In 1990, they called Haunani-Kay Trask a racist. Today, this UH department is apologizing.

Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 5:27 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 27, 2021 at 5:29 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The University of Hawaii at Manoa’s philosophy department has issued a public apology to late Native Hawaiian professor and activist Dr. Haunani-Kay Trask.

The mea culpa stems from an incident that unfolded more than 30 years ago when a white student from Louisiana wrote in the UH school newspaper, Ka Leo, that the entire white race shouldn’t be blamed for the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom and was offended by the term “haole.”

Trask issued a written response, saying he didn’t understand Hawaii’s history and suggested he return to the mainland.

That’s when the philosophy department accused her of racism and called for her removal.

Trask died in July, but the department’s chair says an apology has been in the works for some time.

“This is a very different department,” said Tamara Albertini, the head of UH-Manoa’s philosophy department. “We don’t want to put any blame on anyone. We don’t want any accusations.

“What matters is we make the first step and that we talk to each other, that we get over the conflict. Obviously, mistakes have been made.”

Ihilani Lasconia, a Native Hawaiian graduate research assistant currently working on a biography about Trask, said the apology is 30 years late and suspects Trask wouldn’t accept it.

“I think she would write back to the philosophy department and rip their statement to shreds,” Lasconia said. “Every single time they called her out, and they tried to disavow her scholarship, she always responded ... really academically, discrediting all of the claims that they made.”

Haunani-Kay’s sister, Mililani Trask, told Hawaii News Now she feels the apology is very appropriate and better late than never.

She’s also been talking with Albertini about bringing more indigenous influence to the department.

The full apology can be read here.

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