Project 21 Press Release: Black Group Decries Discriminatory Hawaiian Admissions Policy; Court Ruling Allowing Preferential Treatment of Native Hawaiians Greases the Skids for Race-Based Island Government

Members of the black leadership network Project 21 decry a Ninth Circuit federal court ruling that allows a Hawaiian school to discriminate against non-native Hawaiians, and note that the ruling could jump-start legislation stalled in Congress to create a race-based island government that directly contradicts our nation’s “melting pot” tradition of inclusion.

“Responsible lawmakers, jurists and the residents of Hawaii oppose race-based preferences,” noted Project 21 chairman Mychal Massie.  “This ruling once again shows how a handful of unelected judges can override the will of the people, and how important it is to have judges who strictly interpret our Constitution.”

Established in 1887 by the will of the last royal descendent of King Kamehameha, the nonprofit Kamehameha Schools  currently give “first right” of admission to those with native Hawaiian ancestry.  In a razor-thin 8-7 decision, the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that this preferential policy could continue.  In her majority opinion, Judge Susan Graber said the policy helps “counteract the significant, current educational deficits of native Hawaiian children in Hawaii.”

In his dissent, Judge Jay Bybee noted: “I believe the majority’s novel approach to statutory interpretation is readily manipulable and would enable courts to rewrite statutes whenever they want to save a particular program, contract or enactment.”

The Doe v. Kamehameha Schools ruling is also being seen as a boost for “The Native Hawaiian Government Restoration Act,” a bill proposed by Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) to create a native Hawaiian government with sovereign immunity akin to that enjoyed by Indian tribes.  Critics of the legislation say it could create a race-based government that would institute a virtual caste system and overturn federal laws and safety regulations as well as endanger the operations of military bases such as Pearl Harbor.

A May 2006 poll commissioned by the Grassroots Institute of Hawaii found that 67 percent of Hawaiian residents oppose the proposed Akaka bill and 80 percent generally oppose race-based preferences.  Despite this overwhelming public rejection, Professor Jon Van Dyke of the University of Hawaii’s Richardson School of Law told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin of the ruling, “This gives the green light, I would think, for Congress to pass the Akaka bill.”

“All of this is a transparent attempt to create race-based preferences for a select group of people,” said Project 21’s Massie.  “This ruling must be viewed as an incremental attempt to establish a type of sovereignty which would ultimately relieve native Hawaiians of all federal responsibility.  Nothing in said formula, however, convinces reasonably-minded persons that the so-called plight of these people would improve.”

In 2000, a decisive 7-2 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a “Hawaiians only” voting provision for the state’s Office of Hawaiian Affairs.  Regarding the record of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Center for Individual Freedom noted in 2004 that it is “the most reversed court in the country” with 250 percent more unanimous reversals of its decisions appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court than any other circuit at that time.

“The 9th Circuit continues to show its proclivity for ruling from the bench in favor of that which is antithetical to a civil and unified American fabric.  This is exactly why it is not only the most reversed court in the history of judicial circuits, but also the most frequently chastised court by the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Massie.

Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992.  For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 x11 or [email protected], or visit Project 21’s website at


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