Racism is an ineradicable aspect of all ethnic cultures and civilisations on the planet; it is one of the most ancient human cultural characteristics. Consider Hawaii, that paradisical and ostensibly harmonious melting pot of all races, creeds, religions, and cultures. Do the islands suffer from racial bias and intolerance? Judge for yourself after sharing these investigations into society and culture in the Hawaiian Islands. (For the curious: the image used to accompany this shows Barack Obama's homeroom class in Honolulu)
Ass Why Hod, Bruddah
RACISM IN PARADISE?!
Racism is alive and well in paradise. I am frequently surprised to hear from others that they are absolutely ‘shocked’ to experience or hear of ugly instances of racist behavior in Hawaii. The contrast with that most idyllic and euphemistically fantasized place that exists in the minds of most haole malihini (white mainlanders), wherein lovely island girls in scanty grass skirts sway seductively, gentle trade wind breezes unceasingly ruffle coco-palm fronds, and big friendly brown beach-boys wait upon the tourist’s every whim with a broad smile, is almost impossible for them to come to grips with. Certainly, this cannot possibly be the warmly welcoming land of Aloha that all the commercial tourist businesses unceasingly foist upon us with every spurt of clever marketing energy they are capable of summoning up? The sad fact is that racism is not only alive and well in paradise, but has been practically an institutionalised aspect of island life since the first Westerners dropped anchor back in the 1700s. Racism has always been part of our burden as an imperfect, if promising sentient species, and there is no such thing as an entirely fair-minded and non-racist culture, much to my everlasting regret, I assure you.
Just about a year ago (February 2007), a Caucasian serviceman (who had just returned to Honolulu after his second tour in Iraq) and his wife (a nursing school student at Hawaii Pacific University) were severely beaten in front of their 3 year old child by a local (read: Hawaiian native or kanaka maoli) father, mother, and teenage son, over a minor incident in a parking lot at the Waikele Shopping Center (Honolulu).
According to some witnesses, the soldier and his wife entered the parking lot in their SUV and in trying to park, bumped the car of the local teenager very slightly (not enough to do any damage). The teenager, who was extremely angry about having his car bumped, came over to the soldier’s SUV and started yelling at the soldier, aiming some blows at him (through the window) and kicking his door, calling him a ‘fucking haole!’. At this, the soldier’s wife emerged from the passenger side of the SUV, confronting the teenager and trying to 'push' him away from their vehicle (although others said she was striking him). The teen’s mother (who was also in the car) next emerged from the teenager’s car and began helping her son yell at, punch, and kick the soldier’s wife. Just then, the teenager’s father emerged from an ice cream shop and grabbed the soldier’s wife, punching her in the face and then picking her up off her feet and slamming her down on the ground, where she remained motionless (and apparently unconscious). They then kicked her in the head and stomach, punching her husband (who had gotten out of the SUV at that point) in the throat, sending him to the ground gasping for breath. The soldier at this point began convulsing, although all three continued to hit and kick the soldier and his wife as they lay on the ground for an extended period of time. A mixed crowd of onlookers gathered and stared without taking part in the altercation to stop it or otherwise intervene.
The soldier, 26 and recently returned from his second tour in Iraq, suffered a severe concussion, fractures to his jaw and eye sockets, as well as internal injuries (soft tissue/organs). His 23 year old wife also suffered a concussion and fractures to her nose, jaw, and wrist, along with extensive bruises. Arrested for the assault was a 45 year old local named Gerald Paakaula, along with his 16 year old son. Witnesses testified that the term 'fucking haole!' was used at least once by the assailants during the assault, which of course raised the issue of whether or not this could be construe d as a hate crime under Hawaiian and/or Federal law.
Subsequent investigation into the incident revealed that the local father had apparently beaten his son severely in the past (five years earlier, when the son was only 11) over an incident involving misbehavior at his school, raising speculation about not just the possibility of a racist hate crime, but problems with uncontrollable anger (the son had had to be hospitalized, due to the nature of his injuries sustained in the father’s beating). However, in the days immediately following the February 2007 incident, news of the assault rapidly escalated into a highly contentious island-wide issue involving ethnicity, racial prejudice, and social class distinctions in Hawaii. It quickly blossomed forth to embrace every sort of cross-cultural concern imaginable. Strangely, the two major newspapers in Honolulu did not publicise the event for more than two days after it occurred, raising speculation of the existence of some substantially strong sentiment on the part of the media to minimize or underplay the race issues involved. Although perhaps an instance of ethically questionable conduct by public media, the substantial hesitance is understandable, considering the potential Pandora’s Box the incident represented in a culture as notably characterised (and even defined) by the supremely mixed cultural environment as is Hawaii's.
The Honolulu City Prosecutor (Peter Carlisle) shortly declared the assault was not a hate crime under the most stringent interpretation of applicable Hawaiian laws, since it did not involve deliberate targeting of the victims due to their ethnicity. However, in any reasonable assessment of the matter, there can be little if any doubt that race did play a role in this attack, although there were a number of extenuate factors to consider in the matter. It is well known, for instance, that many locals who harbor a dislike of haoles have an equally intense dislike of the military, due to the part the US military has played in island affairs in recent history. A good example of this underlying anti-military feeling may be found in the activist campaign of the late 1980s to regain the island of Kahoolawe from the US Navy, which had up until very recently declared it entirely off limits, reserving Kahoolawe exclusively for use as a bombing and weapons testing range. On Oahu, to cite yet another, the lasting enmity generated by the US Military's claims to Oahu's upper Wai'anae Coast area (known as the Makua Military Reservation) remain as a sorely festering issue with locals there.
The public response to this particularly disturbing example of racial polarities in the islands provoked the usual broad scatter of widely disparate opinions, ranging from those locals and malihinis who felt the attack was a shocking and totally insupportable display of totally unwarranted violence, to those who felt that it was vaguely justified by virtue of the long history of native Hawaiians suffering from ‘foreign exploitation’ (read: white cultural oppression).
Eventually, the crime was ruled to not constitute a hate crime (perhaps wisely) and it has been suggested that the principal causative factor was 'road rage', rather than being a racially motivated altercation. Gerald Paakaula is 'hapa haole', or half white, and some others in the community have described as a 'good, responsible, and upstanding, church-going individual'. Paakaula accepted a plea-bargain that saw him plead guilty to second degree assault, for which a 5 year term could be levied (the sentence was reduced to 2 years, subsequently), and consequently the matter did not go to trial. It emerged in testimony by witnesses that the actual physical altercation began with the soldier's wife, who struck Paakaula's 16 year old son in trying to 'push' him away. Paakaula, for his part defended his actions as stating that on emerging from an ice cream store he feared for his family's safety and was simply coming to their aid (although why Paakaula, his wife, and his son continued to kick the soldier and his wife while they both lay on the ground, unconscious, was not explained).
Clearly, Perhaps the most important thing that comes from this unhappy and unfortunate incident is that it has forced all of Hawaii, despite widespread reluctance to overtly consider the race issue (in a supposedly peaceful land of the Aloha Spirit where such ugly things officially ‘do not exist’), to bring race issues out from under the table and into the painful spotlight of exposure of that conspicuous public focus (or at least to the politically correct among us, that is).
At this point, it is worthwhile to pause and look back into the history of Hawaii and consider not just how it has changed in terms of its ethnicity and racial diversity since the first white Anglo-Saxon Protestant missionaries landed on the islands in 1820, but in what manner those changes have occurred and how they have taken hold.
The so-called happily integrated Hawaiian ‘melting pot of cultures’ that has found recent popular prepresentation in the rainbow symbol (since the natural rainbow that is refracted white light has had profound meaning for the ancient Hawaiians for many centuries) is in modern fact a seething cauldron of racial polarities, contrasting cultures, and varying social norms; to say that it is acutely class-conscious throughout its broad spectrum is almost laughably understating things. This was not originally the case, back ‘befoh time’ when the ancient Polynesians who settled in the Hawaiian Islands regarded themselves as ‘the Hawaiian people’.
In truly ancient times, the first wave of Polynesian settlers in Hawaii were a collectivist culture, highly supportive of each other and overwhelmingly focused on the broader, long-term social and survival considerations of living on a Pacific island. With the second wave of Polynesian immigrants associated with the arrival of priestly Pa’o, and the separation of the population into an elite ruling class and a common class (that was integrated firmly into the indigenous animistic religion), polarity issues first visited themselves upon the old, traditional culture of Hawaii. Due to the fact that religion dominated the ancient Hawaiian regard for all things in life, both human and naturistic, a simple dual-polarity system of this type worked reasonably well for the old Hawaiians.
When the Hawaiian High Chiefesses (6 months after Kamehameha’s death) finally threw off the old ‘kapu’ constraints of the ancient religion (in 1819) just a year prior to the arrival of the first white missionaries, the coincidental and near simultaneous arrival of haole proponents of a new religion (the evangelical Christian missionaries) created further polarization between existing internal social classes with their introduction of radically different outlooks of a completely ‘new’ racial norm. Thus began the colonization and eventual domination of the ancient Hawaiian culture by the mainland haole culture that was to continue into modern times. As whites began to acquire the Hawaiian land itself, after the Great Mahele (land distribution act of 1848, proposed by Kamehameha III), many of the native Hawaiians were quickly reduced to a lowly and servile social level (being both homeless and landless). By virtue of the fact that Hawaiians traditionally regarded the land as not so much belonging to any individual as much as it being everyone’s responsibility to care for and maintain it, the western concept of private land ownership was completely incomprehensible to most. As a direct result of this unhappy circumstance, they lost almost the entirety of their homeland to haole speculators and commercial interests. In passing, it should be noted that a disproportionate number of those powerful haole land-barons were the offspring of the original Protestant evangelical missionaries, who went on to predominate in the islands' new economy.
As commercial enterprise in the form of mercantile business and plantation crops (sugar cane, pineapples, and cattle herds, for the most part) began to control the Hawaiian culture of the mid-to-late 1800s, a consequent need developed for cheap common labor (farms and ranch hands, crop harvesters, and other types of unskilled labor were in great demand). This resulted in the importation of the first wave of migrant plantation workers from the Philippines. Subsequent national groups of imported labor included the Chinese, the Japanese, and the Portuguese. As the decades passed, each of these groups developed its own highly homogenous sub-communities within, but still separate from the greater community of the islands. For the most part there was little group intermixing at first, although after the migrants had been in Hawaii for a time, some intermarrying did occur simply owing to the unavailability of suitable wives (from their own cultural group).
Interestingly, and of considerable important to any consideration of the overall mix of Hawaiian culture, each of the main subgroups (Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese/Spanish, and Whites) tended to be insular in their social contacts with each other (at least at the onset). While this is a common characteristic of most Asian cultures, this was especially true of Whites, who habitually remained apart from and looked down upon all ‘people of color’ as being inherently inferior. This lasting white bias against the native Hawaiians even plays a substantial part in that execrable Elvis Presley movie, 'Blue Hawaii'.
The single most important distinction between all of them was the fact that White Americans maintained and believed in an ethic of rugged, entrepreneurial individualism (that is, the rights and freedom of the individual assuming greater importance than of society as a whole), whereas all of the other (Asian and native Hawaiian) groups (being what we call collectivist cultures, in which the greater good and benefit of the entie group far supersedes the importance of its individual members) lived a mutually supportive life that rejected individualism as an inherent manifestation of selfishness.
The ancient Hawaiians maintained very strong beliefs in collective welfare and group social harmony, as of course did the Chinese and the Japanese, coming from their common background of Confucian heritage, and the Filipinos. By contrast, White Americans (and most westerners, such as the English, Dutch, and other Europeans) believed in the individual’s right to elevate his own concerns above that of the group in almost every economic or social aspect of life. The self-centered nature of western cultures thus helped foster the long-established local antipathy towards White haoles by the Hawaiian locals early-on, after first contact, and its origins may therefore be traced almost back to Captain Cook’s original visit to the islands in the year 1778.
As the various cultural characteristics of the imported sub-cultures matured and found new expression in the Hawaiian Islands, and as time passed, more inter-group mixing took place to the point where today a great number of locals have a combination of these group’s bloodlines in their families. However, despite this admixing of racial groups, the central polar distinctions that separated the main subgroups continued to maintain their strength and influence on Hawaiians of Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino background. Since these groups are all ‘people of color’ to some degree, their generalised similarities in skin tone made it harder to determine exactly what one’s background actually is. This prompted a peculiarly Hawaiian characteristic of openly expressing curiosity over one’s ethnic background, during interactions ("Wot? You be one Pake, sistah?" = "Are you Chinese, sister?"). By contrast, a haole’s pale skin marks him out as belonging to a distinctly identifiable ethnicity upon first sight and there is less motivation (or need) to communicate, so as to establish that identification. Whites are therefore an easier 'mark' to single out than darker skinned peoples of varigated tone and may suffer what some term 'reverse discrimination' more readily, as a result.
Several scholars who have studied the Hawaiian demographic extensively managed to isolate some of the coping mechanisms that ‘Hawaiians of color’ have of necessity developed to enable them to understand each other and interact appropriately. One of these is a generally accepted pattern of jokingly referring to those outside one’s ethnic group using ethnic terms that in modern, politically correct America would be considered disparagingly racist. Thus the habit of referring to other racial groups with slang terms that at first glance may seem somewhat insulting (to westerners) has come to be an accepted and common habit among non-haole Hawaiians. Terms like ‘Katonks’, ‘Buddha-heads’, and others like this to describe Japanese-Hawaiians are therefore unremarkable in Hawaii (or 'Pake' for Chinese and 'Manang' for Filipino). They are merely part of the indigenous Hawaiian cultural coping mechanism that allows these various groups to interact less antagonistically with each other. In this context, the word haole is not as much a racial slight as simply a conveniently descriptive term. The term 'Fucking haole', on the other hand, leaves no doubt about its being an intentional antagonistic ethnic slur.
Racial antagonisms increased markedly with the beginning of the South Pacific campaign, at the onset of the Second World War, when hundreds of thousands of white Americans flooded into the islands as members of the US Armed Forces. The US military presence in the islands quickly reached the point where it dominated almost the entire culture of the islands from about 1939 through 1946. This highly irritating (to the locals) presence further entrenched the long-simmering local dislike of haoles, since most of those military personnel were White Anglo-Saxons who visually constituted an easy visual focus against whom to direct racial angst.
By this time, the overwhelming influx of White American wealth, commercial enterprise, business, and development had created a society in which the indigenous native Hawaiians had become an economically disadvantaged under-class that lacked its own wealth, property, occupational wherewithall, and/or economic means of livelihood. Succeeding generations of Japanese-Hawaiians had meanwhile managed to attain successful careers in a number of influential economic areas (medical, professional, and political) in the Hawaiian culture, as had the Chinese (private business and commercial concerns); so too, to a certain less pronounced degree, had many of the younger generation of Filipino-Hawaiians. The kanaka maoli (native Hawaiian people), by stark and highly ironic contrast, on the other hand, constituted a vastly less successful economic element of Hawaiian society, with many dispossessed native Hawaiian extended families being forced to live in tents on the beach in the absence of homes and property of their own (which was now mostly owned by wealthy haole malihini and foreign Japanese).
By the 1970s and somewhat due to American social changes related to the US involvement in Vietnam, a new interest and pride in ancient Hawaiian culture and heritage began to to shape. This renewed focus on the traditional ancient cultural and social ways soon gathered momentum in Hawaii, being further encouraged by the passage of certain Hawaiian political acts and legislative bills that granted special consideration to native Hawaiians, as well as providing subsidies for native Hawaiian associated projects, homeland preserves, cultural activities and related undertakings. Thus, for the first time in many decades, the native Hawaiians were again being encouraged to take pride in their old heritage. As limited in scope as these changes were at the time, they constituted a major step forward in recognising the status of the islands' original inhabitants.
This official recognition of the importance of the old culture achieved much that was of positive benefit, but at the same time it also helped create a sort of schismatic or schizophrenic confusion in many locals, since while they were now being (belatedly) told they were ‘special’ and urged to take pride in their worth as members of traditional Hawaiian culture, they were still clearly and substantially disadvantaged in an all important economic sense. Without jobs, viable livelihoods, homes, reasonable means of support, or access to moderate economic reserves of wealth with which to help promote ethnic pride and community cohesiveness, the native Hawaiians in many cases found much cause to resent anew the long-established dominating social and economic influence of White ‘outsiders’ (or haoles) in their Hawaiian homeland.
Then, following the end of the Second World War and concurrent with the decline of the traditional pinapple and suger cane plantation-based agricultural economy, tourism grew by an order or magnitude to the point where today it has totally supplanted all other former Hawaiian sources of economic income. With the associated replacement of traditional sea-voyages by fast airline service to the islands from the mainland in the 60s, tourism quickly assumed a disproportionate importance to the islands’ economy that would never have been even remotely guessed at 50 years ago. Today, as more and more haole malihini flock to the islands for a few weeks of expensive recreation in that over-hyped, hugely fantasized, and largely mythical land of lovely hula girls, lu’aus, and grinning beach boys, traditional smoldering racial antagonisms have simply become more pronounced and firmly entrenched than ever before. Like lava, most resentment is underground, but still relatively close to the surface.
Even among long-time haole residents on the islands, these racial antagonisms are a very real concern in schools as readily identifiable haole school children and adolescents mix together with the darker colored offspring of Hawaiian, Japanese-Hawaiian, Chinese-Hawaiian, and Filipino-Hawaiians in the educational process…quite often with unhappy results. The antagonism seems to be especially pronounced among the younger people, despite the fact that perhaps some of that is a 'normal' part of the immature growth phase among all children.
Always heavily criticized for its limited successes in addressing learning difficulties, the Hawaiian public school system perennially verges on near-total dysfunction in terms of failing to meet generalized mainland academic standards of proficiency. It wouldn't be completely unfair to say that incidents in which haole kids are set upon or otherwise harassed at school by locals occur with predictable frequency these days; haole teachers imported from the mainland to teach predominantly non-haole Hawaiian adolescents regularly resign and return to the mainland, disappointed and severely disillusioned by their experiences with this uglier side of Hawaiian culture, after only a short exposure.
In short, racially polar antagonisms now exist quite near the surface, almost as a daily fact of Hawaiian life, even in many of the more heavily urbanised parts of the islands. While the situation is not anywhere as bad as it is in certain parts of larger mainland cities, where gang affiliations exert unhealthy influence on the ability of residents to circulate freely (and unharassed), there are distinctly delineated parts of all major Hawaiian urban areas where it is ill-advised to be a haole out alone, at certain times of the evening, night, or even day.
Nevertheless, it is important to note that much of this polarization between haole Hawaiians and Hawaiians ‘of color’ is further affected by a severely deficit understanding of non-White sub cultural groups on the part of haoles recently arrived from the mainland. Whereas each of the distinct ethnic sub-groups that may be found in modern Hawaii maintain ‘collectivist’ cultural attitudes in their daily interactions with other Hawaiians, recently arrived haoles frequently fail completely to grasp any of these subtle communicative or interactive nuances at all. This dynamic is most noticed in the business world, but it also has social and cultural ramifications having nothing to do with commerce and business (viz. education and the school system).
Hawaii, of course, had a collectivist culture prior to the arrival of the missionaries and western capitalism. A culture that is still expressed in the traditional 'Aloha Spirit', which consists of giving open-endedly to share wealth, food, and communal support, this traditional spirit of collective giving contrasts rather severely with the ethos of imported western entrepenureal commercialism. One result of this, seen mostly in the schools, has been that it is felt by locals to be shameful to perform immodestly above the level of one's peers (as in schools, for example). As a result 'smart' haole kids (the Hawaiian term for 'smart' is akamai) who do not understand this peer-dynamic tend to suffer disproportionately from it.
A good example of this is to be found in the classroom, where local school kids (who may be just as smart as anyone else) are extremely hesitant to stand conspicuously out in their group by appearing too smart or too eager to perform well. Whereas the ethic at work in White Anglo-Saxon America ('rugged individualism') is to encourage individual achievement and pursuit of individual excellence, local Hawaiian kids regard the preserving of the common and collective harmony of their group to be far more important than appearing to be too bright (thereby possibly alienating their friends, causing them to lose face) in the classroom. This profoundly powerful and uniquely Hawaiian/Asian-Pacific cultural dynamic is often completely overlooked by recently arrived haole teachers, who mistakenly regard the local kids as unmotivated, less intelligent, lazy, and more unconcerned with learning than their smarter-appearing haole classroom peers. What they may view as studied ignorance is actually a protective cultural mechanism intended to promote group harmony!
A large part of the problem involving successful intermixing of haoles with the other cultural groups in Hawaii centers on the lamentably uniform lack of cultural sensitivity possessed by most average Americans. This oblivious awareness of other cultures is nowhere more dramatically apparent than in the present catastrophic quagmire that US involvement in Iraq has become. Rather than taking the time and trouble to more fully understand the culture and people of the Southwest Asian region, the Bush administration capriciously and ignorantly chose to project its own highly abstract and flawed political expectations upon the Iraqi people, with the result that the resulting complete failure to understand the least thing about the highly complex and intensely religious Arab peoples soon drew America into a horrifically wasteful and expensive war that could not be won militarily (or even withdrawn from easily).
The same set of factors underlie American (read: haole malihini, or White American mainlanders) misreadings and misunderstandings of the native or successfully acculturated Hawaiian people (that is, both purer members of Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, indigenous Hawaiian and Korean extraction, and individuals who maintain a confluent mix of those cultures in their family bloodlines). Without the least understanding of how critically important the ‘ohana (family or immediate group) and kauhale (community) context of Hawaiian society is to the smooth and harmonious functioning of Hawaiian social, communal and economic life, haole malihini board their Aloha Airlines flight to Honolulu, disembark, and run naively and unknowingly into incidents such as the February 2nd Waikele Shopping Center encounter in Honolulu. This same lack of cultural understanding creates innumerable clashes between (recently arrived) haoles and locals in just about every aspect of contemporary Hawaiian life today.
In the case of the Waikele incident, if the assaulted couple had not been readily identified as being 1) military personnel, and 2) haole by the local offenders, the encounter would in all likelihood never have ended the way it did. If the people in the SUV had been non-haole (or local), the situation would have probably been more casually resolved in somewhat the following manner.
The angered teenager would likely have approached the other driver and said “Eh! Why you wen buss my car li’dat, brah?” A far more relaxed exchange, involving use of carefully modulated pidgin-English, might have subsequently resulted, with perhaps some money exchanging hands (in the event of actual damage) before both parties resolved the matter amicably and went on their way without further consequence. Instead, because the couple who naively precipitated the encounter where clearly part of a racial group traditionally and doubly resented by locals (being both haole AND military personnel), a bitterly antagonistic exchange resulted that ended up with two (possibly somewhat naive) haoles having come close to being killed due to a simple error in parking their vehicle. Of course, if the haole couple had been more culturally perceptive, they would have gone to far greater lengths to defuse and de-escalate the situation before it reached a flashpoint. [Having said that, I personally would not expect a serviceman who had just returned from two arduously stressful and traumatic tours of duty in a violent war zone to have the supreme tolerance and near-inhuman patience required to respond in that amiably peaceful manner, and so we ended up with this result; but that is simply my opinion, based upon knowledge of the powerful effects of PTSD and stresses generated from experiencing violent warfare].
What is the greater point that hopefully emerges through all of this, in light of the basic cultural misunderstandings that have enabled egregious incidents like this to have taken place? Or is there in fact only a single point of focus worthy of examination here and not a host of them?
To begin with, it is now far too late to undo all of the many decades of western economic oppression and social prejudice that so perfectly characterise America’s naïve misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the peoples inhabiting the rest of the world (read: every land and ethnic group beyond US continental borders). What has been done is done and nothing shall ever entirely erase lingering native Hawaiian resentment over having virtually lost their entire island homeland to culturally naive, economically overbearing, self-centered, and profit obsessed outsiders who think that America’s worship of rugged, entrepreneurial individualism is the only legitimate socio-political philosophy in the entire world.
Furthermore, little can be done to reduce haole paranoia about being singled out for rude, perhaps hostile treatment by locals. The only reasonable course to be followed, therefore, is to foster greater effort on the part of White Americans to understand how other nations and other peoples view life and maintain the beliefs that make their lives personally, spiritually, and culturally meaningful. Only then, after much willing study of cultural ways, social norms, and attainment of a basic modicum of understanding, can any real progress be made towards resolving the ever-present tensions and aggravated hostilities that arise from poorly timed and grossly misjudged interactions between radically differing racial and ethnic groups. This is as true in Hawaii and it would be anywhere in the world that Americans find themselves today.
Clearly, education is one primary means of helping achieve this shift in American awarenesses, but education requires acceptance of the importance of education by the mass of average individual Americans who comprise the United States of America. It also presupposes enlightened government that pays more attention to the basic welfare of its people and far less attention to the hard-core profit and bottom-line demands of selfishly uncaring commercial enterprise and corporate concerns. Both of these are unlikely possibilities, considering evidence provided by the recent revelations of criminally exploitative and greedy American businesses that have nearly brought down the entire American economy (read: the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the consequent fall of the entire world's economy).
Of course, this process is a two-way street, as is any intended interaction between individuals or groups of individuals, and it requires sincere interest in promoting harmony on BOTH sides of the equation. In Hawaii we have a highly idealised tradition that we call the Aloha Spirit (mentioned above, earlier), or a universal and over-riding moral concern with promoting peace, health, harmony, and cooperative happiness for all peoples who constitute the greater ‘ohana (family) that is humanity.
Regrettably, there is as much individual diversity among any subgroup of people in Hawaii as there is in the entire world between national ethnic groups. Not everyone is an enlightened, intelligent, and/or basically caring, altruistic person who sees the importance of peaceful and harmonious, cooperative coexistence being the greatest single objective of all human life activity. There is far too much blind ignorance, selfishness and violent disregard for others in the world that make altruistic higher aspirations somewhat less than possible. This is, however, the basic paradox of human life that remains as great a challenge today as it has ever been in the past.
The traditional Aloha Spirit of the islands, as wonderful and idealistically hopeful as it may be, is not by itself enough to help completely smooth over the recurrently ugly racial violence and ethnic misunderstandings, such as was the Waikele incident. Those who feel it is an isolated incident are regrettably and sadly mistaken, for these raw antagonisms, left unaddressed, will continue to fester as long as any group of human beings (whether haole or kanaka maoli) thinks of itself as somehow better or grander than another. In America, we have a long way to go before we may ever hope to aspire to that particular form of true human greatness that we imagine ourselves as having.
Meanwhile, all the individual can do is try again and renew our efforts each day to truly achieve a more loving and spiritually generous understanding of each other in our lives. In that spirit, I wish all of you much Aloha and the true wisdom of peaceful understanding and kind awareness in the daily living of your lives.
[NOTE: There is much valuable information available on the internet on the subject of cultural understanding, applicable to all cultures the world over. In particular reference to the culture of modern Hawaii, I would highly suggest a book written by Brent Massey, titled ‘Culture Shock: Hawaii’, ISBN 981-261-258-0, available from Marshall Cavendish Editions (Times Publishing Limited), 2006, and obtainable either in traditional hard-copy or in the form of a 350 page full-length and downloadable E-Book edition. The book is part of a continuing series of extremely insightful, highly readable, and phenomenally astute researches into the distinctive nuances of the world’s many differing cultures. I can truthfully say that this particular book, dealing with Hawaii’s uniquely singular culture is one of the most valuable any person who wishes to successfully interact with others in Hawaii could possibly read. I really can’t say enough about it and I highly recommend it to you as a basis for fostering deeper understanding of what makes Hawaii the culture it is today.]
POSTSCRIPT: For a very interesting commentary on Hawaii as viewed by Hawaiian activist Haunani Kay-Trask, read this presentation, first delivered at a conference on law and society in 1991 (Berkeley, CA). Although the sista's words are direct and forceful, I find myself in agreement with the main body of sentiments expressed therein. LOVELY HULA HANDS: Corporate Tourism and the Prostitution of Hawaiian Culture