Hawaii’s Hate Speech Against Aliens

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BY SYD SINGER – Hawaii is overrun by aliens.  According to city-data.com,  “Hawaii has the nation’s highest percentage of Asian residents—41.6% in 2000, when its Asian population numbered 503,868.
In the same year, Pacific Islanders numbered 113,539 (including 80,137 native Hawaiians), 22,003 were black, and 3,535 were American Indians or Alaska natives.
About 87,699, or 7.2% of the total population, were Hispanic or Latino in 2000. Foreign-born residents numbered 212,229 in 2000, or 17.5% of the total state population—the 5th-highest percentage of foreign born among the 50 states.”
Native Hawaiians constituted only 6.6% of Hawaii’s population in 2000.  Aliens made up 93.4%.
Of course, all these alien peoples brought with them alien plants and animals, which in many places also now outnumber the natives.
You would think that this preponderance of aliens would make Hawaii a mecca for immigrants.  To the contrary, alien people are derided as “haole”, and alien species are maligned as “invasive”.
While the nation is struggling with immigration reform, the fact is that being an alien makes one a target of derision and abuse.  Even the word “alien” conjures images of monstrous beasts busting through one’s chest, Hollywood style.  Nobody wants to be called an alien. It means you don’t “belong”.
There are many reasons why people are ostracized and alienated from society.  Sometimes, it’s based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits.  Using these differences to hurt someone, say by calling them an ethnic slur, or a sexual deviant, is nowadays considered hate speech.
Calling someone an “alien” is a form of hate speech, too.  It means that person “does not belong”, and should not be accepted as part of society.  Unfortunately, the native versus alien distinctions made by our modern culture and codified in our laws that protect native over alien species feed this hate, and continues to harm people whose lineage is from somewhere else.
This hate speech was recently used by the Honolulu Star Advertiser in its January 17, 2014 editorial entitled, “Fund Fight Against Alien Pests”.  While the pests referred to are alien plants and animals, the use of the qualifier “alien” is hate speech against people, as well.
Of course, the problem with pests is real.  From the small fire ant to fire weed, there are pest plants and animals which need control and management.  However, it doesn’t matter if these pests came from Africa, Brazil, Japan, or are native to Hawaii.  A pest is an animal, plant, or person that is bothersome and undesirable, from the point of view of the person being pestered. The key point is that the pest has some qualities or actions that make it a nuisance.  It does not matter where that pest came from historically.
When a person acts as a pest, we would easily see it as hate speech to call that person a “Japanese pest”, or a “Filipino pest”, or a “Mainlander pest”.  National or racial descriptors would be not only irrelevant, but would be racist or xenophobic.  Calling them an “alien”, or “haole”, (which is a Hawaiian term for alien, immigrant, white person, or newcomer, and has clear pejorative connotations), is clearly hateful and a form of bullying by those considering themselves native or local.
When referring to pest plants, insects, and other animals as “alien”, it is still hate speech against human immigrants.  It turns being an immigrant into a negative quality, reinforcing the bigoted, anti-immigration view that only natives “belong”.
I must confess a personal agenda.  I have concerns for human safety in Hawaii when the government attacks species because they are immigrants.  The arguments made against immigrant species and cultures are the same, i.e., competition for space, resources, and opportunities.  Xenophobia parallels bioxenophobia.  As an immigrant myself, I don’t want to disparage other immigrants for their foreign history.  This breeds hatred that knows no species bounds.  I prefer encouraging tolerance and acceptance of immigrant peoples and species.
I also believe there are weeds and pests, and I do not object to responsibly controlling both.  However, I do not call a species a pest or weed simply because it comes from somewhere else.  That, to me, is as irrelevant in environmental affairs as in human affairs.  Those who believe otherwise regarding humans are considered bigots, racists, or xenophobes.   This breeds a violent nationalism that attacks foreigners along with the species that they introduced.
There are many pests that need management and control.  We should support efforts to prevent their introductions and reduce their impacts.  But we must remember that it is not their “alien” status that makes them noxious.  It’s the things they do.  Like immigrant peoples, it is the qualities and behaviors of immigrant species that make them desirable or pests.
There is nothing wrong with being an alien, just as there is nothing inherently right about being a native.
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7 COMMENTS

  1. What a load or drivel. "Alien" is a perfectly fine english word. It goes back to the latin and has been in use for hundreds and hundreds of years. Were all those authors of antiquity using hate speech? Are we going to destroy our beautiful language, our very mother tongue, our literature, our memory, our history, and culture all in the name of some misguided and Orwellian "political correctness". Strong and precise words gives power to the speaker and help him or her say what they mean. That is the test. What word should we use in place of "Alien". Or shall we just forget this essential concept, handed down to us. Shell we aimpoverish our minds, and forget how to think clearly? An Alien person animal or thing is "out of place" or unnatural in its current circumstance. That is all the term means. It has noting to do with "hate".

    • Jack, being "alien" or not is a value judgment, not a fact. On this planet, everything "belongs". When people start pointing fingers at other people and effectively say, "you don't belong", it can be hurtful, and in Hawaii it is often meant that way by "locals" against "haoles". It is a form of prejudice by an "in group" against what it perceives as an "out group". My point in the article is that applying this prejudice to non-human species creates this prejudicial zeitgeist that will also be applied to people.

  2. Sydney, according to your logic, calling governor Neil "short" is hate speech then?
    If so, the supports of SB-1/SSM bill who screamed, "equality for all" is really falling short eh?

  3. Interesting article. Comparing ethnic or any other kind of prejudice to the non-native eradication agenda is something to think about. The trouble is people are prejudice, even though all may agree that being prejudice is wrong. The environmental scientists with their PHD make decisions that the government listens to. They decide which species can stay and which have to go, often according to the ebb and flow of federal grants available. Both the government and these "educated elite" are prejudice against species, and the average "uneducated." The later get no say in the matter, even if a resident for generations. The local people often know the environment, ecosystems, and species better than the PHD scientists from out of town, but aren't considered significant enough to be considered. Prejudice knows no boundaries, and the native verses non-native campaign is an immoral joke.

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