Mary Katharine Ham

“I guess I got mad reading the newspapers…telling everyone that this is what the Hawaiians want,” she said.

It is not what they want, she contends. And, polls seem to back her up. A poll conducted by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in March of 2005 showed that 74 percent of Hawaiians were against the Akaka bill and federal recognition.

A conservative think-tank in Hawaii, the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, commissioned a survey in 2005, which showed that 67 percent of Hawaii residents were against the Akaka bill, and 48 percent of Native Hawaiians surveyed agree.

The Institute’s most recent survey shows that 70 percent of Hawaiian residents want to vote on the Akaka bill before it’s considered on a national level, and 67 percent of residents continue to oppose the Akaka bill.

That’s all Siu wants—a say. He pointed out that no hearings have been held in Hawaii on the current or any previous version of the Akaka bill, despite the immense impact it may have on the state.

“We’re not opposed to the government helping us do something,” he said, “but together as a community, we should figure out what’s best.”

Kekumano is concerned that the racial preferences and race-based government will create “at least strong animosity between the people who have always lived together…We don’t have specific barriers between race. This would create an incredible apartheid really,” she said.

Supporters of the bill claim that the Akaka bill will just grant to Native Hawaiians the same recognition given to other Native American tribes. Unlike other Native American tribes, however, Native Hawaiians were never a racially and culturally separate sovereign entity.

When King Kamehameha became ruler of all the Hawaiian islands in 1810, the Kingdom of Hawaii welcomed the contributions and participation of non-natives. Even supporters of the Akaka bill admit that the Kingdom of Hawaii was a minority ethnically Hawaiian. The Akaka bill would create a racially separate entity that has never before been separate.

I grew up in the South. I’ve seen my share of racial tension. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you don’t create racial separatism where there is relative racial harmony. I can’t imagine anything more counterproductive.

The Akaka bill would be a disaster for all the people of Hawaii, according to Kekumano and Siu. It would divide them in ways they’ve never been divided, turn neighbor against neighbor. The majority of Hawaiians know this, and many Native Hawaiians agree.

“We can avoid a bad situation by simply letting Hawaiians have a say,” Siu said.

This “Hawaiian issue” will become a national issue this week. The Akaka bill’s attempt to create a race-based government is antithetical to American values. If the Senate knows that the people of Hawaii—even native Hawaiians—believe that, then maybe we can indeed avoid a bad situation.

Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham is editor-at-large of, a contributor to Townhall Magazine.

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