Ke Ao Maoli
First, a little about racism as understood through critical race theory, so everyone knows where I'm coming from. Racism is not only about race, it is about power and historic structures of inequality based on race. So for example, my grandfather studied to be an electrician in Hawai'i. But because more skilled jobs in the 1950s were often reserved for ex-military men, who were haole, my grandfather was unable to find work in Hawai'i employed in the work for which he was trained. THAT is racism! He was denied work not just because he was Kanaka Maoli but because he didn't belong to the preferred race in the colonial power structure, which was created to benefit haoles.
So that leads me to my second point. If a Kanaka Maoli has race based prejudices, because he/she has not historically belonged to the race which has benefitted from historic power structures, he/she canNOT be a racist! That doesn't mean a Kanaka Maoli cannot be prejudiced or a bigot, which are unpleasant definers, but he/she again, I repeat, canNOT be a racist! So if a Kanaka Maoli yells out their car window to the driver that just cut them off, "Damn haole!" That is not a racist statement, because it has no real effect on the person for which it is directed because it does not affect their position in the power structure. So what if a Kanaka Maoli calls a white person a haole. Does that mean haoles are going to have any less privilege wherever they go? Has calling white people haole ever hurt their job opportunities or ability to get an apartment, credit or a loan? Has calling white people haole justified their oppression? This is not to say that all haoles have it perfect. No way. But it has to be acknowledged that being haole in this current world system has its advantages and privileges that cannot be denied. On the other hand, when a haole calls a Kanaka Maoli a "Damn Kanaka" or "Damn Native," those are more than just words. With those words come a whole history of inequalities in Hawai'i, where Kanaka Maoli were dispossessed and disparaged by haoles based on being Kanaka a.k.a. Native. THAT is racism!
Third, probably one of the most misinformed and damaging arguments I hear from both Kanaka Maoli and non-Kanaka Maoli is that somehow Kanaka Maoli pursuing indigenous rights or special status in Hawai'i is racist, because those rights are race based and seemingly exclusionary. The problem is, this whole argument is based in racism, specifically what's called colorblind racism. This whole idea that we're all "human beings" is undeniably true, and so is the statement that race is a social construct. Well no kidding folks. BUT the fact remains that it is a social construct that really and truly exists and continues to perpetuate inequalities to this day. Before colonization (and let's be honest, we were colonized by haoles), Kanaka Maoli were a productive people. There's hardly any part of the islands that was not developed in some way, such as land and water based agriculture and animal husbandry. To be productive was a Hawaiian value. So if one denies that 100+ years of colonial race-based structural inequalities that historically favored haoles do not have a lasting impact on Kanaka Maoli to this day, what does that imply? Are Kanaka Maoli just too lazy or stupid to be less successful? If one denies the existence of race and lasting impact that it still has in Hawai'i today, THAT is racism! It's not about what is said outright. It's about what is implied. Bottom line, when it comes to indigenous rights or special status in Hawai'i, that is just about giving Kanaka Maoli extra leverage in a system that has been set up against us.
Last, I just want to say, this is not meant to be an attack on haoles. My mother is haole. And I know we have many loved ones, allies, and Kanaka Maoli rights advocates in Hawai'i that are haole. We know the good people. What this is about is using correct terminology to better state our positions. Racism is a word that is often used and used quite successfully to shut down dialogue. And in the context of Hawai'i, it is a word used to shut down dialogue that's often working towards building our rights. And that surely doesn't benefit us! So let's keep it real and avoid the straw man already.