|Pokai Bay on the Waianae Coast of Oahu|
The Southern Poverty Law Center in 2009 examined the topic of prejudice in Hawaii and declared there are significant issues related to race in the paradise of the Pacific. And there are stories about tourists being mistreated by locals on some beach, often in a rural area of the islands or the "kill haole day" often talked about as the targeting of mainland white young children and youth by their classmates. On the other hand much of this problem emanates not just from the history of annexation and the takeover of Hawaii by the US government, that involved the imprisonment of the Queen. The attitudes of new residents, residents who live apart in their own ethnic enclaves or tourists who refer to locals as "natives" fosters resentment from locals who refuse to be considered inferior or treated unequally.
As President Barack Obama prepares for his annual Christmas sojourn in Hawaii, one of the main issues has to do with how people on the mainland view Hawaii, as the State is more often in the news during the times the President visits his home state. Many newcomers and tourists see Hawaii as someplace foreign and some maintain that attitude long past the time when they should have assimilated in the local culture.
The elderly couple returning to the mainland are typical of many people who stay in Hawaii a short time and maintain they "know" the culture well.
The wife, we can call Ann out of respect for the fact the woman lives in the same condo community as this journalist, continued with her assessment of Hawaii by saying: "You know, there are three groups of those people. You know what they are, of course."
"No," I answered. "What do you think they are?"
"Well, I KNOW what they are," she responded. "Two of those groups are dirty people. They are the ones who hang out on the beach or in the trees mooching off the government. And they are brown-skinned, so I know where they're from. Then there is the other group, and they can be nice, or at least polite at the stores. But you never know if they are being phony."
This appraisal of the Hawaiian people came from an individual who admitted to living in Hawaii less than two years and having no friends in the islands. She complained people just were not friendly.
"Do you belong to any clubs or organizations here?" I asked. "No," the woman said, "I'm just not interested. We like to play golf, and they don't talk to us."
"Do you talk to them?" I inquired. "Why should I?" she told me. "They ought to do it first. But then we don't have anything in common with them."
A conversation with a former Hawaii resident of more than 30 years brings the response of how prejudiced the local people can be. The man had run for political office and lost. He said, "I lost because I'm a Republican and white." He ran the year the City of Honolulu elected a Caucasian, white female, Eileen Anderson, as its mayor. He left Hawaii at the time the State elected a white woman of Jewish background, Linda Lingle, as Governor.
Attitude is key to acceptance in almost any cultural setting. This journalist, after nearly 30 years of living in Hawaii, has many local friends. But it has meant appreciating the culture, loving the virtues of it, seeing Hawaii's beauty as more than its geographical landscape. The people of Hawaii live with the concept of Ohana, or family; but it has to be earned. Everyone of a certain age is treated with respect. Yet an arrogant, prejudicial attitude can be easily discerned by local folks who have heard the words "dirty" or "different" or "natives" and resent being looked down upon by those of the same color and background who initiated the annexation, then the Statehood of Hawaii.
Racism is a problem everywhere there are people of different colors and where history has created issues that remain imprinted on the lands. But it is not a problem for those who see beauty in all the colors of the rainbow and the spirit of the Hawaiian people that infuses those colors with their charm and aloha.