Ending The Stereotypes Of Oahu's Westside - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Authors

Line-Noue Memea Kruse

Line-Noue Memea Kruse, Ph.D., teaches in the Hawaiian-Pacific Studies program at the University of Hawaii West Oahu.

Sa’iliemanu Lilomaiava-Doktor

Sa’iliemanu Lilomaiava-Doktor, Ph.D., teaches in the Hawaiian-Pacific Studies program at the University of Hawaii West Oahu.

We are University of Hawaii West Oahu Educators and we support Civil Beat changing the media’s narrative of the Westside.

Ku’u Kauanoe and Jessica Terrell recently penned, “West Oahu Residents Say The Media Is Getting Their Community All Wrong. We Want To Change That. As educators at the University of Hawaii West Oahu located within Congressional District 1 which includes Ewa Beach, Kapolei, Makakilo, Kalaeloa, Honokai Hale, Koolina, Nanakuli, Maili, Waianae, Makaha, Keaau and Makua we have students every semester from the Westside who are fed and raised with a negative narrative that the media has been obsessed to tell.

The narrative is that these students and their families are from the “bad side” of Oahu. Looking at the media’s narrative one would assume that the Westside is made up primarily of drug addicts, the homeless, poor, criminals, and uneducated minorities of color.

As educators in higher education on the Westside we teach graduates from Waianae High School, Nanakuli High and Intermediate School, Kapolei High School, James Campbell High School, and Waipahu High School. We see the internalization that these narratives have created in students’ self-esteem based on different lived experiences that others outside their communities see and treat them as the “bad side” stereotype.

The “bad side” stereotypes are alive and well because it is perpetuated in everything you hear about on the news and read in newspapers. Ask around, “What do you know about Waianae, Maili, Ewa Beach, or Nanakuli” to anyone that doesn’t live in these communities and what are their responses to you?

Another dominant perception of the Westside is its perceived, environmental deficit. That it is dry and nothing grows. Inaccurate!

Long before modern-day Waianae these valleys were the kalo basket of the moku, lo’i kalo and auwai that provided a rich wetland ecosystem of native plants and animals like pinao (Hawaiian dragonfly), ʻaukuʻu (black-crowned night heron), ʻoʻopu (goby fish),`anae (flathead grey mullet fish), and uouoa (sharp nose mullet); squid were abundant in Keawaula Bay, along with Hawaiian fishing practices that modern fisherman are now resorting to in efforts to support sustainable and responsible fishing.

The Westside environmental “deficit” perspective has resulted in artificial stereotypes of remoteness, isolation, barren and arid space that is a targeted district for dumping trash and sewage treatment plants. The Environmental Justice group and Elders of Waianae have been protesting commercial efforts to dump and build more landfills in Nanakuli and Waianae.

Aulani Ihilani Koolina Developments West Oahu Hotels HVB
Koolina on Oahu’s Westside is home to several resorts and housing developments. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The Westside is beautiful and rich in people, history, natural resources and culture that is an amalgamation of stunning beautiful views and beaches and agricultural lands that are constantly competing with landfills and other non-mana enhancing projects.

There are very successful nonprofit organizations dedicated to sustainable agriculture and reinvestment into the communities, such as Ka’ala Farm and social entrepreneurship organizations like the MA`O Farm, that are partnering with University of Hawaii Leeward Community College and University of Hawaii West Oahu through the Youth Leadership Training Program. YTL is a two-year program for college students who work part-time on the farm while attending college full-time to earn an associate or a bachelor’s degree.

The program’s mission is to connect the students from Waianae to their agricultural heritage through farming technologies and farming science through hands-on experience. We believe that space, place, geography and connection to identity matters to our students at the University of Hawaii West Oahu. Without examining the oral traditions of Hawaiian mo’olelo or stories about place — and connecting these stories to the students, the classes, and then to our larger communities and societies — any narratives or stories about the Westside are incomplete.

As Pacific Islander educators we join the chorus of women journalists who advocate in this era of social, gender, racial, and environmental efforts to seek justice and peace. We also advocate that our local media must reevaluate the ways in which it cultivates and promotes a redress to these injustices. The media promotes these injustices within their targeted historical reporting that predominately perpetuates the Westside narrative as the “bad side.”

Trustworthy public service media are always needed, but more so now as our state is grappling with COVID-19. Like many other communities in Oahu the Westside has faced these COVID-19 challenges with service, compassion, and strength of community to help each other.

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About the Authors

Line-Noue Memea Kruse

Line-Noue Memea Kruse, Ph.D., teaches in the Hawaiian-Pacific Studies program at the University of Hawaii West Oahu.

Sa’iliemanu Lilomaiava-Doktor

Sa’iliemanu Lilomaiava-Doktor, Ph.D., teaches in the Hawaiian-Pacific Studies program at the University of Hawaii West Oahu.

Latest Comments (0)

There are stereotypes all over this lava rock...The west side has always been portrayed as a bad place to go to.Born and raised on the west side in the 60’s was the best time of my life so much memories goin to the beach during the summer time.It was so layed back we didn’t even need lock our front doors,  it would be wide open with no worries about someone breaking in.I still have family there and every time I go there to visit I always feel like a kid again.

Believeitornot · 1 year ago

What are the relevant statistics?  I lived in Makaha in the ‘70’s and had family that lived contented lives there through 2015.  I have wonderful memories of the area, and found the people to be full of aloha spirit.  The Leeward Coast has beautiful beaches, mountains and great institutions such as the Waianae Comprehensive Healthcare Clinic, which is very engaged in the community.  Having said that, as compared with the more affluent neighborhoods on the island there are real issues with domestic violence as well as other phenomena  associated with poor adaptation to  acculturation.  Past attempts at social engineering haven’t done much to solve some of these issues.

be_data_driven · 1 year ago

Great article. Unfortunately I used to hear the negative rhetoric and stereotyping far too often when I talked with all kinds of folks (sometimes friends, classmates, associates, colleagues, people in the neighborhood). Usually I would get a 'deer in headlights/foot in da mouth' kine expression when I mentioned I grew up on the Westside and have plenty family there. 

KokoKai_Boi · 1 year ago

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