Monday, January 28, 2008

Musings: Stormy Weather

The moon, just a hair more than half full, guided Koko and me on our nippy 5 a.m. walk this morning, but brisk winds soon blew in thick, gray clouds that made for a wet, chilly dawn.

Those same strong winds have also whipped up the seas, prompting Hawaii Superferry to cancel voyages yesterday and today, and tomorrow’s service — to use the word loosely — is also in doubt. So that means anyone who took the boat to Maui on Saturday is stranded on the Valley Island. Do you suppose that unreliability might have anything to do with the vessel’s steadily dwindling passenger load?

I keep wondering when all those gung ho Oahu residents are going to put their money and barf bags where their mouths are; after all, they were the ones clamoring for a service RIGHT NOW that they’re obviously not using.

Meanwhile, the Star-Bulletin, apparently operating under the premise of better stale than never, today picked up the KKCR institutional racism story.

It’s fascinating to see little bits of the story, which are slightly different each time, come out in the press. For instance, this one has station manager Gwen Palagi saying there was no reason to hear suspended programmer Kaiulani Huff’s side of the story because her argument with fellow programmer Noel Brooks was broadcast and recorded.

Huh? What about the charge that she was abusing station equipment by throwing headphones? That couldn’t possibly have been recorded. And Gwen, I know you admitted human relations are not your forte, but each person should have a chance to tell his or her side of the story in a personnel dispute.

Jimmy Trujillo, who was also suspended, along with Katy Rose, for discussing the situation on air, noted in the article that “only a few voices are being heard on KKCR.”

And gee, they just happen to be white, middle-aged male voices. But no, there’s no institutional racism at the station.

The article concludes with Gwen repeating the fiction of KKCR as "a community. We are a community radio station."

She still doesn’t seem to get the real problem here, which is that KKCR does not fully represent the cultural and ethnic diversity of this island. It is entirely staffed by white people, and white people make up the overwhelming preponderance of its programmers.

This is not to say that those individuals are racists.

But anyone with any sense of island culture knows that local people are not going to participate in any numbers in an organization they perceive as being predominantly haole — and North Shore haole at that.

That’s the reality here. Call it good or bad or whatevahs, it’s still the reality.

And until the KKCR board, staff and overly defensive programmers get that into their noggins and take steps to change it — and those steps are actively recruiting locals and making them feel welcome so they bring in some of their friends and so on — it ain’t gonna be a community radio station.

Or at least not a radio station that moves beyond the haole community in any significant way.


Anonymous said...

There are a couple of innaccuracies in the Star-Bulletin article. One is the claim that Ka'iu's
dispute w/ Noel was broadcast on the air. Does anybody know anything about this?
From what I recall, the only thing that was "broadcast" was a remark during
Ka'iu's program (after Noel had left the studio) that went something like
"Sorry I'm getting a late start but some people just like the sound of
their own voices so much that they won't get out of their seats on time."
(Ka'iulani acknowledges that this remark was "unprofessional," though
it certainly wasn't a terminating offense and hardly an FCC violation or isolated
occurrence in KKCR history.) But was the mic actually on when Ka'iu and Noel
were arguing? I would really like to know.

Also, there is a reference to a decision to go to a member-elected board. As we
know, there was a decision to allow one board seat only to be elected by membership,
on an experimental basis. This is not enough.

And of course there is a down-playing by Gwen and Noel of the role of racism in
this issue. Again, as we have pointed out, whether or not individuals have explicitly
bigoted views is beside the point. The question is whether or not actions taken
uphold a systematic white supremacy model at the station.(By the way, I'm not talking about the Hollywood, white-sheet version of white supremacy, but the everyday assumption that white people are more important, intelligent, responsible, etc, combined with white domination of resources and institutions.) Terminating a rare Hawaiian
voice from the air, along with the programmers who spoke up about racial justice,
are actions which contribute to the deeper systemic problem.

Thanks, Ka'iu and Jimmy, for trying to keep the focus where it belongs in your

It is important that people understand that we are not content to let the board
and station management figure out which moves to make on their own. Historically
they have failed to address the problems and it is up to us as a community to demonstrate
which way we need to go, and to bring adequate pressure to bear in order to ensure
that these changes are made.


Andy Parx said...

Phil Ochs had a wonderful song called Love Me Love Me, I’m a Liberal

KKCR is actually almost an archetype of all these organizations that self professed “progressive” whites form under a common mindset . First we establish them around our mindset and then go looking for "diversity".

Why? Certainly not for their thoughts that disagree with ours. So what’s left is to justify the rules we set up based on our mind-set and "prove" to the world that we- and the organization by extension- aren't racist. We hope to be able to say "some of my (organization's) best friends are (fill in the un-privileged minority)". We don't want to have these "diverse" people change the organization to their world view but to have them adopt our paradigms.

KKCR is one of many groups I work with that are going through this. I'm having the same conversations in organizations from the national one I work for daily, down to the newest group of haoles trying to change local politics.

The problem is that we whites want people of color involved in our project but won’t actually give over governance and intent of our project to the "diversity" we seek. We want all the color without the content. That’s a dictionary definition of tokenism.

And then we wonder why our institutions are not representative of diversity even though we asked.

It doesn’t mater if our institutions constructed under a white-privilege rubric have people of color even in the majority if they are there because they are good little coconuts, Oreos, apples or bananas.

Andy Parx

Anonymous said...

Who is qualified to pass judgment on who is a good little coconut and who is an authentic diverse person?

Does a person become a good little coconut by failing to conform to what a particular white mindset believes is the proper attitude and beliefs of an authentic diverse person?

If I was a non-white and some white guy was calling me a coconut because I didn't conform to his preconception of how I ought to behave, I'd be righeously annoyed.

Anonymous said...

I see Charley's point, but I think they real issue is the question of who gets to make the decisions, define the terms, set the agenda. If that privilege is left to "the powers that be," then what we are perpetuating is tokenism, rather than really dismantling white privilege.

(I personally don't feel comfortable using terms like "coconut." Oppressed people have developed thses terms for describing a particular dynamic, and Andy probably has a good reason for using them, but I think there is validity to pointing out that it can be harmful for white people to throw terms like that around.)

Anonymous said...

That last anonymous comment was from me.

Andy Parx said...

I was using the terms as the members of those “core” groups have and do. But based on his writings I wouldn't expect Charley to get anything about the issue and rather seize on his own equivocation of the misinterpreted subtlety. There a difference between using a term and pointing out the existence of the phenomenon depicted in the characterizations.

I don’t expect a vanilla-dipped snowball to get it- am I “allowed” to use that characterization Charley?

Anonymous said...

I'm familiar with the use of such terms by group members. My step mother is a Cherokee and she is the head administrator of a hospital of another, different, tribe/nation. Some in the community call her an "apple," not, apparently for any political deficiencies, but because she went to college and chose a "white" path for herself.

I don't see any diffence no matter who's calling the names - whether it's whites or natives. In both cases it's people denigrating an individual for failing to behave as the people think the individual ought to behave. And to me that's total arrogant bullshit.

But, yes, Andy, you can call me vanilla dipped if you like. I actally have no problem with it.

Larry said...

It would be interesting to get around the issue of names. Not that it's unimportant. I just think that what Katy has been talking about is closer to core issues at KKCR and, in fact, is generally applicable.

Over here on Oahu we don't have KKCR but we do have HPR. HPR used to have a program around Native Hawaiian and even sovereignty issues. But no longer. If the same magnifying glass were used to inspect many of our radio and television stations, I'll bet it could become an interesting conversation indeed.

I suppose it's different for KHON, for example, which is a for-profit TV station. But whan an organization claims to be "community" or however they phrase it, using the term is either an empty throwaway or else it comes with some responsibility to live up to what the group is calling itself. At least, others may hold them to their own definitions.

I keep thinking back to WBAI in New York. It was always catching it from all sides. I have no doubt that the pummelling (and a major rebellion) brought them to where they are today, with something like 32 local producers and member-elected boards.

I'm on the wrong island to suggest anything about KKCR, but I suspect the discussion now underway is the tip of an iceberg that extends to every island. I'm watching this in part because I'm wondering if we should be looking at our own public or community facilities here as well.

Joan Conrow said...

Larry, as far as I'm concerned you have every right to make comments/suggestions about KKCR. It does broadcast to Oahu, and even if it didn't, it's supported in part by federal money. You make an excellent point about all the other media in the state, and who is in the power structure in those organizations. And those in charge do influence what message goes out, and how, as well as who is hired to report it.

Anonymous said...

second that emotion! chime in larry; the more the merrier. this is, obviously bigger than KKCR and was one of the reasons Katy and I felt compelled to 'go' with Ka'iulani's story.
the opportunities to bring these subjects up are few and far between, chiefly because of the 'power' dynamics and the lack of stomach for many to confront the 'bias' that we all hold.
here in hawaii nei the dynamics are even more confusing because of the multicultural makeup but it does all come down to maintaining POWER and the status quo.
attempting to engage in a non threatening way is a challenge. confronting the 'isms' perpetuated by one's self and others is never easy, especially when someone is pointing fingers or calling you names but attempting to understand it may yield great rewards if one is so inclined. peace,....jimmy t

Anonymous said...

Lately I have been paying more attention to the struggles KPFA goes through in order to remain vibrant and relevant to the community.

KPFA's move toward greater participation by the community has brought complications. But as far as I can tell, it has been worth it. I applaud their willingness to consistently challenge themselves and do the really hard work of being a true community institution.

Another thing I like is that so much of the conflict at KKCR is regularly on display for the community to examine. Once a month or so, they air lively and contentious "Reports to the Listeners." The local papers run pieces by members of KPFA, staff, board members and volunteers examining every challenging aspect of their project. (Check out the Berkeley Daily Planet.)

The beauty of democracy is not in its efficiency (!), but in its unpredictability and liveliness, I think. I would rather see a "power struggle" than an entrenched and unaccountable power, any day.

Anonymous said...

I mant "so much of the conflict at KPFA," not "at KKCR."