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Bullying in Hawaii: A State of Denial

BY SYDNEY ROSS SINGER - Does the Aloha State actually have a bullying problem? If you are Caucasian and from the Mainland, you will certainly think so.

It doesn't matter how long you live here, or if you were even born here. If you are white, locals will still call you a “haole”, a derogatory term that is Hawaii's equivalent of using the "N-word".

And the prejudice goes beyond name calling. White people are often treated with scorn. “Go back to where you came from”, seems to be the message. “You don't belong here.” Sometimes it results in violence.

White children in our schools are harassed, intimidated, and physically abused. The last school day of the year in Hawaii, for example, is traditionally called “kill a haole day”.

Racism is as ugly in Hawaii as anywhere else, and is the cause of much of the bullying of school children and adults alike. Unless this underlying racist cause of bullying is addressed, efforts to stop bullying are doomed to fail.

To overcome racism we must be inclusive and tolerant of differences. The diversity of cultures and peoples must be embrace and celebrated to find synergy in our differences. We must realize that we are all “one”, with no group more important than any other.

Achieving this “melting pot” in Hawaii will be difficult. Language and cultural barriers are keeping people apart, making Hawaii more a patchwork of different cultures than an integrated whole.

If these different cultures were living together, say, in New York, then they would all be called New Yorkers. They would share an identity despite their differences. But you can't do that in Hawaii, since no matter how long you live here you will never be a “Hawaiian”. That term is reserved for native Hawaiian people. Everyone else is just a “resident”.

Being native or not is an issue in Hawaii, and is a racial issue by definition. And while many native Hawaiians live with aloha, there are some who are resentful of what they see as foreign occupation of their islands.

If Hawaiians have first claim to these islands, then locals with Hawaiian blood have second claim, and immigrants, or aliens, have little or no claim. The stage is thus set for prejudice, racism, and bullying.

Of course, when alien people and cultures move in, they bring along alien plants and animals, too. Hawaii's diversity of species from all around the world is a direct product of human immigration.

It is no surprise, then, that prejudice against immigrant cultures will result in prejudice against immigrant species.

The Hawaii government's environmental policy gives preference to “native” species and has the agenda of “restoring native ecosystems”. While this native species supremacism is a national agenda, it has a powerful impact in Hawaii where it parallels political nativism and encourages racial prejudice.

According to this policy, species introduced to Hawaii after western contact are “alien”, and “don't belong here”. Species introduced to Hawaii by native Hawaiians are “native”, and do belong here. The current focus of environmental management is to get rid of immigrant species to return the islands to their pre-contact “native” condition.

To those who desire and appreciate these immigrant species, this feels like environmental bullying.

Of course, this reinforces the racism problem. The more the government institutionalizes native supremacism in political and environmental agendas, the more it justifies and encourages a "we belong here and you don't" attitude.

This is the recipe for hate, intolerance, and bullying.

For Hawaii to live up to its Aloha Spirit rhetoric, racial bullying must stop being tolerated.  The school anti-bullying program must address racial prejudice.  And there needs to be sensitivity classes to teach compassion and respect for others.

We must realize that what counts most about people is not where they are from, but what they have to offer.  Remember, "Aloha" means compassion, love, peace, affection, and mercy.

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183 Comments for “Bullying in Hawaii: A State of Denial”

  1. Mohawk. Oneida. Onandaga. Cayuga. Seneca.
    We come togeather to build a house of peace where we shall live under one roof as the family with 5 fires. One for each nation.
    We shall plant the great tree of peace here so its roots extend and protect all of mankind.
    When men accept the law of peace, war will end. -Deganawida

  2. I grew up in Hawaii .It was hell in school. I am 56 years old and it still upsets me when i think about my time at King Intermediate school. Jody and Terri were the worst.During class they would throw balls of paper and ink pens at me. After school someone threw a fire cracker at me that popped by my ear and it ruined my hearing for a couple of days. Shame on me but I was so happy the day the new haole girl came to school. This took there attention to someone else.This included throwing school lunch on the new girl..I felt sorry for her but all i could think about was at least they stopped picking on me.. Then we had a new haole teacher..The class treated this teacher so bad. Someone took a broom and mixed it in the mud outside on that rainy day and while she wrote on the chalkboard that person threw the broom at her and got her dress all muddy. She was a very scared teacher that the only work we did in class was word search. It has to be pretty bad when even a teacher is being bullied. Yes I also remember Kill haole day. This is all school stuff. As an adult the local people are all so friendly and I have many local friends. I married a Filipino and later moved to the mainland where I have many new friends from Hawaii.I love Hawaii and spent almost 30 years there but the scars are still there and sometimes I wish bad thing on those who scared me for life. I know it is wrong to wish that but I always feet that I needed justice.This is the first time that I have opened up about this and it feels good.Remember this was a school thing and does not continue after being an adult, at least not for me.Also I might ad that the bullies were mostly local Japanese girls.Like I said , I am 56 now. I hope this has stopped now.

    • Darlene became worse than her aggressors for amalgamating before marriage.

      • Please clarify yourself. Your response makes no sense.

      • Well for many decades,polynesians support marry out of race.
        Now that technology and abundance has allowed polynesia to reach level of satisfaction, polynesian realize that culture will be diluted if race mixing continue.
        white people have bully conservative moderate with threat since 1965. Now white people face bullying by polynesian who use white people as scapegoat.

      • I think you misunderstand this whole article. Its about Bullying in school. .Hawaii is a melting pot with many races including yours ( Chinese). If love happens,it happens.I had no problems with the Polynesians, it was the Orientals. Get yourself another forum.

      • You can't possibly be serious. It is 2014, not the 60's. You are the type of person who breeds ignorance and hate based on things from decades ago. Society has evolved. You should try it too.

    • i go to konawaena and no one makes fun of white people any more now people make fun of the micronesians

    • could have been worst.. you could have been whipped or lynched like blacks got.. or been beaten up daily in the back of the bus like many asians experienced on the mainland..

    • I went through the same thing in Kailua about 20 years ago. You're not alone. They should ban the use of the word.

  3. I agree with your synopsis; however, your credibility is always in question when you have incorrect syntax. case in point,"embrace" should be "embraced". Hire me as editor of your writing in future. Or read over what you write.

  4. As a white person who moved to Hawaii after spending much of my life in the Bronx, I can say the racial attitude towards whites is disappointing at best. In the Bronx the white population where I lived was around 5%, yet I never, never had a problem there.

    In Hawaii I was assaulted once by a group of high school kids out of nowhere after one of the said, "where you from?'. Surfing was also challenging at times - even in Waikiki - where you would think the local population would accept tourists since its the one place that gets packed with them. Having said that I was a school teacher and didn't consider myself a tourist in anyway.

    Saddest part is Hawaiians could have a claim to be angry, but the majority of kids in Hawaii are not Hawaiin, they might be Philippino, Samoan, Tongan, Fijian . . or whatever, but they came to Hawaii because of the stability brought upon by US culture, which is largely white, black and hispanic.

    • The local people could have been descendants of people who immigrated during the kingdom of Hawaii. I am one of those descendants. My family may not be Native Hawaiian by blood but just like the Native Hawaiians, historically, we did not choose to be part of the United States. My Portuguese/Chinese Great-Great Grandparents had their homeland illegally taken from them too. So, maybe they do have a claim to be angry. There is also a difference between the welcomed immigrants and the ones that forced their way in.

      • Americans were welcomed. They did not force their way in. Indeed, King Kamehameha entreated Great Britain to accept Hawaii as part of their nation .. Great Britain said no. (The King was a far sighted visionary .. he knew that if he did not choose an empire to be part of, one would eventually be chosen for him .. and he did not want it to be Japan, Germany, etc.).

  5. Well being ha'ole and raised in Hawaii I've seen racism. But the author lost me right away when he claims ha'ole is a racist derogatory term. ' F-word Ha'ole' is a put down, ha'ole by itself, not. If he thinks it's derogatory he's being a, as they say, a stupid fxxxing ha'ole. As a long term Hawaiian Kempo martial artist and student of hula I love Hawaiian culture. And I'm the only ha'ole around, Tutu didn't have any ha'ole grandkids. They are various ethnicities, Ha'ole, Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, Portugese hapa blends - here no one notices. On the mainland (and Europe and Asia and Central America etc) they get asked what are you and where are you from? And on the mainland told that they aren't 'real' Americans.

    • It is often used as a racist term and why the need to single out anyway. "Define haole. It means white. Or newcomer, outsider or foreigner. Or "without breath." It's an acceptable word. It's pejorative.

      "Define local. It means non-haole or non-white. Or not. It means anyone born in Hawaii. Except white people. It means a sense of shared values. It means, as Mufi Hannemann put it, "I look like you, you look like me." It means Mufi is local because he was born here and raised in Kalihi and has Samoan ancestry. It means Mufi is not local because he has German ancestry."
      You are either willfully ignorant, or not too bright buddy. And just because you have been lucky to escape the violence and slurs, does not mean that others have so please don't deny experience of others.
      There are people who have uninformed views everywhere. The difference now is that the pendulum has swung to the acceptance of mistreatment of those with light skin, among many.

    • "On the mainland told that they aren't 'real' Americans". Hmm. End your piece with a direct lie. That has not happened. Ever (evah). Not. One. Time.

  6. This is an interesting post. I see many Japanese from Hawaii in Government and seems that Hawaii welcomes their Japanese. The Japanese were brutal in WW2. I know things have changed for the better, but in Japan no matter if your white or anything but Japanese, your an outcast, or gaijin. Those Asians or natives who dis the whites are confused. I get it, you want the islands for yourself and I wouldnt upset that, but I think Hawaii is much better under the U.S. occupation than Japan.

  7. No longer invisible

    That is a good article, up top. Someone just below it posted that there's no such thing as "Kill a haole day." He's right because it was called "Kill haole day." It was a real day and took place on the last day of school. It included emotional and physical brutality. I stopped going to school on the last day. Others posted farther down that there's nothing wrong with being called "haole." (I will not dignify the word with a capital H.) The word means "foreigner" in Hawaiian. It took on a derogatory meaning for referring to Caucasians. When someone calls you a haole, it isn't said in the "spirit of aloha." There are two types of haoles: mainland and local. You got points for being a local haole, but you were still considered dirt, just maybe not as dirty. All the nationalities in school hated each other, but collectively, they hated Caucasians. One of my earliest memories--maybe 1st grade--was of two classmates telling me that they couldn't play with me anymore because their parents found out that I was Caucasian. I spent my middle school years just trying to survive by being as invisible as possible. The safest place was in the classrooms, but even there, there was terrorism. Every morning, when I left for school, I took one last look at my home and wondered if I would be alive to see it that night. I am not joking. This was every day. What do you think years of this does to a person? It is like living in a war zone. I made friends with Samoan girls so that they could protect me. By the time I reached 9th grade, I had decided that school was an emotionally and physically unhealthy place to be, and I stopped going. That was 1974. No one can post that someone's experience didn't happen. Unless you lived it, you have no clue what it was like. As far as what went on (and from what I've heard--still goes on) in Hawaii public school, the word "bullying" is an understatement.

    • Praise the lord.Someone has spoke out the truth of what it was like for us. Yes I too was scared to death on that last day of school which was known for Kill haole day.King Intermediate was the worst time of my life. I quit school in 1972.. I had enough.

    • I'm sorry for the bullying that you underwent while you were at school it was tragic and it should never have happened. However, I was born and raised in Hawaii, I am a fourth generation Japanese American, and I have made many lasting friendships with haole kids. Throughout my 8 years in the public school system and 4 years in the private school system of Hawaii I have never once seen a haole kid being picked on because of race. I feel that maybe the mentality has changed since 1972 and that haole now longer just encompasses "white people" but rather describes someone who is inconsiderate, narcissistic and incapable of humility. Furthermore, I have never heard of Kill Haole Day in Hawaii.

      • Onipaa--most locals are not cruel but I was there for seven years as a child and don't see how you NEVER saw the racism...read these comments all white kids in public schools had the exact same experience!

  8. I went to public school on an outer island in the 70s, and I can attest to the existence of Kill Haole Day. We were allowed to stay home to avoid getting a beat-down.

    Other posters here who have described the daily fear of being a white kid in public school are telling the truth. The administrators did little or nothing to prevent the bullying -- in part because they themselves were bigoted against whites, and in part because they were scared of the kids (and the kids' parents).

    A lot of white families put their kids in private schools just to keep them safe. I eventually went that route. I had other friends whose families ended up moving away from Hawaii to protect their kids.

    I have family who work in the Hawaii school system, and the anti-haole stuff is still going strong. Kill Haole Day may be a thing of the past, but the terrorizing isn't.

    Having said all that: when I return to Hawaii to visit as an adult, I'm still amazed and delighted by the Aloha spirit , gentleness, and friendliness with which I'm treated by the majority of people there.

  9. He Kanaka said 'leave the Hawaiian people alone".It's not whiite peoples' fault Hawaii's a State.The Asians pushed for that.So what do you mean leave you alone?How about leaving innocent white people alone?Maybe we left you alone too much and created this kind of arrogance and disgust for whites.I'm starting to think the answer is to not leave you alone and to hassle you right out of here,collectively.You're not the one who's 200 million strong.We could have had this place for ourselves long ago had we really wanted to,and still could.

    • Who in the hell told you that it was our fault??? Did you know that a petition went around all of Hawai'i stating weather or not we wanted to be a state or not?? 99% of all Native Hawaiians voted NO. Technically Hawai'i is NOT a state we are an illegally occupied nation. You really want to know why we are so discriminating against "ha'oles"?!?!? Its because of how much hurt we've been through in our past history like The Overthrow of our last reining monarchy, Queen Lili'uokalani and having the missionaries come here and forbid us to practice our culture and speak our language. But you know what we pushed through that and are still trying to perpetuate our culture and try to restore our Native species. And how dare you tell us that its "enviromental bullying". Thats ridiculous, I'm mean sure we diverse between plants, but thats only because most times invasive plants are dominant and will overpower the Native plant. BTW : Us "Hawaiians" aren't all the same.

      Ko'u Mana'o.

  10. I enjoyed my 3 years living in a neighborhood of locals in Waipahu on the island of Oahu..My little boys were called haole by some local adults that were pure scum..My boys came home crying and I went over to these locals of Portuguese decent house and literately gave them a beat down...You mess with my kids and its on! They will remember this haole forever..Most if confronted are wimps! They usually think we are afraid of them and some are because they can only win if they out number you...

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