Is there segregation in Hawaii?

Navigation:///Is there segregation in Hawaii?
Is there segregation in Hawaii?2018-11-12T09:21:39+00:00
Everything gets taxed in Hawaii, regardless of what you think.
M&m2.jpg by Anders Lagerasis licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 / Image may have been resized or cropped from original

Segregation in Hawaii: Local Language

Local language is a quality of Hawaiian culture that contributes to segregation in the islands. It’s easy to see who is a local based on the language and slang they use. For example, familial terms like “cousin” and “aunty” can describe close friends instead of actual blood-related relatives. Locals use these terms, and it’s apparent in everyday conversation. Other terms like “choke food” and “ono grindz” (spelled with a “z,”) are phrases to describe delicious food in large quantities. Language trends help distinguish locals who have been in the islands for their life and newcomers. In Hawaiian, “kama’aina” means “local.” If you see this term at restaurants and shops, it’s probably because they offer a discount for locals.

Rock bridge

Local language is all about spreading aloha.

Segregation in Hawaii: Local Drivers

Local driving is another quality that distinguishes locals from newcomers. Locals are very laid back and don’t drive with a sense of urgency. We run on “island time.” Drivers here don’t honk, ever. They also don’t give displeasing gestures like the finger. They also let others merge into their lane without resisting. Hence, it’s easy to tell when a foreigner is on the road because these are all obvious hints. If someone honks at you, they’re probably not from around here. This is one of the reasons why locals are not fond of newcomers and visitors. Aggressive driving is a big no-no in the islands.

Rock bridge

Pedal to the medal isn’t always the best option!

Segregation in Hawaii: What is a haole?

The term “haole” is a common label for fair-skinned caucasians that don’t have these local qualities I described above. The term “haole” is a Hawaiian word composed of “ha” and “ole.” The first means “breath of life” and the second means “lacking,” so the term “haole” literally translates to “lacking breath of life.” This is because caucasian missionaries and visitors would shake hands as a greeting instead of embracing a hug. Locals are very friendly people that use hugs and gentle kisses on the cheek to embrace and welcome others. Hence, it was unusual for handshaking to be a greeting. Nowadays, the expression is a derogatory term for caucasians that don’t match the typical profile of a Native Hawaiian. For example, my friends called me “haole” in high school because I was the fairest in the group and did “haole” things like referring to “spam katsu” as “breaded spam.”

My haole dog + I!

Segregation in Hawaii: How to bridge the gap

Locals in Hawaii are soft-spoken and laid back. The phrase “island time” and “hang loose” are accurate depictions of Hawaiian culture. Bridging the gap between locals and newcomers can be aided by a more relaxed and open attitude on the newcomers’ side. For example, a more relaxed attitude on the roads would help make it less obvious. Also, being more open minded if things don’t go as planned. A natural “hang loose” attitude is necessary when blending in. For example, don’t be upset if the restaurant has a 60 minute wait, hang loose! Island time means every part of your day is an experience to be enjoyed. Never take a moment for granted.

segregation in Hawaii

There’s a long road ahead in bridging the gap, but small things can help.


  1. Amy Veloz 01/14/2019 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    My husband said they treat white kids poorly in school in Hawaii, because the people not exactly geniuses there.

    • Peter Kay 01/14/2019 at 6:24 pm - Reply

      I’d say your husband’s claim “people not exactly geniuses there” is equally true where you live as well as wherever you go in America and probably the world with some small variances. How kids treat each other in school will vary widely just like it does anywhere else.

  2. Jackie 01/09/2019 at 12:24 pm - Reply

    Aloha from Kauai,
    When I think of segregation I think of being forced to be separate from another race, so in that sense no that’s not happening at least on Kauai. But in another sense, if you look at segregation like groups of similar races pooling together and trying to “stick together” then yes that’s happening for sure. I came here 7 years ago after living and growing up in NY for 30 years, 2 of my kids have been here since there babies and my third we had on island here. We are a white family, we have family here for many many years who are also originally from NY too and work & surf is what brought us here.

    From someone who is a true NY’er, things here are very different in good n bad ways.

    Good is the obvious- laid back ways, sick beaches, beauty everywhere u turn, weather u can’t beat year round. But coming from a mom of three I have to unfortunately deal with people and schools. For the most part people are friendly, BUT my kids definitely don’t get treated with respect. I’ve had to go to the school multiple times bc of being treated poorly by “aunty school aide” who thinks it’s ok to scream in my kids face or punish my kids bc of the slightest thing like “step out of line”. They look to target white kids in my opinion and experience. I have a looooong list of experiences my kids have gone thru that makes me want to leave but work is good here for now. I’d honestly move tomorrow if it was solely up to me, but as a stay at home mom I don’t have all the say.

    This is how I personally look at things- I respect the culture, the land and people. But I start losing respect for a lot of the older locals that treat my kids poorly. I hear everyone say Hawai’i is all about “Aloha” etc, but when my kids entered school that Aloha went down the drain. When new people would move into the town in NY where we lived nobody gives them a hard time and makes them feel like they need to walk on eggshells to prove themselves, and that’s how it is here. This is the US and people are free to come n go as they please. Kauai has this “high school mentality” it’s like a lot of the people are stuck with these bizarre ways of viewing things and then they teach it to there kids and the kids grow up that way and it’s a viscous cycle on this island.

    I personally can’t believe how raciest people are on Kauai and it’s the year 2019.

    I read a lot of your posts and the comments and I notice the people who do well here are the people who don’t have kids. Having kids here changes everything.

    • Peter Kay 01/09/2019 at 3:59 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much for taking the time to write something so comprehensive!

  3. Ron 01/09/2019 at 11:51 am - Reply

    Derogatory is a little strong I believe. Frank would be more appropriate as there is no malice that I’ve experienced. It means to me “they cared enough.

  4. Amy Veloz 01/09/2019 at 11:13 am - Reply

    If I moved to Hawaii, I’d become friends with the wild chickens. They accept everyone without judgment.

  5. Windharp 01/09/2019 at 9:41 am - Reply

    Oh yeah. This is partly why Gawaii is so mellow. “Acceptance”, Aloha.

  6. alex carter 01/08/2019 at 2:37 pm - Reply

    You remind me of my dad. I wish I knew more of the history because my great-aunt retired in Hawaii and probably vacationed there first in the boom days of the 1920s.

    So she was retired there when we moved there in 1968.

    I grew up there from the age of 6, and left in my mid-20s. I thought the mainland was this golden place. In general the US economy’s been falling since 1975 or so, with occasional times where it was falling more slowly. The changes in the economy wiped my family out. We went from a place on Portlock Road to welfare, parents split up, etc.

    So I could hardly wait to get out of there, in the mid-80s because I was gonna move to the mainland and work in electronics and buy a house an all that blah blah.

    Well, I’d have been far better off never stepping on a college campus and working unskilled work in Hawaii! I’d have been able to buy a house and all that. Honestly, the mainland is THAT hard. You think Hawaii’s hard?

    But I love your page and will visit it often because you’re REALISTIC.

    I’m just counting off the time, in 8 years I’ll be 65 and if I live humble back home I can come back and not have to work any more if I don’t want to, and I’ll be back home. I can just go pick ni’ihau shells or whatevahs.

    Yeah frankly most mainland people are gonna hate it. They’re gonna stay 6 months and think, “Sheeze, I’ve seen every beach 3X now, I’m sick of the heat and humidity and the bugs” etc.

    You are freaking REALISTIC.

    And hells yeah there’s segretation in Hawaii, but it’s like they do it in Japan – it’s under the surface. They have Koreans and Chinese there, and burakumin AKA eta, and they don’t do it with signs and stuff, they don’t need it, everyone knows their place in the scheme of things.

    Same thing. When I was little we went to a number of the tourist-kine lu’aus, which were fun enough I guess, everything’s great when you’re a kid, right? But you know you’re local when you get invited to the real kind. where everyone eats, then swims in the ocean a bit to get an appetite again, then eats some more, and takes leftovers home. And you knew the kalua pig personally, because you watched it grow up in a pen.

  7. saimin 01/08/2019 at 7:30 am - Reply

    In my experience the biggest reason for segregation in Hawaii is family values. “Local” families have often been in Hawaii since the 1800s plantation days or earlier and thus have huge local extended families that they are constantly visiting. Many newcomers don’t feel comfortable in that culture and thus hang out with mostly other newcomers. Also, newcomers come and go, while family is forever.

    • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit 01/08/2019 at 3:25 pm - Reply

      Totally this Mr. S&S. Family values are huge in pretty much all human cultures. The white mainland thing where families don’t stick together is actually really weird.

Join the conversation! What do you think?