During Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings Sept. 6, United States Sen. Mazie Hirono (HI) released a confidential email from Kavanaugh on her Twitter account. The tweet came a day after the confirmation hearings had begun.
Here at NAU, Auli’i Solomon, vice president of the HAPA Hawaiian Club, explained why she along with her fellow club members were extremely shocked with Kavanaugh’s comments.
In their view, the comments showed that Kavanaugh didn’t truly understand where the Native Hawaiians originally came from, how they got there and how the islands came to be a state.
“We’re indigenous, but under different circumstances. We come from a different history. So for us to be even compared to a Native American or indigenous tribe is something completely different,” said Solomon.
The overall scrutiny of Native Hawaiians also caused a rise in concern of HAPA Hawaiian club members as they question why they will be treated differently. Since the Hawaiian islands were annexed by the U.S., it had showed Native Hawaiians that the U.S. wanted them a part of their country.
“We didn’t ask for annexation,” Solomon said. “it was brought upon us. What if we were to forcibly annex to the United States and then all of a sudden say, ‘now we need to watch you, but we don’t want you to be a part of our country.’ It doesn’t make any sense.”
Despite being 16-years-old, Solomon stated the email was still relevant and Hirono’s scrutiny was justified because despite the comment being advice in 2002, Kavanaugh could now possibly try to implement his views into law if he gets the nomination.
HAPA Hawaiian Club secretary Brandie Peltier added on she feared discrimination.
“Now that he is a nominee, he could possibly have a higher power, and I wouldn’t want someone that would discriminate against our ethnicity,” said Peltier.
The club members are not taking Kavanaugh’s comments lightly and hope that those currently deciding the nominee’s fate do the same.
Hirono decided to release the emails because she and many other Native Hawaiians have taken issue with his previous statements in a 2002 email while working for the Bush administration.
“These are the docs Rs [Republicans] don’t want you to see because they show that Judge Kavanaugh wrongly believes that Native Hawaiian programs are constitutionally questionable,” wrote Hirono in the tweet.
Kavanaugh argued Native Hawaiians were not entitled to the same constitutional rights as Native Americans because they originally came to the Hawaiian islands from Polynesia.
“I think the testimony needs to make clear that any program targeting Native Hawaiians as a group is subject to strict scrutiny and of questionable validity under the Constitution,” wrote Kavanaugh in the 2002 email.
He sent it to then Office of Management and Budgeting Analyst Lisa Macecevic. She was working with the Treasury Department to decide how to invest within Indian Country and asked Kavanaugh for advice. Macecevic’s question revolved on whether lands held as Native Hawaiian lands should be treated the same as Native lands on North America by the federal government during hearings on capital investements by the congressional committee.
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (NJ) also released emails related to Kavanaugh’s hearings. Both releases broke Senate rules as the documents both senators tweeted were “committee confidential.” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (IA) later clarified the document releases, stating that the emails weren’t actually confidential and were preapproved.
The email comments weren’t the only thing Hirono brought up when she questioned Kavanaugh during his hearings. A day before releasing the email, she asked him about a 1999 op-ed he wrote for the Wall Street Journal.
“If Hawaii can enact special legislation for Native Hawaiians by analogizing them to Indian tribes, why can’t a state do the same for African Americans? Or for Croatian Americans? Or for Irish Americans? After all, Hawaiians originally came from Polynesia, yes the [State] department calls them ‘indigenous,’ so why not the same for groups from Africa or Europe,” Kavanaugh wrote in the 1999 op-ed.
Kavanaugh is currently going through the second round of confirmation hearings and is already facing more controversy including sexual assault allegations stemming from an alleged attempted rape of an classmate of his when they were both in high school. Kavanaugh has denied these allegations.