Hawaii may become first state to use DNA tests to allocate benefits

Hawaii is now taking comments on a proposed rule change that would allow the state to use DNA tests in qualifying for benefits limited to native Hawaiians.  The state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands provides “homestead leases,” a 99-year contract to use land for the price of one dollar a year, to people who have 50% Native Hawaiian blood.  Up until now, the only way to prove that was through birth certificates.  But now, following settlement of a lawsuit by a man named Leighton Pang Kee, whose father was not named on his birth certificate, the state is considering official examination of DNA in the allocation of this benefit.

The Associated Press explains the background:

Passed by the U.S. Congress in 1921, the program is meant to provide economic self-sufficiency to Hawaiians by allowing them to use land to live on.

One theory about the origin of the 50 percent requirement is that it was required with the idea that eventually there would be no one left who could qualify, said Williamson Chang, a Native Hawaiian law professor at the University of Hawaii.

That hasn’t happened, as evidenced by the number of people on the homestead waitlist: more than 27,000 applicants. As of Nov. 30, there were 9,814 people leasing residential, agricultural and pastoral homestead lots statewide.

With roughly three times as many people on the waiting list as leases available, and with land prices in Hawaii astronomical, this is obviously a highly coveted benefit.  I understand the guilt that attends the acquisition of land from the native Hawaiians – it is a corollary to the story of Native Americans on the Mainland.  And all sorts of regulations and benefits are allocated on the basis of race, despite that violating all sorts of constitutional strictures on equal treatment under the law.

But when and where does it end?  Racial castes ought to be anathema.

Hat tip: Peter von Buol

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