A few days ago I wrote an editorial about what I believed to be the racist motivations behind a bill in Congress by Jim Moylan, and I made a passing comment about the racism of the Chamorro Land Trust Act and the Chamorro-only registry. Those deserve far more than honorable mention in a local discussion of racism.
Maybe I’ll get in trouble for this. After all, I am a Chamorro. But I don’t care.
According to the Cambridge dictionary, racism is a noun, one form of which means “policies, behaviours, rules, etc. that result in a continued unfair advantage to some people and unfair or harmful treatment of others based on race.”
The Chamorro Land Trust Act, enacted by the Guam Legislature and the late Governor Ricardo Bordallo in 1975, set aside the majority of unused public lands to be leased out to people who qualify on the basis of their race as Chamorro. This absolutely fits the definition of racism.
At the turn of the century, the legislature came up with a Chamorro-only registry with a vague threshold that would trigger a Chamorro-only vote on the so-called decolonization of the island from its administering sovereign: the United States. According to the law, those who are Chamorro and registered in this plebiscite could choose to advocate an official Guam position for independence from the U.S., or statehood. A third option, called ‘free association,’ also is independence, but with a desire for a relationship via treaty with America. The Chamorro-only registry definitely is a policy that favors one race over all others.
The most effective argument (and that’s not saying much) for this prejudice has been this: ‘Guam is the land of the Chamorro, and so the Chamorro must always have a governing heritage.’
Except that neither the Chamorro Land Trust Act nor the Chamorro-only decolonization effort has resulted in any advantage for the vast majority of the Chamorro people. In fact, the CLTA has essentially tied up tens of thousands of acres of undeveloped land, while providing a few hundred families with lives of squalor and poor sanitation. And the Chamorro-only vote has never ever happened, despite millions in public dollars being spent on the GovGuam employees who have been paid to have no decolonization vote since antes guantes.
The only people who have ever benefitted from the decolonization effort are the loud mouths who got to go on publicly-paid trips to New York, the Caribbean, and all the other exotic places where the United Nations allowed them to speak for 10 minutes before everyone went back to forgetting Guam even exists.
Yup. Leave it to GovGuam. Probably the only political system in the world that can’t even get racism right.
Rather than advancing the proposition that Chamorros should be groomed for and tested against the highest standards of excellence and expectations, Guam’s leaders for decades have embraced the fallacy that Chamorros should be given an upper hand. Translation: That everyone else should work harder and at a disadvantage for property and political strength while we Chamorros get to skate.
All this has done is made us lazy. Dependent. Entitled.
So much so, that when the problems of society that our decades of entitlement and laziness has created comes back to trouble us all, we conveniently blame Chuukese people. The subconscious rationale might go something like, ‘The racism didn’t work for us, so we’re gonna make it work against another group of people.’
I remember as a kid growing up in the 1980s hearing Chamorro adults complaining that “The Filipinos are taking all the jobs.” As it turned out, at the time, those Filipinos wanted those jobs that Chamorros thought they were too good to work at. Instead, we Chamorros either campaigned for the right gubernatorial candidate and got jobs we sure as heck didn’t qualify for, or we went on welfare waiting for a government job to happen.
In the meantime, our Filipino brethren worked and saved their way from that $4.15 an hour job at McDonalds into post-college careers and stability without lifetime dependence on the state. Once our general racism against Filipinos died down, we found it convenient to target Palauans. And then Chuukese. Lately, it’s been fashionable to blame white people for many of our problems.
When are we going to look at ourselves in the mirror and realize the only way to get out of the rut we’re in is to work our way out and make positive things happen for us?
Yes, many of the statements I am making indeed are generalizations. By and large, though, they’re true. And you know it.
If you’re a Chamorro and made it this far in reading this editorial without hating me, thank you for hearing me out.
The legislature needs to trash both the decolonization effort and the Chamorro Land Trust Act. As for all that public land? Sell it for dirt cheap on the open market, and watch this economy flourish. Then, finally, Chamorros can actually benefit from public policy. And so will everyone else. What’s wrong with that?