In January 2020 the leaders of several different Hawaiian organizations presented a resolution to the Hawaii State Legislature calling for the end of discrimination against Hawaiian nationals. Senate Resolution 159, was designed to provide equal rights to Hawaiians, but on June 29 was shot down by a senate committee.
Hawaii was an internationally recognized independent country in the form of a constitutional monarchy known as the Hawaiian Kingdom until 1893, when a small group of white businessmen, the descendants of American missionaries, conspired with U.S. Ambassador John Stevens to usurp the lawful Hawaiian Kingdom government. The U.S. attempted to annex Hawaii to the United States but failed when over 90% of Hawaiians signed petitions opposing the annexation. In 1898 the U.S. government decided to usurp Hawaii anyway, which is in violation of U.S. law, international, and Hawaiian Kingdom law.
In 1993 the U.S. Congress passed a resolution apologizing for America's illegal actions towards Hawaii, but they did not offer any remedy. In 2001, a case involving a Hawaiian national and the Hawaiian Kingdom government was heard at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the World Court at the Hague, Netherlands. The mere hearing of the case indicated the continuity of the Hawaiian Kingdom as the legal governing body of the Hawaiian Islands.
In 2018, Dr. Alfred de Zayas, the original United Nations Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, stated in 2018 in a memo address to U.S. government officials that Hawaii is legally an independent country and should be treated as such. In another memo sent later that year addressed to the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the U.N. member states, de Zayas wrote that “numerous complaints submitted to the UN indicate the judges and justices of the U.S. State of Hawaii completely disregard and even display contempt for international laws,” and stated that the countries who have signed the UN Charter and the Hague and Geneva Conventions have an interest and obligation to hold the U.S. accountable.
Although the University of Hawaii system accepts Hawaiian national identification, the rest of the State of Hawaii does not. This makes it difficult for Hawaiians to conduct everyday activities such as using a bank account, attaining employment and education, or buying a house. To this day Hawaiians remain one of the most disadvantaged and oppressed people groups in Hawaii, and Hawaiian nationals are treated even worse.
U.S. Federal law, as well as State of Hawaii law, prohibits discrimination on the basis of national origin, yet Hawaiian nationals continue to be discriminated against Nationals of other nations, such as Japan or the European Union, can travel, work, and live in Hawaii protected by law from discrimination, yet Hawaiians are denied those same legal protections.
In 1979 the State of Hawaii created the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) specifically to serve the interests of “Native Hawaiians” - a group defined by ethnicity. Hawaiian nationals reject OHA as their representative because OHA speaks for the ethnic group, not the nation. Hawaiian nationality is not based on ethnicity but on national allegiance. The two terms are not the same. Those who had their country usurped by the United States were all subjects of the Hawaiian Kingdom, not only those from an ethnic group within the Kingdom. Nationality under Hawaiian law is not based on race or ethnicity, but on national origin.
The refusal of the U.S. government to provide equal rights to Hawaiians is a civil rights violation according to U.S. law, as well as human rights violation in international law. The rejection of SR 159 indicates that Hawaiians will continue to be discriminated against until serious changes are made.
Robert Kajiwara, Ph.D. A.B.D. Manchester Metropolitan University, is president of the Peace For Okinawa Coalition.
Leon Siu is co-director of the Koani Foundation and in 2016 became the first Hawaiian nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.