02 May 2007 Project 21 Press Release: Black Activists Criticize Congressional Proposals to Create a Race-Based Hawaiian Government
Without a hearing, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources is expected to vote on the “Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2007” (H.R. 505) on May 2.
Members of the black leadership network Project 21 are expressing concern that the legislation directly conflicts with the spirit of inclusion and equality that civil rights activists fought so hard to create.
Similar legislation in the U.S. Senate (S. 485) is scheduled to be the topic of a hearing in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on May 3.
“It’s a shame that so many continue to risk and suffer so much in the fight for a colorblind and racially equal society only to suddenly have Congress appear so insistently willing to throw it all away,” said Project 21 chairman Mychal Massie. “Paving the way for a race-based government to be set up in Hawaii is both immoral and offensive to the legacy of those who fought in the civil rights movement for people to be judged separate from race and ethnicity.”
This legislation would create a native Hawaiian government with sovereign immunity akin to that enjoyed by Indian tribes. This proposed government, however, is likely to be determined on racial terms, restricting eligible voters exclusively to those of Hawaiian ancestry. Experts say this limits the voting pool to approximately 400,000 Americans nationwide – roughly 160,000 of whom do not even reside on the Hawaiian Islands. Critics say the proposal would create a virtual caste system on the Hawaiian Islands and might even allow those affiliated with this race-based government to ignore various laws and safety regulations.
A similar Hawaiian racial governance plan was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Rice v. Cayetano. A decisive seven-to-two decision that was handed down in 2000 overturned a “Hawaiian only” provision for voting for the trustees of the state’s Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), a quasi-governmental native Hawaiian lobbying organization.
While this proposal for a race-based government has found support among the Hawaiian political class and their paid advocates, a May 2006 poll commissioned by the Grassroots Institute of Hawaii found almost 67 percent of the population of Hawaii opposed this proposal as it was introduced in the previous session of Congress, and over 80 percent generally oppose race-based preferences. Almost 70 percent of Hawaiian residents would also prefer to see a statewide referendum on the issue rather than having it decided solely at the federal level.
“Liberals who support these proposals are simply continuing in their contemptible efforts to subvert and divide people along racial lines – even going so far as to incite racial acrimony where none exists,” said Project 21’s Massie. “Obfuscation through the use of seemingly innocuous verbiage and feel good language makes their intent no less wrong and certainly no less dishonest. This was wrong before, and it is just as egregious today.”
Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research, has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11 or [email protected], or visit Project 21’s website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.