Letters to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

On Monday, students were encouraged to engage in the appropriation of Hawaiian culture through a spirit day theme, “Maui Monday.” The suggested attire consisted of Hawaiian shirts, leis, and “touristy things.” To most students, Hawaiian culture is just a costume, yet there are some on this campus who consider Hawaii home. This day promotes the exotification and “othering” of Hawaii and its culture. If you are native to Hawaii, Hawaiian shirts and fanny packs are not what you wear on a daily basis. First, they’re called “aloha shirts.” Second, this costume stereotypes the diverse community that makes Hawaii what it is today. You’ll see people wearing clothing from all different brands; there isn’t a single way that Hawaiians dress.

The pu‘uwai (heart) of Maui and the state of Hawaii – a rich, beautiful place with deep cultural roots – is buried when our students reduce it to a tourist destination where we sing “Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride” and wear jellyfishes on our heads.

Throughout its years, Hawaii has had a complicated relationship with the mainland U.S. In the early 19th century, American missionaries came to Hawaii to evangelize the native population. The children of the missionaries stayed in Hawaii and started commercial enterprises. These white Americans and Europeans soon rose to power. They profited from native plantations and soon became the aristocrats. Members from this new class, along with other non-Hawaiians, formed the Hawaiian Patriotic League, which added property and income requirements for voting in Hawaii, resulting in fewer representation of native Hawaiians in the government. In 1893, Queen Liliuokalani Kamaka’eha, was overthrown by the white American and European aristocracy occupying Hawaii – efforts that were directly aided by the United States government and military.

The Americans who overthrew Queen Liliuokalani imposed not only their own government onto Hawaii but also their non-native culture. After Hawaii was annexed, native students were not allowed to speak Hawaiian. Native traditions such as hula dancing and surfing were banned by the white imperialists because the colonists saw them as disgusting. Now, items of cultural significance like leis and hula skirts are treated as mere accessories to be worn on spirit days or during themed dinners.

The portrayal of Hawaiian culture has always been whitewashed, not just in the historical relations between the mainland U.S. and Hawaii, but also in the media today. For example, in the 2015 film “Aloha,” set in Hawaii, all seven of the top billed actors were white, to the outrage of the Hawaiian community. Hawaii is one of the most racially diverse states in the United States, but the movie in no way represented that. “Aloha” is not the first movie to use Hawaii as a magical, exotic place where white protagonists can learn valuable lessons. Movies like “50 First Date,” “Blue Crush,” “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” and “The Descendants” all follow this trope. These movies completely neglect the experiences and stories of natives on the island. They take traditions of great significance in Hawaiian culture and use them as plot devices or ways to further the development of white characters. They are a form of cultural appropriation.

It is disheartening that the spirit day theme “Maui Monday” was approved and sent to the whole school. While I doubt that “Maui Monday” was intended to offend anyone in the way that it did, it nonetheless showed a lack of respect for Hawaiian culture and recognition of its people’s history of subjugation. Hawaii, its culture, its indigenous people and their struggle do not exist to service tourists. For a school that so strongly values “Youth From Every Quarter,” we ask that there be more consciousness about Hawaii’s complicated history with the U.S. We hope that, by raising awareness, school-wide cultural appropriation such as “Maui Monday” can be avoided in the future.

Auwe, Andover. Let’s respect “Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ina i ka Pono” – The Life of the Land is Perpetuated in Righteousness.

Mahalo Nui Loa, Avery Kim ’17 and Brittany Amano ’16

Signatories:

Candy Chan ’17

Miriam Feldman ’18

Dakoury Godo-Solo ’17

Nathalie Griffiths ’16

Miley Kaufman ’19

Trevor Lazar ’17

Andrew Lin ’17

Alex Ma ’17

Claudia Meng ’18

Ajay Menon ’17

Cam Mesinger ’16

Emily Ortiz ’19

Skyler Sallick ’17

Ashley Scott ’16

Indiana Sobol ’17

Zoë Sottile ’17

Haley Taylor ’17

Auguste White ’17

Nov 12, 2015