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Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Aloha State: Titas, Mokes, and Ongoing Prejudice (Unit I)

Hawaii is one of the largest melting pot in the United States. We have Samoans, Filipinos, Mexicans, Hawaiians, to your typical “poi-dog” mixture of many. One would think that because of this cultural mishmash everyone in the islands would incorporate the “Aloha Spirit” into day-to-day life. Granted, most of us do. Most of us are accepting of all these different cultures, actually picking up some of their customs and using them just as the rest of the people in Hawaii do; things like making saimin (left) – sort of like what mainlanders call Ramen– and spam musubi (right)– a sushi-like roll made of sliced spam with teriyaki sauce on a block of rice and wrapped in nori. Based on the fact that we eat just about everything from every different culture one would think that we would be accepting of the many people around us. On the other hand, there are many locals who are not tolerant of haoles, which in English translates to people of white descent. Depending on how one uses the word, it can be simply a description or it can be considered the equivalent of what a gringo is to Latin America: a derogatory insult. Nowadays the majority who populate Hawaii are Asians and Caucasians. According to the 2000 census, 24 percent of people living in Hawaii are of white ancestry in comparison to the nine percent that represent Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders. Haole people are more populous than the “locals”, leading to a sometimes unrecognized hatred from many in the pacific islander groups. Here is a YouTube that I came across the other day. Note the recurring topic of haole disrimination. This is not to say that all local people act like this by any means; it just consists of a select few that lend to the reputation of prejudice and violence from the Pacific Islander population.


Seeing as I’m haole, I sometimes feel threatened by locals who feel a sort of entitlement to Hawaii. The locals I’m referring to tend to be at least of 1 percent Hawaiian blood. If they are women, we call them titas. If men, they are labeled as mokes. Both of these words have negative connotations and bring to mind images of fierce, burly women and men. Of course, they’re not always burly but they are most definitely always fierce. Titas and mokes alike have reputations of being nasty towards people they do not approve of; almost always the most hated upon are the haole people. Titas generally take on perceived masculine qualities, such as the use of intimidation and forcefulness to more or less run the islands. The same goes for mokes. Sometimes they are still enraged at the white men who forced the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani and pushed the annexation of Hawaii to the United States in 1897.


What’s the next best thing to taking out Lorrin Thurston himself? Hating on the many haole that live in Hawaii today. Even if we were born and raised in the islands, like myself, we as a group continue to be punished for what our “ancestors” did over 100 years ago. As cited in an article by Larry Keller labeled Prejudice in Paradise, “a 12-year-old white girl new to Hawaii from New York City needed 10 surgical staples to close a gash in her head incurred when she was beaten in 2007 by a Native Hawaiian girl who called her a ‘f****** haole.’” These are the sort of hate crimes that are commonly carried out by said titas and mokes. This isn’t to say that only girls are subject to this discrimination; many guys are privy to the same thing, if not worse. Much like on the mainland, most titas in their middle and high school years launch verbal and psychological attacks on haole girls. In contrast, mokes put on a over-exaggerated façade of aggression and intimidation, initiating physical contact. If a moke were to catch you looking at him the wrong way he would puff up like a peacock ruffling his feathers, give you stink eye, and say, “What, like scrap?” In pidgin, a creole of English widely used in Hawaii, the phrase acts as intimidation towards haoles. It shows that the moke is prepared to fight should you give him any sort of attitude back. This is a prime example of how titas and mokes use aggression to assert themselves over haole people.


This domineering attitude corresponds with I.J.’s article – Ladies and Gentlemen: Femininity, Masculinity, and Identity. With the onset of modern-day feminism, felt in Hawaii but most likely never recognized by locals, the lines are blurring between what are alluded to as specific gender traits. More often than not these titas are taking on "alpha-male" characteristics - aggression, dominance, assumed power - and are toughening themselves to thwart any competition by caucasians for social power. As I.J. says in the Bitch article, "Gender expectations are being reversed." I am not able to think of another first-hand experience where that statement is more true. The only solution that comes to mind that would end this prejudice against whites by a percentage of the native population would be to strike at the heart of the problem where it all starts: in pre- and elementary schools. The only way to take out the discrimination against coexisting races is to harness the power of education.

13 comments:

  1. Very well put. I can relate to your experience of witnessing the women take over the masculine role. I grew up in Utah in a very diverse community. Most of the kids in my high school were of polynesian decent, either Samoan or Tongan, and they were always very fierce individuals; the women more then the men. The women absolutely hated white girls and usually directed their nasty looks and comments towards us.. especially if you were dating a polynesian man. In my school polynesian gangs were also very active (yes Utah has gangs). I knew girls who had more assault charges then the guys did.But I do have a lot of polynesian friends and I've asked them plenty of times why the women are more aggressive and they basically just answer that the women are raised to be rough and protective.

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  2. I can very much see where this discrimination you speak of comes from. You did a good job of explaining and providing a situation that shows that accurately. I would like then to have a bit more of a clarification of where you hoped this would fall. An example would be you were trying to show that the native males are defining their gender through the violence towards those of white decent? This could also be showing violence towards women when you are speaking of how they treat those who are non-native. Thanks for you time.

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  3. Nice work! I didn't really know what to expect coming into this article, but I thought you did terrific. Your writing was very fluid and I felt you did a wonderful job introducing the background knowledge most of us would've needed to follow this argument. I personally feel this blog is incredibly insightful and eye-opening. I for one have never even stepped off this continent, let alone been to Hawaii, so I thought you picked a perfect example of "hate crime" to bring to those of us who might've never known this was even taking place, so kudos! You also incorporated the outside articles in a nice way, they contributed to your point rather than distracted. I grew up in a town that was 99% "white" people, so I was intrigued learning about this outside experience in which different ethnicities and "groups" of people form different areas and how they communicated with one another. I enjoyed how informative this piece was, and I also liked how you related it to what we learned in class. Very well done, I enjoyed reading!

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  4. This is such an amazing example of gender characteristics. I love your writing style, and you had a good voice when you were writing. I was really glad that you gave so much background because it really helped me since I don't know anything about Hawaii. I thought it was really interesting that people are racist against whites because normally when you hear the word "racism," you think of white people being discriminatory against a different race, compared to this situation where it's the other way around.

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  5. Jess, that's it exactly! Fierce is a great way to describe some of the women. I didn't realize that there was such a large population of pacific islanders in Utah, much less that they congregated into gangs.

    Ethan, I was more trying to express how the so-called titas were taking on masculine traits in order to seem more dominating. They take on the characteristics of the "mokes" to appear so. I was more or less trying to incorporate the example of changing gender roles into real life experience. It may have seemed to have more to do with racism but I wanted to show how gender roles fit into the problem to give some perspective. Does that answer your question? If not, let me know!

    Thank you, Alexis! I had hoped to open eyes to the situation in Hawaii and I'm glad to know that I accomplished my goal (for the most part)! To mainlanders, Hawaii always has this image of being a paradise filled only with palm trees, the beach, and hula-dancing locals. No one really gets to see the other, more negative aspects of living there. I love Hawaii but there's much that can be changed to truly make it the "Aloha" state.

    Wow, Emily! Thanks for the feedback and I appreciate the compliments! You're right; the negative aspects of Hawaii tend to be overlooked because of its so many wonderful qualities! The racism tends to only really be observed in the more impoverished parts of the state and the individual islands, which makes sense in a way. If you were to come to Kailua-Kona on the Big Island, for example, you wouldn't find as much hate against caucasians as you would if you were to travel south to an area called Puna, which is home to a large population of anti-white people.

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  6. It's true that a lot of our beliefs come out of how we were raised and how we were molded to be, during our childhoods. For these islanders they were raised with stories of how it used to be before white-man came in and took everything. It may have been a century ago, but that time is still fairly recent compared to the rest of history. On one side there needs to be sympathy as well as educating that this is a new era with a new generation of people. It is not right that they have taken this out on other white children who had nothing to do with the past incident except for baring the same color of skin. As this is seen all over the world over anything that has to do with ethnicity, religion and gender, people discriminate because they feel powerless in some part of their life and they feel that they need to take it out on someone.

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  7. Darien, of course there is sympathy expressed towards them. There was a formal apology that was given by Clinton in 1993 (very long overdue but it finally happened) to the Hawaiian people concerning the overthrow and annexation of Hawaii. Additionally, there is an ongoing project called Hawaiian Homelands that provides people of Hawaiian descent with land that can be passed down to future generations as long as the ancestors are 25% Hawaiian or more. There are also schools set up specifically for kids of Hawaiian descent called Kamehameha Schools, which were founded by Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop in 1883 to provide for education of "her people". These schools have different campus' spaced around on multiple islands. Her endowment supports the largest independent pre-kindergarten through grade 12 school in the United States and an educational system that serves thousands of students throughout the state of Hawaii. There has been much done to compensate for what the select group of men that overthrew the monarchy. We as haole in Hawaii understand that what was done was wrong, but equally so the pacific islanders have just as many rights as caucasians. You are correct that sympathy needs to be given but there already is plenty of sympathy towards the native population that has been around for a very long time.

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  8. I liked your blog! I agree with you when you said that they only way to get rid of the discrimination is through education. I think that it is very important for young people to know what has gone on in the world and to learn to like people for who they are not what they look like and to not judge people. I think there is a ton of discrimination that still goes on in the world like you were taking about and if people were not tought to hate but to be accepting then there might not be such bad hate crimes.

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  9. This was very interesting! I didn't know much about Hawaii before this, especially that Caucasians represent the one of the majorities of the population, whereas Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders only represent 9 percent, and the Caucasians are the ones being discriminated against. You did a great job tying in the fierce titas with the reversal of gender roles and made a great point that in order to stop discrimination, we must educate. I really agree that the more knowledge people have the less they can stereotype and to educate this at a young age, before they are influenced into stereotypes.

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  10. This is such a unique topic. I wasn't even aware of this discrimination. It's amazing that there is still so much hatred towards whites, it's been how many years since Hawaii's annexation? I also liked how you tied in the feminist articles to this. The girls are just as aggressive, if not more, as men in this situation. The gender roles are being reversed. I can say I was surprised to see that it was a Hawaiian girl that beat up someone. It's still shocking to culture to see women so violent.

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  11. I find it very interesting that women assume more dominant roles in modern Hawaii. I wonder how roles have changed since the colonization and annex of the islands. It would be a good subject to get multi-perspectives on, from the different demographics involved.

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  12. I live in Hawaii for 3 years as a teenager. I was in 32 fights - never any that were fair. The locals are mostly cowards and what we in the mainland would call wussies (half wimp and half pussy). I played sports, boxed and took martial arts. Very seldom did they fight one on one and if they did their friends were quick to make sure they won the fight. I have VERY little respect for the people of Hawaii. The hate crimes and blind prejudice is widespread. The place has no real culture. Many of the locals live with their parents. It is a state that needs a total overhaul. A real shame that such a beautiful place has such truly ugly people living there.

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  13. I grew up in Hawaii too. Titas are not just Polynesians it was the Filipina women too. They were the most recent immigrants and were at the bottom of the social barrel, and like the poor Irish immigrants from long ago came from ugly situations so they weren't socially graceful. The Asians in Hawaii are descended from field workers who were so desperate they put themselves into slavery to get away. The Polynesians conquered another race of people who were living in those islands when they arrived and were incredibly brutal to one another. One reason they didn't fight back harder in the day is because missionaries treated them better than their own royalty, especially the women.

    It's a lot like some black people on the mainland who have are using heinous crimes from generations ago to justify making hate their primary way of relating to the rest of the world. Emotionally and physically harming a whole race of people you meet makes you a racist thug, it doesn't matter who you are or what happened to your ancestors.

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