In a sad reminder that freedom is not free, a group of radical racial sovereignty activists assaulted Iolani Palace staff, broke into both the grounds and the buildings, and desecrated a public historical treasure on Statehood Day, 2008. Led by James Kimo Akahi, an ex-convict claiming to be the King of Hawaii, a group of violent activists declared that all State of Hawaii citizens were under “federal arrest”. Although this further escalation between racial separatists and the general public of Hawaii has its roots as far back as the 1800s, it has been encouraged and exacerbated by modern day racial demagogues and the politicians who believe they can appease them.

The seeds of this discontent were sown as far back as 1861, when the con-artist Walter Murray Gibson arrived in Hawaii as a Mormon missionary. Although previously jailed in the East Indies by the Dutch for fomenting rebellion, he managed to escape from prison, travel to Utah, and convince Mormon leader Brigham Young to send him to Hawaii. Once in Hawaii, he took possession of the island of Lanai from the Mormons, using their money for the purchase, but putting his name on the ownership papers. Excommunicated from the church, he then hitched his wagon to Kalakaua’s star, becoming his “Minister of Everything”. His politics were explicitly racial, and although he was not a native Hawaiian, he portrayed himself as the “voice of Hawaiians”, and encouraged the placement of blame for all ills in Hawaii on the ‘haole’.

Gibson’s rise to power came to a sudden stop with the 1887 Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii, when Kalakaua was forced by local politicians to curtail his own powers. Although Gibson was exiled, and died shortly after, the seeds of race-based politics he planted continued to infect the governments of Hawaii. Not until the late 20th century did these seeds begin sprouting in earnest.

Though his “I have a dream” speech still resonates, there has been an unfortunate twisting of Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream of civil rights and equality, embodied in the modern ethnic “rights” movements which insist on special privilege for separate groups. This has been particularly vivid with the so-called “native Hawaiian rights” activists. Encouraged by the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which provided one billion dollars in cash and over forty-four million acres of land to 80,000 native Alaskans, these activists began a deliberate process of infiltrating academia and rewriting inconvenient history to their ultimate goal of race-based reparations and separatism.

In spite of well researched and impartial historical foundations, including the works of noted historians such as Ralph S. Kuykendall, Gavan Daws and William Adam Russ, Jr., a steady stream of propaganda promoting the idea of native Hawaiian victimhood has been published since the early 70’s. Having lost prominence and power in government after World War II and the enfranchisement of Japanese voters (who in the early 1900’s Territorial period were not able to vote), this propaganda found a receptive audience in a politically frustrated native Hawaiian community. Unbeknownst to most observers at the time, alongside the Hawaiian Renaissance of cultural rediscovery, which we in Hawaii are rightfully proud of, came a more insidious specter of racial separatism.

The native Hawaiian victimhood industry, preying upon the ignorance of the general public of both Hawaii and the mainland, made great strides in consolidating power and influence in the hands of an elite few over the past four decades. In 1978, OHA was created – ostensibly a state agency to service “Native Hawaiians” as defined by the 1921 Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (50% and above). Since 1978, OHA has instead become a hotbed of corruption, patronage and privilege. It has expanded its bank account balance, reach and influence not only to the detriment of the “Native Hawaiians” it was created to serve, but also to the detriment of the general public of Hawaii, which has seen hundreds of millions of dollars of tax revenue funneled away from public schools and services and into the hands and control of these neo-ali’i.

The premise of this industry is simple – so long as native Hawaiians can be seen as poor and downtrodden, and the blame can be placed on their peers and neighbors, money can be taken from the public of Hawaii and put into the hands of a new royalty. This royal money translates into power over the common people of all races, both in terms of funding or not funding community projects, but also in terms of direct lobbying for further concessions from federal, state and local governments. With over 400 million dollars in the bank, OHA has an amazing amount of influence over the Hawaii State Legislature, and has spent millions of dollars lobbying our United States Senate and House of Representatives as well.

The psychology of blaming other ethnic groups for one’s own problems is by no means unique to Hawaii politics, nor even to this particular day and age. People have been pointing the finger since time immemorial, and distinguishing between “us” and “them” is nearly as natural as breathing. However, this particular behavior and attitude is especially repugnant and destructive in such a thoroughly integrated and racially mixed society as the one we have in Hawaii.

The basic premise of asserting the need for special ethnic “rights” generally goes like this – being a member of a given ethnic group, one is confronted by systemic prejudice throughout life. Other people are assumed to judge you to be part of some disdained ethnicity, and the only way to rectify this injustice is to counter this systemic prejudice with institutionalized prejudice in favor of your ethnic group. In simpler terms, if you look native Hawaiian, and people tend to treat native Hawaiians worse than other people, then we must fight that by giving all native Hawaiians a special boost to make up for it.

However, the fact is that most “native Hawaiians” are not mostly native Hawaiian. The vast majority of “native Hawaiians” are only ambiguously identified as such by appearance or by name. “Native Hawaiians” run the gamut of looking very dark, very light, to a host of other stereotypical appearances commonly associated with every ethnicity or nationality found in the world. Hawaiian names are common to children of all ethnicities in Hawaii, and are even used elsewhere in the United States. With these “native Hawaiians” indistinguishable from other Hawaiians, the premise for special ethnic privileges becomes obviously unfounded, illegitimate and unjust.

Not to mention the fact that there is no systemic disdain for native Hawaiians in either the State of Hawaii, nor the other forty nine states of the Union. On the contrary, there is an almost New Age worship of people with the slightest degree of native Hawaiian ancestry, and a tremendous respect for the beautiful culture and environmental values associated with our idealized image of native Hawaiians. Although we can certainly look back at events in the last century, such as the Massie Trial in 1932, as indicative of a poisonous racial prejudice against native Hawaiians, the people and attitudes expressed in such historical moments are as dead and gone as the human sacrifice, slavery and misogyny practiced by native Hawaiians under the kapu religion. Assuming that all Americans not of native Hawaiian ancestry disdain native Hawaiians because some white Americans in the early 20th century did is as silly as assuming that Daniel Akaka believes that any woman eating bananas or coconuts should be subject to capital punishment.

A watershed moment in the appeasement of radical race-based sovereignty activists came in 1993 with the passage of the so-called “Apology Resolution”. In a sweeping stroke of historical revisionism, the Kingdom of Hawaii was haphazardly and ignorantly transformed from a multi-ethnic and multi-racial country, to a country simply for the benefit of ethnic native Hawaiians. Whereas the very first constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom declared all men to be “of one blood”, the Apology Resolution disregarded and disenfranchised the multitudes of non-native Hawaiians who were part and parcel of the creation, governance and general populace of Hawaii.

In a speech given on September 4, 1999, Senator Daniel Akaka made clear his reasons for promoting this twisting of history – “to neutralize the 1983 Native Hawaiians Study Commission’s Majority Report conclusion that the U.S. government was not liable for the loss of sovereignty or lands of the Hawaiian people in the 1893 overthrow.” Rather than accept the well researched and studied opinion put forth by the most comprehensive government review regarding the history of the 1893 Hawaiian Revolution, politicians such as Senator Akaka have used every method possible to muddy the waters of historical record which have contradicted their premises for race-based privilege.

Since the passage of the “Apology Resolution”, and the success of several civil rights cases in opposition to the racial separatism and privilege promoted by OHA, the Akaka Bill, or Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, has been pushed year after year in Congress. Written explicitly to protect existing race-based programs from equal protection civil rights lawsuits, the Akaka Bill has attempted and failed to walk a thin line between appeasing sovereignty activists, and radicalizing them. They have used the same arguments, and twisted the same history as the more radical race-based sovereignty activists, but have tried to position themselves as being a moderate middle between the abolition of race-based criteria in government social programs, and the secession of Hawaii and transformation into a sovereign race-based government.

This attempt to have their cake and eat it too is the direct cause for the unrest we have seen at Iolani Palace for the past year, and promises only to encourage more violence and hatred. We cannot assert that native Hawaiians were the sole victims of the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani, and that the U.S. was to blame, and offer only a half-measure of justice. These radical race-based activists are simply listening to the arguments made by OHA ali’i and other native Hawaiian victimhood politicians, and taking them to their logical conclusion.

We know that the heavy hitters trying to preserve race-based programs in Hawaii don’t believe their own arguments – if they did they would be joining James Kimo Akahi and his cohorts at Iolani Palace. It is morally imperative that they cease and desist their dishonest and destructive propaganda, and make clear the following three incontrovertible truths:

1) The State of Hawaii is the legitimate government of all the people of Hawaii and there is no question under either local, state, federal or international law as to its legality;

2) Native Hawaiians are not victims requiring special reparations, additional privileges or a separate government;

3) All Hawaiians, regardless of ancestry, deserve equal protection under the law and equal consideration by the government.

He Hawai’i au; he mau Hawai’i kakou a pau – I am Hawaiian; we are all Hawaiians. The sooner our politicians give up their machinations for power based on race-based institutions, the sooner we will be free from the unintended consequences of historical revisionism and racial pandering. Kamehameha the Great, who unified the Hawaiian Islands with a multi-racial coalition including luminaries such as his son-in-law John Young, from Britain, and Don Marin, from Spain, would certainly challenge any presumption that he was a victim, or in need of special assistance. To honor Kamehameha’s wisdom and legacy, we must rededicate ourselves to be active participants in a thriving Hawaii, where race or ethnicity simply has no place in the spirit of aloha.

Jere Krischel
Senior Fellow
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii