Token Haole Friend

S-----, one of the local ladies who runs the playgroups I take my kid to, jokingly grills newcomers on their level of haole-ness. One mom-- the one who missed last time because she was getting some furniture and some Royal palm trees delivered to her house-- she's the ultimate haole. S---- introduces her to everybody as "my haole friend!" And then S---- gives every white mom there an impromptu "haole" rating. And her first question is "do you cook rice in a rice cooker?" If yes, it's a mark in your favor-- you might be less haole than you think!

Me she points to and says, "you-- you're not haole. You're too country to be haole." My friend -- no rice pot, cooks the stuff on the stove, will never eat canned meat-- gets a "uh oh! You're pretty haole."

It's a funny display-- embarassing to some transplants who would rather ignore all the racial tensions that dent and ding their lives here. For others it's a big release to be able to joke about it-- lots of these white girls have never examined their own race before. (Why not? Because this is America! White people don't have to think about race-- that's everybody else's problem!)

As S---- laughs and exclaims "Haole!" or "See, you not so haole!" at the attentive pale-faces, her playgroup racial rubric becomes clearer.

You camp, hunt, or farm livestock? Ride rodeo or spear fish? Eat spam, speak pidgin? Not so haole.

You wear big glasses, spend big money on your landscaping? let other people light the fire or set up the tarps when you camp? You squeamish about saying "da kine"? The local guys in their neon construction shirts taking their lunch break at the park make you nervous? You so haole.

It's a funny little ritual-- S---- makes everybody feel like they too can be in the Local in-group. It's just a matter of picking up some new skills, a couple new vocab words. This pollyanna version of race in Hawaii might be comforting to new transplants. For others, it's a big joke, playing down the seriousness and depth of the racial and cultural divisions. Because really, no matter how fluent your pidgin, how prodigious your pig hunting and SPAM musubi consumption, you get white skin? Mean you haole, bra.


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