Sunday, May 29, 2005


Hawaii Calls

The San Francisco Chronicle profiles David Stannard, whose new book Honor Killing delves into a once-infamous but now long-overlooked 1932 rape case and susequent murder in Honolulu:

"...What we knew about Hawaii was this wonderful time of (the radio show) 'Hawaii Calls,' Bing Crosby and beach boys," he says. "It was a whole world operating like a false facade. Behind it were incredible slums and ghettos, where the impoverished -- a jumble of nonwhite races -- were packed in terrible conditions. Honolulu had both of these."

In the early morning of Sunday, Sept. 12, 1931, those two worlds collided when Thalia Massie, the socially connected young wife of a Navy officer, accused five nonwhite island men of gang-rape. Nearly 74 years later, Stannard's new book, "Honor Killing: How the Infamous 'Massie Affair' Transformed Hawai'i," deconstructs the racially charged spectacle that followed -- a troubled accuser, flimsy evidence and a hung jury, the subsequent vigilante kidnapping and murder of one of the rape suspects, native Hawaiian Joseph Kahahawai Jr. .... Associated Press editors voted the story one of the top world news events in 1932, and the single most important criminal trial in the country.

Though a suppressed report by the Pinkerton Agency concluded that neither the rape charges nor identification of the 5 suspects stood up to scrutiny, the governor of Hawaii commuted the murder charge in the "honor killing." As the Chronicle article and this pair of stories by Honolulu Star Bulletin point out, Stannard believes the resulting racial uproar may have been an important catalyst in native rights movements on the islands.

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