“Lucky We Live Hawaii!”
That’s a phrase you often hear in these islands and it’s more apt than ever in light of the violence that occurred the other night in Charlottesville. Of course we have racists here, but the fact is, being a racist in Hawaii is just not practical because everyone who lives here belongs to a racial minority.
When I ran the Office of Information and Complaint for the City of Honolulu, my staff was pretty typically diverse in terms of ethnicities: Sachi, my secretary, was Japanese. My deputy, Pat, was Portuguese. Mac, the chief complaint investigator, was Hawaiian. His assistant, Bob, was Samoan. There were media relations people and writers: Abe was Hawaiian, Carol and Karen were haole (white), Eugene was Korean (actually born there), and May Day, a Chinese lady. Tommy, the staff photographer, was Japanese. Of course, several of those folks were of mixed race–a little of this; a little of that. The receptionist, Analani, was Hawaiian/Caucasian and—I think I remember this correctly—a little Chinese, too.
The black population here has always been very small—I’ve never understood why that is because the community has always been very accepting. Case in point: Charlie Campbell, who was elected to the Honolulu City Council in 1968 at a time when the black population on Oahu was less than 2-percent. Show me another major city in the U.S. where that could have happened back in the 60s or 70s.
Of course we do run into racism occasionally. A year or so ago, I was one of a half dozen patients in a doctor’s waiting room when we all witnessed a brief exchange between an unpleasant haole woman about 50 and the doctor’s receptionist, an attractive young woman who spoke with a Filipino accent.
The whole waiting room became alert to their conversation when the woman, in an annoyed tone, said in a loud voice, “You’ll have to write that down for me. You have such a heavy accent I can’t understand you.”
A mailman—Chinese/Hawaiian from the look of him—had just entered the office and heard the woman’s remark. He smiled sweetly at her and said, “Well, she’s fluent in three languages, so try speaking to her in Ilocano or Tagalog.” The haole woman glared at him, snatched the piece of paper and stalked out. It was a satisfying moment.