Via Roger Clegg, it appears that the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act is back on the Congress’s docket; the bill would create a separate government for native Hawaiians along the lines of tribal governance that American-Indian nations now enjoy. THE WEEKLY STANDARD examined why the passage of this bill would be a nightmare back in 2006:
“It would also designate a privileged caste of Hawaiians who could feasibly be subject to a different legal regime than their next-door neighbors--all on the basis of race. The racially chosen Hawaiians might enjoy special tax and welfare benefits. They might be able to petition state and federal officials over land and natural-resource spats, which would no doubt trigger an avalanche of lawsuits. And their new government would presumably be exempt from important bits of the U.S. constitution, as Indian tribes are.”
Then there are the various constitutional problems with the bill as it stands, such as the very real question as to whether or not the United States can deem a group of people to be a native tribe. From Rep. Doc Hastings’ (R-WA) argument against the bill:
“There is a key difference between the Hawaiian ‘tribe’ recognized under H.R. 2314 and the tribes duly recognized through Treaty or Act of Congress: the former is not a tribe within the meaning of the Indian Commerce Clause of the Constitution (Article I, Section 8) because it does not share the historical and political relations of Indian tribes with Congress.”
Legal and constitutional wrangling aside, the most pernicious effect of this legislation is clearly the attempt to once again set up a two-tiered system of justice when it comes to race. In our brave new postracial world, one would think that such efforts would have become a thing of the past.