RACE RELATIONS : Aloha Spirit of Love Gives Way to ‘Yankee Go Home’ : Professor’s anti-whites stand sets off debate on racism in Hawaii.
“Haole go home.” That’s Hawaii’s version of “Yankee go home.” And Haunani-Kay Trask, a professor at the University of Hawaii, thinks it’s a reasonable idea.
In a recent article in the school newspaper, she urged a student who had publicly lamented “Caucasian-bashing” in Hawaii to move back to his home state of Louisiana.
“Hawaiians would certainly benefit from one less haole (white) in our land,” wrote Trask, who is part Hawaiian.
Her remarks touched a raw nerve in a state that prides itself as a Pacific “melting pot,” where the “aloha spirit” of love and tolerance is supposed to prevail. The article set off a raging debate on racism and free speech that has engulfed the university and spilled off campus. Passionate letters, denouncing or defending Trask, fill the local papers.
The professor contends her remarks are appropriate given the history of oppression of native Hawaiians at the hands of Caucasians. Her people, she says, lost their health, culture and land through contact with Westerners, and they are still struggling to recover.
“Hawaiians have a right to resent haoles (pronounced how-lees ),” she said in an interview. “We have a historical right. We have a contemporary right.”
And whether people agree or not, Trask, and her supporters, defend her right to speak her mind. The university, they say, is the best place to air ideas. At a rally for Trask this month, supporters carried signs reading, “Free Speech for Natives” and “White is Not Right.” The professors’ union and the Women’s Studies Department passed resolutions upholding her right to speak out.
But other faculty members and observers accuse Trask of abusing her position and creating a “climate of intimidation” on campus. The philosophy department has asked that she be reprimanded and its chairman, Larry Laudan, has called for her removal as director of the university’s Center for Hawaiian Studies.
“We do not believe that the principle of academic freedom gives faculty members a hunting license to harass or intimidate individual students for their race, sex or beliefs,” Laudan said.
The student whose column, “Being Haole in Hawaii,” irritated Trask, dropped out of school last month. Contacted in Berkeley, while he was checking out schools he might attend in California, philosophy major Joey Carter said the controversy had become distracting.
“It just wasn’t that comfortable on campus. People were constantly coming up to me asking questions about it,” said Carter, 32. " . . . I didn’t get any direct threats, but I was getting people saying they knew someone looking for me, wanting to bust my face.”
His column highlighted a subject seldom aired seriously: racism in Hawaii. No ethnic group constitutes a majority in Hawaii, and the state has a reputation for harmony among its peoples. The largest ethnic group is white, 34%. Hawaiians make up 12% of the islands’ population. Other large groups include Japanese, 25%; Filipino, 14%, and Chinese, 6%.
Forty percent of marriages each year are interracial, according to state statistics.
But there are tensions.
In his article, Carter said he had been chased and beaten by “groups of locals who have been taught that I am the cause of their problems, taught to hate or fear my skin, hair and eye colors.”
Carter, a 10-year Hawaii resident, says he considers people here “a lot more accepting than other places,” but he wrote the article because discussions of racism on campus always focused on “white dominance.”
Trask, however, dismisses Carter’s comments as “uninformed, childish bemoaning.” The real racism in Hawaii, she says, is the white domination of a native people. She mourns the decimation of the Hawaiian population through disease introduced by white settlers and “cultural destruction.” In her article, she points to the American overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893 and the forcible annexation of the islands in 1898.
“With the overthrow, things Hawaiian were outlawed and things haole American were imposed,” she wrote. “As an American in Hawaii, Mr. Carter is benefiting from stolen goods.”
“All I am saying, is ‘You’re an interloper”’ she explained later.'If you don’t like it, get out.’ I don’t think it’s racist at all.”
Trask, 41, calls the reaction to her article a symptom of racism against Hawaiians.
“The reason they get so upset is because it’s a native woman saying it to the dominant white class,” said Trask, who wears a kikepa (Hawaiian-style sarong) rather than Western dress. “I break the ideology of happy natives and that makes me dangerous.”