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Offshore Podcast – A Killing in Waikiki

I first heard of Offshore through one of the many other podcasts I listen to during the day. The podcast description hinted at impacts of colonization and identity—concepts that for the last six months, I have been wrapping my head around in regards to research I’ve been doing on the Philippine-American War.

Offshore’s host, Jessica Terrell, reports on rarely seen stories from Hawaii—the ones tourists never hear about. The first season premiered in October of 2016 and examines the killing of native Hawaiian, Kollin Elderts in 2011 by Christopher Deedy. Deedy, an off-duty federal agent was in Hawaii to work security for the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference. Having arrived in Hawaii only a few hours earlier, Deedy spent his time drinking with friends before eventually confronting and shooting Elderts in a Waikiki McDonald’s.

This deadly use of force by a white mainlander against a native Hawaiian is mirrored in the accompanying story of a crime that affected the islands in the 1930’s when rich American socialite, Thalia Massie (with familial ties to the Roosevelts and Alexander Graham Bell) falsely accused a group of Native Hawaiian men of rape. The charges could not be proved and the case fell apart. An independent Pinkerton investigation into the alleged rape found that there was no possible way for the the men Thalia accused to have committed the crime. This, however, did not stop Thalia’s husband, a naval officer and her mother from arranging the kidnapping and murder of one of the accused men. They were caught trying to dispose of the body and arrested. What followed was a outpouring of sympathy from American politicians and journalists for the killers. An except from a Hearst editorial piece described Hawaii as a place where “the roads go through jungles, and in those remote places bands of degenerate natives lie in wait for white women driving by.” Cries for martial law exploded in the streets of the US with a public demand to send a battleship to Hawaii and forcibly rescue the arrested Americans. Those involved with the kidnapping and murder were eventually convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to one hour. ONE HOUR for kidnapping and murder.

Fast forward to present day and Christopher Deedy has served no time for shooting and killing Elderts in 2011. Two trials resulted in a hung jury and an acquittal. As of Feb. 2017 the Hawaii Supreme Court is considering a third trial focusing on manslaughter charges. There is no doubt that this case has kicked up long standing ethic tensions between the mainland US and native Hawaiians concerning racial profiling, the use of force and the grassroots movement for Hawaiian sovereignty.

For those unfamiliar with the history of how Hawaii became a US territory… In 1893, an American minister from United Church of Christ conspired with a small group of American businessmen, to overthrow the Hawaiian monarchy. Backed by US naval forces, they threatened violence unless Queen Liliuokalani yielded her authority to the US. In one of the episodes, host, Jessica Terrell, asks Hawaiian sovereignty activist, Brandon Makaawaawa, to speak on this historical event that created a deep rooted cultural PTSD among the native Hawaiians that still exists today.

Jessica Terrell: I can just see one of the automatic responses being “Its been 123 years now. Is it time to just get over it?” What is your response to that or how do you see the cultural PTSD being part of your life today?
Brandon Makaawaawa: Building a bridge and getting over it is easy if that bridge is there. We don’t see that bridge. Even at the signing of the Apology Bill in 1993 where America admitted to the crime and promised reconciliation. That reconciliation has never come for our people…
Jessica Terrell: Do you also think that’s what’s going on, not only in Hawaii, but in America in general with the policing of African Americans? Is it that we have never come to grips with our legacy?
Brandon Makaawaawa: Yes, with slavery. Yes. With being built on the colonization of Non-European people—that has never been addressed—the genocide of indigenous people… There’s an elitist type of “get over it” to all of us that we cannot fathom because we never got to grieve the death of our community by the hands of these guys who are telling us to get over it.

I found Offshore compelling and engaging with interviews and even a town hall episode that brings in locals to discuss race relations. Season two has already started and covers the standoff between Native Hawaiians and astronomers who want to build a telescope on top of the sacred mountain, Mauna Kea. If you’re looking to learn more about Hawaii than what’s generally offered from Hollywood or in tourist brochures, give a listen to Offshore on your next commute!

 

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