Cultural sensitivity and the media

`Ano`ai kakou… My office has recently received several complaints from beneficiaries outraged about a commercial using our Hawaiian language and iconic Hawaii landmarks such as Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head to promote their alcoholic beverage.

The commercial portrays a “local” couple who have set up a cooler on Waikiki Beach (in view of Diamond Head) in the middle of the day to openly consume alcohol.  The commercial ends with the phrase “E ‘imi kou wahi kahaone/Find your beach” appearing across the screen.

It is my understanding that the company’s local distributor was looking for a “fun and effective way” to promote their beer and they were trying to maintain elements of their national advertising campaign (“Find Your Beach”) while including “strong geographical cues that would suggest this commercial was a local production that was focused on reaching local audiences.”

However, after viewing the commercial, I found it to be offensive, misleading and culturally insensitive for the following reasons:

(1) DRINKING ALCOHOL ON WAIKIKI BEACH IS ILLEGAL – Everyone knows you can’t set-up a cooler on Waikiki Beach and start drinking.  Not only is it blatantly illegal, it irresponsibly gives the mistaken impression that this type of behavior is tolerated by the local community.  Let’s hope that any tourist who saw the commercial doesn’t get the wrong idea.

(2) WAIKIKI BEACH IS FOR FAMILIES – The reason why alcohol is banned from Waikiki Beach is that Waikiki is primarily promoted as a family destination and attraction.  No parent wants their child to have to watch young adults dragging huge coolers through the sand and partying drunk while half naked.  Waikiki Beach is not a spring break party destination like Cancun (and we would never want it to be).

(3) NEGATIVE STEREOTYPE – Portraying locals drinking on the beach in the middle of the day also promotes and perpetuates the negative stereotype that all “local” people (Hawaiians) do all day is get drunk on a beach.

The beer commercial is reminiscent of the controversial 2006 ad in a magazine that depicting King Kamehameha’s statue holding a glass of champagne to promote cruises to Hawai’i.  While the beer commercial is nowhere near as offensive, it nonetheless shows that there is a lack of cultural sensitivity within the media, both here and on the mainland, and that OHA must be vigilant and vocal in speaking out against them.

I highly recommend that any ad agency or marketing firm thinking about using the Hawaiian language, culture, or historical figures in their advertisement to show some basic courtesy and take the time to consult a respected Native Hawaiian Cultural Practitioner first.  At the very least, they could call OHA and we will be happy to assist them.

I have sent a letter to the beer company’s local distributor asking that they please show some consideration and courtesy to the Hawaiian Community by immediately ceasing all future broadcasts of the beer commercial.  I also asked them to remove the commercials from video websites such as YouTube.

Let your voices be heard on this subject.  If you have comments to share, please write to our editor or call the local distributor.  Aloha Ke Akua.

Hawai’i’s Hijacked Civil Rights Advisory Committee

By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA, October 2007

‘Ano’ai kakou… As impossible as it sounds, the anti-Akaka racists have reached a new low. As most of you may have heard, the Hawai’i State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (HISAC) has begun hearing testimony on the proposed Akaka bill.In a move that shows just how ignorant the Bush administration is about Hawaiian history and culture, new members of the advisory committee include H. William Burgess, James Kuroiwa Jr., and lawyer Paul Sullivan – all of whom have publicly stated their strong opposition to the Akaka bill. These bozos are now using the Commission to give their preposterous arguments the illusion legitimacy. The fact that the Civil Rights Commission is against the Akaka Bill is an irony of the highest order. The leaders of the Civil Rights Movement who bled for equal rights in the ’60’s must be rolling in their graves!

HISAC had a public briefing in the state capitol auditorium on August 20th. State Attorney General Mark Bennett spoke in strong support of the Akaka bill, while Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity in Virginia spoke in opposition. Bennett must be commended for his expertise on the issues and using his quick wit to make Clegg look like a fool.

Clegg kept insisting that the Akaka bill is unconstitutional, as if saying it over and over would make it a reality, but Bennett made it clear that Congress has the (plenary) power to pass the bill into law.

Clegg, admitted (several times) that he wasn’t familiar with Hawaiian history and culture and it showed. He argued that the “one drop rule” for Hawaiians to be considered Hawaiian wasn’t enough to qualify them to help rebuild a Hawaiian Governing Entity. He clearly didn’t know that the United States Congress created the blood quantum percentage in the 1920 Hawaiian Homes Act to limit the number of Hawaiians who qualified for homelands. It had nothing to do with defining whether a person can be considered Hawaiian or not.

Clegg also argued that the islands were not united as a single distinct nation prior to the arrival of Europeans and, therefore, don’t qualify to rebuild their government. This statement is also mistaken since the islands were still occupied by Native Hawaiians who were governed by a feudal system of Island Chiefs. Bennett had to remind him again that the argument is moot since Congress clearly has the power to make it happen.

Clegg argued that Hawaiians can’t rebuild their government under the process set-up for Native American tribes because the Hawaiian government hasn’t continued to function over the 100+ years since the overthrow. Bennett responded that it is ridiculous for the United States, who helped to overthrow the Hawaiian Government, to now say that Hawaiians can’t rebuild their government because it doesn’t exist today.

Finally, Clegg argued that if the Akaka bill passed, it could encourage other people to ask for nationhood, such as the Native peoples living in Texas. Bennett said it best when he reminded the audience that people usually go to “slippery slope” and “what if” arguments once they run out of good ones. This got more than a few chuckles from the audience.

I believe Clegg showed his true intentions when he mentioned that Hawaiians number more than 400,000 people across the nation and asked whether it would be wise to give so much power to such a large group within the U.S. He stressed that no American Indian or Alaska Native tribe even comes close to our numbers. If he had done his research, he would have known that the Navaho, the largest Native American tribe, have close to 500,000 members.

Clegg and the racists that invited him here to speak obviously fear that the Akaka bill would give us the power to finally help ourselves to forge a brighter future. They obviously want to keep Hawaiians and other native peoples from being self-sufficient. We need to fight harder now to preserve, not only our rights as natives of this land, but to show these racists Americans that we are not just poor Hawaiians but savvy Americans as well. We will attain sovereignty no matter how long it takes.

Dan Boylan of Midweek said it best: “The GOP Insults Hawaii’s Host Culture,” by stacking the deck of the Civil Rights Commission with Republican ideologues.

Imua e Hawai’i nei