1978: Race and Power in the Con Con

Taking issue on race, power and IR&R

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Lawrence Kono was another Constitutional Convention delegate who addressed Penebackerʻs idea of the IR&R being a "mainland" issue; it was a belief shared by several delegates.  

Kono describes that Hawai'i does feel threatened by changes that seek to upset its priority for the "disenfranchised and average working man." But Hawai'i is also troubled with limited assets.  It is valued for geopolitical reasons and climate, which assigns tourism and militarism as its main economies. But, these industries marginalize local traditions and creates social hierarchies.  

The history of the plantation union skirmishes and the ascendancy of local people into the political structure revealed a political imbalance where a disproportionate percentage of the legislature were Japanese and Chinese in 1960.  While this was useful as part of the upheaval of the working-class movements, Kono questions if that effort has already run its course. He notes the awakening of the aboriginal Hawaiians along with haole and Filipinos as populations rising to participate and shape Hawai'i politics.  

Kono reflects on how Japanese-Americans were relocated into camps 35 years previous. He advocates for this type of situation to not be repeated. He notes that Penebackerʻs perspective on the racial dimensions underlying the IR&R could be rejected and disagreed with by others. But to deny haoles, mainlanders, or anyone else from being able to express their views threatens the democratic rights of equal opportunity and due process guaranteed every American.

At the same time, it is not about suppressing cultural identities and adapting to prevailing cultural norms. This denies chances to share and learn new customs, ideas and attitudes. This is something unique about Hawaiʻis diverse population--immigrants have worked to preserve their identity to practice their constitutional right to free speech.