Why I want to sue Kamehameha, or, Who is this #$@!*%$ haole?
I AM THE attorney who is preparing to sue the Kamehameha Schools and its trustees to have their use of a racial classification to exclude those with no native Hawaiian ancestry declared illegal ("Lawyer's search for clients to sue Kamehameha raises questions," Star-Bulletin, May 23). I am not doing this for financial gain or to make a name for myself, as many have asserted. My motivation, while difficult to believe for some, is principle.
I believe every child deserves a quality education and that the serious issues facing our community (drugs, homelessness/affordable housing, obtaining a quality education for our children) are best addressed from a socioeconomic perspective, not by different groups fighting for "entitlements" based on events that occurred during the time of our great-grandparents or their great-grandparents.
As an attorney, I have, among other things, advocated for equal rights for same-sex couples and challenged other race-based entitlement programs. I have a busy civil litigation practice, despite never having advertised for clients, so I do not need or desire any additional attention.
I AM NOT ABLE to take on these types of cases because I am independently wealthy. I am a local boy; born, raised and educated in Hawaii. My father is a social worker and former professor at the University of Hawaii. My mother was a public school teacher. My wife, my brother and his wife are all public school educators. Like most local families, we are multiethnic, we have given extensively to our community and we have sacrificed to live in Hawaii because it is our home.
I attended public schools from first grade through graduation. I spent my summers bodyboarding in Waikiki and working odd construction jobs. I put myself through college working as a waiter. At UH, I witnessed the unfortunate and indefensible use of race by a faculty member against a student. While working at the Legislature, I also witnessed the abuse of power by the Kamehameha Schools and their then-trustees. During that time I also worked to "Save Sandy Beach" and limit development around Mt. Olomana. I marched with Local 5 hotel workers and with our public school teachers when I felt they were not being paid fairly.
After graduating, I attended the University of Maryland's School of Law in Baltimore, where once again I was a minority. There I learned how my law school had shamefully advised future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall not to apply because of his race and how, as a lawyer, he eventually succeeded in desegregating the school.
These and other events helped focus my concern about the misuse of race and origin in Hawaii. Based on the comments I have received in response to recent media attention, I believe that my concerns are widely shared by individuals of all ethnicities and irrespective of whether they are recent arrivals or can trace their ancestry in Hawaii back six generations.
I HAVE BEEN ASKED by many what my vision of the Kamehameha Schools would be. The truth is that so long as race is not used to bar an applicant, I could respect the schools remaining elite college preparatory institutions, emphasizing Hawaiian language, culture, values and teaching methods, and/or devoting their vast resources to servicing the disadvantaged. However, as a member of this community, my personal preference is for the latter, as I believe that the trustees are not doing enough and that sufficient financial resources and demand exist for other campuses (e.g., on Molokai, in Waianae, and another campus in urban Honolulu) and educational services. In fact, many individuals who described themselves as predominately native Hawaiian have contacted me to express anger and resentment not at me, but at Kamehameha Schools for not helping their children.
I believe that addressing the educational needs of these and other disadvantaged people in a race-neutral manner is fully consistent with the intent of Kamehameha Schools' founder Princess Pauahi Bishop and her will. Based on recent financial disclosures by Kamehameha Schools, I also have no doubt that it has the resources to better serve the community at large.
David B. Rosen is a Honolulu attorney.