Many of you, my dear readers, do not know this, but I grew up in Hawai'i, where things are very different from the situation in the continental United States. In Hawai'i, White Americans have to face racism, something which seldom, if ever, happens to White Americans in the continental US. (This isn't to say that other groups in Hawai'i don't also face racism, I'm just focusing on whites for now.) Just as African Americans have the N-word, White Americans in Hawai'i also have a derogatory term - Haole. The etymological histories of this word not withstanding, it is now used in a mostly insulting sense. How many times was I called 'stupid haole girl' while the kids in my apartment complex threw rocks at me? I've lost track of the times. The thing was, I never even learned the historical reasons why they did these, as well as other, things until my first Hawaiian history class in the 7th grade.
When I was studying at the University of Hawai'i, I took a Hawaiian studies course. I would have taken the course if it had been required or not, I had been fascinated by Hawaiian studies in Intermediate and High School, I haven't changed to this day. In this class, understandably, we came across the subject of racism, in this case whites against Native Hawaiians (all you have to do is skim over Hawaiian history to see how badly the whites treated the Hawaiians, especially King Kalakaua and Queen Lili'uokalani, amongst many thousands of unnamed others). I agreed with the idea that there were still instances of racism in Hawai'i as a result of this clash in the 1800s. My only qualm came up when I spoke about the racism that White Americans face in Hawai'i (for example, when my family first moved to O'ahu, my father had people turn him down for jobs because he is haole), I was told this was 'reverse racism' and was, somehow, different. The undercurrent of opinion of some of the students (though not the teacher) was that this was justified because their ancestors were abused by whites that I, and many other White Americans in Hawai'i, weren't even related to.
In my poetry class today we read several poems from Audre Lord (a very good poet - I recommend her to anyone who likes passion in their poetry). Lord was an Indian American (of West Indian descent) woman who also happened to be a lesbian. As a result of discussing her poetry within her social context, the concept of 'The White Supremacy' came up. This is understandable - Lord wrote during the period of the Civil Rights movement and was a social activist; she addressed many of these issues in her poems. What I had trouble with was how much 'The White Supremacy' side of things came up and how strongly some of the people (all of whom were, ironically, white upper-middle class Americans) in my class felt about it; and by this I mean how much certain people used it as an excuse to bash and abuse all persons who have white skin and primarily European ancestry.
The discussion today, as well as my background in Hawaii and how I have seen certain things being emphasized in favor of others (be it in something as wide spread as lawsuits or as individual as academic learning), lead me to write this poem. I have said it before and I will say it again I refuse to be judged on my ancestry and skin color. As well, I refuse to judge others on their ancestry or skin color. I refuse to believe that its easy for whites to ignore race or ancestry because they have none (I kid you not, I have heard this argument used my Scottish ancestors alone would be rolling in their graves at this, let alone the dozen other nationalities I have). I dont want special treatment because of race or ancestry and I wont treat anyone differently because of it. I believe in treating people based on what they can do, not what color they are. I wish that others could share these beliefs with me, be they African American, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Native American, Mexican American, or even not American at all. After all, in these modern times, people are being prejudiced against more for their income and economical standing than their skin color anyway. But thats another discussion.
Before some of you overreact, I am not racist, I am not a white supremacist, I am not in any way prejudiced against anyone. (Well, people who remain willfully ignorant kind of irk me, but I'm still willing to talk to them and accept their opinions, even though I may not agree.)
Copyright restrictions: You may not reprint or quote the poem or the essay attached without written consent of the author. If you are given permission, you must attribute and cite accordingly.