What's Your Story?

Readers often have more to offer than a quick comment. This is the place to share your thoughts, anecdotes or even column-length submissions. If you prefer, you may also e-mail your story to connections@civilbeat.com.

Thank you for your submission!

1,000 word max
0 used
Hawaii isn't the racial paradise the tourism industry pretends it is, but it does offer some insights for the mainland.

About the Author

  • Rudy P. Guevarra, Jr.
    Rudy P. Guevarra, Jr.
    Rudy P. Guevarra, Jr., is associate professor of Asian Pacific American Studies in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University. He is the author of Becoming Mexipino: Multiethnic Identities and Communities in San Diego, and the co-editor of a forthcoming volume on race in Hawaii. He wrote this post as part of a series on identities in the United States, a national conversation hosted by the Smithsonian and Zócalo Public Square. It is republished with permission of the What It Means To Be American project.

Unlike the continental United States, Hawaii has no group that is the racial majority, and people can identify with multiple races and ethnicities over several generations.

This is the norm, rather than an anomaly.

Early social scientists, the tourist industry, and visitors credit this long history of mixing to the “aloha spirit,” or culture of tolerance and inclusiveness, that is the hallmark of living in Hawaii.

A Big Island sign of welcome.

A Big Island sign of welcome.

Denise Laitinen

True, Hawaii is a place where a mixed-race person like myself can blend in, and where people of color are not seen as a curiosity. And yes, people generally get along here.

But even the aloha spirit has its limits.

We must be mindful that the present multicultural society grew from the collapse of the Native Hawaiian population and the dispossession of their land.

And while locals use ethnic humor to make fun of all ethnicities, specific groups are repeatedly the targets of racial stereotypes: Filipinos, for instance, and, more recently, Micronesians.

Latinos have been the victims of racial profiling by law enforcement, similar to what they experience in the continental U.S.

While Hawaii may not be the racial paradise the tourist industry imagines it to be, these islands do offer us a way to see how we can grow if we learn to live together and embrace our differences.

Here is the link to other stories from What it Means to Be American.

If you have a story about diversity, race, ethnicity and/or what local identity means to you in the islands, feel free to share it. To do so, click on the red pencil button to share it through Connections, or drop a note to epape@civilbeat.com.

And you can discuss this or other stories on Civil Beat’s Facebook page.