I not haole, I’m a Jew.

Steve Harris,
Honolulu, HI.

As a Caucasian looking individual in Hawai`i many people make assumptions about who I am, what I’m about and where I’m from. It’s taken me years to fully acknowledge my identity as a secular Ashkenazi Jew. I grew up with much anti-Semitism and the tendency to hide behind my “White” exterior. Even though I have evolved a long way toward embracing my Jewish identity, I still do not feel comfortable putting a mezuzah on the front door of my rented house for fear of what our “Haole=Caucasian” landlords would think. I was raised by parents and grandparents who expressed to me it is okay to be Jewish in the house and at synagogue but not out in society. It is very difficult being Jewish in American society for 1) the assumption that we are all assimilated “White” people and 2) that as assimilated “White” people we adhere to the customs of a very Christian nation. My Jewish identity is based on pride in my cultural heritage and traditions and is not religious in nature. My Jewish values and identity are very important to me and differ greatly from what are often considered common values or cultural norms in American culture. But due to my appearance, many assumptions are made about me. In Hawai`i, Caucasians (Haole) are often linked with the missionaries and corporate barons who came here in the 19th century and proceeded to illegally take over the kingdom, eventually leading to US annexation. As a member of a minority who has experienced much covert discrimination in all aspects of my life and who’s ancestors experienced much oppression, I bristle at any suggestion that I am “Haole”.

 

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