On Thursday, September 1, this week, the U.S. courthouse in Anigua will hear motions filed by plaintiff and defendants in the enduring saga of Davis v. Guam, in which Arnold “Dave” Davis argues that he, as a white man on Guam, is being treated in the manner of an African-American in the era preceding the Civil Rights Movement.
Yes, that is what his attorneys argued for him in court a couple years ago. And the judges nodding to it.
The attorney general of Guam, Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson, released a statement pointing out that the law makes no mention of ethnicity or race, but residency on Guam at the time of the Organic Act (1950, I believe). This isn’t an ethnic designation. (I have objections to the term “race” because of its origins in European colonialism.) We are all aware that the population of Guam at that time was already very mixed ethnically due to Spanish conquest and settlement. It sounds like Mr. Davis is quite misguided. Racism is such a terrifying problem because we too often associate race with external features in a derogatory manner in order to deprive people of their rights under law.
However, this Decolonization Registry law is not in regards to “race.” Mr. Davis should be aware, if he or his lawyers have properly reviewed the Registry, that it is not restricted by “Chamorro descent” from Chamorro people or “blood quantum.” We can see that clearly from those who are already registered and to whom it is apparently quite open, including people who don’t have any genetic Chamorro makeup but who can/do claim descent from the varied peoples resident on Guam at the time of the Organic Act. Those terms of “racial descent” or “blood quantum” aren’t used, nor have they been effected — this despite the fact that in North America descent from a Native tribe (and sometimes blood quantum) is legally measurable to determine rights in tribal governments and on tribal lands. This Guam law on the decolonization plebiscite is careful not to put forth any restriction regarding “race” or “Chamorro blood.”
Incidentally, or not so incidentally, of course, residency on Guam also affects our voting rights on other fronts. For example: when I declared residency on Guam, I lost the right to vote for U.S. president. Residents of Guam are disenfranchised from the vote. That isn’t based on ethnicity or “race,” but on residency. Also, Guam has no voting delegate or representative in the U.S. Congress. Again, that is based on our colonial status as a U.S. unincorporated territory.
Voting for U.S. president is a very serious thing to me. I am profoundly horrified that my right to vote for president has been casually stripped from me, as if I were a felon. How can this be acceptable to anyone? Why doesn’t Mr. Davis file a lawsuit about that? Since he clearly has plenty of time and money.
Voting in a non-binding plebisicite which frankly is purely symbolic and has no basis or standing in U.S. law as far as I can tell (being rather based on international United Nations policy), on the other hand, is not a derogation of human rights. It makes sense to me that people affected by the Organic Act (or their descendants) should be involved in that. But at any rate, what does it harm Mr. Davis? No public policy nor law is being invoked.
I’m also horrified that I have no voting delegate now to represent me in the U.S. Congress. The right to be represented in our vote in the entire executive and legislative branches of the United States government is closed off not only to the Chamorro people resident on Guam, but to all residents of Guam, including now myself as well.
I’m going to be honest: this is shocking. I have been disenfranchised from my full rights as a United States citizen solely on the basis of my residency. I can’t really believe it.
Yet if U.S. law allows that disenfranchisement to that extent (appalling!), and Mr. Davis appears not to protest it at all (can that be true?), why is a non-binding plebiscite that will create no law or public policy and elect no official not allowable on the basis of residency as well?
Let’s see how this plays out on Thursday . . .