(c) Copyright 2009
Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D.
All rights reserved
** Author's note: The full-length letter below was sent to President Obama in several ways, but there was neither a response nor an acknowledgment that it had been received (not even from an assistant). To be sure he gets the message, it is now necessary to make it public. Accordingly, a very brief letter to editor was published in the Washington Times newspaper on Sunday March 15, 2009 focusing entirely on one small topic (Would President Obama favor creating a racial separatist government for 40 million African Americans?). The short Washington Times letter can be found at
Here is the full-length letter [bill numbers are new as of March 25, 2009]
President Barack Obama
Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D.
46-255 Kahuhipa St. Apt. 1205
Kane'ohe, HI 96744
tel/fax (808) 247-7942
Aloha Mr. President, from Hawai'i, the place of your birth.
You have said you want to hear all opinions and you are willing to change your mind based on ideas newly brought to your attention.
I'm writing to ask you to oppose the Akaka bill: the Hawaiian Government Reorganization bill. Three matched pairs (companion bills with identical content) of the Akaka bill are active in the 111th Congress. Their dates of introduction and bill numbers are: February 4, 2009, S.381 and H.R.862; March 25, 2009: S.708 and H.R.1711; May 7, 2009: S.1011 and H.R.2314.
There are many reasons why anybody should oppose it. But in this message I'm appealing to you based on three things that uniquely define who is Barack Obama: ideals you have publicly espoused; your personal and racial background; and your expertise from being a professor of Constitutional law. These points address fundamental issues which apply to every version of the Akaka bill which has been introduced from 2000 to now.
APPEALING TO YOUR IDEALS -- TEAR DOWN WALLS THAT DIVIDE US INSTEAD OF ERECTING A NEW WALL OF APARTHEID
In your Berlin speech in July 2008 you gave a ringing endorsement of the ideal of inter-racial unity, making clear that divisiveness and tribalsim must come to an end. Here's what you said in the shadow of the Berlin wall: "... the greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another. ... The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down. ... Not only have walls come down in Berlin, but they have come down in Belfast, where Protestant and Catholic found a way to live together; in the Balkans, where our Atlantic alliance ended wars and brought savage war criminals to justice; and in South Africa, where the struggle of a courageous people defeated apartheid."
The whole purpose of the Akaka bill is to divide the lands and people of Hawaii along racial lines. To declare that the descendants of natives should be a hereditary elite with a racially exclusionary government walling out all who lack a drop of the magic blood.
Why should such an abomination be inflicted on us in the very place where King Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III proclaimed racial unity and equality as law? In the first sentence of the first Constitution (1840) of the multiracial Kingdom of Hawaii, the King wrote: "God hath made of one blood all races of people to dwell on this Earth in unity and blessedness." Why should we now erect a wall of racial separatism in the land of aloha? Please, Mr. President, help bring us together instead of ripping us apart.
YOUR PERSONAL SEARCH FOR IDENTITY IN A BLACK COMMUNITY WHERE GOOD PEOPLE SEEKING FULL INTEGRATION STRUGGLED AGAINST AN IDEOLOGY OF RACIAL SEPARATISM AND HATRED
Sir, I'm going to accept the challenge recently posed by your Attorney General, Eric Holder, to speak openly and honestly about race.
You have a deep personal understanding of the quest for racial identity because of your own black/white heritage You know the historical struggle for identity within the African-American community. Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam, and the early Malcolm X, advocated racial separatism and portrayed the white man as a devil. Some radicals called for setting aside several southern states for a Nation of New Africa. Fortunately Martin Luther King used Gandhi's spiritual tool of non-violence to appeal to people's inner goodness, which led to full integration. After his pilgrimage to Mecca Malcolm X understood the universal brotherhood of people of all races, but was gunned down by the separatists when he tried to persuade them to pursue integration.
In your extensive work as a community organizer you saw how some demagogues use racial grievances to stir up hatred, and leaders use victimhood statistics to build wealthy and powerful institutions on the backs of needy people who end up getting very little help. During your campaign for the Presidency the whole nation saw your heart-rending decision to reject the outrageously divisive black liberation theology in the rhetoric of the pastor whose church you had belonged to for 20 years.
THERE'S A SIMILAR STRUGGLE IN THE HAWAIIAN COMMUNITY.
Sir, the same struggles go on within the ethnic Hawaiian community. The Akaka bill would empower the demagogues and racial separatists. The Akaka bill is supported primarily by large, wealthy institutions; not by the actual people they claim to represent. Institutions like the $400 Million Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and the $9 Billion Kamehameha Schools, seek to entrench their political power. They want an exemption from the 14th Amendment requirement that all persons be given the equal protection of the laws regardless of race.
But Hawaiians are voting with their feet against the Akaka bill. After five years and untold millions of dollars in advertising, fewer than one-fourth of those eligible have signed up for the Kau Inoa racial registry likely to be used as a membership roll for the Akaka tribe. Sadly, if the bill passes then the separatists will be able to create their tribe even though the majority of ethnic Hawaiians oppose the idea. And 80% of Hawaii's people, having no native blood, will see our beautiful Hawaii carved up without even asking us.
WOULD YOU SUPPORT CREATION OF A RACE-BASED GOVERNMENT FOR 40 MILLION AFRICAN-AMERICANS? THE AKAKA BILL'S IMPACT ON HAWAII WOULD BE 50% MORE DEVASTATING THAN THAT.
Mr. President, please bear with me while I ask a very strange question about race, and then explain its relevance.
Would it be good to round up all 40 million African-Americans, defined by the one-drop rule, and declare that they are a tribe with the power to create a racially exclusionary government and negotiate for money, land, and legal jurisdiction? Would that be good for America? Would it be good for African-Americans? Would it be consistent with the dream of Martin Luther King? Or does it sound more like a nightmare?
The racial divisiveness of the Akaka bill would be 50% more devastating for Hawaii than the creation of the African-American tribe would be for all of America. Here's why. According to the U.S. Census American Community Survey for the most recent 3-year period (2005-2007), 13.1% of all the people of America are at least partly African-American. And about 20% of the people of Hawaii are at least partly native Hawaiian. Thus the impact the Akaka tribe would have on Hawaii is 50% more devastating and divisive than the impact on America of creating an African-American tribe, because the percentage of Hawaii's people who are ethnic Hawaiian is 50% larger than the percentage of the U.S. population who are African-Americans, all according to the same one-drop rule used in the Akaka bill.
THE AKAKA BILL WOULD CREATE AMERICA'S BIGGEST "INDIAN TRIBE" COMPETING AGAINST THE GENUINE TRIBES FOR A DIMINISHING POT OF FEDERAL MONEY.
The Akaka tribe would be the largest tribe in America. In Census 2000 there were more than 401,000 people who checked the box as having Hawaiian ancestry (Current estimates are much larger, but the Census Bureau groups ethnic Hawaiians with other Pacific islanders making it hard to separate them).
By contrast, in 2005-2007 Census ACS, the three largest tribal groups are Cherokee tribal grouping (including several different tribes) at 298,510, Navajo tribal grouping 288,682, Chippewa tribal grouping 108,880. In the Bureau of Indian Affairs the phony Akaka tribe will be the elephant in the room, grabbing federal money that formerly went to the real tribes.
That same "elephant" issue is also true for some of the states. According to Census 2000, more than 60,000 ethnic Hawaiians lived in California (recent estimates say 65,000). The Akaka tribe would probably be the largest tribe in California! An additional 100,000 were living in the other 48 states outside Hawaii. Local branches of the Akaka tribe would be formed in every state and might buy land, put it into federal trust, operate tax exempt businesses, and build casinos competing against gambling operations owned by states, local governments, private corporations, and Indian tribes. Although the Akaka bill was amended in March with language that allegedly prohibits the tribe from gambling, Western-state Senators in previous years expressed concern that the language was not sufficient to actually prohibit gambling.
THE KINGDOM OF HAWAII HAD FULL RACIAL INTEGRATION FROM THE START. THERE NEVER WAS A RACIALLY EXCLUSIONARY GOVERNMENT LIKE THE AKAKA BILL PROPOSES TO "REORGANIZE." TODAY ALL RACES ARE FULLY INTEGRATED IN HAWAII'S RAINBOW SOCIETY.
There never was a unified nation of Hawaii that included all the islands and had only ethnic Hawaiians as members and high-ranking leaders.
At the beginning John Young, Englishman, was a leader in the forces of the conqueror Kamehameha The Great. He was appointed Governor of Kamehameha's home island; his son was second in rank to Kamehameha II; his granddaughter was Queen Emma (wife of Kamehameha IV); and he is buried with the kings in the Royal Mausoleum. His tomb is the only one marked by a raised stone platform resembling an ancient heiau (temple), and is the only tomb guarded by a pair of pulo'ulo'u (sacred taboo sticks).
Caucasians and Asians were subjects of the Hawaiian Kingdom when they were either native-born or naturalized. Throughout the Kingdom's history most cabinet ministers, most judges, nearly all department heads, and sometimes 1/4 to 1/3 of the legislators were Caucasian. The majority of the population at the end of the Kingdom were Asians working on the sugar plantations or as owners of small businesses. Only 40% of Hawaii's people at the time of the revolution in 1893 had a drop of native blood. Ethnic Hawaiians today are fully integrated and widely dispersed throughout the entire population in all neighborhoods. They are not separate and distinct from non-natives. Most of them have low native blood quantum. 40% of them live outside Hawaii.
Why then would you support a bill which claims to "reorganize" a racially exclusionary native government in a place that never had one? Why build a wall of racial separatism when you said in Berlin that your ideal is to tear down such walls?
THE CONSTITUTION DOES NOT ALLOW CONGRESS TO SINGLE OUT A RACIAL GROUP, CREATE A SEPARATIST GOVERNMENT FOR IT, AND ARBITRARILY CALL IT AN INDIAN TRIBE.
Mr. President, you have a strong academic background in Constitutional law, and were a professor of that subject for several years at the University of Chicago. The Akaka bill is unconstitutional.
The Constitution gives Congress the power to recognize Indian tribes that already exist, but not to create new ones out of thin air. The Akaka bill is based on a whole new theory of the Constitution, that would say Congress has the power to single out any group of so-called "indigenous" people and create a racially exclusionary government for them, empowering that government to negotiate with state and federal governments for money, land, and jurisdictional authority. An "indigenous" person under the Akaka bill is defined as anyone with at least one drop of native blood from an ancestor who lived in Hawaii before Captain Cook came in 1778.
If such a theory were adopted, then all people of Mexican ancestry (who have a drop of indigenous Aztec or Mayan blood) would be eligible to create a Nation of Aztlan and demand jurisdiction over most of the lands of several Southwestern states that formerly belonged to Mexico. Just as the Akaka bill allows anyone with a drop of native Hawaiian blood, anywhere in the world, to join the tribe and come to Hawaii, so the theory of the bill would allow anyone with Mexican ancestry, living anywhere in the world, to join the Nation of Aztlan and come to America.
Supporters of the Akaka bill point out that tribes are defined by race. But tribes are also defined by their political history as separate and distinct groups living apart from surrounding populations and having a government that exercised substantial authority over them continuously from before Western contact right up to now. In the Akaka bill the ONLY requirement for membership is race. The Akaka "tribe" fails to satisfy several of the seven mandatory criteria for federal recognition found in 25 CFR 83.7.
Supporters of the Akaka bill say ethnic Hawaiians deserve the same federal recognition given to Native Americans and Native Alaskans. But if the racial theory of the Akaka bill were followed on the mainland and in Alaska, then all Native Americans would be grouped together as one single tribe because they all have the same race; and the same is true for all Native Alaskans.
The Constitution does not give Congress the power to turn a racial group into a tribe. It only gives Congress the power to recognize tribes that already exist as separate and distinct political groups. Supporters of the Akaka bill say the Supreme Court's decision in Lara gave Congress the power to create a tribe. But that's not true. It only gave the government the right to re-recognize a tribe that had been previously recognized and then decertified; but not to create a new tribe where none had existed before.
THANK YOU MR. PRESIDENT.
Mr. President, I have taken a lot of your time. But if this message prevents you from making a terrible mistake, it's been worthwhile. Thank you for thinking about this issue. Please let the word go out that you oppose the Akaka bill, and will veto it if it dares to soil your desk with its racism. If you or your advisors have more time to study the Akaka bill, please consider the following.
A FEW SUGGESTED READINGS
Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. "Hawaiian Apartheid: Racial Separatism and Ethnic Nationalism in the Aloha State"
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights -- Report Opposing the Akaka bill
Akaka bill hearing before the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, in Washington D.C., on Tuesday July 19, 2005
What Does the United States Owe to Native Hawaiians? Two reports commissioned by Congress contain the answers, which are directly applicable to the Akaka bill. The Morgan Report (U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, 1894, 808 pages) concluded the U.S. did not conspire with the revolutionists to overthrow the Hawaiian monarchy, and did not help them while it was underway. The Native Hawaiians Study Commission was delivered to Senate and House committees in 1983, and concluded there is no historical, legal, or moral obligation for the United States to provide race-based benefits, group rights, or political sovereignty to ethnic Hawaiians.
Bruce Fein, "Hawaii Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand"
Bruce Fein is a nationally known attorney specializing in Constitutional law. He publicly called for the impeachment of President Bush for violating the Constitution on matters related to the war in Iraq, separation of powers, Guantanamo detainees, and warrantless searches of private communications. This monograph includes an extensive point-by-point rebuttal of the 1993 apology resolution which the Akaka bill repeatedly cites as its primary justification.
A series of hard-hitting one-minute audio messages oppose the Akaka bill, accompanied by corresponding YouTube videos and transcripts. Each item focuses on one historical figure who is of major importance in Hawaiian history or culture but would not be recognized as Hawaiian according to the Akaka bill; or one aspect of the Akaka bill that is contrary to the ideals of unity, equality, and aloha.
Major Articles Opposing the Hawaiian Government Reorganization bill (Akaka bill), 2000-2009 -- index.
The Akaka Bill And Secession: The Hawaiian Government Reorganization bill (Akaka bill) is seen by its supporters as a step toward total independence for all of Hawai'i
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GO TO THE INDEX OF TOPICS FOR THE HISTORY OF THE AKAKA BILL FOR THE ENTIRE 111TH CONGRESS, JANUARY 1, 2009 THROUGH DECEMBER 31, 2010, WITH LINKS TO SUBPAGES COVERING EACH PERIOD OF TIME
SEE MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE HAWAIIAN GOVERNMENT REORGANIZATION BILL (AKAKA BILL)
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(c) Copyright 2009 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved