Hawaii: ‘Prejudice in Paradise’?

Travel Blog  •  Michael Yessis  •  09.02.09 | 2:58 PM ET

Photo by ConceptJunkie via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The Southern Poverty Law Center has issued an intelligence report about racial tensions and issues with non-native Hawaiians on the islands. The report goes well beyond the issues we touched on earlier this year after a Saturday Night Live skit about “two grass-skirted, uke-playing, hula-dancing, minimum wage entertainers” who abuse guests at a hotel restaurant in Hawaii. (Via Fark)

7 Comments for Hawaii: ‘Prejudice in Paradise’?

Hawaii Vacations 09.02.09 | 5:44 PM ET

hawaii is paradise. i’ve been there three times and never doubted coming there cause its so much fun. i got to travel all over the island, go to beaches, do a lil hiking and find main attractions around.
Caribbean is somewat like hawaii but hawaii has a rich culture and the ppl who live there r so nice!

Nora 09.02.09 | 9:51 PM ET

I lived in Hawaii for six months, and was surprised at the degree of racism I experienced. There were even times when I feared for my safety; an interesting position to be in given my Caucasian heritage. What it did in the end was give me a whole new respect for those who courageously live in the face of racism every day.
Feel free to check out my thoughts on Hawaii’s racism here: http://theprofessionalhobo.com/2007/12/racism/

grrrltraveler 09.03.09 | 5:26 PM ET

Southern Poverty Law Center, Alabama is the reference and it’s fingering a state born on strong immigrant Asian and native Pacific Island roots and values? Pot calling the kettle…  I’m Hawaii born & raised (my family is still there) but have spent 14yrs of my life living in L.A., St. Louis & NYC & traveling abroad. Being a “part haole”, hawaiian and japanese female, i’ve experienced larger racial prejudices EVERYWHERE else moreso than Hawaii…interestingly, for not being 100% Caucasian. But this racism towards “minority cultures” and racial segregation is a fact i’ve had to learn to deal with mostly AFTER having left Hawaii.

Hawaii is the one place which lacks a strong ethnocentrism and where under-represented “minorities” (as the Mainland classifies us) hold the dominant majority vs. Caucasian classes. Hawaii is not “Utopia”- like ANY PLACE, it has its share and statistics concerning racism IN GENERAL but hate crime is more an exception than the rule (If so much as a tourist is mugged, it definitely makes the 6’oclock news because we know this impacts us all). One would be naive to think of Hawaii as the *only place in the world* exclusive of racism, but as a cultural melting pot, it tries its best to harmonize its diverse cultures to proudly and sincerely share its warm aloha. 

That said- i’m currently planning a solo trip to Guatemala. Fearing safety in general? Put that into perspective.

kailani 09.06.09 | 2:10 AM ET

I think this is only news because haoles (white people) are feeling discriminated against, as opposed to any other group.  As someone who grew up in Honolulu, I never felt discriminated against - even though I’m a pretty white-looking 1/2 haole part Hawaiian.  It’s all in your attitude what comes back on you. 

So many tourists come here thinking that Hawaii is just an extension of the US.  They’re self-centered and have an attitude of ‘I’m on vacation so it’s all about me’.  Being ‘assertive’ or aggressive, loud, and selfish is annoying and offensive.  Many US tourists don’t even know how Hawaii became a state, so they have no idea why Hawaiians might not ‘feel the aloha’ when they arrive.  You may only have been here for 1 week being loud and obnoxious, but so were thousands of other tourists.  Over and over, year after year.

People who come respectfully, wanting to learn will have a nice time.  People who don’t shouldn’t be surprised if things aren’t always pleasant.  The truly amazing thing is that for the most part, Hawaiians are still welcoming to the majority of people who visit. 

If you enjoy your visit, feel free to visit over and over.  But please, don’t move to Hawaii and drive up the cost of housing even higher.  This should be no surprise to anyone, but when hoards of people with more money flock to an area they drive housing up even higher and it doesn’t exactly endear you to the locals.

shayne 09.06.09 | 11:08 PM ET

ok first off i remember this day as if it was yesterday, i was at black sand that day diving.  on my way out of the water i saw two vans pull up that brought Celia Padron and her family along with a bunch more of tourist.  i saw my friends on the beach so i started talking to them. Celia Padron and her husband were sitting on the top side of the beach and their two daughters came down and sat down below us to the right.  i noticed that the two girls kept looking back and snobbing the girls that were with us.  so one of the girls said “if your going to keep acting stupid then go to another beach”.  This is what Celia Padron did not put in her article.  her daughter told my friend that we dont need to leave because we are not the color of the dirt like you guys.  thats when everything started.  anybody who was brought up in hawaii, haoles, hawaiians, japanese, chinese, portugees, phillipinos, etc, was tought to not take shit from any one so thats why the rumble started.  and i dont know about you miss Celia Padron but you want to talk about racism,  what your daughter said is one of the most disrepectful and racist comments i have ever heard.  thats just like being white and calling a black person the “N” word.  any way back to the story, when my friend confronted Celia Padrons daughter, the two girls walked back up to where her parents were sitting.  my other friend with her 5 month old baby in her hand tried to stop her friend from doing anything stupid.  thats when Celia Padrons husband grabed my friend with the baby in her hand by the hair and pulled her away.  now i dont know how it works every where in the world but here, in Hawaii,  any guy that has a pair between his legs would most likely hurt somebody really bad if they grabbed his girlfriend and baby by the hair.  thats why my other friend grabbed Celia Padrons husband by the neck and slammed him into the van.  her husband is very lucky it wasnt my girlfriend and baby he grabbed because it wouldnt have been as nice.  and im pretty sure any other man with a child would back me up on this.
        the other thing that isnt true is she is saying that three men slammed her husband and punched and choked him.  BS….  it was one guy and all he did was grab him buy the neck, push him into the van and told him to not ever touch his girlfriend again..  if he punched your husband,Celia Padron ,  you would have known trust me.  and just think what would have happened if three guys were to have punched him.  so stop lying,  your only making yourself look stupid..  and the few racist people we do have on the islands are because of people like Celia Padron.  we have no problems with any tourist coming to our islands, no matter where their from, as long as they respect our islands and our people.  what we dont like, and to me the definition of haole,  are the people that come to our islands and treat us like we owe them something, or their ignorent, their disrespectful, or they LIE and try to make our islands look bad.
  the other thing, all this talk about racism to white people.  why dont you all go back and look at where and who started racism. WHITE PEOPLE….. the where very crule to anyone who was not white and turned them into slaves.  thats fu@$% up…  now that white people are getting a taste of their own medicine its now the end of the world to them… FU$% you people out there that are like that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

hawaii guide 09.10.09 | 1:46 AM ET

Unfortunately, racism exist almost everywhere you go, on the mainland, in the Caribbean and yes on the beautiful islands of Hawaii also. It is probably a little bit more alarming for some folks because of either of two reasons, the first being that they have never faced racism in their lives before, or secondly, because they don’t expect anything remotely unpleasant in a place as beautiful as Hawaii. This does not make it right, but this does open one’s eyes to the realities of life.

Big Mike 10.02.09 | 2:43 AM ET

The worst part about racism in Hawaii is that most people wont admit there is racism in Hawaii. This allows for discrimination to go on right in front of everyone w/o people getting upset and calling it what it is. Almost everyday I hear racist comments about whites,Micronesians, Hawaiians, and Samoans. I dont hear anything about blacks because I am black. The fact that Micronesians are getting shafted out of the health care the federal govt. promised them and reimburses the state for should not be tolerated in our state. Instead of fighting this I hear our citizens on the radio talking crap about how these people need to go back home, and people calling the cockroaches. I lived all over this country and Im telling you from experience Hawaii’s bigotry is worst than most places because of the sheer number of divisions amongst people and the lack of conversation leading to a mutual understanding.

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