Is “Haole” a Derogatory Word?
This chapter examines the idea that the term “haole” is a racial slur and therefore part of haole victimization. It begins with a look at the etymology of the term and how we can understand that history today. It considers examples of the recurring debate about “haole” as pejorative, focusing on (1) a controversy at the University of Hawaii involving a haole student and Professor Haunani-Kay Trask; (2) the 1995 Hawaii Civil Rights Commission ruling that “haole” is not derogatory; and (3) a 2004 uproar over a column by Jade Moon in which she declared “the H-word” neutral. These controversies illustrate the tenacity of the debate and highlight its shifting contours. The second part of the chapter analyzes the two dominant racial discourses in the islands—racial harmony and racial conflict—to provide some context for understanding the debate over “haole.” It demonstrates how the debate is caught in the binary between these two and suggests that an emerging discourse focused on racial production offers hope for breaking us out of this cycle.
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