Thursday, March 08, 2007
From USA Today…
Racial tensions are simmering in Hawaii’s melting pot
By Martin Kasindorf, USA TODAY
HONOLULU — A violent road-rage altercation between Native Hawaiians and a white couple near Pearl Harbor two weeks ago is provoking questions about whether Hawaii’s harmonious “aloha” spirit is real or just a greeting for tourists.
The Feb. 19 attack, in which a Hawaiian father and son were arrested and charged with beating a soldier and his wife unconscious, was unusual here for its brutality. It sparked a public debate over race relations that is filling blogs and newspaper websites with impassioned comments along stark ethnic lines.
These divisive exchanges come as the U.S. Supreme Court and Congress are being asked to tackle another inflammatory racial issue in a state where no race is a majority: special benefits for Native Hawaiians, ranging from preference at an elite private school to free houses on government land. One side says the long-established perks compensate Hawaiians for past wrongs and preserve their valuable culture for the islands. The other side says the benefits discriminate against other racial groups.
The current controversies are exposing racial tensions below the surface of a tropical paradise that Gov. Linda Lingle says is “a model for the world” in diversity and peaceful integration. Simmering divisions pit Hawaiians against other groups, and “locals” of all races against newcomers including immigrants and military members.
At issue now is whether Hawaii will acknowledge and overcome these threats to its friendly reputation.
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