I’m the first to admit that the ugly, despicable kind of racism that has and does still run rampant in some parts of this country is not familiar to me. Hell, I thought it had been abolished with slavery! Let me explain.
I live on a volcanic rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and the majority of the population in my home state are of Asian ancestry; specifically Japanese, Filipino. and Chinese.
Hawaii residents claiming to be full blooded Japanese, Chinese or Filipino make up over a third of the entire Hawaii population, or, collectively, 35.5%, with our Japanese born locals coming in way in the lead at 16.7%. Oh, that doesn’t seem like a lot? To put that into perspective, only 6.6% of locals have Native Hawaiian blood.and less than 1% of that measly amount can speak Hawaiian. You know what, for further perspective, here’s another little tidbit: only 9.4% of Hawaii residents have some strain of pacific islander mojo. Me? I’m what’s called “afakasi,” or “one-half” – Samoan, that is, like The Rock! But my other half is German and English. I don’t speak fluent Samoan (I only know the basics and, of course, all the swear words) but when my grandma said ANYTHING to you, whether it was in Samoan, English, Chuukese, Pig Latin, or fricken Orkan (Nanu Nanu – as in Mork and Mindy, not Hobbit Orcan, just to be clear), if you didn’t know exactly what it is that she said you went in the direction that the big wooden spoon was pointing and started doing anything you had ever heard her ask anyone to do in that part of the house. I’m not joking. Ask me about the first time she said “faka” to me.
Anyway, meandering aside, my whole point in summarizing the melting pot that is Hawaii, is this: white people are the huge and largely unappreciated minority here, so most of the racism I’ve seen in my life has been towards a person or persons referred to by the racist offender(s) as that or those “fucken haoles.” “Haole” (pronounced “HOW-leh” or “HOW-lee,” depending on where you are in the Islands) literally means “foreigner,” non-specific to any particular ethnicity, but in reality, in day-to-day life here in Hawaii, especially anytime before 1995-ish, if you heard that word, you’d look for the white person in the vicinity. With the whopping 9 military bases on Oahu alone, most of the white population are service members. And in some cases, that made it worse for them. My mom is a white girl, born and raised here, first generation born here, but third generation of settlers. My dad is the Samoan in my above equation and was actually born in American Samoa before his parents migrated to Hawaii as part of my grandpa’s job as a cook in the U.S. Navy. Basically, I pass as Hawaiian here in the Islands and Hispanic on the mainland.
I was not brought up to persecute or discriminate or treat others without respect for no reason, so it was kind of a big deal to me when I first heard some kids in second grade talking about a “stupid haole.” Honestly, I thought “haoles” only came in adult size, so the Nancy Drew in me had to find out what adult at school could possibly be one. When I asked one of the kids – the “leader” – who had been bandying that phrase about on the playground – he lived in the same housing project as me, so we had known each other since the days of diapers- I was shocked when he inclined his head toward one of our classmates- Bryan, I believe was his name. Bryan was a dirty blonde, scrawny white kid with an omnipotent sunburn and bangs that fell in his face in a way that would make Bieber proud. He was in my homeroom and, in fact, his last name started with an R, so he and I sat near or next to each other anytime we were in the same class because my last name starts with an S. He told lame jokes and was constantly either pushing his bangs behind his ear or nearly vibrating with energy as he told a story or listened to one. I thought he was cool. I said so to the kid and his entourage and, innocently, but with the budding sass of a future diva, asked him what Bryan did to him or them that made them call him that. Okay, it wasn’t innocent, it was…well, accusatory and intended to shame them for being little assholes. It worked. Well, while I was there. And anytime I caught them even posturing at recess I would walk past the group and stare at them disapprovingly. Usually worked. Oh, I should mention that in addition to me living in the same housing as the leader-kid, so did my older brothers. Let’s just say they wouldn’t be happy if their baby sister told them about some mean kid at school. My crocodile tears were, wait for it——
I didn’t know what “bullies” were at the time, but my best friend in elementary school was “different” – we didn’t know exactly what it was yet, seeing as there was no “sexual” in our orientations, but: 1) I (a girl) was his best friend; 2) he also had a hello kitty eraser collection (it was a “thing” then), popular amongst the females; 3) played Chinese jump rope and high jump better than the rest of us (mostly girls); and 4) had THE nicest handwriting of either gender. Yes, he is a gorgeous and fabulously gay man. Now. But then? He was the “sissy” or “mahu” (pronounced “mah-who” – it’s a derogatory slang word that means “faggot”). So I had gotten my start on standing up to bullies right outta pre-school. Even then, in fact, maybe even MORE then, it really pissed me off that people would just be mean to others, not because of something they DID, but because of something they WERE. It had all kinds of “WRONG” tattooed all over it and stunk like my brothers’ disgusting football cleats after a game. Or before a game. Or any time, really. They were so gross.
I haven’t changed my mind. About the bullies or the disgusting stench (shudder).