A Message from the Director Against Social Injustice and Systemic Violence

Posted on Jun 5, 2020 in NEWS

A Message from the Director Against Social Injustice and Systemic Violence:

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Aloha All,

We join the nation on this day of mourning and we stand in support of all peaceful demonstrations against social injustice and systemic violence. 

While global protests of systemic racism are flooding the news after the murder of George Floyd, we have witnessed countless demonstrations across the world.  These protests are a clear message to us that many have been awakened to this struggle.  In reality, many people of color continue to live this collective reality on a daily basis: fear of bird-watching, fear of jogging, fear of walking with skittles and a hoodie. We stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

In 2019, the Department of Human Services was invited to participate in scenario planning for 2035 with the Institute for Alternative Futures.  We discussed progressive ideas to advance human services work–into work that provides a living wage, work that is dignified, and a plan to address the impacts of Statehood on the Native Hawaiian community through a truth and reconciliation commission process.  The exercise acknowledged the impacts that dispossession and removal from ancestral lands, the illegal overthrow, coupled with the impact of disease and the structural inequities of American style democracy resulted in untenable and generational consequences on native Hawaiian communities. 

This new future acknowledges the disproportionate impact of poverty that takes root in brown and black communities.  Against the plantation backdrop transported from the American South and rooted in discrimination, these social ills continue to grip a significant part of Hawaii residents and will continue to do so until we say “Enough!”

From the work we do, we know intimately the effects that intergenerational trauma and toxic stress have on our families.  We know that racism, dispossession of land and dignity, and intergenerational poverty are part and parcel to the continuance of that trauma. We must continue to address that trauma in ourselves, in our families we serve, and in our community during this global pandemic. 

Through our exploration of ‘Ohana Nui, our multigenerational framework, we know that when we talk about the social determinants of health and well-being, we must recognize how systems, procedures, and old, siloed ways of “doing” have a real and disparate impact on communities of color.  We must take a hard look at ourselves, and in doing so, will take the first hard step towards helping others.

Our DHS `Ohana strives to uplift the welfare and well-being of the people of Hawai’i as a priority. We cannot ignore the systemic and institutional racism and violence that affects communities of color, especially the blatant and illegal violence perpetrated against our black sisters and brothers across this country and world.  DHS will embrace and promote social justice and equity to ensure that all communities thrive

With Aloha and Standing in Solidarity,

Pankaj Bhanot
Director, Department of Human Services