Hawaii statehood: pain behind the happy aloha

Hawaii state quarter commemorating 50 years of US statehood (photo by Sheila Scarborough)This year marks the 50th anniversary of Hawaii’s admission into the United States, in August of 1959.

Here’s the lengthy process that was required, starting roughly in the year 1900.

It probably seems like a nice warm-and-fuzzy story with a few palm trees, beaches and adult beverages thrown in.

Heck, you can even buy a T-shirt or coffee mug to celebrate statehood.

That’s what I thought until I began to read more about the history of how the Kingdom of Hawaii was forcibly annexed as a territory and the monarch Queen Lili’uokalani was overthrown in 1893. The long quest to gain statehood was stymied at many turns, leading some to assert that fear of Hawaii’s multicultural society sparked Mainland racist resistance to admission to the Union.

The statehood celebrations last month were pretty low-key, and the more you know the history of the islands, the more you understand why.

The good news is that when you know where you came from, you have a better sense of where you’re going. The rebirth of Hawaiian language and culture in the islands is a very positive sign for a more complete reconciliation.

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