OPINION: Once a Haole, Always a Haole

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In Sam Firstenberg’s 1985 cinematic masterpiece, “American Ninja,” a very white Michael Dudikoff is ambushed by Japanese assassins while stationed in the Philippines (an authentic setting, for sure).

An elder Ninja master, played by Big Island-born actor John Fujioka, helps Dudikoff’s character absorb the most important secrets of Ninjutsu so he can exact justice. Apparently, that only takes a few hours.

The movie spawned a slew of films dedicated to cross-cultural butt kicking, culminating in the vaguely Thai-inspired Jean-Claude Van Damme hit, “Kickboxer.”

"Ninja," as written in Japanese Kanji. Image file from Wikimedia Commons.

Movies like these have led Caucasians to believe that with a few painful groin stretches and some quality time meditating under a waterfall, we can achieve anything. Total cultural conversion included. This of course, is a myth.

Van Damme may kick really high, but he’ll never be Thai.

If you mark down “white” in the race column of your medical forms, no amount of exotic immersion is going to change that fact. For recent arrivals to Hawai`i’s shores, there are a few lessons like these worth learning early.


Rule #1: You can’t spray-tan your way to native status.

Going a few shades darker isn’t going to convince anyone that you’re from here. It just makes you harder to find at night if you get lost while hiking.

Rule #2: Haku leis magnify haole-ness.

Attention ladies, especially those of you intending on a career in real estate. Wrapping a giant flowery wreath around your head before posing for photos won’t buy you any island-cred. You’re trying too hard. On the plus side though, Mynah birds will love it. That stuff makes great nesting material.

Rule #3: Pidgin could get you punched.


Take a lesson from the founding father of white shame, Vanilla Ice. Don’t borrow another culture’s lingo. You’ll sound like a jerk, and increase your risk of blunt trauma.

Rule #4: Make sure they’re single.

For those of you seeking love, beware. Our culture gave concrete to the world, but unless you want to enhance your appreciation of it up-close, make sure the person you’re chatting up is really available. Meaning, no jealous exes have been lurking around for at least six months.

Rule #5: For the love of god, don’t invent yourself a Hawaiian middle name.

Enough said.


Rule #6: Just be nice.

Fresh Poke. Image file from Santa Clara University.

Don’t let the above list scare you away from finding pals. People here are actually some of the nicest on the planet. And by all means, enjoy yourself. Go surfing, eat poke, learn to paddle. Heck, even join a hula halau.

Just remember that as a haole, even if you’re born here, you’ll never really be from here. See that Chinese/Portuguese guy? He’s local. Don’t ask why, just move along and enjoy your time at the pot luck.

Being kind is the best badge of honor you’ll ever earn. If you’re stuck on the side of the road with engine trouble, chances are some guy will pull over within five minutes to help you. Whether or not it gets fixed, buy him a case of beer. You’ve just made yourself a friend, possibly for life.

Welcome to Hawai`i.

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