In the case of Arnold “Dave” Davis v. the Guam Election Commission, the government of Guam and the Chamorro people, Davis recently won. The U.S. District Court ruled in his favor, that a non-binding decolonization plebiscite for the native inhabitants of Guam was race-based and unconstitutional.
In some conservative media and some local media outlets, he has been hailed as a hero. Before anyone takes this too far, you might want to take a look at who Davis has been hanging out with lately.
Davis has been a familiar voice in Guam for the past few decades. He has called in to radio shows, penned letters to the editor and for a time had his own weekly column. Throughout that time, he has made many veiled and sometimes less-veiled remarks attacking the Chamorro people, calling into question their existence, their intelligence and maligning their culture. His attacks have been most vehement with regard to ways in which the indigenous presence of this island is codified into law or policy, such as the decolonization plebiscite or the Chamorro Land Trust.
For a long time, the rhetoric of Davis was simply part of the background noise of living on Guam, like military planes flying overhead. Although his words were often ignorant and offensive, they carried little weight. Some cheered him on because of their own racial animus toward non-white groups, or liked his espousing of conservative principles or even his attacks on local government corruption/incompetence, but ultimately his ravings had little force.
It was not until he became allied with a stateside organization that specializes in challenging laws in the name of some of the worst parts of contemporary America that Davis was no longer a voice in the island wilderness.
Most people on Guam have never heard of innocuously named nonprofit The Center for Individual Rights, or CIR, which has become notorious for its use of a variety of legal means to dismantle programs meant to help those the government and general society of the U.S. have long discriminated against and outright oppressed. The CIR uses the very language and achievements of those who were demanding equality to now attack them.
Racism has largely been purged in official and formal forms in the U.S., because so many activists and community leaders fought to get rid of the legal means through which men were given rights over women, whites over non-whites, and so many people were considered non-human or sub-human, including Chamorros. But it still exists in systemic and unofficial forms.
What is so insidious about the work of CIR is that they use the language of equality and rights to attack the programs meant to help achieve justice and equality for those historically left out of the privileges of the U.S. And they do this, given their case history, largely in the unspoken defense of white male privilege. They first made waves in the U.S. by attacking affirmative action in college admissions and now they are hard at work, erasing the rights of colonized people in Guam.
Michael Lujan Bevacqua is an author, artist, activist and assistant professor of Chamorro studies at the University of Guam.