St Damien of Molokai is a “hero” not a supremacist

St Damien of Molokai is a “hero” to the Hawaiian people, a Hawaiian Catholic catechist says.

Dallas Carter, a native Hawaiian says far from being a white supremicist, St. Damien learned the native language and culture and became as one with Hawaiian people.

Carter leapt to Damien’s defence after a congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezn, spoke scornfully of a statue of him.

The statue at the U.S. Capitol is a part of colonialism and “patriarchy and white supremacist culture,” Ocasio-Cortezn asserted on Instagram last week.

In fact St. Damien “gave his life” serving the isolated leper (Hansen’s disease) colony at Kalaupapa peninsula on the Hawaiian island of Molokai, Carter says.

“Any Hawaiian here who is aware of their history … would … defend the legacy of St Damien as a man who was embraced by the people, and who is a hero to us because of his love for the Hawaiian people,” Carter says.

“We did not judge him by the colour of his skin. We judged him by the love that he had for our people.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s Instagram post about the saint began when she asked why there there aren’t more statues honoring women historical figures, at the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection.

Statues honouring historical figures from all 50 states are included in the collection. They are chosen by the states and sent to Congress for display.

“Even when we select figures to tell the stories of colonised places, it is the colonisers and settlers whose stories are told – and virtually no one else,” Ocasio-Cortez posted, with a picture of St. Damien’s Capitol statue in the background.

In 1969, Hawaii chose to honour St. Damien alongside Kamehameha I in the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection.

Including St. Damien and not “Queen Lili’uokalani of Hawaii, the only Queen Regnant of Hawaii,” in the Collection is an example of “colonisers” being honored instead of native historical figures, Ocasio-Cortez’s Instagram suggests.

“This isn’t to litigate each and every individual statue,” she says.

Bu, she argues, “patterns” among the “totality” of the statues in the Capitol reveal they honor “virtually all men, all white, and mostly both.”

“This is what patriarchy and white supremacist culture looks like!”

Her office says while everyone in the Collection could be worthy, moral people, “the deliberate erasure of women and people of color from our history is a result of the influence of patriarchy and white supremacy.”

“It is still worthy for us to examine from a US history perspective why a non-Hawaiian, non-American was chosen as the statue to represent Hawaii in the Capitol over other Hawaiian natives who conducted great acts of good, and why so few women and people of color are represented in Capitol statues at all.”

However, Carter points out it was then-princess Lili’uokalani who made St Damien of Molokai a Knight Commander of the Royal Order of Kalākaua in 1881, for his “efforts in alleviating the distresses and mitigating the sorrows of the unfortunate.”


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