There is an abundance of commentary on racial issues in Hawaii. Much of it has to do with the historical treatment of the Native Hawaiians or Kanaka Maoli.
Initially, as a minority, I felt a need to know how Hawaiians handled being disenfranchised and sought to find some commonality with the host culture. I tried to mirror and establish a checklist of experiences that both African-Americans and Hawaiians had in common. I found that stints in jail, out-of-wedlock-births, and the sense of hyper masculinity among males were common between both groups.
As I mentioned earlier, much of the racial literature is dominated with the treatment of Hawaiians. The topic is so popular that it has been found in the halls of college academia. While attending Brigham Young University-Hawaii, I took an interdisciplinary course that touched on the importance of surfing to a small community in the North Shore of Oahu. This group, the Hui O He’e Nalu, was formed to keep balance between locals and the influx of people seeking to take advantage of the surf in that area.
This is just one of many courses that can be found in universities around the country. I suspect some would be hard-pressed to find such a course at a well-know conservative environment like BYU-Hawaii. One could only imagine what is found at a more liberal university like the University of Hawaii, where there is well-established Hawaiian Studies program. Academia and other liberal arts studies programs have capitalized on the issues of minority oppression and have intellectualized these topics.
Aside from multiple writings of racism in Hawaii, I’ve found that it is usually white 20- to 30-somethings that have shared their horrific experiences of growing up in Hawaii. Now not all these stories are of negative content, there are some that present their experiences in Hawaii, dealing with race, as a positive.
You can “Google” “Hawaii racism” in the search bar and find blogs, Youtube videos, and other media of people talking about their experiences. I see nothing wrong with this. People want to express themselves and we all want to share our experiences, but I couldn’t find any material on what it is like to be black in Hawaii.
Let me say that certain cultures have a tendency to express themselves more than others. I believe that this is why you see so many whites express themselves openly and quite frequently than say, “Polynesians” or other Asian groups. It’s just not in their culture, but I think as these topics begin to gain traction, you will see many Polynesian and Asian individuals seek to make their voice heard, in an arena that has been dominated by whites.
My experience in Hawaii, as a black man, has been good to me. I believe Hawaii is truly a place where you will get treated by how you treat others. If you act like a jerk, you will get treated as such. If you carry yourself with decency and respect and show that towards others, then in return you will get the same. I mentioned earlier that I tried to identify with other “non-white’ people through the eyes of fellow oppressed brothers and sisters that were under the boot of the “colonizing white man.”
I had some friends come in from mainland. They were black and were enamored by the beauty of Hawaii. In fact, one said, “look at all these dark-skinned people….white people ain’t running nothing over here!”
It has been my experience that some black people will attempt to find alliances with non-white people when they come to Hawaii. They have this belief that Hawaii is a place free of white rule and non-white people hold all the power. Some self-identifying tactics is the idea that Polynesians come from Africa, or that every non-white person really comes Africa.
Now, I’m not getting into the validity of these arguments, nor am I going to entertain any scientific pontification of the sort. I’m merely describing how some black people employ these ideas in order to gain alliances against, what they perceive as a common foe, white oppression.
White guilt is the idea that some white people have in order to “right the wrongs” of their ancestors. It is my opinion that this ideology causes many white people in Hawaii to overlook blatancies amongst certain groups. This whole “well, we’ve colonized their lands, therefore they have the right to act this way” mentality is prevalent here in the islands.
With that being said, most local people do not have this sense of ‘white guilt” towards other “people of color.” For instance, I tell some of my black friends that you will not get the “we went through slavery” sentiments and sympathy here in Hawaii, “you will wait in line just like the Asian, Hawaiian, Samoan, and white guy. You will not get special treatment here.”
Again, my experience has been great. You will find those that aren’t aware of certain cultures, but you will find those types of people everywhere.