Professor Michael Haas traces how the Aloha State dismantled the racism of Territorial era in a panel discussion today (May 6) at the Honolulu Book and Music Fare on the grounds of City Hall. Retired UH political scientist, Haas will explain how racism was established during the Territory of Hawaiʻi and then reversed after statehood.
Based on fifty years of research while living in the Islands, Haas identifies how racism was established in the economy, the environment, and the government when presidents appointed governors from 1900 to 1959. His history also explains how Native Hawaiians were denied their rights during the Territorial era.
Statehood in 1959 shifted power from Caucasians to Japanese, he says in his recent book, “How to Demolish Racism.” He shows how Japanese political leaders, particularly Governor George Ariyoshi, make crucial decisions during the 1970s to eliminate racist institutions of government and pass laws liberating the economy and the environment from over-exploitation.
Haas will appear on a panel chaired by Amy Agbayani, longtime UH administrator who worked to eliminate racism. Panelists are Hayden Burgess, who favors restoration of Hawaiʻi as an independent country, and William Hoshijo, Executive Director of the Hawaiʻi Civil Rights Commission.
The key decision to diversify the politics was when Ariyoshi ran with a Native Hawaiian Lieutenant Governor, John Waihee. After Waiheʻe was elected governor, he was followed by a Filipino, Ben Cayetano. Alternation of governors by ethnicity has continued ever since.
Meanwhile, Island culture broadened beyond the Aloha Spirit to include Buddhist principles in everyday life. With so many Japanese schoolteachers at the time of statehood, younger generations learned how to be friendly and respectful to others while speaking pidgin outside school.
The most dramatic change in the economy was the shutdown of Big Five pineapple and sugarcane companies. No big businesses have dominated Hawaiʻi ever since, benefiting consumers.
Environmental progress occurred after the state supported long-time residents who were being evicted from land to make way for suburb developments. After the Kalama Valley evictions of 1971, public support surged for both restoring the environment and providing delayed justice to Native Hawaiians. Constitutional amendments in 1978 not only made Hawaiian as the state’s official language in addition to English but also established the principle that everyone is entitled to a healthy environment.
Affirmative action in 1977 enabled unrepresented racial groups to gain respect in government employment. Statistics also show an end to discrimination throughout in the criminal justice system.
Having achieved an end to racism, the Akaka brothers Abraham and Daniel have long hoped that Hawaiʻi’s people will spread Aloha to the world. Barack Obama tried to take Aloha to Washington. Haas has done so by publishing books, which argue that the world must pay attention.