Monday, January 7, 2008

Musings: Opening Doors

Stars! I saw them because they were out, and so was I, this nippy, clear morning, along with Venus, gleaming. The moon, new tomorrow, was nowhere to be seen, but Waialeale, and all the other mountains, showed face, and mist clung damply to the hollows in the pastures.

On my way to the beach yesterday afternoon I picked up an old uncle, hitchhiking, and we got to talking about the fine, sunny weather. “But don’t ever complain about the rain,” he said. “Rain is what keeps us alive. Always be thankful for it, and praise it.” Amen.

Last night, after listening to Willie Judah’s reggae show on KKCR, a couple of programmers came on and started praising the station, describing it as a gem, saying it does so much good for people.

That’s all true. It is an asset to the island, and a lot of folks, me included, do appreciate it and want to keep it alive. I’m sure those who work at the station and have shows take special pride and pleasure in it, and that’s to be expected — indeed, encouraged.

However, the inherent value of KKCR is not at the issue here. It’s about ways to make KKCR better, more inclusive, more reflective of and responsive to the broader community. In short, how can we open doors a little wider?

In response to a post on Disappeared News
about claims of racism at the station, blogger Doug White
posted this comment: “The latest Garden Island News story points out that there is presently no Native Hawaiian presence on the board, but the KKCR bylaws provide no method for dissidents to assume seats on the board except, according to the article, for applicants to win approval from the sitting board members. How likely is that? Well, we won't know until a dissident applies and is (or is not) seated, and remember, even if dissidents were to apply and be seated, it would take several years for the dissidents to become a majority on the board.”

So I did some checking around and found that Michael Locey, son of Auntie Angeline and part-Hawaiian, was an applicant in 2005 and completely rejected, even though he is very well known in the community and could have been an excellent connection with the Hawaiian community.

Musician Cindy Combs, who is also part Hawaiian was a Board member in the early 2000s but resigned. Tek Nickerson, Native American and very experienced in nonprofits, applied to the Board in 2006 and was not voted in.

Steve Thatcher, former chair of the Citizens’ Advisory Board, whom some might consider a dissident voice because he favors more community outreach and membership voting, applied in 2006 and was voted down. Steve did get elected in 2007 but received the one-year unexpired term of Robin Savage, rather than a three-year term.

It’s clear that one reason why the Board has been reluctant to allow station members to elect Board members is that they do not want dissidents of any ethnicity to serve. That's why even the Board's most recent action to allow the members to elect three Board members will be done on a trial basis only. If you want to know more, check out the article I wrote at Kauai People.

Amid talk of racism, I think it’s important to make the distinction between racism and racial prejudice. Katy Rose does a really good job of explaining the difference in an essay posted at Island Breath. It also provides background on what happened to prompt the racism charges against KKCR.

As she notes, and I agree, it’s important to look beyond individuals and at the institution. Still, individuals — whether it was staff members working autonomously or at the direction of the Board — did make the decision to lock the gates, a move that could bring down the station.

Ed Coll posted a well-done video, "KKCR Gated Community Radio," that he made of the Jan. 3 encounter with police on the road to the radio station that ended up with Hale Mawae on the ground in handcuffs. Coll notes: “It is in the old school cinéma vérité (direct cinema) tradition. Audio starts about 30 seconds in. Total time 8min 30 sec.”

The video does a good job of showing that the alleged threat to the station’s security was greatly exaggerated. It also raises questions about whether cops can legally stop someone from walking on Hanalei Plantation Road, which is owned by Princeville Corp., but a public right of way, with no private property signs posted.

The scene of the cops restraining Hale is extremely troubling. Fortunately, no taser was used. Note to self: find out if Kauai cops have tasers.

You might also want to check out some of the comments posted by Patrick Michaels on earlier KKCR posts, as he's provided some interesting information.

I’ll post part five of Lifting the Veil later today. Right now, I’ve got some work to do.


Anonymous said...

write on joan, mahalo for your reflections of what our community radio can be and represent. it is a gem, perhaps a bit tarnished but still precious. thanks for the hsf military work as well

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I agree with the importance of Katy's "distinction between racism and racial prejudice." It seems to me that racial imballance at the station can be addressed without resort to convoluted theories redefining racism. I understand the polemical attraction of it, but I fail to see what purpose it serves if actaul communication is the goal. I mean, the people accused of racism know they are not racists, and so remain unconvinved and annoyed to be so accused. And those of us on the outside looking at the argument are pretty much inured by seeing that particular grenade reflexively lobbed at the first sign of hostilities involving progressives. So we're likely wholly unmoved and remain unconvinced that KKCR is, in fact, racist.

However, pointing out the racial imballance - whatever its source - at the station gives those of us not already in the choir at least some tangible fact to ponder that might motivate us to moving our opinion over to the side that advocates that some change is due.

Joan Conrow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joan Conrow said...

Charley, the very purpose of making that distinction is so the discussion can move beyond accusing people of racial prejudice, which does tend to create defensiveness and separation, and into the broader issue of institutional racism at the station, whether it's being perpetrated consciously or not.

The fact remains that the self-selecting board has not chosen to appoint members who represent the broad ethnic composition of this community, and I think we need to look at why that's happening, regardless of the label used to define it, and change it. Because it does affect outreach, staffing and programming.

Anonymous said...

But the complaints about the station strike me to be, at bottom, about cronyism. Racism *could* be an element of the alleged problem, but that would be determined after a review of who did or didn't do what and why. Resorting first to accusations of racism is speculative and needlessly adds a layer of abstraction to the problem. And it's so blooming typical that it makes potential allies in the wider community yawn and say there they go again.

Anonymous said...

Funny how it just happens to be white people who are "yawning" and feeling antagonistic here.

And of course it's about cronyism -but the funny thing is that all the cronies just so happen to be white!

If white people would stop trying to run away from this issue, it wouldn't keep coming back, and maybe we'd get past it...for now, though, it's not going away.

Anonymous said...

Except that I'm not running away from the issue at all. Or feeling antagonistic. I fully recognize that racism could very well turn out to be at the bottom of some or all of the imballance. It's you who are jumping the gun and trying to cast the terms of the debate as 'racism v. the good guys' because, obviously, it is to your polemical benefit to have the debate cast that way.

Whether the cause of the imballance is racism is a perfectly legitimate subject of inquiry and, in fact, practically raises itself. But starting out the gate with the pronouncement that is IS racism is just a polemical device and nobody who does not already agree with the proposal takes it at face value.

Anyway, that's probably enough from me. Thanks for letting me throw in my 2 cents, Joan. I enjoy your blog.

Anonymous said...

Just to show what an empty statement that was, here's an alternative: But the complaints about the station strike me to be, at bottom, about racism. Croneyism *could* be an element of the alleged problem...

Anonymous said...

(Heya, Watchdog. How's it going?)

Except that polemically you'd much rather argue against opponents who are racists than who are merely cronies. Right? And plus, if you can just define them as racists right from the start, then you don't actually have to do any hard work later proving your contention. It jus IS. Meanwhile, you don't have to show any respect at all to your opponenets or their point of view - because you've already defined them as evil.

Anonymous said...

Okay, it looks like you still haven't figured out that we're talking about institutionalized racism, not individual bigotry. So this is not about pointing fingers at any individual for the sake of browbeating them into submission. We can all easily work toward building a different system that takes out the institutionalized racism. We can't root bigotry out of individuals, or even prove that they possess it. Besides, what good would that do? It's a waste of energy. There is absolutely no reason anyone should feel more defensive about a discussion of institutionalized racism than about a discussion of cronyism.


Anonymous said...

from Andy Parx


People conflate racISM with race bias. I can dislike you because you are Filipino, Japanese or Haole. That is race bias. But when there is a privileged race that oppresses a under or non-privileged race and uses that privilege to perpetuate their privilege to the detriment of the others, that is racISM.

I used to be confused when people said “oh, she can’t be a racist- she’s black”. But I was conflating the terminology of race bias with racism. Race bias is illegal. But racism isn’t and is much more insidious. It has to be judged by the fruits of it.

If someone hates people who are bald that is different than living in a society where hairy people get all the jobs and routinely oppress bald people who earn less money, go to worse schools and live in a worse places and are viewed as suspicious by the cops because they are bald. The former have a bias against bald people. the latter would be practicing hairISM.

To say, like Dave Gerow said on KKCR last Thursday, “there’s not a racist bone in anyone’s body at KKCR” misses the point and confuses the definitions. I don’t doubt that Dave personally doesn’t dislike Hawaiians or Jews or blacks. But he does perpetuate a system at KKCR where being white is a privilege and that has routinely been used to silence the voice of at least one specific Hawaiian activist because of her speech and her daring to oppose that white privileged power structure that routinely- whether on the conscious part of any individual or not- oppresses Hawaiians by denying them access to the air.

That is an “ism” just like “cronyism” but when judged by the visible and indisputable fruits- that brown people are routinely denied access by privileged withes- that is racism by definition.

The old term of “institutionalized” racism is redundant and used to deny responsibility by those practicing racism by perpetuating and participating in it. Racism is an act by a privileged class of people of one color to maintain that privilege whether they do it out of hate or ignorance. One practices it by being a member of that class and more so by defending it as “only” institutional. But on that level it is a personal decision whether or not to recognize all this and continue to participate instead of thinking because one has no race bias one can’t possibly practice racism

So denying it exists is worse than the racism itself. It’s the old “I can’t be a racist- some of my best friends are...” Maybe you don’t know how that feels to an oppressed non-privileged person. Maybe I don’t either because I’m a privileged haole. But I do know it means something to those who see it from that position.

Something to consider about race and “isms”....

Anonymous said...

I have figured that out. But you're still just arbitrarily attaching the label 'racist' to a fact pattern that might or might not be racism.

It's fine to discuss whether KCCR is racist. But you want to start with the premise that it IS racist. You are arbitrarily defining a racial imbalance as racism. But even statistically random methods of choosing COULD result in such imbalance. So obviously the mere fact of an imbalance doesn't prove racism.

I don't object to anyone's discussing the racial ramifications of the situation. I'm just pointing out the intellectual vapidity of arbitrarily insisting that ones conclusions are premises to any discussion of the issue.

Anonymous said...

I was responding to Katy. Andy got one in there in the interim.

Anonymous said...

But it's not aribtrary. Compare the demographics of Kaua'i as a whole to the demographics of KKCR. (Somebody probably has those numbers handy; I just heard them the other day.) What are the chances that this is just a fluke? We are talking about a very specific institution in a very specific place, and drawing conclusions based on observations of a concrete reality. In fact, it's much easier to find evidence of racism here than cronyism!

Anonymous said...

You are arbitrarily defining a racial imbalance at the station as racism when, if fact, a racial imbalance might have many reasons or causes that have nothing to do with racism.

That's not to say that a racial imbalance is benign or not a problem or is therefore justified.

But I don't see how insisiting that it be called racism gets anyone closer to the goal of addresing the complaint - which, I take it, is the procedure that results in the complained of imbalance.

Anonymous said...

We'll have agree to disagree here.

Anonymous said...

I can go along with that (agreeing to disagree). My only point really is that people like me who are interested in the issue but not particularly credulous toward either side's unsupported assertions will need more than conclusory accusations to be convinced. But it's entirely possible that your accusations aren't even intended to persuade people like me, in which case I'm just wasting your time.

Anonymous said...

So we have a fact: current board membership and/or radio on-air staff doesn't reflect the general demographic proportions of the community it broadcasts to.

Beyond that, we have no facts, only suppositions of racism or cronyism.

Another fact should be present at this time: what do the governing docs which define how the station should operate state? Do they mandate BOD/staff appointments in approximate demographic ratios? Does the govn't require it?

Absent any rules or guidelines to this effect, management is operating "legally" and opponents have no leg to stand on other than some boycotting.

Personally, if external rules didn't force me to do it, I as management wouldn't want radical dissidents on my BOD. They could be staff, but only tightly controlled.

And that has nothing to do with racism. I don't care what race you are as long as you arn't a radical dissident.

Oh, and you would have to love the HSF.

Anonymous said...

J. Jay (saddled with that nickname since kid days, I'm sure) listed an intersting "diversity" fact in today's IalandBreath.

Relative to county diversity in the whole nation: #1 Hawaii; #3 Maui; #4 Kauai; #9 Honolulu.

So, why isn't increased diversity alone a causal factor for increased "radical activism" (which may be an oxymoron)?

Now my less-than-totally-informed opinion: on a "beat the drum loud-and-proud activism" scale by county just within the state of Hawaii: #1 Kauai; #2 Maui; #3 Honolulu; #4 Hawaii.

Size from small to large: #1 Kauai; #2, Maui; #3 Honolulu; #4 Hawaii. I may be wrong about #2 & #3.

I didn't look up population density stuff like avg residents/sq mi.

Then there's the "pioneer/mountain man" syndrome: for 200 years "loners" and dissenters have moved migrated west to less dense areas. Kauai is as west as you can go.

In Hawaii County, Puna District and the upper reaches of HOVE (Hawaiian Ocean View Estates in Ka'u District) draws such ones. Both are becomming more populated with "typical" people, driving the "untpyical" ones out. Where, I wonder?

So, I still stand by my "small island" hypothesis relative to this state.

There's at least a master's thesis topic in this for any UH sociology listeners out there.

Anonymous said...

(from Andy Parx

Charlie- again you’re missing the point. The racISM isn’t dependant on the existence or lack of existence of race bias. We can’t prove race bias and whether or not we can prove it is not relevant. When we judge whether racISM exists we need look only at the fruits of it and the way it has played out and what exists in reality at the moment.

The lack of diversity in staff, board, volunteers and so on air is racist by definition, especially in view of the race demographics of Kaua`i. I am not saying it exists because people are biased against any racial group but because of the visible indisputable structure that exists perpetuates the disparity and is done in the favor of the privileged class exercising that privilege, whether they are doing it for reasons of race bias or any other self-perceived reason.

It has nothing to do with why the disparity exists but that it does and perpetuates itself in favor of the privileged and against those not privileged

And just because one says “I treat everyone like that” doesn’t mean the treatment isn’t racist in its existence if not in it’s intent.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking the time Andy.

I don't think I'm missing the point. I understand that you are asserting that racial imbalance (at least an imbalance running in favor of a privileged class)no matter what its cause is by definition racism.

But I think that is an absurdity that sucks the meaning out of the term racism.

Suppose that KKCR chooses directors randomly from the population at large by lottery. Given the vagaries of statistical randomness, the board will often not look like the population from which it comes. And some years there will be quite pronounced disparities.

Under your definition, KKCR would be racist during those years of racial imbalance, but would not be racist during those years the flip of the coin has better reflected the racial makeup of the population.

Obviously that definition renders the term racism meaningless. It waters down the meaning of racism. Racism now means "racial inbalance." But we already have a term for racial imbalance. Racial imbalance is already a phenomenon we can observe and decide whether in a given context it is or is not a problem and what we ought or ought not do about it. Calling it "racism" is just a way of skewing that debate.

I would expect someone at this point to object that this situation is different because KKRC does not select directors randomly, that people are purposefully making staffing decisions, and that the racial disparity has been in place for some time.

And those would be good points - for arguing that the imbalance at KKCR is racist. But making those points concedes that mere racial imbalance alone is not by definition racism. Imbalance might serve as good evidence of racism, but it is not by definition racism. Something more is needed to establish that the racial imbalance amounts to racism.

Anonymous said...

some considerations:
the obvious racial imbalance at KKCR; why is it so? is it acceptable? is it an issue to those who support KKCR, its management and board?
when one programmer is removed form the booth is it such a big deal, given the racial imbalance, would it matter more or less if the programmer was white or non white?
do the issues raised by the recent controversy surface because we have not learned how to behave or interact with each other or is because there is a sense that an unjust act has been repeated over and over again?(the overthrow of the queen, the overthrow of the radio and the kekahu foundation, the overthrow of three activist loudmouths who didn't toe the company line). the fact remains that three programmers stepped out of line and face consequences. the other fact and this is even more glaring is that the managemnt of KKCR has handled this affair rather poorly. surely we can agree on this?

Anonymous said...

From Katy Rose:
Can those who keep repeating this idea that three of us programmers "stepped out of line" PLEASE be specific about what we did, EXACTLY? The vagueness is rather maddening.

For example, Jimmy and I have NOT been told why our program was pre-empted. Is it because we broke the "dirty laundry" code( NOT an FCC violation, by the way)? That's funny, because in the week since we were "pre-empted" I have heard two call-in shows discussing exactly the same issue we opened up on the program we hosted on Dec. 20, but the hosts of those shows are okay because they support management's actions. It's even more bizarre when you consider that the hosts of those programs participated in the generation of much misinformation about recent events, as well as airing verbal threats and disrespect for other programmers and community members.

It is also being said that Ka'iulani has a "history" of FCC violations. Evidence, please. None of the current backloaded accusations against Ka'iulani have anything to do with the reasons given for her termination in the email she originally received. She can't be fired twice, for all this other unproven stuff now "after the fact" in order to justify her original firing, which is now being called a suspension, by the way.

I am disappointed by the lack of grounding in the facts of the case here. It seems designed to avoid an honest examination of the structural issues many of us are raising.

Anonymous said...

from Melissa....
it would seem that it would be easy to figure out the odds that an all-white board would "randomly" happen in a community that is 80% non-white (I think that I read that right).

I'm not good at statistics, so I differ to someone that is, but isn't it:

(.20) to the nth power

where n is the # of board seats. So if there are eight board seats for the example, the odds that an all-white board would result (as an expected variation, e.g., by random chance) is:

2.6 chances in a million?

possible, but highly unlikely. maybe the math's wrong, but you catch my drift.