U.S. House Approves Race-Based Government in Hawaii
For Release: October 24, 2007
Contact: David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 x11
Washington, D.C. - The U.S. House of Representatives today approved a far-reaching bill that would create a race-based government with substantial power over the affairs of the state of Hawaii.
The "Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2007" (H.R. 505, also called the "Akaka Bill") was adopted by a 261-153 vote.
Members of the Project 21 black leadership network say the legislation directly conflicts with the spirit of inclusion and equality that civil rights activists fought so hard to create.
"It is contemptibly dishonest, not to mention completely disingenuous, for the very politicians who are best known for decrying racial division to eagerly push legislation to institutionalize race as the guiding principle for a body of government within our United States," said Project 21 Chairman Mychal Massie. "Surely, such a radical proposal deserves more attention and certainly a lot more debate."
The Akaka Bill, which has not been adopted by the Senate, would create a native Hawaiian government with sovereign immunity akin to that enjoyed by Indian tribes. This proposed government 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.
President Bush has said he will veto the measure should it reach his desk.
Gerald Reynolds, chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, has said the Akaka Bill "would authorize a government entity to treat people differently based on their race and ethnicity... This runs counter to the basic American value that the government should not prefer one race over another."
The U.S. Supreme Court overwhelmingly ruled in 2000 that a similar "Hawaiian only" provision for voting for the trustees of the state's Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) was unconstitutional.
A May 2006 poll commissioned by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii found almost 67 percent of the population of Hawaii opposed the Akaka Bill as introduced in the previous session of Congress, while over 80 percent generally oppose race-based preferences. Almost 70 percent of Hawaiian residents also preferred a statewide referendum on such a proposal rather than having it decided by the U.S. Congress.
"Polls have been conducted and federal Civil Rights Commission hearings have been held that find strong and legitimate public opposition to the Akaka Bill. Rushing a vote now is dismissive and disrespectful," added Project 21's Massie, "Instead of representing all people equally, regardless of race and ethnicity, it seems congressional leaders want to ram this legislation through before logic and cooler heads can prevail."
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) 507-6398 x11 or Project21@nationalcenter.org, or visit Project 21's website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.