- The Washington Times - Monday, November 29, 2004

Playing racial politics in Hawaii

Three attorneys for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs have defended a bill to give federal recognition to ethnic Hawaiians, comparing them to an Indian tribe (“Hawaii bill in line with U.S. political tradition,” Forum, Sunday).

This dangerous bill would badly damage not only Hawaii, but the entire United States. It will be introduced again in 2005. This bill is based on a new theory of the Constitution, that the Indian Commerce Clause empowers Congress to arbitrarily select any group of “indigenous people” and create a “tribe” for them out of thin air, regardless of the group’s history and lack of continuity as a political entity.

This theory would, for example, allow Congress to recognize a “Nation of Aztlan” comprised of all people having any Mexican/Aztec ancestry who live in California, Texas, Arizona, etc. It would also encourage hundreds, perhaps thousands, of additional phony “tribes” to seek recognition.

Census 2000 says there are more than 400,000 “native Hawaiians,” including 240,000 in Hawaii, 60,000 in California, and 100,000 in the other 48 states. This phony new “tribe” would be larger than any genuine tribe. “Native Hawaiians” make up 20 percent of Hawaii’s population — no other tribe has such a large percentage of a state’s population.

The Hawaiian recognition bill is, in effect, apartheid legislation that would carve Hawaii into separate racial jurisdictions. Twenty percent is a huge voting block when push comes to shove in disputes between a tribe and a state (tribal members also vote as citizens of a state).

Ethnic Hawaiians are highly intermarried and widely dispersed throughout all neighborhoods of Hawaii. Their “tribal lands” would be similarly scattered, creating jurisdictional nightmares.

The history of native Hawaiians is completely different from the history of American Indian tribes. There was never a unified political entity or nation whose members were exclusively native Hawaiian. Europeans and Americans helped create the kingdom of Hawaii. Because of decisions made by the sovereign kings of Hawaii exercising self-determination on behalf of their people, thousands of native-born and naturalized whites had voting rights and property rights as full-fledged citizens of the kingdom.

Most cabinet officers, and many elected members of the legislature, were white. By the time the monarchy was overthrown, 60 percent of the population was white or Asian. Yet the Hawaiian recognition bill ignores that history and proposes to give political recognition exclusively to the 20 percent of Hawaii’s people who have at least one native ancestor.

The real purpose of this bill is to protect more than 160 racially exclusionary government programs that benefit ethnic Hawaiians. Of course, such race-based government programs are unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment equal protection clause; and they are now under attack in the courts. Large, wealthy ethnic Hawaiian institutions are spending millions to lobby for the Hawaiian bill so they can stay in business.

The Hawaiian recognition bill is unconstitutional. It would lay a foundation for further ethnic balkanization of America. It would give encouragement to racial identity politics, racial entitlement programs, racial separatism, racial reparations for historical grievances, etc.

KENNETH R. CONKLIN

Kane’ohe, Hawaii

To the land of make-believe

Reading “Grandson gets treehouse as gift,” (Metro., Monday) I was filled with warm thoughts of a grandfather’s love, and the exciting times Ryan Edwards will spend in his beautifully built HarryPotter-inspired treehouse.

Later, in the article, it was was disappointing for me to learn that Ryan’s grandfather has big plans to install electricity for a TV, game station and perhaps a computer. Why? The house is so much more precious without these things. With imagination, I’m sure Ryan and his lucky friends can make-believe their own adventures.

BERNADETTE MICHAEL

Arlington

America, Russia and the Ukraine election

The drama now accompanying the presidential election in Ukraine could portend a turning point in post-Cold War Europe’s history, and not for the better (“Ukrainian parliament opposes vote,” Page 1 Sunday).

That Russia appears to have abetted the election fraud there is troubling, as civil strife within the country has intensified and civil war is possible. Rightly concerned, the Bush administration has joined in the criticisms of how the voting was conducted.

Certainly, the democratic aspirations of the Ukrainian people warrant American endorsement on both moral and political grounds. As the election directly affects Europe’s interests, however, it is best that the European Union, or some other coalition of European states, take the initiative to help Ukraine to resolve its internal difficulties.

While American diplomacy must encourage such efforts, its focus must be on Russia itself. That country’s meddling in Ukraine is but the latest indication that it is seeking to re-establish its former influence, if not its pre-eminence, in Eurasia.

Coupled with the Putin government’s increasing authoritarianism at home and abroad, this development is disturbing. A re-emergence of Russian hegemony would bode ill for the rest of the world, especially the United States.

President Vladimir Putin must be made aware that notwithstanding Russia’s strategic, economic, and cultural interests in Ukraine or its cooperation in the war on terror, any backsliding into imperialism would trigger negative consequences, including diplomatic and economic isolation. His country must learn that a democratic Ukraine threatens neither its position in the world nor its prestige.

Ultimately, America must help foster genuine democracy in Russia. That policy is without doubt ambitious. Nevertheless, Russia’s embrace of freedom would not only be best for its people, but also for the international community. Moreover, such a transformation might render the issue of Ukraine moot, and thus preclude any future catastrophe.

CHARLES H. RIEPER

Columbus, Ohio

The electoral fraud in Ukraine by the pro-Russian Kuchma-Yanukovych regime is part of a massive campaign of Russian interference in Ukraine. Russia has poured millions of dollars into the Yanukovych campaign and Vladimir Putin himself came to Ukraine twice to support his candidate. It is not surprising that Ukrainians became alarmed by this threat to their independence and rose in opposition.

It appears that Mr. Putin had been preparing to launch an outright assault on the pro-democracy forces in Ukraine. Sources in Kiev report that Russian special forces dressed in Ukrainian uniforms were stationed near that city since the beginning of the demonstrations.

Clearly these troops were there not just to intimidate, but also to suppress the demonstrators if the Ukrainianpolice refused to do so.

Mr. Putin had used the cover of elections previously in Russia to undermine the democratic movement there and establish his authoritarian regime. He also installed a “duly elected” totalitarian regime in Belarus, and only a peaceful revolution in Georgia prevented a “democratically elected” pro-Russian government from taking office there.

Many Russians believe that they must regain control of Ukraine, if Russia is to recover her former superpower status. To achieve this they appear to be ready to eradicate the Ukrainian pro-democracy movement.

It is commendable that Western democracies are speaking out against the attempted subversion of the elections in Ukraine. However, their apparent reluctance to oppose Mr. Putin’s neo-imperialist policies in reassembling Russia’s former colonies is both shameful and dangerous.

Will it take a bloody suppression of the Ukrainian pro-democracy movement for the West to back its criticism with economic sanctions against Russia? The West must not repeat the mistakes of the timid European nations who failed to confront Adolf Hitler in the 1930s.

GEORGE FOTY

Associate professor of Slavic studies (Retired)

University of Saskatchewan

Canada

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