Are Haoles Victimized?

UPDATED 10:04 a.m. 01/06/11

Editor's note: Author Judy Rohrer will be speaking about her book, "Haoles in Hawai‘i," Jan. 8-14. A complete list of events is at the bottom of this article.

The recent reference to “Kill Haole Day” by a federal judge prompted another debate about the alleged phenomenon. Judge Stephen Reinhardt’s reference came in his dissent in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling denying four non-Hawaiian students a rehearing on their request for anonymity in their suit against Kamehameha Schools. The lawyers claim the students fear persecution if their identities are revealed (despite contrary statements from the students themselves). The request was denied because it was found that the fear of severe harm is unreasonable and thus, the “paramount importance of open courts” stands.

Yet, even in the face of this latest decision — one reiterating that fears of violence are unfounded – somehow we are left talking about the mythical “Kill Haole Day.” How do we make sense of that? As Lee Cataluna has articulately pointed out, this only “diverts attention from real problems.” How is it that we are once again drawn into a discussion about victimized haoles (this time, those attacking arguably the most crucial of Hawaiian institutions)? Why focus on alleged or potential anti-haole violence, rather than examine the legacies of colonialism and dispossession that shape race relations in the islands?

A look at the history of haoles in Hawai’i can help our comprehension. This is certainly not the first instance where haoles have cried victim. In fact, one of the elements of haoleness is a persistent desire by haoles to be perceived as a victimized group.

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