I recently returned from a family trip to Hawaii and I have come to a startling conclusion:
I am entirely too white.
Yes, it's true--with a ethnic background made up exclusively of Northern Europeans, I spent a week in tropical sunshine and never got more than a shade past pasty. I have tried to embrace my milky skin tone, but having married into a family of olive-complected sun-lovers does tend to give one a bit of a complex.
|How I look to Hawaiians|
While I don't mean to suggest that being a Caucasian American is a bad thing, let's face it, we don't always embrace differences, which doesn't make much sense, living in a melting pot of a country. (Give us your tired, your poor--unless they speak a funny sounding language or worship a god other than our own.) We also don't have the best reputation when dealing with native people (smallpox anyone?) or those with skin color any darker than taupe (I'll take a side of segregation and Jim Crowe laws, please). What did we Northern European Americans contribute to the cultural landscape? White bread, fast food and strip malls, to name a few. I can proudly say my own ancestors brought you Ballard and lutefisk. (Ohh, how exotic!)
One of the bus drivers in Honolulu explained the meaning of aloha as "sharing the breath of life" and that Hawaiians used to greet each other by breathing through their noses into each other's face, thus sharing their spirit. "Haloe", he said, meant "one who doesn't share the spirit." Apparently some non-natives took offense to strangers exhaling in their face.
I have decided to be haole no more. I will breathe in your face and accept the spirit of my fellow humans. I will learn about other cultures and step out of my comfort zone.
|How I think I look in Hawaii|
A recent issue of Sunset magazine has an article about the Hawaiian lifestyle, by Kaui Hart Hemmings, author of The Descendants. In it she describes the kind of laid back life style and spirit of community many would envy. I am ready to embrace my place as a true Hawaiian cousin.
I may have been born an uptight white girl, but I believe I have the soul of a wahine (who just happens to burn unless she's wearing SPF 30 sunblock).
(In researching the term "haole" I stumbled across an article entitled Haole? The Unbearable Whiteness of Being. I wish I would've come up with that title first.)