(c) Copyright 2004 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved
Racial supremacy by law or government policy has been an important part of world history, and is currently practiced in many nations. The purpose of this webpage is to point out a few of the current struggles over racial supremacy that have important implications for Hawaiian sovereignty.
Before the 20th Century there were many examples of massive warfare and death related to claims for racial supremacy. Slavery was practiced in many nations (and continues to be practiced in some countries even today, most notably child slavery in Sudan). The American Civil War was fought because legalized slavery in the southern states produced economic, social, and political conditions that threatened to split the United States apart.
During the 20th Century Armenians and Kurds had their homelands divided among several neighbors who oppressed and slaughtered them (most notably Turkey, Iraq, and the Soviet Union). Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan both asserted racial supremacy for their dominant majorities. They used theories of racial supremacy to justify military action and brutality against other nations. Germany tried to exterminate Jews both in Germany and all its conquered territories. Jews whose families had been citizens of Germanic states for many generations were stripped of voting rights, then stripped of property, then stripped of citizenship, and finally murdered by their own government; all for no reason other than race. More recently, in the African nation of Rwanda there was massive genocide between the Tutsi and Hutu ethnic groups, both of whose people are 100% racially black.
Within the last twenty years, and continuing until today, there are some nations whose racial supremacy laws and government policies are of special interest to the analysis of Hawaiian sovereignty. A very short summary is provided about each such nation, not to be an exhaustive analysis but merely to identify some of the important comparisons with Hawai'i. Additional sources are provided for some items. Some newspaper articles are provided at the end that discuss common themes seen in several nations around the world, which would be relevant to Hawai'i.
The most important comparison with Hawai’i on the issue of racial supremacy is with Fiji. The histories of Fiji and Hawai'i are similar in many ways. Both are Pacific island groups separated from their neighbors across long distances of ocean. In both Fiji and Hawai'i people from Asia were recruited by the tens of thousands to work on sugar plantations, and whites came from Europe and America as missionaries, businessmen, and plantation overseers. Asian and white descendants today are citizens of the place where they live. Their parents' and grandparents' bones are buried in the land (for as many as eight generations in Hawai’i), and they have no other homeland. Both Fiji and Hawai'i had their first sustained Western contact from England. Fiji formally became a British colony in 1874, and remained a colony until granted independence in 1970. But throughout the colonial period Fiji always kept its system of local political control by native chiefs who kept nearly all the land under their ownership, while the British colonial government supported that system by prohibiting the sale of land. Hawai'i created a Western system of constitutional government in 1840 and a Western system of private land ownership beginning in 1848. In Hawai'i, the revolution of 1893 toppled the monarchy. The new government, after a continued period as an independent nation, successfully negotiated annexation to the United States in 1898 with the status of a Territory. Hawai'i finally became the 50th State after a plebiscite in 1959 produced a 94% favorable vote. Despite an attempt to establish a race-neutral government as a basis for independence, the Native Fijians were successful in establishing racial supremacy for themselves, written into the constitution. Asians are 45% of the populatiopn and produce 90% of the gross national product, but Native Fijians own 90% of the land and are guaranteed nearly a 2/3 majority in parliament. Asians are restricted to only 29 seats out of 71, and Asians are allowed to vote only for the representatives for the Asian-designated seats. On several occasions in the last 20 years, when constitutional reforms were attempted, or when Asians gained too much power, Native Fijians controlling the military violently overthrew democratically elected governments to protect Native Fijian racial supremacy. The system of Native Fijian racial supremacy is very much like the sort of system some Native Hawaiian sovereignty activists seek for Hawai'i, both the supporters of the Akaka bill and the supporters of independence.
There is a large webpage describing the history of Fiji and comparing its system of racial supremacy to the proposals of the Hawaiian sovereignty activists. See:
The topics explored on that webpage include the following:
TWO LETTERS TO EDITOR in HONOLULU NEWSPAPERS FROM SUMMER 2000, FOLLOWING THE RACIAL MILITARY COUP IN FIJI, COMPARING FIJI WITH HAWAI’I
TWO IMPORTANT ARTICLES FROM THE HONOLULU ADVERTISER OF APRIL 25, 2004 CLEARLY SHOW THAT BOTH THE AKAKA BILL SUPPORTERS AND THE INDEPENDENCE SUPPORTERS ARE SEEKING RACIAL SUPREMACY FOR ETHNIC HAWAIIANS (THE TWO THEORIES OF SOVEREIGNTY QUARREL OVER WHICH THEORY IS BETTER ABLE TO DELIVER RACIAL SUPREMACY)
HISTORY OF FIJI COMPARED WITH HAWAI'I; FOCUSING ON SUGAR PLANTATIONS, ASIAN CONTRACT LABORERS, LAND OWNERSHIP, POLITICAL POWER, AND ETHNIC RELATIONS
VOTING RIGHTS, ELECTION RESULTS, AND MILITARY COUPS IN FIJI
HONOLULU NEWSPAPER EULOGIES OF FIJI STATESMAN RATU SIR KAMISESE MARA (PUBLISHED APRIL 20, 2004) -- Mara was a native chief who became the first president of Fiji following independence in 1970, and who tried to move gradually toward a policy of racial equality until he was deposed by a racial military coup against his government.
RATU MARA’S VISION GUIDES FIJI’S FUTURE (EDITORIAL EULOGY PUBLISHED IN THE “FIJI SUN” NEWSPAPER ON MAY 4, 2004)
AFTER 125 YEARS, FIJI’S INDO-FIJIANS IN RETREAT (excerpts from a lengthy special report written by Sanjay Ramesh for the Pacific Islands Report of the East-West Center at the University of Hawai’i, May 5, 2004)
FOR ALL THE ABOVE TOPICS, SEE:
NEW ZEALAND / AOTEAROA
Hawaiian sovereignty activists like to call ethnic Hawaiians by the name “kanaka maoli” which means “real people [implying they are the only true, rightful people of Hawai’i]. The word “maoli” in Hawaiian is closely related to similar words in other Polynesian languages. In New Zealand [native name Aotearoa -- long white cloud] the word is “maori” as in “tangata maori.” Ethnic Hawaiians love to compare themselves with New Zealand’s Maori people because of a shared Polynesian ancestry but also because New Zealand’s Maori have preserved much more of their traditional culture and lifestyle than Hawaiians and have achieved great success in winning race-based group rights to land and political power. On a cultural level, the movie “Whalerider” (nominated for an Academy Award for best actress for the child heroine), celebrating Maori cultural legends with spectacular scenery and production values, was a huge inspiration among ethnic Hawaiians, many of whom wept in pride at public and private showings of the film.
A political tsunami is headed toward Hawai'i, because of a political earthquake getting started in New Zealand. The people of New Zealand are responding very favorably to the leader of the conservative National Party because of his outspoken opposition to special rights for the indigenous Maori and his opposition to racial separatism. In Hawai'i it seems the whole political establishment of both parties favors the Akaka bill, ceded land revenues for OHA, free tuition for "Native Hawaiians", racial set-asides on boards and commissions like the Kaho'olawe commission and the proposed bioprospecting commission, a proposed separate school system for "host culture" charter schools, etc. Hawai'i's people are frankly disgusted with all this nonsense. It's time for all of us to pull together instead of catering to the forces trying to pull us apart. What's happening in New Zealand politics might serve as a wakeup call to Hawai'i's politicians. The leader of a major political party is finally standing up for unity and equality, and getting a LOT of support in the opinion polls. Politicians who work against unity and equality will sooner or later be swept away by the coming tsunami of public opinion opposing racial separatism and race-based government programs.
This story was reported somewhat differently in two places. Excerpts from both are provided, focusing on Hawai’i-related issues.
THE ECONOMIST print edition February 26, 2004 ** excerpts having Hawai’i relevance **
New Zealand -- Growing Resistance To Maori Special Rights Across All Political Parties
THE Labour-led government of New Zealand, which until recently seemed to be coasting effortlessly towards a third term, has been shocked out of its
complacency. Don Brash -- a 62-year-old former central-bank governor once
nicknamed after the anti-anxiety drug Mogadon -- surprised everybody when he switched to politics a few years ago. But the boring banker did not stop
there. Now leader of the opposition National Party, he is turning the
opinion polls upside down. His party, which only in December trailed 17
percentage points behind Labour, is now leading the polls 45% to 38%.
Mr Brash's simple line is that the Maori, who make up 15% of the population,
are being granted too many privileges. "We are one country with many
peoples, not simply a society of Pakeha and Maori, where the minority has a
birthright to the upper hand, as the Labour government seems to believe," he
says. The opposition leader says he wants to build a society based on the
notion of one rule for all, rather than a racially divided nation. He is
critical of policies in education and health care-where government funding
is influenced not just by need, but by ethnicity-and of other special
treatment, such as Maoris' rights over land they do not own.
Maori leaders, not surprisingly, have condemned this line, which appeared to
be undermined when the sole Maori member of his party's parliamentary
caucus, Georgina Te Heuheu, refused to back his stance. For her pains, she
was then sacked from her post as shadow minister of Maori affairs.
The government's instinctive response was to brand his plea as racist. But
ministers reversed themselves when it became clear that Mr Brash's message had a powerful political resonance across party lines. New Zealanders, as the latest opinion poll shows, are unhappy with the interpretation that the Treaty of Waitangi -- under which Maori chiefs ceded sovereignty to the British in 1840 -- created a "partnership" between Maori and other New Zealanders and gave the Maori special privileges, a position assiduously cultivated by the government led by Helen Clark.
As a result, what had been a bipartisan approach to Maori policy has now
been demolished. In addition, Labour is being pilloried for becoming
disconnected from voters. The government, which has invested so much
political capital in the "partnership" model, could find itself in no-man's
land if New Zealand's voters confirm the Brash diagnosis at the next
New York Times, April 8, 2004 *** Excerpts having Hawai'i relevance ***
New Zealand Politics Roiled by Indigenous Rights
WELLINGTON, New Zealand, March 31
A few months ago, Donald Brash, 63, who was a pacifist and leftist in his youth, became leader of the conservative National Party, which was mired in lethargy. With an attack on the government's favorable policies toward the indigeneous Maori, Mr. Brash has incited the passions normally reserved for rugby in this sports-mad nation.
The immediate spark was a speech he gave in late January to the Rotary Club in Orewa, a suburb of Auckland. The audience was expecting a talk about the economy from the former central bank governor. What they got instead was a speech about what Mr. Brash called the "dangerous drift toward racial separatism."
The Maori, descendants of Polynesian voyagers, were on the land when the first Europeans arrived, and what followed was a familiar tale of a native population losing its land and culture.
Over the last couple of decades, in an effort to address the past wrongs, New Zealand's courts and Parliament have extended rights and benefits to the Maori, who make up about 15 percent of the population. This week a Maori television network, supported by government money, began broadcasting, though only 10 percent of the Maori are fluent in their native tongue.
It has gone too far, in Mr. Brash's view. "There is a limit to how much any generation can apologize for the sins of its great-grandparents," he said in his Orewa speech.
"There can be no basis for special privileges for any race, no basis for any government funding based on race," he said, adding that he would abolish the seats in Parliament reserved for Maori.
Dull in delivery, a barn-burner in substance, it was a stance against "political correctness" in the view of his supporters, racism in the view of critics. Whichever, the National Party catapulted in opinion polls, climbing 17 percentage points, while the governing Labor Party dropped 7.
Mr. Brash began to form his views on race relations while he was in the United States working for the World Bank from 1966 to 1971, said Richard Long, his chief of staff and a former editor of the Dominion Post, the country's second-largest newspaper.
"He saw affirmative action as being damaging to blacks," Mr. Long said. "It lowered esteem on both sides."
Mr. Brash appears to have tapped into pent up lingering resentment among the country's four million.
"He's hit the nail on the head," said Brian Chilcott, a retired insurance company executive in Paraparaumu, an hour north of Wellington. "The Maori are demanding too many things. Labor is seen as having succumbed to their demands."
A couple of weeks after Mr. Brash's speech, a Maori threw mud at him during a celebration of the national holiday commemorating the Treaty of Waitangi. Under the agreement, signed in 1840 by British and Maori leaders, the Maori granted sovereignty to the British, while the British promised to respect Maori land rights and culture.
In recent years Maori have successful invoked the treaty to gain tens of millions of dollars in compensation for land taken from them and to assert a wide-ranging right to seabeds and fisheries.
Mr. Brash does not consider the treaty a "living document" and would basically relegate it to an important place in history.
Mr. Brash's salvo did not go unanswered. The Labor prime minister, Helen Clark, used the pulpit at the Anglican cathedral in Christchurch, the country's third-largest city, to deliver a rebuke to "the forces of division" that had appeared "in the wake of the now infamous Orewa speech."
"Perceptions have been fostered by right-wing parties that some New Zealanders, namely Maori, are better off than others," Ms. Clark said. "That's hard to sustain when one looks at the levels of unemployment, poor health, low educational attainment and poor housing in Maoridom."
Mr. Brash quickly rifled off a letter to the Anglican bishops, saying it was inappropriate for a church to be used as a political platform.
"A debate about the future of New Zealand has been launched," Ms. Clark said in her Christchurch speech. "I say: bring it on."
It promises not to be dull.
The Balkans are a group of small nations in the area formerly known as Yugoslavia. The word "balkanization" refers to the ethnic strife and political disintegration that have characterized these nations for more than a century. During the Middle Ages, the Christian church split into a Roman Catholic empire headquartered in Rome and an Eastern Orthodox empire headquartered in Byzantium (also known later as Constantinople and then Istanbul). Eventually the struggle for political power between these two branches of Christianity focused on the area of Yugoslavia. There were also powerful military and political struggles between Christians and Muslims, especially during the Crusades, which came to a focus in Yugoslavia. Muslims crossing the Straits of Gibraltar invaded and controlled large portions of Spain for a long time, while Muslims from the East invaded Europe and took control of the southern portions of Yugoslavia. The clash among all these forces, whose results continued into modern times, produced three nations of interest here. Serbia's ethnic Slavic people follow the Eastern Orthodox religion and use the Cyrillic (Russian) alphabet. Croatia's people follow the Roman Catholic religion and use the Roman/English alphabet. Perhaps most of Bosnia's people (at least until the recent period of "ethnic cleansing") follow the Muslim religion and some speak Arabic. There are several other nations in the area whose backgrounds are also very different from each other, some of which are not in the "Balkans", including Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Slovenia, Slavonia, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. World War I began when Archduke Ferdinand was assasinated in Sarajevo, and the Germans, French, British, and Russians were alligned with different factions. During World War II the Germans occupied most of Yugoslavia. As the Russians attacked from the East, with special focus on Serbia, and the Allies attacked from the west, beginning with Macedonia and Croatia, there were many Croatians who allied themselves with the Nazis because of the Nazi theory of Aryan racial supremacy; and some of those Croatians committed genocide against Serbs and Bosnians. When the dust settled after the war, one military leader, Marshall Tito, emerged as strongman who ruthlessly suppressed all his opponents. He unified all the small nations with the help of troops from the Soviet Union (some of whom were from Muslim Soviet Republics) and created the new nation of Yugoslavia which remained a Soviet satellite for several decades. When Tito died, and the Soviet Union began to crumble, Yugoslavia began to break apart into the small nations from which it had been forcibly assembled. Serbia had the strongest military and for a time was able to hold onto some of the other nations including Bosnia and Croatia. Bosnia became the focus of genocidal "ethnic cleansing" as Serbs tried to take control by killing Bosnian Muslims and Bosnians of Croatian ethnicity; while Croatians and Bosnian Muslims did the same thing to Serbs living in Croatia and in ethnic Croatian neighborhoods of Bosnia. Serbian leader Slobodan Milosovic is now being held for trial at the International Court of Justice on charges of war crimes (genocide).
The reason Bosnia is included in a webpage on Hawaiian sovereignty is because the people of Bosnia had several decades of living together peacefully in a multi-ethnic society. Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox Catholicism, and the Muslim religion were all freely practiced there. People of different faiths and different ethnic backgrounds and different languages lived, worked, and played together, and intermarried; just as in Hawai'i. The Olympic Games were held in Sarajevo only a few years before the genocide began, partly to showcase the peaceful harmony of Sarajevo’s multiethnic society. But the time came when some members of one ethnic group decided to assert racial supremacy and take over the government. Neighbors and family members began killing each other by the hundreds of thousands, based solely on ethnicity. Today a very shaky peace is held in place, only because of the presence of foreign peacekeepers years after the mass slaughter stopped. Let's hope nothing like Bosnia ever happens in Hawai'i.
ZIMBABWE (FORMERLY RHODESIA)
Here is an extraordinarily brief summary of the situation in Zimbabwe, taken from the CIA website. [note: UK refers to the United Kingdom; i.e, Britain]
The UK annexed Southern Rhodesia from the South Africa Company in 1923. A 1961 constitution was formulated that favored whites in power. In 1965 the government unilaterally declared its independence, but the UK did not recognize the act and demanded more complete voting rights for the black African majority in the country (then called Rhodesia). UN sanctions and a guerrilla uprising finally led to free elections in 1979 and independence (as Zimbabwe) in 1980. Robert MUGABE, the nation's first prime minister, has been the country's only ruler (as president since 1987) and has dominated the country's political system since independence. His chaotic land redistribution campaign begun in 2000 caused an exodus of white farmers, crippled the economy, and ushered in widespread shortages of basic commodities. Ignoring international condemnation, MUGABE rigged the 2002 presidential election to ensure his reelection. Opposition and labor groups launched general strikes in 2003 to pressure MUGABE to retire early; security forces continued their brutal repression of regime opponents.
A very large webpage "Rhodesia and South Africa: Military History" is at:
with a lengthy sub-page on the history of Rhodesia at:
including a lengthy sub-sub-page on the history of Rhodesia prior to independence, at:
The reason for including Zimbabwe/Rhodesia in a webpage on Hawaiian sovereignty is because the sovereignty issue in that country is the forcible removal of white "settlers" from their land (sometimes including brutality and murder) on the theory that the land should rightfully belong to the indigenous Africans. The theory is that white people whose gandparents or great-grandparents settled on the land or bought it from the natives are now regarded by their own government as having no standing to own land. President Robert Mugabe, in power for 25 years, has given a green light to gangs of thugs to force whites off the land they have farmed for generations, and to murder them if they resist. Those white native-born citizens of Zimbabwe are losing their property, their citizenship, and sometimes their lives for no reason other than race, on the theory that the land belongs to its indigenous people.
Here’s an update from June, 2004:
Zimbabwe to Nationalize All Farmland
by Peta Thornycroft
08 Jun 2004
Zimbabwe's Land and Resettlement Minister John Nkomo has announced a plan to nationalize all Zimbabwe's land and replace deeds of ownership with 99-year leases. ....opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said converting title deeds to leases was unconstitutional. He said the Zimbabwe government had taken this step to try and make sense of its failed land expropriation policies. Spokesman for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, David Coltart said as the plan was unveiled, it appears to apply to all land including small plots owned by urban dwellers. He said bestowing or withholding leases will give the government and the ruling Zanu PF party considerable control over the population. ....The once powerful, mostly white Commercial Farmers Union said 99-year leaseholds would differ little from ownership as long as they were transferable and could be used as a security for loans. Since the land-expropriation campaign started in 2000, the government has seized more than 11-million hectares of white-owned land. Much of the best land has ended in the hands of Zanu PF leaders and government officials, military officers and many leading judges. Zimbabwe's agriculture, which was once capable of earning nearly one-half of the country's foreign currency earnings, is not producing enough food to feed the country. In the past two years, about 5.5 million Zimbabweans, or nearly one-half of the population, relied on international donations for food.
ISRAEL (OR IS IT PALESTINE?)
The situation in Israel/Palestine is so much in the news that there is no need to describe it. The history of ancient Israel is part of the heritage and religious education of nearly everyone in America. The modern history of Israel after World War II as a place of refuge for Jews has been celebrated in countless popular movies and books. The ongoing warfare, repression, and violence between Jews and Palestinians is part of our daily news reports.
The reason for including Israel and Arab nations in a webpage on Hawaiian sovereignty is because the nation of Israel and the political theories of the Arab world are founded on religious beliefs. People of a certain racial group, being geneologically descended from Abraham through one of his sons, are the beneficiaries of a sacred covenant. God Himself gave to this racial group, forever, the ownership of all the lands of Israel. God worked miracles to help Israel defeat its enemies and defend its lands. And despite a period of many centuries of loss of sovereignty and diaspora, the hand of God is once again working to fulfill the sacred covenant and to help Jews return to their ancestral homeland and reclaim control of it. Hawaiian religion establishes its own creation story, according to which ethnic Hawaiians and the islands of Hawai'i are geneologically descended from the gods. Ethnic Hawaiians are related to the Hawaiian islands and to the Hawaiian gods as members of a family. Anyone lacking a drop of the sacred blood is automatically outside that family. Hawai'i belongs to ethnic Hawaiians alone, as a matter of geneology and of sacred relationship with the gods. Thus, Hawaiian sovereignty activists assert religious claims to race-based (or geneologically-based) political power in Hawai'i, just as Zionists assert religious claims to race-based (or geneologically-based) political power in Israel. The zealotry of some Hawaiian sovereignty activists matches the zealotry of some Zionists and some Muslims. Kamehameha Schools, the University of Hawai'i Center for Hawaiian Sovereignty, and the "host-culture" K-12 charter schools, are brainwashing the minds of ethnic Hawaiian children to feel hostility toward the United States over historical grievances, and hostility toward whites who have "colonized" them, "occupied" and "stolen" their ancestral homeland, and "suppressed" their culture and language. The religious belief in racial supremacy and the political zealotry preached in these schools are comparable to the religious and political zealotry preached in the Wahhabist madrassas of Saudi Arabia.
For a large webpage about religion and zealotry in the Hawaiian sovereignty movement (and how religious myths are used to support political claims for racial supremacy in Hawai'i), see:
INDIA, MALAYSIA, SRI LANKA, NIGERIA, UNITED STATES
BOOK REVIEW of "Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study" by Thomas Sowell. Yale University Press. 231 pp. $28.00
Commentary Magazine, April 2004
TITLE of book review: “Groupthink”
"Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study" by Thomas Sowell. Yale University Press. 231 pp. $28.00
Reviewed by Carl Cohen
Among contemporary economists and social theorists, one of the most prolific,
intellectually independent, and iconoclastic is Thomas Sowell, now a senior
fellow at the Hoover Institution. In nearly a half-century's worth of books and
essays, he has explored the cultures of the world and all the nooks and crannies
of American society. Enormously learned, wonderfully clear-headed, he sees
reality as it is, and flinches at no truth.
Affirmative Action Around the World is exactly what its title announces: an
empirical study of what the consequences really are, and really have been, in
the five major nations in which "affirmative action"-the term now commonly used
to denote ethnic preferences-has been long ensconced: India, Malaysia, Sri
Lanka, Nigeria, and the United States.*
In each case, Sowell's presentation of the data is instructive and
illuminating-and disturbing. Some themes recur: wherever ethnic preferences have
been instituted, they have led to intergroup hostility, dishonesty, and further
proliferation in spite of manifest failure. Reflecting on Sowell's data, I also
observe that each nation's experience offers a powerful lesson with respect to
one particular aspect of the results produced. Here follow five painful lessons.
In India, ethnic preferences have been established longer than in any other
nation. "Positive discrimination" goes back to British rule, and was built into
the Indian constitution in 1947. Originally intended to last for only twenty
years, the preferences have been extended repeatedly in time. Originally devised
to benefit only "untouchables" (a now forbidden term, replaced by "scheduled
castes" or "Dalits"), they have been repeatedly expanded in reach. The benefits
are no longer regarded as transitory; the beneficiaries, including members of
many other "backward classes," now comprise more than three-quarters of the
Preferential quotas have been limited by Indian courts to 50 percent of the
available places at universities and elsewhere; but making use of those quotas
requires "complementary resources" of education that the intended beneficiaries
simply do not have. Therefore, the quotas for the most seriously deprived in
India often go unfilled. On the other hand, quotas for "other backward classes"
rarely go unfilled. Upshot: the great majority of the reserved places go to
those who deserve them least.
Only deep inner change would enable members of the beneficiary groups to utilize
the places preferentially reserved for them. But, as Sowell points out, there is
"no political mileage to be made by telling people to change themselves."
Expedience rules; Indian politicians buy support by confirming preferences and
extending them to more and more ethnic groups. Enlargement is the easiest
What then do we learn from the Indian experience? Race preference does not wind
down; it winds up. Proliferation is the rule.
Next, Malaysia, where Chinese laborers were first brought to the peninsula to
work the rubber plantations, Indian laborers to work the tin mines. Both have
become substantial ethnic minorities, with Malays remaining the great majority.
The three groups are quite distinct.
The Chinese, adopting a frugal style and investing heavily in the education of
their children, pulled themselves from the plantations and built businesses
across the country; they have come to dominate retail establishments in
Malaysia, of which they owned 85 percent by 1980. Corporate ownership by Chinese
has also soared. Chinese incomes are double those of Malays.
In 1965, Malaysians willingly divested themselves of a great mass of powerful
Chinese by expelling Singapore, which became a separate country and remains very
largely a Chinese city-and greatly prosperous. But, although the expulsion of
Singapore made the Malay majority politically secure, and somewhat reduced its
economic domination by the Chinese minority, it did not stop the intellectual
advance of the Chinese who remained. In 1969, more than half the officers in the
Malaysian army were ethnic Chinese; as long as university admissions were
determined by examination results, only 20 percent of the places went to Malays,
and most of the rest to ethnic Chinese.
The majority, competing unsuccessfully, had to be protected. The Malay
government set out to achieve racial balance in employment, giving formal
preferences to Malays in hiring. But there seemed no alternative to continuing
reliance on the better-educated Chinese and Indian minorities in fields where
their technical skills were needed. And so admission to universities was altered
as well. Group membership was emphasized over individual performance, and, to
increase the number of Malays yet further, the Malay language became the only
medium of instruction in schools as well as in universities.
The ethnic preferences that have pervaded Malaysia in recent decades were not
designed to pull an oppressed minority from the depths; their purpose was to
protect the relatively less competent majority from the intellectual and
economic advances of more competent ethnic minorities. What, then, do we learn
from Malaysia? We learn that the inferior performance of some ethnic groups is
not always a consequence of discrimination against them. On the contrary, even
the imposition of discriminatory advantages favoring a majority cannot obscure
the fact that some groups prove less competent than others.
Sri Lanka, in the second half of the 20th century, experienced a steep social
deterioration whose exact causes are difficult to specify. What began as ethnic
tension between the Sinhalese majority in the south and the Tamil minority in
the north became bloody slaughter. The substantial preferences given to the
Sinhalese (awarded, as in Malaysia, to protect a less competent majority)
certainly played a role in exacerbating these tensions.
In Sri Lanka, group rights had become a tool to win Sinhalese votes. The more
recently arrived Tamils, clustered in the highlands, were flatly
disenfranchised. To overcome inferior majority performance, group preferences
were introduced in university admissions. Even so, the edge of Tamils in the
sciences and other intellectual endeavors remained substantial, and so
preference next took the form of race-norming. University admissions were based
not on actual scores but on each applicant' s "standardized score," determined
by his performance relative to the performance of other students in the same
ethnic group. When that device proved insufficient as well, "district quotas"
were introduced (a variant of what is done today in Texas), whereby admissions
were allocated by geographic region. Since Sinhalese and Tamils were
concentrated in different districts, this was simply a backhand method of
establishing ethnic quotas.
Protests against preferences in Sri Lanka mounted but were unsuccessful.
Concluding that only in a separate nation could their success be recognized, the
Tamils pressed for secession, first with militancy, and then with bloodshed. The
once-tranquil island was afflicted with widespread pillage, murder, rape.
Deliberately exacerbating racial tensions for the sake of political gain-we
learn from the case of Sri Lanka-promotes hatred of a kind and of a degree
almost impossible to reverse. What begins with race preference ends with race
And then there is Nigeria, a nation encompassing a vast array of diverse ethnic
groups and regions-largely Islamic in the north, largely Christian in the south.
Before colonial rule it was never a country; after colonial rule, the changing
governments of Nigeria have regularly practiced favoritism toward one or another
of the scores upon scores of tribes and ethnic groups.
Preferences and quotas are justified in Nigeria by the demand, expressly
formulated in the constitution of 1979, that national activities should "reflect
the federal character of the country." This "federal character" principle has
been extended to school admissions, to promotions in school, and even to
membership on the national soccer team. Every activity must "look like Nigeria."
Intergroup tensions have become very sharp; almost every policy issue becomes a
matter of racial dispute accompanied by charges of ethnic corruption. These
disputes often turn bitter, and become fights.
Whence the rancor? Economic disparities do not account for it. Sowell points out
that in the 1990's, when the Katafs, formerly lagging behind the Hausa, closed
the gap between the two groups, relations became more polarized, not less. The
slightest disagreement has tended to explode into violence, and the same
sensitivity appears among other groups as well. Violence is produced, it seems,
by the politicization of ethnic differences; and that politicization commonly
takes the form of preferential treatment.
One byproduct of this strife has been the creation of more states within the
country. To reduce discord, separate ethnic enclaves have been carved out and
given formal status. Thus, having given rise to a deadly spoils system, ethnic
heterogeneity is mitigated by a gerrymandered homogeneity. The lesson from
Nigeria? When racial balance is advanced by granting preferences that are deeply
resented, diversity produces not greater racial harmony but greater racial
One thread runs through all four of these case histories. We are often invited
to suppose, almost as an axiom, that every ethnic group is possessed of equal
talent with every other and will therefore, if given equal chances, perform with
equivalent competence. Disparate numbers by group (in employment or education)
are taken to be a sure sign of oppression, and proportionality thus becomes the
unquestioned standard of fair play. This thinking is the product of an
egalitarianism ungrounded in empirical inquiry.
The reality, driven home by Sowell's excruciating reports, is very different. In
fact, for a host of reasons, some of which we know and some of which we do not
know, some of which spring from malign oppression and many of which do not,
ethnic and racial groups behave differently, perform differently, learn
differently, and exhibit greatly different talents and temperaments. That is not
crude stereotyping; it is plain fact. Justice will not be done if this fact is
denied or goes unrecognized. In giving us this great lesson with the aid of
overwhelming evidence and a scrupulously dispassionate mind, Thomas Sowell is
our finest teacher.
The fifth of the five great nations dealt with in this book is the United States
of America. The appropriate lesson(s) here? All of the above.
Carl Cohen is professor of philosophy at the University of Michigan. His most
recent book is a debate with James P. Sterba, Affirmative Action and Racial
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