Opinion: Racial politics behind recognition of Native Hawaiians

"In 2000, the Supreme Court held that Hawaii violated the 15th Amendment by allowing only those that it defined as being of Hawaiian "ancestry" to vote for the trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. In Rice v. Cayetano, the Supreme Court concluded that Hawaii was improperly using "ancestry as a racial definition and for a racial purpose."

That's not all. For the past several years, Congress has been considering the proposed Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, also known as the "Akaka Bill," whose co-sponsors include Senators Akaka and Inouye of Hawaii. That bill would end-run Rice v. Cayetano and treat native Hawaiians like Indian tribes. As National Review pointed out, an effect of the bill would be to "partly disenfranchise a portion of the state's residents …." "[P]artly disenfranchis[ing]" some of a state's residents in violation of the 15th Amendment got the covered jurisdictions into trouble in 1965. Somehow, trying to do that isn't enough to put Hawaii into the penalty box.

Moreover, with the proposed Akaka Bill stalled in Congress, Senator Inouye is apparently working on a fix. A paragraph in the Senate Appropriations Committee's draft bill for Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations would pave the way for making Native Hawaiians an Indian tribe, even though Hawaiians belonged to a kingdom, not an Indian tribe. Senator Inouye's current move comes after he called allegations that he was trying to sneak the Akaka Bill into a 2009 Defense Appropriation bill "nonsensical" and claimed that the process for enacting the Akaka Bill was "fully transparent.""

Get the Story:
Jack Park: The Problem With Hawaii (The American Spectator 11/8)

Related Stories:
Opinion: Media reports falsehoods on Native Hawaiians (10/31)
Opinion: Oppose Native Hawaiian 'backdoor' recognition (10/27)
Native Hawaiian recognition put in Interior appropriations (10/25)

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