This I Believe

Bobby - Hilo
Entered on April 25, 2007
Age Group: 65+

Everyone should grow up in Hawaii! Growing up in Hawaii during the 1930s and the 1940s was quite an experience for a young Haole (Caucasian) boy. You know you are an absolute minority when everyone else has black hair and yours is blond. Going to a classmates house for dinner in the third grade and his parents don’t speak during the meal because they are Japanese and feel their spoken English is not what it should be. Learning to speak “pidgin” English so you can communicate with your classmates and having your Mom understand your need to do this at school and play, even though she has rules about using pidgin at home. When my son was in the third grade he came home one day and asked me if he put black shoe polish on his hair, would it stay. I knew exactly what he was talking about. He was having a problem with classmates and decided that it must be the color of his hair. So, if he changed the color the problem would go away. Of course, I told him that shoe polish would come off on his pillow, and basically, the lesson was that he had to learn to get along with others. Becoming so comfortable with all these people you live and play with every day that you really don’t think much what race they are. As you get older, you begin to understand the subtleties of each race and are able to tell people’s race by looking at them. Then, being able to use race as a way of identifying people in a group….and, of course, having them identify you the same way. This experience is not readily understood by people who move to Hawaii as adults. They don’t understand why we have a Japanese Chamber of Commerce as well as other “racial” ones. They don’t understand why we refer to people’s race so often as a way to identify them. They don’t understand how subtle we all are in our inter-actions. The Aloha spirit we all have learned to live by is a amalgamation of all of the various racial mores that have blended together over the years. When you live here your life, you get very comfortable with all of this and the resultant mix is a wonderful thing to be a part of. When my wife and I find ourselves on a trip to mainland US in a small town and everyone there is Caucasian….well, we are uncomfortable with this lack of mix of races. Every group I belong to here in Hilo is a mix of peoples and we all respect each other and actually celebrate our diversity. Lucky we live Hawaii.