According to my Chamorro language instructor, Siñora Mendiola, the ancient Chamorros had names for three colors:
Å’paka’. The color of the sinåhi.
Åttelong. The color of the latte.
Agåga’. The color of the spondylus.
Å’paka’ is what we today might call white.
* * *
Blood quantum. Purity. Agency. Lineage. The desire, the survival instinct, of the individual, and the communal, social order. The Dawes Rolls.
Origins of identity, origins of consciousness. Sea of the pysche.
Who speaks, and for whom? How do you carve out or craft your voice from ethnicity, gender, sexuality, sex, ability, fertility, political status and residency/immigration status, color, class, religion . . . ? But it is so important to do so. More important than anything else for the scholar. Who am I?
Not Chamorro. Not Pacific, not First Peoples, not Native, not NDN, not Indigenous . . . I can’t be unaware anymore, unawake.
Resident of Guam since 2012, and thus now legally barred from voting for president of the United States, regardless of parentage, birthright, birthplace. It’s mind-altering. I don’t feel like a full U.S. citizen anymore. Since I’m not.
Who are your friends? What worlds do you inhabit? Where do you feel safe and warm? Where are your roots?
* * *
I started to remember Celtic figurations of the feminine. Crave my oldest mothers. Look at tribal German women’s names. The old caves, tens of thousands of years ago. The old red deltas. My blood flows back there. My amygdala can go that far back, conceive that depth of time.
* * *
I changed as a scholar here. Far more socially conscious in my work. More collaborative. More intersectional.
I encountered, I think, the matrilineal-avuncular and matrifocal heritage of these islands: a gender and sexuality not in line with European/U.S. patriarchy.
I also encountered inherited intergenerational trauma from WW2 and colonization (cf. LisaLinda Natividad, Patricia Taimanglo).
There are two movements in my head right now. Two ways. Chamorrocize Westernized concepts. Chamorrocize extant scholarship: apply the theory to a new field or focus.
Oral narratives, observation, ethnography. Forced, traumatic, personal, or rigorous, methodical, professional.
What do I do, and how do I do it?
I’m not changing my skin any time soon, or my eyes. But I do, I can, foreground subjectivity. I acknowledge intersectional domination, oppression, and privilege. Race is a recent social construct used as a tool of oppression (cf. American Anthropological Association) — don’t bother racing anything. But recognize when res is raced.
Critical thinking. Social justice awareness. Ethical consciousness (and this is what is most important to communicate to my students).
Believe in multiple moments as a teacher — and as a human being flailing about in this sea. Oral repetition, immersion, cultural trips, raising consciousness, entering the community, agency, ownership, asserted.
I’m not Chamorro. Not trained in Chamorro Studies. None of it. But if I’m teaching here, I’m going to follow Pilar Cruz Lujan — “We must Chamorrocize education.”
* * *
I’ve recently been following the controversies over whiteness, and ethnicity, color, and culture have been on my mind permanently since moving to Guam. I’m looking at some studies now on whiteness and plan to begin a series of posts reflecting on the academic discussion from my perspective.
* * *
I come to a place where narratives are mixed, fluid, questionable. Not identity, and not ethnicity, but the narratives thereof.
The men like their hair to be very black; the women, however, have very flaxen hair, which is naturally so since they do not use lye nor bleaches to make it blonde, unlike the sad and miserable women in our country who are not content with what God has given them. [Lévesque]
They anoint the whole head and their hair with a mixture of lime and oil, then expose themselves to the burning rays of the sun at noon, for hours, rather, for days on end. Whenever the head is burning hot, they sprinkle it with sea water, if you look at it, you show your appreciation. [Driver]
They are goodlooking and delicately formed, and lighter complexioned than the men; and wear their hair which is exceedingly black, loose and hanging quite down to the ground. [Nowell]