"Got Race?" The Production of Haole and the Distortion of Indigeneity in the Rice Decision

This paper is part of a larger project that explores haole (white people, foreigners) as a colonial form of whiteness in Hawai'i—as a dynamic social assemblage. Haole was forged and reforged in over two centuries of colonization, and it must be understood through that history. I use the recent Supreme Court decision in Harold F Rice v Benjamin J Cayetano, 528 US 495 (2000 ), as an entry point into the interrogation of haole. Framed by the dominant discourse, the case appeared to be about Native Hawaiians (asking questions about who they are and what rights they have), and not about haole (assuming there are no questions as to who they are and what rights they have).

The Rice case illustrates how Western law renders indigenous claims inarticulable by racializing native peoples, while simultaneously normalizing white subjectivity by insisting on a color-blind ideology. The inherent contradiction in these two positions—race matters/race does not matter—is played out in the frictions surrounding the Rice decision and is evidence of the cracks in the hegemony of Western law that complicate any easy binary of colonizer–colonized. Through an analysis of Rice, I explore how the Western legal framework is set up to accept the teleological narrative of the development, to problematize native identity, and to naturalize white subjectivity. I then broaden the lens to explore the ways Rice points to an epistemological disconnect between Western notions of the production of knowledge and indigenous articulations of the same.