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Hawaii - rapid social and economic progress


Hawaii island
Hawaii island

One of the most important developments in Hawaii since statehood has been the rapid social and economic progress of its Asian American population. Asian Americans led whites in educational attainment, employment, occupational status, median income, and home ownership. A higher proportion of Asian Americans than whites were born in Hawaii and had strong roots there. Most Japanese Americans and Chinese Americans were born locally, despite recent immigration from China and Taiwan. Most white residents were born on the mainland. Asian Americans have moved increasingly into upper middle class positions. Following the practice of well-to-do whites, they began sending their children to prestigious private schools in the islands and to mainland colleges. Hawaii faced the potential of a two-class educational system, leaving the public schools to Hawaiians, Portuguese, Samoans, Puerto Ricans, Filipinos, and the children of poorer Whites, and Chinese and Japanese, in addition to refugees from Southeast Asia.

Tension among ethnic groups exists in Hawaii, although compared to much of the U.S. mainland, Hawaii remains a remarkable example of inter-ethnic cooperation. Continuing prejudice is most apparent in public schools, where local children often tease white boys and girls, and where newly arrived immigrant children are not always welcomed.

The most troubling ethnic grievance in Hawaii remained that of the native Hawaiians, who frequently expressed resentment against Japanese Americans as well as whites. The sense of loss shared by the small number of pure Hawaiians who remain and by many part-Hawaiians was reinforced by the continuing gap in income and health; compared with whites and Asians, part-Hawaiians had the highest infant death rate, the most difficulty in school, the highest rates of serious illness, and high rates of crime.

All groups have expressed a great interest in ancient Hawaiian culture, and in 1978 the state agreed to promote the study of native Hawaiian traditions, history, and language.

However, occasional examples of prejudice against Hawaiians still arise. In 1974 the Native American Programs Act was amended to add Hawaiians as a category of native peoples, enabling them to qualify for various federal assistance programs.

In May 1995 the Hawaii legislature committed $600 million to compensate for misuse or wrongful sale of about 16,000 hectares (39,000 acres) of trust lands set aside for native Hawaiians under the Hawaiian Rehabilitation Act of 1920. The money will be used to develop the parcels, which native Hawaiians can lease for $1 a year, by paving roads and setting up water and electricity.

The 1920 law, which was supposed to encourage native Hawaiians’ self-sufficiency through homesteading, eventually put about 81,000 hectares (200,000 acres) in trust. But much of the land was not suitable for agriculture, and some was taken for such public uses as parks, airports, schools, and military bases.

Some native Hawaiians have called for reparations to be made for the overthrow of the monarchy; some have asked for a return to the Hawaiian Kingdom on land set aside for Hawaiians. In the summer of 1996 native Hawaiians voted to create a native Hawaiian government. The vote enables native Hawaiians to hold a constitutional convention. Whatever the outcome, native Hawaiians born in the United States will be U.S. citizens and remain under U.S. jurisdiction. The patterns of ethnic relations in Hawaii are complicated, but it is remarkable that so much harmony exists. Rates of intermarriage are high for all groups, and Hawaii is still an example for many places trying to build a more compassionate and just multi-ethnic society. "Hawaii" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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