By: Jeff Tadashi
Woke is a term that refers to awareness of issues that concern social justice and racial justice. It is sometimes used in the African American Vernacular English expression “Stay Woke”. Woke resurfaced in 2014, during the Black Lives Matter movement, under Obama, as a label for vigilance and activism concerning racial inequalities and other social disparities such as discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, women, immigrants, and other marginalized populations. Woke is often given as the excuse for the street justice and racism we see towards perceived oppressor groups. Hawaii was Woke a long time ago and that is holding us back! Time to Wake Up to Woke racism Hawaii!
When a Filipino woman in a high-rent midtown section of Manhattan was kicked to the ground and stomped, her attacker yelled, “You don’t belong here.” Were it not for Filipino travel nurses and other medical professionals, the American medical system would be on its heels, especially during this Covid outbreak. That attacker not only hurt that woman but hurt many other people too.
Asians in Hawaii have felt relatively safe, but some people are now questioning Hawaii’s reputation as a melting pot. Discrimination here just looks different. “Perpetual foreigners” is one of the dominant, racist stereotypes of non-Hawaiian Americans. If you look different, you really are not one of the Ohana’s own.
Here in Hawaii, you hear stuff like “Hey Jeff! My favorite Asian friend”. Why can’t I just be your favorite friend period? When I ask this, my friends just laugh it off. In Hawaii, humor often plays a role in the everyday life racism displayed but it is still not acceptable. It is not good because when a tragedy, like a pandemic and political polarization, presses everyone’s backs against the wall, there is proven less tendency to help a person who looks vastly different from us. When humor gives way to survival, the passive, racist microaggressions will turn much more violent. We are seeing this occur on the mainland and to an increasing extent here in our home state.
Being a Conservative and an Asian in Hawaii has both disadvantages and advantages. Our disadvantages are fueled by the connection of Haoles, Asians, and Conservatives (Republicans) as being oppressors. We are viewed as wanting to take away the people’s money because we are pro-business, anti-union, small government, and patriotic. Should I be Woke because I believe that I am more qualified to make decisions for me and my family than is an elected government? Should I be Woke, because I want to lessen my taxes so that I can send my children to a better college? Should I be Woke because I want my neighbor to be able to build a business that allows her to make more money that she could ever get from a stimulus? Should I be Woke because I do not want abortion to be used as birth control and then as an innocent third party, be forced to fund it? I want to earn my living and be proud of what I create. I am proud to be an American first, a Hawaiian second, and an Asian third but because my skin is different, because my eye shape is different, I should be Woke and not believe Hawaii is my home and that America is the greatest nation in the world.
There is a general unspoken belief that Haoles and Asians not only took Hawaii from Hawaiians but now want to keep Hawaiians perpetually down and in poverty. Asians, Haoles, and Hispanics are silently viewed as a vilified elite who just wants Hawaiians to eat poi or to just shut up and hula. It does not help our non-elitist arguments to the contrary when all of Hawaii’s governors except one have either been Haoles or Asians. Look at our current Congressional delegation – Hirono (Asian), Schatz (Haole), Case (Haole), and Kahele (Hawaiian). Though a Hawaiian, Kahele is himself a second-generation political scion. He has never had to live underneath blue tarps in Waimanalo or put his name on Hawaiian Homeland lists for housing and food. He’s Hawaiian but because he is from an affluential family, even Kahele is viewed as not really being a Hawaiian. Look at our Governor (Asian) and Lieutenant Governor (Haole).
Even if we are born here, if we do not look like we should stereotypically belong here, we are viewed as perpetual foreigners. This is most especially the view of our Democrat leaders who seek to keep us all in the chains of visible multi-ethnicity and wealth classes. United we stand, divided we fall. It is time for Hawaii to “Wake Up”. I am Jeff, your favorite friend period.