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Copyright (c) 2015 University of Hawai'i Law Review
University of Hawai'i Law Review

SYMPOSIUM ARTICLE: Race, Ethnicity, and Place Identity: Implicit Bias and Competing Belief Systems

Spring, 2015

University of Hawai'i Law Review

37 Hawaii L. Rev. 313


Rachel D. Godsil * and James S. Freeman **


We are constituted in significant part by our relationship to places. Where we live, learn, work, worship, and play are central to our "place identity," 3 the "dimensions of the self that develop in relation to the physical environment by means of a pattern of beliefs, preferences, feelings, values, and goals." 4 While individuals develop "place identities" based upon their particular relationship to the physical environment, these relationships are mediated through other aspects of their identities, with race, ethnicity, religion, and class playing crucial roles. 5 Place identities may differ in their degree of significance to individuals based upon these other aspects of identity. Historian Edward Kanahele writes:
As a native Hawaiian, a place tells me who I am and who my extended family is. A place gives me my history, the history of my clan, and the history of my people . . . . A place gives me a sense of well-being and of acceptance of all who have experienced that place. 6

This Article explores the overlap of place with race and ethnicity in our current era in which most agree that discrimination based upon race and ethnicity is wrong. We query the fact that, despite this consensus, access to particular places has been restricted based upon racial or ethnic identity and uses of land continue to benefit some racial and ethnic groups and burden others. 7 Implicit biases--stereotypes or attitudes that operate without an individual's conscious awareness 8--may explain the seeming ...
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