Center for Labor Education & Research, University of Hawaii - West Oahu: Honolulu Record Digitization Project
Honolulu Record, Volume 9 No. 16, Thursday, November 15, 1956 p. 8
By Frank Marshall Davis
Prejudice in Hawaii
Let me say, at the outset, that I have not read the complete article entitled "A Comparison of Hawaiian and Mainland Attitudes Toward The Negro" from the pen of Richard A. Kalish, psychology instructor, as it appeared in Social Process in Hawaii published recently by the Sociology Club of the University of Hawaii.
But if the version of it that appeared in the Star-Bulletin on Oct. 27 is correct—and I have no reason to think otherwise—I am in agreement with his conclusions on prejudice against Negroes in Hawaii.
Kalish sets forth a fact known to most Negroes who have lived here for an appreciable time: that there is less prejudice in Hawaii than on the Mainland. But at the same time, this is not the "racial paradise" that many would have us believe, for the Territory does have a considerable amount of anti-Negro feeling. As on the Mainland, a member of this group is "still low man on the totem pole.''
Local students are much more liberal regarding Negroes than are Mainland university students, possibly because of the small number of Negroes here, the extensive mingling of races and the fact that local people, being of minority groups, have a more positive feeling to other minorities, Kalish asserts.
Stereotypes Exist Here
Also, he says, "the tradition in Hawaii is such that prejudices even if felt, are not expected to be shown." This latter, he suggests, might possibly be the only real difference between local and Mainland groups, for he finds that many of the common stereotypes concerning Negroes are almost as prevalent in Hawaii as on the Mainland.
Stereotypes do exist here. This is to be expected when many of the organs of communication pass on material which reinforces these stereotypes, and when many Mainland haoles come here and pass their attitudes to local people. But I have often noted this important difference: many Islanders do not interpret these stereotypes in the Mainland manner as being: "proof" of the Negro's inferiority but Instead look upon them merely as "racial characteristics." I have had local people ask me about some of them, but out of curiosity instead of viciousness.
It is a fact that some local people practice the same kind of discrimination against Negroes found among many, haoles. Not all the landlords who refuse to rent housing or business units to Negroes are white.
Everybody Is Race Conscious
Hawaii, however, is the most complex community under the American flag. It is shot through with paradoxes. Many local people have an extreme dislike for haoles—yet will accept Negroes only when haoles do so. This is supposedly a melting pot—yet nearly everybody is race conscious and stereotypes are freely used in talking about other groups.
Many haoles from the Deep South have washed themselves completely of anti-Negro prejudice since coming here: others from the North have developed new bigotry. I have found that an area of common origin on the Mainland will often result in deep friendship between Negroes and whites who "don't understand those strange Orientals." On the other hand, the fact that local non-haoles and Negroes have been the victims of white supremacy will often wield a bond between the two groups.
The most prejudiced Island group toward Negroes is the urban Hawaiian, particularly if he is dark. Since many have been told by haoles that they are "better than Negroes," they live in mortal fear that some white person will mistake them for Negroes. But even here, prejudice will often disappear if they are thrown in frequent contact with Negroes. Rural Hawaiians, on the whole, are much friendlier.
No Racial Paradise
Beach boys and tour drivers generally are anti-Negro. Undoubtedly part of it also stems from the fear that they may be mistaken for Negroes, but the rest of it comes from the desire to "get in good" with the tourists who are expected to have prejudice toward Negroes.
It is obvious that Hawaii is not a racial paradise. There is a lot of discrimination here. Although there is less prejudice here than on the Mainland, if there was any at all against Negroes or any group it would still be too much. And it will take all of us to improve the score.
I do not say that at odd hours a patient must be given the regular hot dinner or supper. Few people would expect this.
But what is so complicated about opening and heating a can of soup, making some toast, or preparing instant coffee or tea? Why cannot a night nurse do these simple things after the kitchen to closed? Is it just too much trouble?
It is only common humanity to feed the hungry. If our hospitals are too big, too complex, too impersonal to do these small kindnesses for the sick, something is very wrong.