Prejudice in Paradise?

Prejudice in Paradise,” has been fueling a discussion on anti-white racism in Hawaii. One perspective that continues to be left out of this incendiary dialogue is the story of “the melting pot.” In the 1950s, during the national debate on Hawaii statehood, one of the myths that was being peddled about Hawaii, was that it was America’s trophy for multi-culturalism, the result of America’s democratic experiment. In the post-war era, Hawaii was used as an example of how diverse nationalities could get along, work together and have inter-racial families, and this was seen as evidence that universal peace and harmony in the world could be actualized. Understandably, this universality was a founding principle of American democracy, and if the United States was to lead the world towards peace, diversity and equality would have to be objectives. There were even plans to headquarter the United Nations in Hawaii, but in part, because Hawaii was so far removed from Europe, New York was selected. The founding of the United States celebrates this national experiment of diversity. To embrace American democracy meant to abandon the fixed social, religious, national and class strata of one’s native country and create new opportunities. This sentiment was an idea practiced by those primarily of European ancestry. However, in the 18th and 19th century, if you were of Native American, African or Asian lineage, this principle did not apply. For these new immigrants, swapping the application of nationalism for race was the new dividing line through which segregation and identity became manifest. The Statue of Liberty, dedicated in 1886, after the Civil War, symbolizes the sentiment of immigration with a sonnet by Emma Lazarus inscribed on a plaque on the second floor of the pedestal, which reads:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Two years earlier, in his Majesty’s Speech at the Opening of the Legislative Assembly, on April 26th, 1884, Kalakaua declares:

“…the enterprise of immigration on Portuguese and other peoples, as a measure for the re-population of My Kingdom, has largely engaged the attention of My Ministers during the late biennial period, and liberal supplies for furthering this object were voted by the late Assembly. That measure is fraught with so much importance to the future welfare of the country, that it should again be fully considered and receive your very earnest deliberation. The settlement in the country of Portuguese, and other immigrants who have fulfilled a term or service is most desirable, and My Ministers will submit to you measures to promote their residence as a permanent part of the population of My Kingdom.” “…I am anxious in view of the large increase of a mixed people in My Kingdom, that the military and police administration of the country should be placed upon a more effective basis, and the Attorney General of My Kingdom will place before you plans and estimates to provide for this increased effectiveness of this most important branch of the public service…”
The Hawaiian Kingdom embraced the diversity that populated Hawaii, and I would argue that the “repopulation” of Hawaii that Kalakaua addresses, was seen as a necessary step to adjust to the nearly 80% loss of Kanaka Maoli due to infectious diseases at this time. The embracing of citizenship to the Kingdom was a primary objective, and the reference to race is part of a policy that was conscientiously eschewed since it was primarily associated with slavery, a practice that was harshly condemned by the Kingdom, as stated in Article 12 of the 1852 Declaration of Rights which states:
Slavery shall, under no circumstances whatsoever be tolerated in the Hawaiian Islands: whenever a slave shall enter Hawaiian territory he shall be free…”
At what point did race become such a stalwart issue in Hawaii? Arguably, it was the coup by the pro-annexationists, the white oligarchy, and it was through the subsequent “annexation” that the institutionalizing of race was founded. It was only after Hawaii became a territory of the United States that cultural discrimination against Kanaka Maoli became firmly entrenched, and the blood quantum of the Hawaiian Homelands Act created an over-determined attention to race. After the overthrow, there also began exclusionary practices to immigrant groups, and the division of peoples for the benefit of cheap labor which added to the entrenchment of the race issue. Against the backdrop of annexation, and contrary to the principles of the overthrown Hawaiian Kingdom, racism flourished. Now that Hawaii was annexed to the United States, Hawaii was held to a lower standard of race-relations. The Massie case is a prime example of this– that a white woman would be arrested for the murder of a Hawaiian man falsely accused of raping her daughter, then released after an hour– is tantamount to the kind of racism that defined Hawaii under laws of the Territory. Further, the labor and economic conditions practiced under the territory were discriminatory and did not privilege native Hawaiians. This discrimination created a new economic class system in Hawaii that reinforced the racial biases from the Territory into statehood. This has led to a further dislocation of Kanaka Maoli from their home as we see today, with the growing native Hawaiian population incarcerated in prisons outside of Hawaii. How was it that Hawaii became the international model for a multi-cultural paradise? During the 1950s, as the world was dividing between the capitalist and communist blocs, the United States was promoting the benefits of capitalism and democracy to many of the new countries admitted into the United Nations in hopes that these new countries might adopt and support U.S. initiatives. While touting the benefits of American democracy at the UN, newspaper headlines were depicting the race riots and discrimination occurring in the South, as well as in other parts of America. Naturally, this proved an embarrassment to the United States, and anti-racial discrimination policy had to become a national security issue to counter the negative and adverse effects that racism had on our foreign policy. During the Civil Rights movements before and after Hawaii’s statehood, Hawaii was often seen as championing the cause for the United State’s position on international racial diversity. Magazines, music and films all participated, showing mixed marriages, hapa kids, multi-ethnic unions, etc. These images though, were little more than propaganda to show the world that America embraced international diversity. That Hawaii should achieve statehood in the midst of this controversy is not coincidence. Somewhere along this campaign is where the myth of the melting pot matures. The construction of the myth of the melting-pot entirely ignores the history of the Hawaiian Kingdom and is appropriated as an American ideal born out of Thanksgiving and the Pilgrim landings, the American Revolution, and the Civil War. Again, the United States co-opts the Kingdom laws and asserts its own ideals and principles as its own, all the while perpetuating the same kind of oligarchic control over its peoples. While it is imperative for the Southern Poverty Law Center to champion issues surrounding race and class, the problem with imposing a model of inverse institutional racism on Hawaii, particularly native Hawaiians, is that the institution of racism itself was born and bred from the same principle that is at the foundation of having corrupted Hawaiians in the first place. Racism in any form is unjust and unjustifiable, the Hawaiian Kingdom understood this. Yet, how do you a fix a system that breeds hate while preaching justice? At some point we will all have to realize that it is a corrupt system that perpetuates this dilemma. *** Following the Statehood Countdown, I’ve added correspondence between Henry Cabot Lodge to President Eisenhower over a plan that will help the U.S. image, internationally, with this national dilemma on Civil Rights. You could almost fill in the blank with “Hawaii Statehood” since the last office that signed off on the Admission Bill in 1959, was also the Office of the Budget. go to original October 15, 1957 Dear Mr. President: In your recent letter you asked for suggestions to repair the damage done to our world position by the events at Little Rock. Having reflected, I make these suggestions: 1. That our diplomatic representatives make a sustained effort to extend hospitality to distinguished colored people. This should not be confined merely to US diplomats in colored countries or posts like mine here, where I entertain non-whites regularly. In “white” countries distinguished colored people who may be visiting should be given hospitality. I know from experience here how much it means. 2. That some favorable action be taken on a loan to India and, in conjunction therewith, on settling the Kashmir question. India is a key country with much of the non-white world. 3.An affirmative attitude by the US on the subject of multilateral economic aid under the UN would have a tremendously good effect in all of these non-white countries and would tend to counteract the harm of Little Rock. You may remember that I submitted such a scheme to you—involving no extra cost to the US, to be conducted entirely in harmony with US foreign policy (although our control would not be apparent); getting us about twice as much for our money as we now get under the bilateral program; and which would get us credit for helping an altruistic UN program “with no selfish political strings attached”. Under a UN program the services of first-class experts who are willing to live in the native village can be obtained at salaries which no equally good US expert would expect. Ever since I have been here US policy has been negative, This has hurt us. I am delighted that Secretary Dulles has now approved an affirmative position—including essential features which I had proposed—for us to take at this General Assembly. It still has to be cleared by Treasury, Budget, and the White House staff. There really is no sound argument against it and overwhelming arguments in favor of it. It aims directly at all those countries which are most upset by what happened at Little Rock and is definitely a step in the right direction. The prestige which the Soviet Union is getting because of its satellites intensifies the importance of effective non-communist technical and economic assistance coming in a way which does not look like the US-USSR power struggle. I would like you to hear me on this subject when it comes to you for your decision—if there is any opposition to it, With warm and respectful regard Faithfully yours, Cabot Lodge.]]>

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