A question we’re often asked stems from the stigma attached to the islands about local tension and racism. Stories regularly float around about local Hawaiians beating up haoles and tourists. Is this True?
Yes and no. In any community, you’re bound to find bad seeds and racism. We don’t live in a perfect world. On the other hand, Hawaii sees polar opposites in this subject, along with everything in between. One person may display anger and prejudice while the next may exude the spirit of aloha with smiles and bring you into their ohana. It’s a very strange thing in the islands. At the same time, the same person can have both of these characteristics only in different situations. In general, you most likely will not experience any of this tension.
Who is most likely to display these negative feelings and where does this all come from?
Localism and tension is mostly expressed from the local youth. Through history, teenagers have proven their need to express their angst through rebellious behavior. What better way to fit in than to join those against? Most of this stems from the recent history of the islands and it’s transformation into a global economy. Most of the people living on Maui and all the islands survive because of the tourist industry. The influx of disrespectful tourists and the increasing dependency of the local population to their dollars further give tourism an ugly face. The slow death of industry on the islands has increased this fact. The Pineapple isle no longer grows pineapples due to the low cost of fruit production in central and South America. This is just one of many examples where the Hawaiian Islands are becoming solely dependant on tourism. The other major source of income on is from Real Estate in Maui. Living in paradise is an attractive thing. Prices for land have skyrocketed due to the outside interest of developers and vacation dwellers. The strength of our real estate market is another reason for the interest and value in our land. When the rest of the world crashes, our land is still worth almost as much. The local people are hurt by the inflated prices created by the wealthy looking for a home on the ocean, most of which will only spend a week out of the year there.
All of these factors have stretched the spirit of aloha to its extent. One of the biggest problems faced in tourist acceptance is their general ignorance of the land and people. Our local people hate to see our land treated like garbage, but ironically we’re noticeably the worst when it comes to littering.
The bottom-line: Stereotypes exist in all cultures because a small group from their population acts collectively in a certain way. This shouldn’t reflect the whole culture, but it often does because it makes a bigger noise than that of the happy, helpful, and quiet. These stereotypes create more stereotypes in the way people treat the effected people. The cycle continues until everybody hates everybody for some reason or another whether or not it’s specifically true in that instance.
How to avoid localism and racism?
Respect the land and it’s people. Learn by doing research before you go. If you understand each situation before you get involved, you’re less likely to do something that will harm the fragile and slipping culture of Hawaii. This goes for local customs (ex. Taking your shoes off when entering a residence), the environment (ex. Don’t stand on the reef or take coral or sand home), boundaries (ex. Get permission before trespassing on private property to access natural features and attractions), and ignorance (ex. Expect some stereotyping of yourself by others and blow off any negative vibes.)If you are confronted with racism and local tension, ignore it and walk away. As in any situation, unprovoked antagonistic behavior cannot be reasoned with. Just because the thoughts behind these situations are irrational doesn’t mean that that person could possibly see the light. They don’t want to.
For the most part, the people of Hawaii are wonderful, caring people that will bend over backwards for anyone. Don’t let the very few bad apples ruin your good times.
I grew up here and left when I turned 18 and came back a few times every year to visit my family (all of which live here) and have recently returned to be a permanent resident and raise my son here. Unfortunately, the main reason I did not want to return nor raise my son here was the racism that I endured growing up here and going to Maui High.
I think that your article, while informative, is sugar-coating the issue. When you drive out of the airport or along the road to Hana sometimes the first thing you see are offensive bumper stickers stating: “This Ain’t the Mainland” or “Respect the Culture” or numerous other clever slogans like that. Plus, don’t get me started on that lovely store with those same things displayed in their windows on Dairy Road right across from a major shopping area.
I think the part that aggravates me so much is that regardless if you “respect the culture” or the aina or have lived here your entire life, if you have blond hair and fair skin you are targeted as a F**king Haole and to be honest I am just tired of it! I know I may be taking this frustration out on the wrong person here, but you should be honest if you are going to write an article addressing this very sensitive issue.
On a side note, I did enjoy a few of your other posts.
Thank you StellatotheMax!
It’s a difficult thing to discuss because I know people that believe the racism is a complete myth and others that feel they’re victimized daily. Personally, I know it exists and happens on a daily basis. This blog is primarily targeting mainland visitors that will be staying in resort areas and likely never have an issue. That’s why it may seem sugar coated in comparison to a post written for white people moving here permanently.
Yes, there’s racism and localism. Is it worse than many other places in the world? Overall, probably not. It’s just white people that have to deal with it as opposed to other races in other states/countries.
I’m hoping that our islands will see less of this in the future, though unlikely. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. You’re the second person that we’ve allowed to comment on this blog. Please, feel free to write more. We like seeing views that have logic behind them. Mahalo!
Keep spreading the Aloha. With Aloha, we can kill off racism!