I had the privilege of living and working in Hawaii in the 1970s. I have visited many times since, and remain a member of the Hawaii Bar Association. I have been disappointed over the years to see that, not only have the ethnic divisions on the islands not improved, they threaten to become even worse with the assertion of “Hawaiian national sovereignty.”
The Akaka bill now pending in the United States Senate, which would recognize Hawaiians as a Native American “tribe” empowered to negotiate with the U.S. government, panders to this ill-conceived notion and would be a giant step in the wrong direction.
If you spend enough time telling people they are entitled, they will come to believe it. And if people believe themselves victims, they will be. A whole generation of inner city youth has been reinforced by 1960s liberal thought in a sense of entitlement and grievance. As a result, they blame others, take no responsibility for themselves, and justify lawless behavior. The shocking lawlessness in New Orleans in the several days following Hurricane Katrina is just the most recent example.
Appeasing a vocal minority of native Hawaiians (no doubt imagining themselves the paid leaders of the new “tribe”) by acquiescing in the misplaced Akaka bill would merely repeat this error. It would be a mistake of misplaced sympathy, and a reinforcement of long-term social divisiveness, to take any attitude toward native Hawaiians other than that they should be treated the same as everyone else, no better, and no worse.
The whole notion, in fact, of Hawaiian “national sovereignty” is simply a politically correct attempt to rewrite history. The Hawaiian islands were not united until 1795, and then only in direct response to their western discovery by Captain Cook in 1778. The Hawaiian “monarchy,” much beloved of tourist promoters, lasted barely a hundred years.
Nor do Hawaiians have a particularly strong claim to being more “native” than other residents. Polynesian settlers, doing precisely what European and Asian immigrants would later do as well, arrived in the Hawaiian Islands between 1200 and 1400 A.D., and promptly pushed the earlier “natives,” who had arrived from the Marquesas Islands a millennium prior, to the outermost fringes of the island chain. That is not “native” by anyone