There are schools in Hawaii fighting for the chance to continue their racist admissions policies. As this article explains, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is debating
whether some private schools in Hawaii could lawfully give admissions preference to Native Hawaiians.
The Kamehameha Schools was established under the 1883 will of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop as part of a trust now worth $6.8 billion. Part of the school's mission is to counteract historic disadvantages Native Hawaiians face in employment, education and society. The trust subsidizes tuition.
I gather that this trust is administered wholly or in part by the state, and probably receives public funding in addition to its original endowment, so the question here isn’t “Can a private institution be racist if it wants to” but “can the state be racist.” I’d say no.
Well, I probably would say no. If this were any other state in the Union. Or any racial distinction other than “Native Hawaiian.”
I think Hawaii’s kind of a special case. It never wanted to join the Union, after all. Hawaii's a state today because we invaded a sovereign nation, overthrew its leader and forced it to rearrange its culture.
I have a large collection of 19th-century stereoscope cards. Right now, in fact, I’m holding one from a “Views of the World” set made around 1900. The card shows a picture of Governor S.B. Dole “on the palace grounds in Honolulu,” and the back has this to say about Hawaiian history (note how events are not listed in chronological order):
The Hawaiian Islands, now an American territory, were discovered by Captain James Cook in 1778 … The inhabitants were semi-civilized and had a kind of feudal state organization. In 1792 Vancouver brought them cattle and taught them shipbuilding. American fur traders furnished Kamehameha I of Hawaii firearms, whereby he was enabled to conquer the other islands. His dynasty ended only when on July 4, 1894, Hawaii was declared a republic. American missionaries introduced Christianity about 1820, and in 1840 a constitution was granted. King Kalakaua, and after him his sister Liliuokalani attempted to restore heathenism and an absolute monarchy, but were defeated. The queen was dethroned in 1893 and the civilized element placed the islands under the protection of the United States.
I have a hard time criticizing pro-Hawaiian preferences among Hawaiians, because I can’t tell a group of people “since we conquered you and your land, you are not allowed to view yourselves any differently than us.”
On the other hand, I know full well that there’s not a Hawaiian alive today who actually suffered through the American takeover, nor an American alive who was responsible for it.
On the other other hand (the possibilities here symbolized by one of those multi-armed Hindu gods), doesn’t that attitude boil down to “If Country A takes over Country B, country B’s children and grandchildren aren’t allowed to resent the takeover?”
That card is just over 100 years old. There are plenty of Hawaiians whose parents or grandparents lived through the takeover and discussed it with their children and grandchildren. How long before you can morally say “Shut up and accept our rules, we conquered your country fair and square?”
Or to put it another way, if one country conquers and absorbs another, how long until that stops being a Naked Act of Aggression and becomes the legally and morally enforceable status quo?
Can collective grievances ever be justified? (Yes, I know. Collective. Collectivism. The ultimate in obscene C-words among libertarians, who happen to be the main group I hope my new blog here appeals to. So why am I using it? I don’t know, but I’ll bet it’s connected somehow with why I was so unpopular in high school.) If so, when do they stop being justifiable? Should there be a reverse statute of limitations on racism, before which a group can get away with feeling resentful but after which it can’t?