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Commentary: Hawai'i and the United States: Sovereignty Deniers
"Commentary - Hawai'i and the United States: Sovereignty Deniers" by David starr delves into the Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement as being racist and akin to apartheid, according to its deniers.
The subject of race has been on many occasions a heated and controversial topic. We could go back to early human history, and after, to realize how racism has been an unfortunate factor impacting humanity, regardless of color differences.
The following gives specifics on race relations between Hawai’i and United States:
Hawai’i is one of the least publicized/known areas worldwide; its history is not that well-known among U.S. “mainlanders” as well; primarily, it’s conceived as a “paradise” with “docile and friendly natives.” The latter has coped with a touristy, “Aloha Spirit” label that’s as authentic as a plastic lei. “Mainlanders” should be more aware of Hawaiian history, e.g., regarding race, since their use of Hawai’i as a getaway. Prominent figures in its history, for the sake of accuracy, mainly white, have assumed Native Hawaiians as unable to govern themselves.
Since 1778, Kanaka Maoli have been rapidly dislocated as indigenous peoples to the point of being a “threatened” minority. It’ hard to imagine the level of culture shock they experienced with the rapid arrival of haoles (foreigners).
In 1837, Native Hawaiian intellectual David Malo made, unfortunately, an accurate prediction:
“If a big wave comes in, large fishes from the dark ocean which you never saw before, and when they see the small fishes they will eat them up; they will prey on the smaller ones; the ships of the white men have come, and smart people have arrived from the Great countries which you never saw before, they know our people our people are few in number and living in a small country; they will eat us up.”
In the late 20th century, his prediction has been less likely; and perhaps short-sighted.
Historically, trying to totally assimilate Native Hawaiians has been like trying to fit a square peg into a circular hole. Native Hawaiians traditionally been seen generally as one-dimensional, obviously relating to the tourist industry. The original concept of Aloha, at the least, was pushed aside by an artificial one. Historically, opinions from some whites in particular haven’t exactly been compatible with the “Aloha Spirit”:
“…for the sake of commercial supremacy in the Pacific we should control the Hawaiian Islands…it is a movement which makes for civilization and advancement of the race.”
--U.S. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, 1890s
…”a crime against white civilization.”
--Theodore Roosevelt criticizing the hesitancy of annexing Hawai’i, 1893
“The aim is something above fish and poi! Let us raise the standard and bring the native up rather than keep ourselves down to his base.”
--Lorrin Thurston, 12/30/1893
“…there will be a deep and living interest in [the monarchy’s] birth and evolution, the grafting of Teutonic buds on an old Polynesian stock; the movement of the Polynesian head, with the Anglo-Saxon brain generally behind it.”
--the Honolulu Advertiser, 11/1897
“The rescue of these islands from the absurd, grotesque tottering native dynasty was only another step onward of liberty and civilization; another forward movement in the conquest of the world by the Aryan race. Sir, the fittest will survive. Under the providence of God, Anglo-Celtic civilization is accomplishing the regeneration of the planet.”
--U.S. Representative Charles Cochran, pro-annexation supporter, 1898
“…it may be that you have a polyglot House [of Representatives] and it will be your painful duty to recognize, with fear and trembling, the gentleman from the ‘cannibal islands,’ who will gaze upon you with a watering mouth and gleaming teeth.”
--U.S. Senator Champ Clark, anti-annexationist, 1897
“…no need to be sorry for, in the occasion that has called for so convincing a success, which will be the less than real true, through the mysteries of God, the whole native race expire as it is Christianized.”
--Rev. Henry T. Cooper, supporting the equivalent of ethnic cleansing against Kanaka Maoli
Nowadays it is still accurate to say that white racism hasn’t vanished in Hawai’i, or elsewhere. There’s an anti-Hawaiian Sovereignty “movement” which has made some noise about Kanaka Maoli asserting themselves, regarding the indigenous issue. Among the noisiest is Ken Conklin, a former University of Hawai’i professor who of all things taught a Hawaiian Sovereignty course. (Wouldn’t it be more applicable for him to teach anti-Sovereignty?) Conklin, among other sovereignty deniers, claims that Native Hawaiians have been discriminatory and racist, about a topic officially recognized by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and by the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide as valid. But Conklin cites the U.S. Constitution as being a “set-in-stone” source to back up his claim.
In 2007, Conklin published a book entitled “Hawaiian Apartheid: Racial Separatism and Ethnic National in the Aloha State.” (I’m compelled to wonder if he meant the original concept of Aloha, or the artificial.) Conklin has made it clear that Native Hawaiians have no right to consider sovereignty, although the latter is a major factor for indigenous identity. He is fond of Hawaiian culture, but has an inability to connect the obvious dots of the very culture he likes to sovereignty. He has cited the 14th and 15th Amendments and the Voting Rights Act, justifying sovereignty deniers’ positions. What’s interesting about his supposed support for equality and racial harmony, is that Conklin apparently doesn’t know he has contradicted his position.
Being anti-sovereignty, Conklin no doubt supports the 1893 U.S. overthrow of Hawai’i as a nation, and later results backing it. The U.S. position, bizarrely, claims its sovereign right to violate sovereign rights. Further, Conklin’s position actually indicates, at least indirectly, that he does supports racism and inequality as these were potent factors contributing to the overthrow.
In 2001, the attractive but politically repulsive Michelle Malkin added her support, expressed by her lightweight sarcasm, for the deniers. She used the term “federal wampum” to equate Native Hawaiians with scam artists. She also used her own made up jargon, “racial separatism beauracy.” She justified her stand in referring to Japanese and Filipino immigrants correctly as citizens, giving the impression that nonHawaiians aren’t proclaiming sovereignty, so Hawaiians shouldn’t either. But nonHawaiians wouldn’t need to since Japan and the Philippines already represent those backgrounds as existing, sovereign nations.
Native Hawaiians don’t have any other territory worldwide to make a justification for self-determination, obviously. Besides, their indigenous identity originating in Hawai’i, it’s painfully obvious, and logical, that Kanaka Maoli would choose Hawai’i. But Malkin makes incredible accusations associating Native Hawaiians with “apartheid” and Nazism”; when it’s painfully clear there’s fundamental differences, e.g, of Hawaiians being the invadee, not the invader.
The deniers of course don’t recognize the fact that Hawai’i was recognized internationally as a sovereign nation, before the “sovereign right” to violate sovereignty.
Another known denier is Thurston Twigg-Smith, ancestor of the coup maker and, yes, racist ideologue. Like other deniers, Twigg-Smith’s position is akin to “out sight, out of mind.” After all, “American exceptionalism” is not “allowed” to be challenged, especially in “paradise.” L. Thurston was the grandson of the first Christian missionaries to Hawai’i. They felt a true believers’ duty, despite whatever positive intentions, to “save” the “native” from him/herself. (Sounds like “bombing the village in order to save it.”)
Another historical caricature of manifest destiny was U.S. diplomat John L. Stevens. Stevens was quite a diplomat…for pro-annexationists in Hawai’i: businessmen and missionary descendants. But his actual diplomacy toward another nation he’s supposed to be diplomatic to wasn’t evident. A Manifest Destiny fanatic, Stevens, among others like his ally, State Department head James G. Blaine were unanimous on Blaine’s assertion that an “intimate” relationship between Hawai’i and the U.S. makes the former “part of the American system without derogation of their absolute independence.” The problem is that the latter part was simply bullshit. Stevens’s conclusion “respecting” Hawaiian “independence” was this: “The Hawaiian pear is now fully ripe, and this is the golden hour for the United States to pluck it.”
An established excuse among those who have seen “fit” to historically be paternalistic toward Kanaka Maoli goes like this; if we [the U.S.] didn’t take over Hawai’i, another power would.” The Koani Foundation, a pro-sovereignty group, had the appropriate response, to paraphrase: “That’s like the rapist saying ‘If I don’t rape you, someone else will.’” BTW, this is further discredited when the British government prevented an Admiral Paulet from trying to take over Hawai’i, and thus restoring native sovereignty.
In response to Hawaiian assertiveness, there’s been a phenomenon revived called “Haole Nationalism.” It sounds like “haoles” being “nationalist” to be ultranationalist. It originated with the missionaries in 1820, although of a slightly different character: it wasn’t necessarily consumed by hate as by an assumed arrogance. Still, it assumed that whites had a monopoly on promoting civilization, being the “natural order of things.” It’s possibly the reason whites are referred to as haoles (originally, foreigners), embracing white supremacy myths to take power earlier in Hawaiian history. This did include a near-genocidal assimilation, i.e., trying to deny Hawaiian identity, overall. For example, Hawaiian language being illegal.
Due to Hawaiian responses to historical injustice, whites, more domestic than foreign, have also taken offense at the word haole. It’s been used derogatorily, as in “You fucking haole.” Hawaiians using the term are considered “racist.” But what is racism, really? Its foundation comprises the myth that race, color, culture, language, etc. determine racial supremacy. It’s interesting because while there have been Hawaiians who used it derogatorily, it’s not based on racism. NO Hawaiian that I know of thought themselves superior to whites based on the attributes above.
If anything, it is out of anger unresolved by letting the sovereignty issue fester like an infection, rather than addressing it. So, it makes sense. (However, I’m not implying that someone as an individual succumbs, in itself, to threats or otherwise. There is the right to use the “fight or flight response,” within human nature. But that also includes a Native Hawaiian right to use it also, and precisely for the self-defense of indigenous rights.) This, like anti-sovereignty, falls by the wayside, as unjustifiable excuses.
Recently, the Right, no doubt anti-sovereignty, revealed themselves as almost certifiably out of their minds. (Legitimate rape, anyone?) And they kept digging a discreditable hole, and will. It’s in their political nature.
Using the racist label, or card, on Kanaka Maoli is discredited. Besides, the word is used routinely as a matter-of-fact-term, without malice. I noticed sovereignty deniers ignore that, along with the politically repulsive. (Federal wampum, anyone?) With that, uses of the terms apartheid and Nazism against Kanaka Maoli are incredible. The Right has more so shown that they usually don’t use Leftist-coined terms accurately. Rather it’s for the association with something bad, a crude use, considering the lack of accurate content, e.g., Obama is a “Hitler” (!?).
The Right’s attempts to apply Leftist terms, ineffectively, is like a show of reverse victimization. And the use of the U.S. Constitution in the name of equality and racial harmony to stop sovereignty is unbelievable, no matter the legalese. I’m amazed how sovereignty deniers misuse it, since their position is discredited precisely because they support the very inequality and racism used for the overthrow that they defend.
Denial, especially of the ultranational variety, dies hard.
So, actually, the cause of sovereignty denial is invalid, regardless of attempted legalities.
David Starr lived in Hawai’i for 20 years, eventually being involved in the sovereignty movement. He currently lives in Derby, Connecticut. ©2012