Professor Haunani-Kay Trask vs. Undergraduate Student Joey Carter, September 1990

(c) Copyright 2002, Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved

On November 15, 2002 the student newspaper "Ka Leo" at the University of Hawai'i re-published an exchange of letters-to-editor that it had originally published in September 1990. Below are (1) the editor's brief comment regarding the re-publication, (2) the letter from student Joey Carter, and (3) the letter from Professor Haunani-Kay Trask.

For the background and significance of the letters, see:

Editor's Note

By Lance D. Collins
Ka Leo Opinions Editor
November 15, 2002

Twelve years ago, the international spotlight fell on the University of Hawai'i after Ka Leo O Hawai'i ran two op-ed pieces. The first was by a haole philosophy student from Louisiana who didn't want to be identified as haole and advocated for the word's disuse in the colloquial lexicon. The second was by a Hawaiian Studies professor who discussed at length white privilege, the privilege of not owning white privilege, racism and how that student fit into it.

The professor went through hell as the university spent over a year trying to resolve its ambivalence about the status of women of color in the university structure (primarily at her expense). Issues of free speech, academic freedom, white privilege, racism, power, colonialism and violence were raised.

We offer the two letters in a solemn remembrance of that time and hope that the issues raised can be rethought by a new generation of university students.


Being haole in Hawai'i

By Joey Carter
November 15, 2002

Am I a haole? Am I even a Caucasian? I'm not sure, maybe you can help me out. I always get confused about these abstract categories.

We've all heard of the "Japan-bashing" that's been in the news lately, but there's another kind of blind stereotyping that's growing almost unrestrained — Caucasian-bashing.

"Good!" you might think. But since I'm classified as a Caucasian, I feel obligated to explore this issue and defend myself, the individual. So let's step back a bit and see what's going on here.

The fight to prevent racial prejudice is imperative. The need to understand and eliminate racism is a must, especially today. The recent focus on racism (which has never actually left us) shows our concern and frustrations and need for a change in the way minorities are manipulated, ignored and suppressed.

Supposedly, I belong to a group of people who, for a millennia, has repressed, persecuted, dominated and wholly conspired against nearly everyone who was not a part of my white race.

My haole brothers and I are arrogant, selfish, aggressive, insensitive, Godless, well-off, red-necked or skin-headed. We consider ourselves superior to everyone else on the planet — because we're white, right?

There are some problems here, though. It's true that I'm often a jerk and somewhat self-centered, but at the same time I've at least occasionally had some good thoughts and performed some helpful acts. Millions of other whites do much more — for a variety of races. What are we, a failure to our own race?

In Waianae, Kalihi and Waikiki I've been chased and beaten by groups of local who have been taught that I am the cause of their problems, taught to hate or fear my skin, hair and eye colors. I am the foreigner, the changer of things, the dominator. Even my friends, who are mostly local, say things like, "You're a pretty good guy for a, you know, haole."

You may be thinking, "It's about time you folks got a taste of your own medicine." And you will be racist in your thought. Racism is not an exclusively white endeavor.

Many locals consider mainlanders (mostly whites) to be aggressive and negative; many mainlanders consider locals to be passive and lazy. In actuality, it's relative to what each is used to.

What does "racial discrimination" mean? It means being able to separate differences in our recent racial background — discriminating racially. There isn't anything negative implied here. Discrimination itself is not the problem (although the word has taken on new meanings). How we use this ability is up to us, to embrace differences or to reject differences.

No two groups of people are exactly alike: no two people are exactly alike! Whether the distinction is male-female, black-white, local-non-local, European-Asian-African-Arab, we can be prejudiced.

We can create an us-against-them situation even with next-door neighbors. Little League teams, short people-tall people, etc. We can be prejudiced about anything — if we choose to be.

How accurately can one judge another person using only his race, his skin color, his hair color, the shade of his eyes, his heritage?

What about one's social status, education, religion, culture, subculture, gender, nationality, tribe, philosophy, language, interest, skills, talents or government? These are all ways that we've grouped each other in the past.

To judge people, to trust or distrust people — whole groups of people — by some abstract physical characteristics, is incredibly ridiculous. Besides, what is "race" anyway?

"Whites" also have different roots and backgrounds and subcultures which have been conquered, destroyed, changed and forgotten. The world is a changing place. No one can take away our heritage, but we all must change.

In recent newspaper articles and editorials, there have been references to our "haole-dominated" society and "puppet haole governments." These are racist remarks.

Why blame the whole white race, if such a group exists? And since over 70 percent of the population is considered Caucasian, odds are that in a democratic society such as ours, the ways of the majority will dominate.

Can we intelligently say that our problem is due to one race (and sex) dominating others, or could it be the political persuasion — not race — or the religious persuasion — not race — or the socio-economic status — not race? People are complex individuals.

I grew up in Louisiana. The word "haole" is used very much like "nigger" was used then. Just as whites call themselves haoles, blacks called themselves niggers. Both terms are generally derogatory and stereotyped, yet they are used casually. By using these terms, considering the baggage that is carried with them, parents, peers, politicians and teachers teach children racist attitudes.

As a unique person who has a unique background and unique ideas and opinions, I, too, often find myself as part of the minority in situations — yet, I am a so-called Caucasian. How many racial minorities fall into the majority of other categories? If we step back a little from our assumptions, maybe we'll stop bashing each other so much.

So, am I a "haole"? Are you a "local"? Are you a "black"? Are you an "Oriental"? We can classify ourselves however we choose to — but it still won't be us. We're so silly sometimes. I am who I am; you are who you are.

Joey Carter was pursuing a B.A. in philosophy in 1990.


Caucasians are haole

By Haunani Kay Trask
November 15, 2002

Mr. Joey Carter's dilemma of whether or not he is a "haole" (Ka Leo, Sept. 6, 1990) can easily be answered. If he is white or "Caucasian" (as he prefers), then he certainly is haole.

This word is one of the few surviving Hawaiian language descriptions in common use in Hawai'i. And it has survived despite official suppression of my Native Hawaiian language by an all-haole, English-speaking American government in 1900. Indeed, Mr. Carter follows in the footsteps of his American haole compatriots who came to Hawai'i in the 19th century demanding that Hawaiians convert to the haole ways of behaving. Now, Mr. Carter demands that we stop using our own land. Too bad, Mr. Carter, you are a haole and you always will be.

And this is precisely Mr. Carter's typically white American problem: he wants to pretend that he is outside American history, a history which has made white power and white supremacy the governing norm from the birth of the American colonies to the present American imperium that holds the world as a nuclear hostage.

Mr. Carter is a privileged member of American society because he is haole, whether he acknowledges his privilege or not. His very presence in Hawai'i, and before that in Louisiana, is a luxury provided him through centuries of white conquest that visited genocide on American Indians, slavery on Africans, peonage on Asians and dispossession on Native Hawaiians.

Hawai'i is presently a colony of the United States, not because we Hawaiians chose that status, but because the American government overthrew our Hawaiian government in 1883 [sic, 1893], and forcibly annexed our islands in 1898. With the overthrow, things Hawaiian were outlawed and things haole American were imposed.

As an American in Hawai'i, Mr. Carter is benefiting from stolen goods. Part of that benefit is the moral blindness of the settler who insists on his "individuality" when his very presence has nothing to do with his "individuality" and everything to do with his historical position as a member of a white imperialist country. Mr. Carter could examine his own presence here, and how things haole, including the English language, the political and economic systems, and the non-self-governing status of Native Hawaiians allows him to live and work in my country when so many of my own people have been driven out.

Of course, Mr. Carter needs to know, before he learns about Hawaiians, that in the long and bloody march of American history, only African-Americans were classed as 3/5 of a person in the American Constitution, that noble document of democracy. Asians were beaten and killed because they were "yellow peril." Only Japanese were interned in concentration camps because they were Japanese, only American Indians were "removed" and "terminated" as a people because they were Indian.

In fact, Mr. Carter does not understand racism at all, another common characteristic of white people. For racism is a system of power in which one racially-identified group dominates and exploits another racially-identified group for the advantage of the dominating group. People of color in America don't have enough power to dominate and exploit white people. That's what the so-called "founding fathers" of the United States intended, and that's how American society operates today. But Mr. Carter hasn't noticed this reality.

The hatred and fear people of color have of white people is based on that ugly history Mr. Carter is pretending to have an "individual" exemption from, and which he refuses to acknowledge. It is for self-protection and in self-defense that we people of color feel hostility towards haoles.

Contrary to what Mr. Carter believes, this hostility is not "haole-bashing"; it is a smart political sense honed by our deep historical wounding at the hands of the haole. On the rare occasions that we feel something other than hostility, something like trust or friendship for certain haole, it is because we have made an exception for them. It is our privilege and not Mr. Carter's privilege to make exceptions, and to make them one by one. For it would be the mark of extreme historical stupidity to trust all haoles.

In his uninformed, childish moaning, Mr. Carter flaunts his willful ignorance of where he is (in my native country, Hawai'i), and who he is (a haole American). Of course, his statements are disingenuous. If Mr. Carter does not like being called haole, he can return to Louisiana. Hawaiians would certainly benefit from one less haole in our land. In fact, United Airlines has dozens of flights to the U.S. continent every day, Mr. Carter. Why don't you take one?

Haunani-Kay Trask was the director of the Center for Hawaiian Studies in 1990.


The 2002 re-publication of Professor Trask’s 1990 letter provoked several responses containing similar anti-American and anti-white rhetoric. See:


You may now

SEE MORE INFORMATION ABOUT Haunani-Kay Trask: Some Speeches and Writings Illustrating the Anti-American and Anti-White Attitudes of the Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement


SEE MORE INFORMATION ABOUT Core Attitudes of Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement -- Racial Separatism, Ethnic Nationalism, Anti-Americanism, Racial Supremacy