Trouble In Paradise? Hate Crime in Hawaii Shine a Light on the State’s Growing Racial Divide
A hate crime is shining a light on the racial divide in paradise.
The New York Post reported two men in Hawaii have been charged with a federal hate crime after brutally beating a white man who attempted to move to Kahakuloa – a remote neighborhood in Maui. Kaulana Alo-Kaonohi and Levi Aki Jr. allegedly attacked Christopher Kunzelman due to his race. The two men allegedly punched, kicked, and beat Kunzelman with shovel back in 2014.
Both men were given lengthy sentences – Alo-Kaonohi was sentenced to 78 months and Aki was sentenced to 50 months. Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Kristin Clarke says the men killed Kunzelman simply because he didn’t look like them. “The defendants in this case nearly killed a man because they believed he did not belong in their neighborhood because of the color of his skin,” Clarke said. “The law protects everyone in this country from racially motivated violence, and these sentences send a strong message that such violence will not be tolerated.”
While this has been identified as a hate crime, according to The Associated Press, U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright said this attack is different than other hate crimes highlighted over the last few years. This case shows how native Hawaiians are adamant about not having their culture erased, and feeling people who move to Hawaii having no consideration for the history and racial ideologies.
The victim’s wife said the couple had a deep love for Maui and purchased a home for $175,000 to fix up after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Once the repairs started, Lori Kunzelman said her husband was harassed and threatened.
Lawyers representing the assailants claimed race wasn’t a factor in this case, but the victim’s sense of entitlement and disrespectful attitude were. Kunzelman’s wife said there is no way that’s true. “It was obviously a hate crime from the very beginning,” Kunzelman said. “The whole time they’re saying things like, ‘You have the wrong skin color. No ‘haole’ is ever going to live in our neighborhood.'”
Cameras from the victim’s house shows Aki saying “You’s a haole, eh,” which Kunzelman testified was said in a derogatory way. Subject matter experts claimed the term refers to a person who is acting out of entitlement or like they “own the place.”