On July 8, 2021, Governor Ige chose his nominee, Dan Gluck, for the Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) from a list of nominees provided to him by the Judicial Selection Commission over a month earlier.
At the time Governor Ige made his announcement, there was little fanfare or dissent that came with it. The opposition to the Governor’s appointee wouldn’t begin to show itself until more than a week later.
Then, following a rising tide of opposition and some political grandstanding, the Senate Committee on Judiciary voted 4-3 to reject the nomination.
I didn’t engage in the debate waging on social media. Nor did I submit testimony either in support or opposition. Rather I chose to be a spectator, trying to build clarity in my own thoughts on the subject.
Dan sat through what must have been, for him, an excruciating hearing and decision making by the Committee. Then he decided in the end to withdrawn his nomination. A gesture at the time, given Constitutional timeline requirements, but a generous one, in my opinion, nonetheless.
I spent time leading up to and following the hearing ruminating on my thoughts on the subject. I will try finally to share them here.
My White Privilege
I’m a haole who grew up in Kansas. I went to college in Ohio and only through life’s randomness came to find my home in Hawaii.
Even before arriving in Hawaii, I understood how privileged my life was. I grew up in somewhat upper-middle-class suburb with exceptional public schools. I didn’t have all the fancy stuff some of my friends had. I also acknowledged even then that I never really wanted for anything.
That acknowledgement continued through college. I knew people who were working their way through school, while I didn’t have to; my tuition, board, etc. were all paid for by my parents who were able to do so without considerable financial strain.
Even when I moved to Hawaii, I did so with a one-way ticket paid for by my father. I’ve lived under my own steam, but I’ve always been lucky enough to know that if things ever got too harry, my family could back me up.
When I first became involved in local politics, I was incredibly fortunate to have local friends and mentors who not only made me keenly aware of my “outsider” status, but also taught me how to be sensitive to that fact. Though I may be supportive of Native Hawaiian issues, I am nonetheless a foreign colonizer. I come from the same culture that took these islands from their rightful owners and nearly destroyed their own culture.
While I can’t admit to knowing Dan Gluck well, we worked on some of the same issues when he was at the ACLU of Hawaii as their Legal Director. I consider him an ally on a wide range of progressive issues. Like me, he’s a white guy from the U.S. continent that found a home in Hawaii. He has spent his professional life doing noble work.
I can say with certainty that he would have made an excellent jurist on the ICA and would have made both progressives and Native Hawaiians proud. That, more than anything else, made the virulent opposition to his appointment so much harder to witness. It is also why I couldn’t quite bring myself to oppose his nomination. Certainly not as ferociously as so many progressives did.
Folks who don’t know Dan, his character, or his work, beat the drums of opposition because he was white. And because there were women of color who, arguably, had more experience.
I won’t deny that. Nor do I deny the institutional tilt that exists toward white men, or men of Japanese ancestry. Yes, even in the Aloha State institutional racism exists. And that’s why there is no testimony supporting his nomination with my name on it.
I struggled with my own conscience as to on which side I ultimately landed. Unsure of my own mind, perhaps it was cowardly of me to sit on the sidelines of that particular fight. But that’s what I chose to do.
I might get bludgeoned by both camps for saying this, but I think everyone was right and everyone was wrong.
Symbols Are Important, But so is Our Humanity
I recognize the opposition to Dan’s nomination was less about him as a person and more about what his nomination represented. As Hawaii, as the United States, struggles with rekindled questions of race, imperialism, and a societal structure built to privilege some over others, we cannot ignore the impact it has on individuals.
Maybe Dan is a product of white privilege, but he is an incredibly good guy. An advocate for the underdog and a champion of justice. But that seemed to be largely overlooked by the horde who saw fit to use the moment to fight the larger necessary battle. And through it all, this good guy got lost.
I watched with pained sympathy the seemingly endless string of testifiers. I watched them seem to care little for him as a justice champion and ally. They seemed either unwilling or unable to recognize the war they were fighting at his expense. A sacrifice on their own altar of self-righteous justice.
Let me be clear. I am not saying those opponents were wrong in their opposition. I don’t necessarily believe they were. But there was, for me, an apparent indifference to him as a person and ally that I found… cringe worthy.
Of all the opposing testifiers, not more than a handful managed to find the appropriate balance of righteousness and humanity.
As we fight these larger battles for justice, we must be sensitive to the allies among us who may be sacrificed. The war must be waged, but we should moderate our self-righteousness when they are thrown on that altar.
Unfortunately, Dan was one of those allies sacrificed. Let us thank him for his work and his willingness to serve.