An article came to my attention yesterday on which I would like to comment. In this year’s fall issue of the Intelligence Report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) there is an article titled ‘Prejudice in Paradise,’ which discusses racism against whites by Native Hawaiians. It refers to and discusses racial slurs, like ‘haole,’ both verbal and physical harassment, and the State’s response, or lack thereof.
As is suggested in comments on the story at both iLind.net and Volcanic Ash, I think the SPLC article is awkwardly one-sided. Does prejudice exist in Hawaii? Certainly. Do I need the SPLC to tell me that? No. The matter is far more complicated than a native culture breading violence against white people.
I’ve lived here for nearly seven years and know and count among my friends several Hawaiians. One of the things I love so much about these islands is the Hawaiian culture. In contrast to my experience, and I expect the experience of countless other visitors and ‘transplants’, the SPLC reports with a seemingly broad stroke, painting the entire culture as ‘white-hating.’ Its simply not true.
Whether most people think the issues of Statehood, overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, sovereignty, etc., are in the past and that Native Hawaiians should just ‘get over it,’ isn’t addressed at all. In my humble opinion, Native Hawaiians have every right to be angry.
To be clear, and as a pacifist, I don’t condone violence against anyone and certainly not against children.
I’ve heard little to no argument to the notion that the Hawaii Kingdom was illegally annexed by the United States. And the annexation occurred after the overthrow of the Queen, Liliʻuokalani. In 1993, the U.S. Congress said as much in a joint resolution officially apologizing for the overthrow.
Americans, including those at the SPLC should take a second to think about how they might feel or respond were the U.S. illegally overthrown by some foreign power. Sure it’s history, but in the scope of human history, it didn’t happen that long ago.
I also find the timing of the article’s publication interesting. Days before this article popped in the Hawaii blogosphere, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights again voiced its opposition to the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, commonly known as the Akaka Bill.
These reports, added to a slew of recent lawsuits against Hawaiian-only programs and school admissions, its no wonder Native Hawaiians are angry. They must feel powerless watching endowments and government agencies, like Kamehameha Schools and Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), come under attack in recent years and listening to people say these programs unfairly and illegally favor Native Hawaiians.
(I can’t help but wonder what these same people would say about Affirmative Action, for example? I’m not a lawyer, but I find such suits smack of hypocrisy)
Now, having said all this, I do believe the SPLC’s observation about under-reported racially motivated attacks to be accurate. More should indeed be done to curb this type of violence. Regardless of past aggressions and illegal actions against the Hawaiian Kingdom, no one has the right to physically or verbally assault another person.
Ultimately, I think the SPLC report shines a light on an issue in Hawaii to which we should all pay more attention, not just for the sake of those getting attacked, but for the sake of those doing the attacking. I think both the State and Federal Governments have been sorely negligent in their responsibilities to the Native Hawaiian community.
On a personal note, the current condition of Native Hawaiians pains me. I would like nothing more for them than to be able to stand, united, as a nation of people and announce themselves in one voice. I intentionally take no position on the Akaka Bill because I believe it isn’t my place. I do know, that if Hawaiians could come together and agree on a course of action regarding the Akaka Bill, I would, vocally and whole-heartedly, support whatever position they chose.