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Sharing notes from growing up haole in Hawaii in the 80s

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Long story short: maybe I was excluded from stuff for being haole in Hawaii, though I never really knew and it never bothered me. But, it's interesting to hear that there might have been parties and birthdays and beach outings and get-togethers that I was just never part of. Could that be true? I'll never know.
Sharing notes from growing up haole in Hawaii in the 80s

Nerdy but cool kids

I was always very aware of being haole in Hawaii; however, I was never personally aware of being excluded from anything for being haole, especially by anyone I was friends with. It turns out, maybe I was.

However, because I was oblivious to it, I don't mind at all, it's just interesting looking back to between 1976 and 1988 to see if I can spot any of the shenanigans of haole exclusion based on a very fun and nostalgic conversation I had with a classmate two years ahead that I never knew in school who told me that excluding haoles from family and community and off-campus non-school-related social time is a thing. Supposedly written about by a haole who attended fellow ILH school, the elite Iolani School, known for being Asian Punahoa (they'll hate being called that!).

I had brunch with a fellow Saint Louis Crusader who lives in my neighborhood at Busboys and Poets yesterday and we traded stories and notes about what it was like to grow up haole in Hawai`i, O`ahu, and at Saint Louis School in the late 70s through the 80s.  He was class of '86 and I was class of '88. He told me that it's pretty common for local folks in Hawaii—local people being defined as any race besides white with the exception of the Portuguese, oddly enough—to not include the white kids—the haoles—in their reindeer games: beach outings, birthdays, parties, picnics, luaus, etc.  Is that true? I never noticed and was never insulted. But it made me wonder. I mean, growing up haole in Hawaii was interesting. 

I learned a lot of interesting things I never considered, none of which might be actually objectively or universally true for all haoles in Hawaii, but were shared experiences that we had.  It's funny because I really don't know how situationally-aware I actually ever was growing up. Or even now. Not tactically or strategically, but socially and emotionally.  

What's a haole? Via Wikipedia:

"In Hawaii's "Rainbow" ethnic melange of peoples, "Haole" is the slang word used to describe Caucasians, and by itself is not a racial slur and has no pejorative connotations, but is commonly used in the context of a statement that in itself, is derogatory . . . Some from other ethnic groups have used the word "Haole" as a racial slur or insult in incidents of harassment and physical assault towards white people in Hawaii, including tourists, residents, and military personnel."

Any time anyone called me haole, it was always a diss. And I like to joke that my nickname growing up might as well just have been fucking haole. And I might have gotten in a couple-few beefs over nothing more than being haole in Hawaii. But nothing more, really, than just the butting of heads of two young bucks who wanted to test and exert dominance. No worries. I fight dirty

Ask anyone, I am pretty oblivious—and an only child of pretty homebody parentsso I never noticed (I just assumed I wasn't cool enough to invite rather than it being a haole-local thing). I thought maybe it was that I probably had a chip on my shoulder and folks didn't particularly like that relatively arrogant only child from NYC. Now, I find out, that there might have been an entire social live outside of School that I missed out on just because it's pretty normal to just not include the haole kids in social events outside of strict school functions.

That all my friends, possibly, who went to school dances with me, were in Ranger Club, Wrestling, Student Body Government, and ate with my at lunch and hung out with me every afternoon at McDonald's up Waialae were doing cool stuff all together and they just assumed I either wasn't interested or it's just the norm in Hawaii that there's places people do mix with haoles and places and times people don't. I don't know if it's true.

If it is, it will completely blow my mind. I guess the best way to experience otherness is obliviously. That's how I choose to live my life: oblivious to the fact that not everyone likes me and that some people may spend their limited energies disliking and even loathing me, the fucking haole. I am considering deleting that last sentence because it makes me look petty or defensive; however, it wasn't alway easy having moved 6,000 miles from East 35th Street, Murray Hill, Manhattan, and Spring Lake, New Jersey, to O`ahu, Hawaii, as an only child at 6 years old, with only my mother and father, leaving my extended family and friends so far away that it might have as well been the moon. Back then, calls were all expensive long distance and there was no Zoom or Skype or Meets or chat or texting or any of that. Every once in a while, my mom, dad, and I would crowd around the landline wired phone to have a scratchy call with my Nana and Pop Pop and Grandma and Grandpa and my Uncle Jack. But they were short, sweet, and expensive. 

I mean, I had a posse who would go to school dances at Hawaii School for Girls (HSG) and Punahou and Sacred Hearts and Saint Francis with me. And all my closest friends were Japanese, Chinese, and Filipino. And I never felt a lack. I always identified with being a nerd and a geek and an outsider anyway so I just assumed that there were loads of parties everywhere but that I wasn't invited because I was an awkward dweeb instead of being haole.

Or, just a weirdo who liked weird things and who listened to New Order and The Smiths istead of Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam or Salt-N-Pepa: just weird, not quite fitting in with the Band Geeks, the Jocks, or the Nerds. You know, regular clique-related stuff. I mean, I was tall, pasty, nerdy, geeky, but also didn't particularly rock out all my classes, either. I wasn't a National Merit Scholar or anything.

Because I wasn't that into sports as a kid and was more into drawing and reading, I just assumed my nerdiness graced me with a tight clique of my friends, my fellow nerds, who would play Dungeons and Dragons and go to Computer Expos and would try stuff out of the Anarchist's Cookbook. Stuff like that. 

But, like, what about the kinds of parties that parents put together. Like birthdays and picnics and BBQs and days at the beach. I mean, no worries, I lived a short walk from Kahala Beach and a short bus ride, bike ride, run, or even walk from Waikiki beach (I lived in the middle of Kaimuki through my entire high school). So, I would go to the beach. Or go to Sandy Beach or go to North Shore. I had a beige VW Rabbit from 16 so I was pretty mobile. 

Like I said, I was an only child and very comfortable spending time with adults and very comfortable in my skin and perfectly happy reading and drawing. But I am curious now. I would prefer to think that it had more to do with my not being cool or popular or even fun to be with rather than it be racial. Because I was a haole in Hawaii. 

To be fair, my parents were starting and running their own company from scratch in their 40s, knowing noone, from an office in Chinatown, so I was pretty much a latchkey kid who rode to school on Da Bus after we moved from Salt Lake (I went to elementary school at Aliamanu Elementary until I transfered to Saint Louis in 7th grade) to Punchbowl, downtown Honolulu, and then to the middle of Kaimiki for my high school years.  So, my mom and dad had date night until they separated when I was early teens and I only remember them going out to adult parties a number of times and I remember going to a lot of beach outings but they were always as a family unit. So, maybe that's all I knew: socializing wasn't daily break, it was a rare and special occurrence when you weren't in your room doing homework, drawing, sketching, reading Mack Bolan pulp adventure novels, and watching Monty Python, Cosmos with Carl Sagan, Benny Hill, and Nova. And, when I hit 13, the IBM AT that I bought with all the money in my childhood savings account ($2,500).

I am not complaining about being haole in Hawaii. Hindsight is 20/20 and I did live in paradise and my parents didn't need to teach me about tolerance and acceptance and cultural and racial and historical and nation-of-origin diversity because I was able to live it every day. While there were surprisingly few black folks or African Americans in Hawaii between 1976, when I arrived at 6, and 1988, when I left after gradutating High School, most of the people I knew, loved, befriended, and spent my time with were, strictly-speaking people of color. Mostly Asian and Pacific Islanders, but my whiteness—my haoleness—was most definitely minority.

For example, in my graduating class at Saint Louis School, and all-boys Marianist Catholic day school, there were 225 kids, only seven of whom would be described as haole. The good news about all of this is that if you live in Hawaii long enough and you go to school there and date there and learn pidgin english fluently enough and people end up liking you well enough for forgive your haoleness, then you get to graduate to becoming a kamaʻāina:

"Kamaʻāina is a word describing Hawaii residents regardless of their racial background, as opposed to "kanaka" which means a person of Native Hawaiian ancestry. A kamaʻāina may be considered to be someone who lives in Hawaii, or might be expanded to include people who once lived there but have moved away."

So, I am kamaʻāina first and haole second. I earned my stripes, goddammit. That said, I haven't been back to Hawaii for about 22-years so I hope one doesn't time out of being kamaʻāina.

Georgina Marr and Chris Abraham at Prom

Bottle blond Chris Abraham with Sun-In and Lemon Juice highlights

Chris Abraham SLS Saint Louis School Junior Varsity JV Wrestler Crusaders at 16 years old

JROTC Ranger Club with Chris Abraham, Charles Among and Kennith Hall

Saint Louis School JROTC Rangers

Chris Abraham in a parade with the Saint Louis School JROTC