Cultural Appropriation or Smart Budget Cuts

Hula Performance

By: T. Jeffersonian

After the Hawaii receives roughly $6.1 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act, the state will still be around $800 million in debt. Due to this debt, the Hawaii legislature continues to look for budget cut opportunities. A recent 11th hour bill that would cut funding from the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) is moving forward in the state legislature, however, opponents say the cuts threaten both the visitor industry and Native Hawaiian culture. Opponents say that the bill prevents HTA from funding Hawaiian culture, natural resources, and community programs like the renown Merrie Monarch Festival, King Kamehameha Celebration, and Aloha Festivals. Opponents describe the proposed cuts as cultural appropriation and asks the legislature to give Aloha back to Hawaii’s people and communities. Native Hawaiian leaders and the HTA have worked for years to increase the funding for Hawaiian culture and practices which are often huge tourism draws to the island.

Proponents for the bill however want to redirect hotel tax money away from HTA to the counties hit hardest by the pandemic. Despite criticism that the state is allowing cultural appropriation, the state legislature is still giving $3.7 million for culture programs through the State Foundation of Culture and the Arts. The bill’s proponents see this Foundation as a better means of preserving and promoting the Hawaiian culture and would prefer that the HTA return to its original mission of marketing and branding. Bill supporters do want to restrict HTA’s freedom to make some marketing decisions. The legislature perceives HTA as spending too much money specifically marketing to Japanese and Korean visitors during the pandemic. Legislators feel these expenditures are misplaced because these two countries continue to have very restrictive travel protocols and thus are essentially dead to the Hawaii tourism market for at least the next six months and longer.

The accusations of Hawaiian cultural appropriation in this case are wrong. Cultural appropriation, woke, racism, extremism, cancel culture, defund the police, and the like slogans and accusations are political at-the-ready weapons for forcibly gagging the opposition. These weapons are routinely being employed by the highest national levels of the Democratic party. President Joe Biden himself has been a long-time frequent flier employing the race and culture cards to gag his opponents and expand his party’s power. Those attempting to accuse cultural appropriation in this specific case are wrongly attempting to mimic what they see transpiring at the national level. Ironically, in this particular case, the applications of the race and culture cards are Democrat vs. Democrat.

When people say give the Aloha back to Hawaii’s people and their communities, we all have to be very careful when the people saying this are politicians. Politicians are really saying, give the money to us, and we will decide how best to spend your money for you. Many people associate the word Aloha with hello, goodbye, or love. Aloha is actually an essence of being: love, peace, compassion, and displaying a mutual understanding of respect. When you respect and love someone, you do not tell lies and wrongly accuse them. Aloha means living in harmony with the people and land around you with mercy, sympathy, grace, and kindness. This issue is not about Aloha. This issue is purely and simply about money and who gets the money. Aloha and culture are being used as smoke screens and levers to disguise what the real issue is and to get the money.