Given the state of common misunderstanding of Hawaiian history, it is refreshing to read the review essay authored by Paul Carrington in the December 2006 (Vol. 54, No. 3) Buffalo Law Review. An in depth analysis of the book Broken Trust: Greed, Mismanagement, & Political Manipulation at America’s Largest Charitable Trust (2006), Carrington shows not only insight into the racial politics in play, but gives us an accurate and honest account of the surrounding history.

One would imagine, given but a small sampling of news stories from the past two decades, that the beneficent founder of Kamehameha Schools, Bernice Pauahi Bishop, must have been a radical racial activist who would support the identity politics which have embroiled her legacy in controversy. The picture of truth, is far from it – Carrington points out that Pauahi was fully westernized, a devout Christian, supportive of closer ties to the United States, and quite skeptical of royalists.

“It was not her aim as testatrix to perpetuate the royal regime or the often oppressive ancient culture…She aimed instead to facilitate integration of Hawaiians and other impoverished children into a peaceful, polychromatic, Protestant, industrious society.” (Buffalo Law Review, Vol.54 No.3 p699)

Carrington also makes clear note of the more realistic view of our “Merry Monarch” Kalakaua, and his maladministration, misadventures, and poor choice of advisors such as Walter Murray Gibson, a man famous for swindling Lanai from the Mormons.

“The full measure of Kalakaua’s improvidence was not demonstrated until after Pauahi’s death when he dispatched a tiny navy to conquer Samoa, a venture ending in ridicule.” (Buffalo Law Review, Vol.54 No.3 p699)

The participation of Bishop Estate Trustees, chosen by Pauahi, in the Hawaiian Revolution of 1893 is also mentioned, as well as the distinct lack of will of native Hawaiians to support either Kalakaua or Liliuokalani against the calls for better government – both the 1889 rebellion against the 1887 constitution, and the 1895 rebellion against the Republic of Hawaii are noted for their weak nature.

Another gem, mostly unheard of in the discussions of the history of Hawaii, is the fact that “the only racial segregation ever practiced in the islands” was against Asians, not native Hawaiians. If in fact, any victimhood claims were to be raised regarding the government of the Hawaiian islands throughout its history since unification in 1810, Asians would certainly be strong contenders for the title of most victimized. With the 1887 constitution, Asians and Asians alone were stripped of their right to vote by race, and even with annexation, they were disenfranchised with the Organic Act of 1900, which limited suffrage to those eligible during Hawaii’s Kingdom and Republic periods. Not until the Asian children born after 1898 came of age was any semblance of equality at the polls possible. Such was the fear of Asian influence in the United States that not until the heroic actions of the 442nd and Nisei in World War II, was statehood finally achieved in 1959.

Carrington also does a fine job in dissecting the flawed claims of the Native Hawaiian victimhood industry:

“There are at best serious problems with the correction of historic injustices, or the misdeeds of whole populations. But it is a special problem for racial groups not justified in claiming to be victims. The Hawaiians are as good an example as any of an ethnic group that can impose moral blame on no other group for the frustrations experienced by its members. Many Hawaiians in the past experienced deprivations related to their cultural traits or values, and some continue to do so, but not on account of their race. And the foul deeds committed against their ancestors since 1778, as before, were almost all committed by other Hawaiians. Slavery and feudalism were imposed on Hawaiians only by other Hawaiians. If the Great Mahele was an injustice, it was not one committed by haoles or the Asian immigrants who came to work the land, but by the alii who profited from it.” (Buffalo Law Review, Vol.54 No.3 p706)

The essay concludes with a fairly incisive critique of race-based politics and the “practice of Congress in indulging the sovereigntist illusion of historic injustice”, placing blame for much of the abuses outlined in Broken Trust to the cynical use of revisionist history to justify race-based programs. If Carrington is to be believed, both the race-based admissions policies of Kamehameha schools and the ill-conceived Akaka Bill will fail on their merits.

In the end, one can only hope that as more light is shed on the subject, we will enjoy accurate and honest analysis and discussion of Hawaiian history, as exemplified by this wonderful piece by Carrington.

(Jere Krischel is a Senior Fellow with the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, born and raised in Hawaii and currently living in California with his wife and two young children.)