Dual Consciousness About Law and Justice: Puerto Ricans’ Battle for U.S. Citizenship in Hawai‘i
Centro Journal, Vol. 29, 2017
38 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2019
Date Written: 2017
In Sanchez v. Kalauokalani (1917), the Supreme Court of the Territory of Hawai‘i held that Manuel Olivieri Sánchez and Hawai‘i’s Puerto Ricans became U.S. citizens pursuant to the Jones Act. Centering on Sanchez and its aftermath, this essay investigates their fight for U.S. citizenship — both its attainment and the realization of the supposed benefits of that citizenship — in the face of laws and policies that legitimized unequal treatment. Drawing on critical theory insights, it explores how Hawai‘i’s Puerto Ricans held both a deep criticism of law as a tool of the powerful, as well as a transformative vision of law as a vehicle to validate their place in the U.S. polity. Embracing a “double consciousness” about law and rights assertion, Hawai‘i’s Puerto Ricans fought for legal rights in Sanchez, but recognized that U.S. citizenship would not mean immediate freedom from discriminatory treatment. They therefore pushed for the attendant rights of that citizenship, and against cultural vilification and inferior treatment in their daily lives. In doing so, they sought to compel powerful actors and institutions to recognize their humanity and dignity.
Keywords: Puerto Ricans, Hawaii, law, citizenship, critical race theory
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