(c) Copyright March 17, 2010
Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D.
All rights reserved
As we hoist a pint of Guinness Stout or Harp Light this St. Patrick's Day, let's give a toast to the Hawaiian king who chose this date to be his permanent "official" birthday. Let's also give a toast to the Irishmen and others whose accomplishments in surfing are honored worldwide but who are shamefully excluded from honor in the Hawaii Legislature because they lack a drop of Hawaiian native blood.
Surely we can all pronounce the monosyllabic or bisyllabic names of surfers George Freeth, Wally Froiseth, Fred Hemmings, Kelly Slater, and Greg Long as we hoist a pint for each syllable. But when it comes to the great King who made St. Patrick's Day a national holiday and thus also declared himself an honourary Irishman -- Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III -- well, here's a pronunciation guide to have at the ready in case one pint per syllable ties the tongue in knots before you can finish saying the name:
COW ee kay ow OOH lee, ka MEH hah MEH hah, the, THIRD.
For details about the King and his relationship to St. Patrick's Day, see the webpage: "King Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III chose St. Patrick's Day to be his official birthday. But why did neither he nor anyone else know his actual biological birthdate?"
As an aside, the webpage notes that although Kauikeaouli felt proud to establish an Irish affiliation in the 1830s, things were very different 50 years later. King Kalakaua, on his trip around the world, felt it unwise to get off his ship when it anchored at the harbor in Dublin in 1881, because the Irish were struggling against the English to establish an independent Republic. They wanted nothing to do with King Kalakaua who was closely allied with the British monarchy. The same thing happened to Kalakaua's wife Queen Kapiolani and his sister Princess Lili'uokalani on two different occasions when their ship anchored in the harbor at Cork (both times in 1887).
Now, what's this about Irishmen being leaders in reviving the modern sport of surfing? An article in "Irish America Magazine" published March 13, 2010 publicizes a documentary film about it. The article begins: "Waveriders, the acclaimed documentary directed by Dublin native Joel Conroy and coming out on DVD March 16, is based around an unusual premise: modern-day surfingís Irish-American roots. The award-winning film traces the history of the 'father of modern surfing,' Irish-Hawaiian George Freeth, as well as showcasing the work of Irelandís top surfers in incredible footage atop Irelandís monster swells."
But a strange resolution was passed by the State of Hawaii House of Representatives on March 9, 2010 singling out "Polynesian tribal surfers" to be honored for their contributions to surfing. The resolution passed the House with no dissenting votes on the same day it was introduced, without any testimony or hearings, thereby allowing the focus on "Polynesian tribal surfers" to go unchallenged. The title and text of the resolution, including the names of the "Polynesian tribal surfers" singled out for honor (and notable absence of other great Hawaii surfers) are on the Legislature's website at
Kelly Slater and Greg Long, surfers from Florida and California, are Caucasians who won Hawaii's most prestigious surfing competition, the Eddie Aikau, on the most recent two occasions when it was held, 2002 and 2009. The competition is held rarely, only when waves are at least 30 feet high at Waimea Bay. Long got a perfect score of 100 on his final round. But Slater and Long are not mentioned in the House resolution.
The film "Waveriders" and the article in "Irish American Magazine" come at an especially good time in view of the racially exclusionary resolution which the House passed just last week. Sure and begorrah, the Irish lads deserve a mention; or else the leprechauns will take away the pot of gold at the end of all those Hawaiian rainbows -- after all, tourism is Hawaii's major industry, so it behooves us to give honor where honor is due. Can we not at least extend the Hawaiian concept of "hanai" to welcome and give honor to all who achieve greatness in Hawaii's official state sport?
Why did the Legislature single out Polynesians? And why did the resolution include the word "tribal" in its title? Might the resolution be intended to bolster the Akaka bill which seeks to declare that ethnic Hawaiians are an Indian tribe?
It was especially weird to see state Senator Fred Hemmings speaking in favor of the resolution, because he was a major figure in Hawaii surfing for several decades, and is Caucasian with no Hawaiian native blood. Yet a TV newscast showed Hemmings speaking in favor of the resolution from which he is excluded solely on account of race. Hemmings' racial kowtow illustrates the mascot syndrome: See the webpage "Native Hawaiians as the State Pet or Mascot: A Psychological Analysis of Why the People of Hawaii Tolerate and Irrationally Support Racial Separatism and Ethnic Nationalism" at
Hemmings might also be suffering from the "white messiah complex" so ably identified by Columnist David Brooks in his controversial commentary analyzing the movie "Avatar" (New York Times, January 8). See the webpage "Avatar movie, white messiah syndrome, and Hawaiian sovereignty" at
Hemmings sees himself as a political savior of Hawaii's "indigenous people." Salvation would come by creating a private racially exclusionary "trust" for ethnic Hawaiians, and turning over to the trust huge portions of government land and money that currently belong to the general public, plus jurisdictional aiuthority to make and enforce laws. He imagines that since the trust would be private, it would shield the assets from lawsuits based on the 14th Amendment equal protection clause, which requires government to treat all people equally regardless of race. Hemmings imagines the "trust" concept would also rescue ethnic Hawaiians from being classified as an Indian tribe under the Akaka bill.
Thanks to Earl Arakaki for pointing out that "Non-Hawaiians Are Great Surfers Too" in the March 10 edition of Hawaii Reporter. After Mr. Arakaki identifies several non-ethnic-Hawaiians among Hawaii's great surfers, he then says "No doubt surfers of Hawaiian ancestry deserve recognition. However I find it questionable when their recognition is race based. For it is 'the content of their character and not the color of their skin,' which made them great to our community."
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(c) Copyright March 17, 2010 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved