Hawai’i’s Hijacked Civil Rights Advisory Committee

By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA, October 2007

‘Ano’ai kakou… As impossible as it sounds, the anti-Akaka racists have reached a new low. As most of you may have heard, the Hawai’i State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (HISAC) has begun hearing testimony on the proposed Akaka bill.In a move that shows just how ignorant the Bush administration is about Hawaiian history and culture, new members of the advisory committee include H. William Burgess, James Kuroiwa Jr., and lawyer Paul Sullivan – all of whom have publicly stated their strong opposition to the Akaka bill. These bozos are now using the Commission to give their preposterous arguments the illusion legitimacy. The fact that the Civil Rights Commission is against the Akaka Bill is an irony of the highest order. The leaders of the Civil Rights Movement who bled for equal rights in the ’60’s must be rolling in their graves!

HISAC had a public briefing in the state capitol auditorium on August 20th. State Attorney General Mark Bennett spoke in strong support of the Akaka bill, while Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity in Virginia spoke in opposition. Bennett must be commended for his expertise on the issues and using his quick wit to make Clegg look like a fool.

Clegg kept insisting that the Akaka bill is unconstitutional, as if saying it over and over would make it a reality, but Bennett made it clear that Congress has the (plenary) power to pass the bill into law.

Clegg, admitted (several times) that he wasn’t familiar with Hawaiian history and culture and it showed. He argued that the “one drop rule” for Hawaiians to be considered Hawaiian wasn’t enough to qualify them to help rebuild a Hawaiian Governing Entity. He clearly didn’t know that the United States Congress created the blood quantum percentage in the 1920 Hawaiian Homes Act to limit the number of Hawaiians who qualified for homelands. It had nothing to do with defining whether a person can be considered Hawaiian or not.

Clegg also argued that the islands were not united as a single distinct nation prior to the arrival of Europeans and, therefore, don’t qualify to rebuild their government. This statement is also mistaken since the islands were still occupied by Native Hawaiians who were governed by a feudal system of Island Chiefs. Bennett had to remind him again that the argument is moot since Congress clearly has the power to make it happen.

Clegg argued that Hawaiians can’t rebuild their government under the process set-up for Native American tribes because the Hawaiian government hasn’t continued to function over the 100+ years since the overthrow. Bennett responded that it is ridiculous for the United States, who helped to overthrow the Hawaiian Government, to now say that Hawaiians can’t rebuild their government because it doesn’t exist today.

Finally, Clegg argued that if the Akaka bill passed, it could encourage other people to ask for nationhood, such as the Native peoples living in Texas. Bennett said it best when he reminded the audience that people usually go to “slippery slope” and “what if” arguments once they run out of good ones. This got more than a few chuckles from the audience.

I believe Clegg showed his true intentions when he mentioned that Hawaiians number more than 400,000 people across the nation and asked whether it would be wise to give so much power to such a large group within the U.S. He stressed that no American Indian or Alaska Native tribe even comes close to our numbers. If he had done his research, he would have known that the Navaho, the largest Native American tribe, have close to 500,000 members.

Clegg and the racists that invited him here to speak obviously fear that the Akaka bill would give us the power to finally help ourselves to forge a brighter future. They obviously want to keep Hawaiians and other native peoples from being self-sufficient. We need to fight harder now to preserve, not only our rights as natives of this land, but to show these racists Americans that we are not just poor Hawaiians but savvy Americans as well. We will attain sovereignty no matter how long it takes.

Dan Boylan of Midweek said it best: “The GOP Insults Hawaii’s Host Culture,” by stacking the deck of the Civil Rights Commission with Republican ideologues.

Imua e Hawai’i nei