Bullying in Hawaii: A State of Denial

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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.





  1. Hawaii is a beautiful group of islands. What is done is done. Cannot change the past wars, fighting, overruling of lands, government take-overs, etc. But now, as human beings of all races, let's make peace with each other, for our future, for our children's future. Let's teach our children not to hate, but to understand, ask questions, learn compassion as brothers and sisters in schools. Bullying should Never be allowed or ignored!!! Teachers and principals must stand up and protect students. Do what's right!, No child should ever be scared to go to school. Children need to learn and develop their talents so they can make a living and be independent as they grow up!! If we don't teach our children now, Hawaii will be doomed. The islands Need us to take care of the earth, ocean, land, animals. The earth needs us humans to take good care of her, otherwise world weather devastation will occur. If you truly think about it, this land belongs to the animals, plants, ocean, and earth. We humans are just using it until we die. Then we go right back into the ground. Think about it. Life is getting shorter….

  2. So now preserving our native ecosystems help stem racism? Yeah, okay. Its also interesting to me that you would say we have a "Kill Haole Day" which is absolutely ridiculous. It seems that was in the past and it is not funny messing with someone like that, but for today? I've never heard of it. Which leads to another point-And I'm sorry, but race in the mainland? Please, do not get me started. They literally have gangs killing each other over the color they rep. Some states house some of the most violent, white-supremacy gangs known to man, and you're gonna talk about how haoles are treated? Yeah, we all have our flaws, Hawaii has a problem with bullying, the mainland has a problem with killing. Maybe before you point out the speck in our eye, people from the mainland should check the log in theirs.

    Its unfair to say all natives are racist, because not all of us are. People who act like are in the minority. People in Hawaii don't respond well to arrogance and cockiness. Those are qualities most mainlanders tend to have. Customs in Hawaii goes as follows: You come to my house, you show respect. That same protective nature we have for our homes, we have for Hawaii.

    And for the record, you're right!- Just because you live in Hawaii, and have been a resident for 40 years, that doesn't make you Hawaiian. If you engage in the culture and help to perpetuate it, then welcome to the club! (And no, there is nothing wrong with that. Don't forget, our culture, land AND monarchy suffered at the hands of greedy WHITE men who forced my Queen's hand in signing a paper that made us a state against our will, but hey, isn't that the deal with 90% of "American" land?) But anyway, calling someone who lives in Hawaii "Hawaiian" can not be the same as calling someone from New York, a "New Yorker" because Hawaiian is an actual RACE. With an actual LANGUAGE.

    Lets get one last thing straight: Haole does not mean white person. Its a long complex explanation about this this word, but it does not mean white person. It loosely translates to foreigner.

  3. The sad, unfortunate part of the dichotomy of Hawaii is those that advocate a separate “Hawaiian” nation are living in a fantasy. They claim to know their history, but they do not. If it had not been the US, some other country during that imperialist-acquisition period of history would taken control of Hawaii. The British, the Russians, the French, the Germans, etc. And even today the Chinese claim ancestral ownership of the islands; as well as guaranteeing to arm the different Hawaiian-separatist groups (which have signed formal “treaties” with the Chinese) and provide them with additional military support (air cover and naval/marine forces).

    All that aside, there is no other place more recognized as the most RACIST place on the earth like Hawaii is today. Ask anyone who has lived or visited the islands and everyone single one of them will relate some story of being called a racial slur or worse being mistreated because they were not a “local” or “Hawaiian.” ALL of the separatist groups advocate RACISM and nationalism of non-“Hawaiian” people’s homes and property. Again, radical, racism that makes the KKK look like a bunch of amateurs.

    To all Hawaiians who love their home, their islands, their family and friends—and show the great Aloha spirit and openly accept all peoples that love the islands with them, my most sincere apologies for writing anything bad about your Hawaii.

    To all of you separatist, false, dictator want-a-be’s, megalomania, egocentric whack-jobs—I sincerely hope every one truly sees you for whom you are: Terrorist and very dangerous.

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