense of openness to unlearning and relearning our history as it impacts our present from a place of empathy and respect.
Discomfort in education can mean that we are fortunate enough to be in a critical space of learning; that our consciousness is about to crack open and sprout new knowledge that can help us relate to each other as humans in a more aligned way that can hopefully lead to racially/ethnically diverse communities (such as Kaua‘i) collectively addressing the inequities and misjustices of our current reality for our next generations.
YWCA of Kaua‘i is an organization that acts upon their mission of eliminating racism and sexism in our community and I encourage everyone to fully utilize the Stand against Racism Hawai‘i Challenge as an opportunity to strengthen themselves in this topic in order to strengthen our community.
Nikki Cristobal, Ph.D. is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the nonprofit, Kamawaelualani Corp.
Source: The Garden Island