September 6, 2005 -- What could be a friendlier or more welcoming place than Hawaii, America's 50th state? If S-147, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2005, is passed by the U.S. Congress, the ugly scourge of racism will rule those islands—which, in the future, might cease to be part of the United States.
Introduced by Hawaii’s Democratic Senator Daniel Akaka, the proposed legislation would divide Hawaiians into "natives" and all others. Anyone with a drop of blood of the original inhabitants of the islands might quality. How is that determined? There would be a nine-member race commission to declare who is "really" a native. (Can you imagine such a commission to determine who's really a white or Aryan?) Further, the bill would allow these official "natives" to establish their own government with laws that are outside of and thus not subject to the U.S. Constitution. This government would be related to the federal government by treaty, like a foreign power or a Native American Indian tribe.
This proposal on the surface might seem to mimic the arrangement between many American Indian tribes and the federal government. It might seem like an innocent attempt by some native Hawaiians to grab a chance to set up tax-exempt casinos and make a pile of money. But the real motives are much more sinister and dangerous.
To begin with, the current tax advantages that many American Indian tribes enjoy today hardly make up for the tragic fact of reservation life that stretches back to the nineteenth century. America is the land of opportunity; immigrants from all over the world, the poorest of the poor, came to these shores and prospered, thanks to economic freedom. Cultural clashes and injustices, sadly, put Americans Indians on reservations where they have suffered in squalid, socialist poverty rather than becoming part of the American economic and cultural mainstream and enjoying its blessings.
Native Hawaiians, however, were never ghettoized. They and the latecomers to the islands mixed together and now form a multiethnic community. S-147 would undo this. It would set aside huge tracts of land for a new apartheid arrangement. It could even create "extraterritoriality," meaning that natives outside of their reservations might still be subject to reservation law.
And what of this law? Subjects of the native government would not enjoy any of the protection of the U.S. Constitution. The native government would in fact be a corrupt, third-world-type dictatorship that would abuse the rights of it subjects. We know this because those are the core values of the advocates and of anyone who would take away the protections for freedom accorded by the Constitution and replace them with political power exercised on the most vile race-based premises. Many advocates do not disguise the fact that they want Hawaii to secede from the United States.
The advocates of this plan are true tribalists. They take their identity from their accidental membership in some group to which they were born. But the achievements of others in their groups are not their achievements nor are the failures and follies of those who share their genes theirs either. In the words of Martin Luther King, they should be judged—and should judge themselves—not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
When native Hawaiians—or anyone else—look in a mirror, what they ought to see, first and foremost, is not a native Hawaiian, not a citizen of Hawaii, and not even an American. They ought to see an individual, what they have made of themselves. If they only see their own worth in terms of their membership in some blood group, they place themselves on the level of barnyard animals.
Most of us Americans have immigrant pasts, and thus it's not surprising that we keep positive aspects of our traditions. But far from seeing our ethic origins as exclusionary, we like to celebrate them and our cultures with others—on Columbus Day, Italian, on St. Patrick's Day, Irish, and on Cinco de Mayo, Mexican. But it's quite another thing to use our traditions against others. German fascists used Norse mythology and pseudo-history to promote their theories of the master race. Native Hawaiians who advocate similar fascist policies appeal to native gods and to sheer fabrications about Hawaii's past that are shamefully recited in S-147.
The Akaka bill would accelerate the politics of racial, ethnic, and cultural division that today's collectivists have foisted on this country for decades. If Americans don't want to revive the ugly nationalism that plagued Europe and the world for centuries, they will fight for the laws and the culture that respects above all the freedom and dignity of each individual.
Update: The Akaka bill had not been passed as of July 2009.
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.