The House Refusal to Hear OHA’s Bill was “Red-lining”


Mililani B Trask: Trustee Hawaiʻ;i Island

We tend not to think about “red-lining” in Hawaiʻi. But the recent legislative session and some unearthed history make me think it’s time we recognized how that concept operates here.

Red-lining is a real estate practice in which public and private housing industry officials operate in a way that denies certain communities access to loans or financing because they are deemed “high risk” on the basis of their ethnicity.

Thanks to scholar Tina Grandinetti’s essay in Detours: A Decolonial Guide to Hawaiʻi (edited by Hokulani A. Aikau and Vernadette V. Gonzalez. Duke University Press, 2019) we learn that a 1982 draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of the Housing and Community Development Authority (HCDA) said this: “New Kakaʻako residents are expected to be predominantly Caucasian and Japanese…Because they tend to have lower incomes, Part-Hawaiians, Filipinos and most other ethnic groups are not expected to be represented in proportion to their share of Oʻahu’s population.”

She tells us that “while the existing community In Kakaʻako was a mixed plate of Japanese, Chinese, Hawaiian, and Filipinos, the two new condo towers housed predominantly haole (Caucasian) residents and a large number of Japanese residents.” It is clear to her that “HCDA had decided that effective development would be defined by profit and investment even though it knew that this would bring drastic changes to the neighborhood.”

HCDA might as well have hung a banner outside Kakaʻako that said “Hawaiians not welcome.”

Grandinetti concludes that “Kakaʻako planners had effectively decided that a successful development was a profitable one. In so doing, they deemed Kānaka Maoli and working-class families as undesirable.”

HCDA’s requirements exclude those who most desperately need housing – from essential workers to teachers to police officers. “Roughly 75% of housing demand comes from low-income households, but they are not served by HCDA and are left out of the growing community in Kakaʻako.”

This disdain for Kānaka Maoli and working-class families was reflected in the behavior of Speaker Saiki and Sen. Moriwaki who, despite being repeatedly briefed on OHA’s plans for Hakuone, feigned ignorance. They bought into and supported the campaign of disinformation conducted by the so-called “Friends of Kewalos” who had also been given the courtesy of meetings with OHA executives and the Chair of the Board of Trustees.

The message we heard loud and clear was that we, the Indigenous people of these islands, were literally obstacles in the way of the settler colonizers. Or as the Speaker himself said, housing on Hakuone might interfere with the “view planes” of those living in the luxury condos.

As Professor Emeritus Jonathan Okamura pointed out in his column in Civil Beat, “settler colonialism” is no longer confined to academia. It has been brought vividly to life in the treatment accorded to OHA this past legislative session.

Okamura explains that “settler colonialism is a system of power and control by a resident racial or ethnic group over a native people in their homeland.” He cites fellow scholar Candace Fujikane who describes Asian settler colonialism as “a constellation of the colonial ideologies and practices of Asian settlers in Hawaiʻi.”

Okamura notes that “the ideologies include racism and the practices consist of institutional discrimination.” We saw both at work in the denial of a hearing for OHA’s bill in the House and in the refusal to fund OHA in ways that the Senate saw as justified.

But OHA and the Indigenous peoples of these islands will not take this disrespect lying down. We will respond. And we will prevail. Our research shows that people of goodwill of all ethnicities support our fight for justice even if the Speaker does not.