How the Hawaiian word ‘hapa’ came to be used by people of mixed heritage

Posted in Arts, Asian Diaspora, Audio, Media Archive, United States on 2015-10-08 01:10Z by Steven

How the Hawaiian word ‘hapa’ came to be used by people of mixed heritage

Public Radio International (PRI)

Nina Porzucki, Producer

Recently, an old friend of mine, Julie Jimenez had a language question she wanted me to investigate: Where does the word “hapa” come from?

Julie considers herself hapa. Her father is from Chile, her mom is Japanese American. And she calls herself “hapa,” that is, half Asian, half something else. Julie had never questioned this definition before until one day she was at the market and she met a women who she thought was hapa like herself.

“She looked half Chinese and half white and I said, ‘Oh, you’re hapa!’ and she said ‘that’s a Hawaiian word, you’re not supposed to use it.’ And I had never heard anyone say that before. I was kind of shocked because I had never thought it was offensive,” she said…

Listen to the story (00:38:09) here. Download the story here.

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But even the aloha spirit has its limits. We must be mindful that the present multicultural society grew from the collapse of the Native Hawaiian population and the dispossession of their land.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2015-09-16 18:40Z by Steven

Unlike the continental United States, Hawaii has no group that is the racial majority, and people can identify with multiple races and ethnicities over several generations. This is the norm, rather than an anomaly.

Early social scientists, the tourist industry, and visitors credit this long history of mixing to the “aloha spirit,” or culture of tolerance and inclusivity, that is the hallmark of living in Hawaii. True, Hawaii is a place where a mixed-race person like myself can blend in, and where people of color are not seen as a curiosity. And yes, people generally get along here.

But even the aloha spirit has its limits. We must be mindful that the present multicultural society grew from the collapse of the Native Hawaiian population and the dispossession of their land.

Rudy P. Guevarra, Jr., “Is Hawaii a Racial Paradise?,” Zócalo Public Square, September 15, 2015.

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Is Hawaii a Racial Paradise?

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive, Oceania, Social Science, United States on 2015-09-16 18:13Z by Steven

Is Hawaii a Racial Paradise?

Zócalo Public Square

Rudy P. Guevarra, Jr., Associate Professor of Asian Pacific American Studies
Arizona State University

Nitasha Sharma, Associate Professor of African-American Studies and Asian-American Studies
Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

David A. Swanson, Professor of Sociology
University of California, Riverside

Lee A. Tonouchi (“Da Pidgin Guerilla”)

Roderick Labrador, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies
University of Hawaii, Mānoa (also Director of the UCLA Hawaii Travel Study Program)

Maile Arvin, Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies
University of California, Riverside

Races, Ethnicities, and Cultures Mix More Freely Than Elsewhere in the U.S., But There Are Limits to the Aloha Spirit

Early in the 2008 film Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Jason Segal, playing a guy who travels to Hawaii to get over a breakup, drunkenly pours out his feelings to two people in his hotel, a newlywed man and a bartender. The new husband encourages Segal to think there’s still hope for the relationship, but the bartender, Dwayne, has no sympathy for Segal’s sadness.

“You’ve gotta move on,” Dwayne says. “It’s that easy, I promise you it is. I lived in South Central. South Central. And I hated it. So I moved to Oahu. Now I can name you over 200 different kinds of fish!” He starts naming them.

The scene is hilarious, but it also hints at one of America’s fundamental Gordian knots—race—and the various ways we’ve tried to untie it. The story uses Los Angeles’ “South Central” neighborhood as a code word for a place where gangs are divided along color lines, racial tensions can erupt in violence, and residents feel stuck in the cycle. The implication is that Dwayne, who’s black, escaped all that by coming to Hawaii. He puts forth Hawaii as a paradise—a place where the only thing he has to worry about is learning how to pronounce Humuhumunukunukuapua`a.

Hawaii is one of America’s most diverse and happiest states. Some would contend people get along better here than almost anywhere else. But tossing different groups together also means there are frictions—ones that perhaps are too often are obscured by the sunshine and ukuleles in tourist guides.

So what’s the actual nature of racial relations in Hawaii? And what can the rest of us learn from it? In advance of the “What It Means to Be American” event “What Can Hawaii Teach America About Race?,” we asked a variety of experts on and off the islands that same question…

Read the entire article here.

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Race in the United States – Mississippi and Hawaii at Two Ends of the Spectrum

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Mississippi, Social Science, United States on 2015-09-08 20:51Z by Steven

Race in the United States – Mississippi and Hawaii at Two Ends of the Spectrum

UCR Today
University of California, Riverdale

Mojgan Sherkat (

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( – There’s a lot to learn about race in the United States through statistical figures alone, especially when comparisons are made between Hawaii and Mississippi, according to David Swanson, professor of sociology at the University of California, Riverside.

“Hawaii and Mississippi stand out from each other and the U.S. as a whole in terms of health, education, and income,” said Swanson.

Swanson will release an essay on the topic on Zócalo Public Square on Sept. 16, 2015. The not-for-profit ideas exchange board will have a discussion on “What can Hawaii Teach America About Race?” It is co-sponsored by the Smithsonian and the Inouye Institute. The essay will be available on Zocalo‘s website.

Swanson used data from the U.S. Census Bureau (except life expectancy data, which comes from Wikipedia) to demonstrate race in America…

Read the entire article here.

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From Okinawa to Hawaii and Back Again

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, History, Media Archive, United States on 2015-08-31 17:42Z by Steven

From Okinawa to Hawaii and Back Again

What It Means to Be American: Hosted by The Smithsonian and Zócalo Public Square

Laua Kina, Vincent de Paul Professor of Art, Media, & Design
DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois

Kibei Nisei, 30 x 45 inches Oil on canvas (2012)

A Painter Follows the Currents of Her Family History

I am a hapa, yonsei Uchinanchu (a mixed-race, 4th-generation Okinawan-American) who was born in Riverside, California, in 1973 and raised in the shadow of the Cascade Mountains in Washington state. My mom’s roots stem from Spanish-Basque migrants in California and white southerners in Tennessee. My father is Okinawan from Hawaii. Because I don’t look quite white, people frequently ask, “What are you?” From an early age, even though Hawaii and Japan were enigmas to me, I have had to explain my relationship to these “exotic” places.

Growing up, we lived by my mother’s family and visited her parents weekly at their road-side motel near a Puget Sound ferry landing, but I knew little about my father’s childhood, an ocean away, on a Piihonua sugarcane plantation near Hilo. I got a glimpse on occasional vacations to visit family on the Big Island of Hawaii or my aunties in Los Angeles. The only other traces were evident in the Spam in our sushi, the fact that we called instant ramen noodles saimin, and in the echoes of Pidgin English in Dad’s accent that refused to be erased.

I am a painter, and at the heart of my paintings is the journey I’ve been on to understand how these different currents have formed my American experience. I’ve followed their flow back in time to the canefields of Territorial Hawaii and early 20th-century Okinawa, Japan…

Read the entire article here.

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Hawaii is home to the nation’s largest share of multiracial Americans

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, United States on 2015-07-01 19:32Z by Steven

Hawaii is home to the nation’s largest share of multiracial Americans

Pew Research Center

Jens Manuel Krogstad, Writer/Editor, Hispanic Trends Project

The number of multiracial Americans is growing nationwide, but in Hawaii, it’s nothing new. The Rainbow State – with its history of attracting immigrants from Asia and other parts of the world to work as farm laborers – stands far above the rest, with nearly one-in-four residents (24%) identifying as multiracial, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data. The next most-multiracial states are far behind: Alaska (8%) and Oklahoma (7%).

Here’s another way to look at how much Hawaii stands out: In terms of total population, Hawaii is one of the smallest (1.4 million people), ranking 40th out of 50 states. But when ranking states with the highest total multiracial population, the state ranks sixth, with more than 330,000.

A new Pew Research survey found that the number of multiracial Americans may be higher than the estimates from Census, which has estimated that 3% of the overall U.S. population – and 2.1% of the adult population – is multiracial. But taking into account how adults describe their own race as well as the racial backgrounds of their parents and grandparents – which the census does not do – Pew Research estimates that 6.9% of the U.S. adult population could be considered multiracial…

Read the entire article here.

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Crowe’s ‘whitewashing’ sparks criticism from advocates

Posted in Articles, Arts, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Oceania, United States on 2015-06-07 20:07Z by Steven

Crowe’s ‘whitewashing’ sparks criticism from advocates

BBC News

Elena Boffetta, BBC Washington

Hollywood’s reliance on bankable – and often white – actors has led to another round of sharp criticism of filmmakers for “whitewashing” roles where race and ethnicity play a part.

In Aloha, Cameron Crowe’s latest film, Emma Stone, a American actress with blonde hair and green eyes, was cast as Allison Ng – a junior fighter pilot who was part-Chinese, part-Hawaiian and part-Swedish.

Soon after the release, there was an uproar of criticism from social media against Crowe’s casting choice.

Both Asians and non-Asians asked why they didn’t pick an Asian actress to play a character who is part-Asian.

One advocacy group called Aloha “a whitewashed film” that failed to portray the ethnical diversity of Hawaii.

The Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) noted 60% of Hawaii’s population is Asian-American Pacific Islanders and 30% Caucasian, a fact not reflected in the film.

Crowe apologised on his website but said he based the Ng character on a real-life redheaded Hawaiian who felt compelled to constantly over-explain her unlikely ethnicity.

“I can understand what Crowe said about his intention that he based his character on someone that didn’t look Asian but identified with the culture but you could have casted someone who was part Hawaiian,” Guy Aoki, the founding president of MANAA, said.

“Whitewashing” casting differs from “colour-blind casting,” where a role is cast when factors of race or ethnicity are irrelevant to the character or plot…

Hollywood has been accused of whitewashing Asians for decades…

Read the entire article here.

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LAURA KINA Blue Hawai’i

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-07 00:46Z by Steven

LAURA KINA Blue Hawai’i

The Brooklyn Rail: Critical Perspectives on Arts, Politics, and Culture
Brooklyn, New York

Jonathan Goodman


As an Asian-American painter of mixed background, Laura Kina creates work that is as culturally relevant as it is emotionally resonant. Her father, who is of Japanese descent, grew up in Hawai’i, where he worked on sugarcane plantations before moving to the American mainland to become a doctor. In the compelling paintings shown in Blue Hawai’i, Kina addresses the persistence of Japanese culture among the sugarcane workers, many of whom, like the artist’s father, had family ties to the Japanese island Okinawa. In 2009, Kina and her father traveled to his plantation community in Hawai’i to gain a sense of his past; then, in 2012, Kina and her father traveled to Okinawa itself, again to research the immigration of poor Japanese who came to Hawai’i to harvest cane. The paintings on view in Blue Hawai’i allude to her discoveries, which entail both the remnants of Japanese habits among the Hawaiian workers—the word “blue” in the title of the show refers to the blue kimonos refashioned for plantation work—and the gradual, often troubled and troubling acculturation process. The exhibition consequently bridges inevitable feelings of displacement and loss with the desire to document Kina’s father’s past…

Read the entire review here.

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Yo No Sé Que Hablar — I Don’t Know What To Say

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2015-03-03 19:26Z by Steven

Yo No Sé Que Hablar — I Don’t Know What To Say

Teach. Run. Write. English Teacher Running from One Adventure to the Next

Christina Torres

The man sitting behind me at the restaurant last month was speaking Spanish.

So was the park worker the other day, which was a surprise.

There was the couple wearing “Great Aloha Run” shirts, asking each other about rain, parece que va a llover. Their accents were wonderfully soft, elongated, melodic and tripping. Dominican, I think, like my friend Carolina’s.

When I lived in LA, hearing Spanish was a given. It was everywhere–on buses, at the bank, on signs and on my radio in the car. Even though I lacked fluency when I moved there, it was omnipresent.

Now, living in a state with under 10% of a Latino population (a huge increase from before), hearing Spanish is a rare treat, something that immediately makes my ears perk up. I remember each time like a small gem, holding it close as a reminder of home.

I love living in Hawai‘i–I really do. People see me and know I’m part Filipina, which almost never happened before. It’s an exciting rush–“yes! You see this part of me! You get me!”

Like I’m sure lots of mixed kids deal with, though, I always have a hard time trying to navigate both cultures. I love living here and being seen as Filipina, but now I miss part of my Latina culture. I miss speaking Spanish with people. I missing hearing mariachi on the radio when I would scroll through channels. I spent all of McFarland U.S.A crying. Not just crying, really, but sobbing. From the quince scene on, I was a mess. The hand-painted signs selling aguas de fruta and the casual mix of Spanglish made my heart ache for something that I still don’t know how to fill..

Read the entire article here.

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Hawaii As ‘Racial Paradise’? Bid For Obama Library Invokes A Complex Past

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, History, Media Archive, United States on 2015-01-16 01:47Z by Steven

Hawaii As ‘Racial Paradise’? Bid For Obama Library Invokes A Complex Past

Code Switch: Frontiers of Race, Culture and Ethnicity
National Public Radio

Ellen Wu, Associate Professor of History
Indiana University

Sometime in March, President Obama is expected to announce his choice of the institution that will hold his presidential archive. Vying for the honor (and the money that comes with it) are the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Columbia University in New York, and the University of Hawai’i (the Hawaiian language spelling of the state’s name). So heated has the competition been that some have called it the “next big presidential race before the 2016 presidential race.”

The front-runner status of both Windy City schools is now in question. The University of Chicago may lack exclusive ownership rights to the proposed sites, while the University of Illinois anticipates future leadership changes.

Yet media reports still cast Hawaii as the underdog. Its fundraising capabilities are out-muscled by the others. Its location is too remote by mainland standards.

But don’t be surprised if Hawaii comes out on top, because the island has a compelling advantage: It’s the one place in the U.S. that has long been imagined as a “racial paradise.”

Liberal white missionaries and sociologists invented this fiction in the early 20th century to convince the nation that Hawaii’s significant Asian population was capable of assimilating harmoniously into American life. Asian laborers were the backbone of the islands’ industrial sugar plantation workforce. By 1945, Life pronounced Hawaii “the world’s most successful experiment in mixed breeding … unmatched … for interracial tolerance and affection.” Today, the “Aloha State” is widely celebrated as the most racially and ethnically diverse in the country, where hapas and multiracial families are the norm. The Root recently named Hawaii one of “The Five Best States for Black People.”…

Read the entire article here.

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