My recent experiences with racism within academia has significantly grown my appreciation for Dr. Haunani-Kay Trask, the legendary Hawaiian professor at the University of Hawaii who did so much to advance Hawaiian rights, as well as the rights of indigenous peoples all over the world, such as Native Americans and Ryukyu / Okinawans. Trask particularly had a huge impact on improving the rights of indigenous peoples within academia. Of course, she was attacked mercilessly by many critics at the time who called her “extreme.” Actually though, looking back on the things she said, they no longer seem particularly extreme, but seem rather normal or even mild compared to some of the rhetoric we hear today. This is in large part due to the efforts of Dr. Trask, who laid the foundation for other indigenous scholars to build off of.
Here’s a video of Dr. Trask giving a speech at the University of Hawaii regarding racism within academia. It’s around three decades old, and I was just a very small keiki at the time. But it provides a glimpse of the incredible amount of racism and prejudice that Dr. Trask had to go through at the University of Hawaii.
Today the University of Hawaii is still far from perfect, as the recent controversy surrounding Mauna Kea and the Thirty Meter Telescope suggests. But it has come an awful long way in the last several decades, thanks to Dr. Trask and others who worked so hard for so long.