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by Brittany Yap, Kamehameha '02

 

Hawai‘i’s sovereign Queen, Lili‘uokalani, surrendered her throne on Jan. 17, 1893, and the Hawaiian flag was taken down and the American flag was raised over ‘Iolani Palace.

Bernice Pauahi Bishop had a vision for her people during a time that seemed bleak. She wanted to build the Kamehameha Schools for her people to improve their social, economic, and health status, as well as allow them to learn about their Hawaiian language and culture in a non-threatening environment, and at a cheap cost.

On Aug. 2, a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled 2-1 against the Kamehameha School’s admission’s policy, overturning a Honolulu federal judge’s decision supporting the school. The Federal Appeals Court said that the practice at the private school violates federal civil rights law and calls the policy “unlawful race discrimination.”

On the O‘ahu Kamehameha Schools campus the day the court announced its ruling, the administration called for a chapel service for all people on campus to come together to pray during a time of frustration. The school’s Hawaiian Ensemble danced and chanted, the principal gave a hopeful speech, and as one scanned the room of tearful students, staff, alumni, one thing was evident, people were hurt by this latest injustice. Kamehameha Schools should be allowed to continue to give preference to Hawaiians because of the injustices that the Hawaiian people endured since time of annexation.

According to Charles Reed Bishop’s address to Kamehameha students on Dec. 19, 1887, Pauahi foresaw “that, in a few years the natives would have to compete with the other nationalities in all the ways open to them for getting a honest living; And so, in order that her own people might have the opportunity for fitting themselves for such competition, …these schools were provided for, in which Hawaiians have the preference, and which she hoped they would value and take the advantages of as fully as possible.”

Kamehameha Schools is one of the few things left that Hawaiians have to call their own, a place where they and their children can learn their culture and Hawaiian values. And they do so today with classmates of all ethnic backgrounds, so they don’t feel they are discriminating against any one race or missing an experience of other cultures.

No one can blame the John Does for trying to come to Kamehameha; it is a good school. We can blame the courts, however, for not considering the case in the context of the injustices done to Native Hawaiians, and for not seeing this school as a special case because of the way it was founded. Kamehameha Schools should be allowed to set its policies to provide justice to the Hawaiian people.
Some may ask if the policy of giving preference to people of Hawaiian ancestry is still necessary in the 21st century. According to an Aug. 29 article in the New York Times, the court itself acknowledged that disproportionate numbers of the state’s poor, homeless, and undereducated are Native Hawaiians. Compared with non-Hawaiians, Native Hawaiians are more likely to experience child abuse and neglect, more likely to commit a crime, and less likely to have professional jobs. Congress acknowledges this, and has passed more than 85 laws that include preferences for Native Hawaiians, including the Native Hawaiian Education Act of 2002 and the Hawaiian Homelands Ownership Act of 2000. These affirmative action programs, like Kamehameha School’s race-based admissions policy, aim to rectify the injustices suffered by the Hawaiians.

Hawai‘i is the only state that has a palace, and it is a constant reminder of the injustices done to the Hawaiian people. The feeling of hurt and anger at the American betrayal is still an open wound in the Hawaiian community. This decision by the court rubbed salt in that wound.

Some Hawaiians hope for a sovereign nation, some hope for all land to be restored to the Hawaiians, some hope for compensation through money, but I hope that every Native Hawaiian gets a chance at education and making a better life for themselves.

 

 

 

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