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.

Don’t rule out the Akaka Bill passing next year

January 2011 Ka Wai Ola Column

`Ano`ai kakou…  On Nov 15, 2010, Senator Daniel Akaka introduced a compromise version of Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2010 (S.3945).

While there has been much talk in the media that the Akaka Bill has little chance of passing in the next two years, I
wouldn’t rule it out for the following reasons:

  • Hawaii-born President Barack Obama is still in the White House and remains a strong supporter of the bill.
  • Senator Daniel Inouye, the most senior member of the U.S. Senate, remains the chairman of the powerful
    Senate Committee on Appropriations.  After 51 years in Washington, I’m certain Senator Inouye can find a
    way to twist the arms of the Republican Senators who are holding up the bill.
  • Governor Neil Abercrombie can lobby the Senate with the help of his close friend, Republican House Speaker
    John Boehner. (Star-Advertiser, Nov 21, 2010)

Yes, it won’t be easy, but there is certainly still reason to hope.


It is disappointing that critics of the bill continue to call it “race-based.”  Jere Krischel of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, which opposes the Akaka bill, even said that it would “racially segregate families and communities into groups with different rights based on whether or not they have Hawaiian blood.” (AP, 11-9-10)  This is so ridiculous that anyone with half a brain knows this is crazy.  The Grassroot Institute, with a hand-full of members from the lower 48 states, has no real roots in Hawaii.  They know darn well the bill doesn’t do any of the things they claim it does.  Their propaganda is based on lies and it’s
time for all of us to call them out.

We must investigate who really makes up their membership and what is their real agenda.  Who is Jere Krischel and where does he come from?  How long has he lived in Hawaii.   Why do he and his contacts hate Native peoples and what are they afraid of?

Ever since Americans landed here on our shores, they have tried to control our people and our lands.  Krischel needs to be reminded over and over – Hawaiians aren’t immigrants, nor are we foreigners looking for handouts.  Krischel and his ilk are the foreigners and they are the racists!  They need to go back to where they came from and take with them their racist attitude.  We don’t need them to spoil our Hawaii.  Hawaiians for centuries have always been generous and kind to our malahini and visitors.
We certainly don’t want outsiders giving us a bad wrap!

Establishing a political relationship between Native Hawaiians and the federal government will hopefully silence these
racists and put a stop to their continuing legal challenges to Hawaiian programs.  It will also prevent the loss of millions of
dollars the state currently receives from the federal government for programs that perpetuate the Native Hawaiian culture, language and traditions.

The Akaka Bill is only meant to begin the reconciliation process between the federal government and the over 400,000
Native Hawaiians living in the U.S.  Passing the Akaka Bill is simply the right thing to do.  It doesn’t have anything to do with being a Democrat or a Republican and should not be such a politically divisive issue.

I look forward to working with the Obama Administration, our Congressional Delegation, and Governor Abercrombie as
we take our next crucial steps toward Native Hawaiian sovereignty.

Mele Kalikimaka me ka Hau’oli Makahiki Hou!