Race and marriage in Hawaii and what about the children

Children of Hawaii

Children of Hawaii

Carol Forsloff—In the 1960’s when someone wanted to object to interracial marriage he or she would offer this observation in the form of a question,” What about the children?”  This statement-question would be prefaced with the statement, “I’m not prejudiced but–” Hawaii is the very definition of the answer to that question,“What about the children?”

Many of the children of Hawaii are mixtures of different races. People from all over the world refer to them as very beautiful.

Residents of Hawaii are actually proud of the fact the islands have so many different races and ethnic groups. It offers a very special look and feel to the culture.

There are those individuals who may ask about the racial background of any given person, and it is considered an asset to have more than two racial identities.  That is why people are likely not to be offended when asked what racial background they may be for it is a matter of strong pride to be able to name more than one.

Some years ago In an office in downtown Honolulu a group of support staff along with customers were in the waiting room discussing their various ethnic combinations. One said ”I am Samoan, Chinese and Portuguese. Another said,” I can beat that. “ I am Hawaiian,,Portuguese, Japanese and Native American. Everybody laughed for it was obvious the last person who had spoken had won the contest.

Racial prejudice exists to some extent in Hawaii, but it is never as pronounced as found in ther cultures. That’s because it is likely the local person has someone in his or her ancestry that is of a racial background which in some places might be disparaged, and so people are sensitive to that in Hawaii. People who are considered different often would not be considered different in Hawaii.

A recent broadcast on the evening news referred to Native Hawaiians as being prejudiced against Caucasians.  During the news local people were deeply concerned about this reporting, as demonstrators may promote certain agendas and use strong language to do so, but the ordinary Native Hawaiian embraces all cultures.  It has been part of Hawaii culture to be welcoming to strangers.

How do people maintain prejudice while living in Hawaii over decades?  New ways of assessing race and culture may be difficult for some people to accept when they arrive in Hawaii, so they may pass on their prejudices to their children. Often these are the people who marry within their own ethnic group, but the pattern in Hawaii is to choose a mate for love not racial or ethnic background.  By the second and third generation after a family has settled in Hawaii, it is more likely than not many of the descendants will have married into one or more of the different racial and ethnic groups in Hawaii.

Studies have shown that children of mixed marriages often have identity problems.  With the population of mixed race families increasing, those identity problems remain.  That’s because the overall rate of mixed marriages is still low, whereas in Hawaii it is very high.  The more valued racial mixing becomes in a culture, the less likely there will be identity issues.

Those who ask the question, “ What about the children?” will be the ones who stand out as different in the islands, for no one would ordinarily ask the question who has lived in Hawaii more than a very short time.

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