- The Washington Times - Friday, October 13, 2000

The famous hospitality with which Hawaiians have long greeted newcomers is in danger of turning into an ugly experiment in color-coded self-dealing. Under legislation approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and awaiting action in the U.S. Senate, lawmakers would set aside special federal government benefits and handouts for so-called "native Hawaiians" capable of passing, in effect, a racial purity test. Call it Jim Crow West.

Specifically the bill would allow self-styled "lineal descendants of the aboriginal, indigenous, native people" to establish government-to-government relations with the U.S. government. This new native Hawaiian government would hold title to land and resources it would then be free to manage without interference from so-called non-natives. That's because only natives would be allowed to vote for the ruling government. The new regime would be free to abide by or ignore existing Hawaiian laws, regulations and taxes as it chooses. It could carve out special benefits to natives regarding land, health care, education and more. Proponents justify the legislation as compensation for the U.S. takeover of Hawaii more than a century ago.

Not the least of the problems is trying to determine exactly who is a native Hawaiian and who isn't. The legislation would actually establish a process, complete with hearings, to establish whether an applicant has the appropriate bloodline to achieve native status. One wonders whether a single drop of non-native blood so "contaminates" an applicant that he no longer qualifies for government favors. Further, why should the "natives" estimated to constitute approximately 20 percent of the present Hawaiian population enjoy privileges unavailable to the remaining 80 percent, few if any of whom took part in the original takeover?

H. William Burgess, an attorney for plaintiffs in a case that allowed non-native Hawaiians to vote for trustees overseeing island affairs, argues the proposed legislation "would erase aloha and impose apartheid." That's reason enough for senators to oppose it.

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