Stereotypes in Hawaii

On Thursday during class, I learned about Dr. Drager and thought that she was brilliant.  I think that the work that she is doing is so important to Hawaii and I really appreciate her research with the pidgin language in Hawaii.  I too was surprised when she said that no other work like that was done before in Hawaii.

When she showed us the maps of Oahu and how each person portrayed the island, I laughed because I believe most of the stereotypes of certain parts of the island are true.  However, what really surprised me was that most people, if not all, portrayed central Oahu (and more specifically the Mililani area) as not really speaking pidgin.  I grew up in Mililani and lived there for the majority of my life.  Although pidgin is definitely not as prevalent or as commmonly used in Mililani as, say, Waimanalo (where I also spent a lot of time when I was younger because of where my great-grandparents lived) I still think that quite a few people speak it there.  Also, over the summer I worked at Dole Plantation, which is in the next town over, Wahiawa (not sure if most people still consider this Central Oahu).  Most of the workers, if they weren’t speaking Filipino, spoke pidgin, so much so that I felt out of place at times because I personally don’t consider myself to be a pidgin speaker.

 I remember one of my coworkers, who was an older Filipino lady who immigrated to Hawaii around a decade ago, who told me, ” You don’t speak like them (our other coworkers).  You speak different.” When I told her I don’t speak pidgin, she said, “I don’t want to speak like them.  I want to speak proper English.”  She told me that she learned “proper” English in the Philippines and it is true that she spoke “proper” English without any problems.  Thinking back, it’s funny how even she, a non-native English speaker, still somewhat looked down on the pidgin language.

In the map, I was also surprised that no one really mentioned town, as in downtown Honolulu including Chinatown, Nuuanu, Manoa, Moilili, etc.  I have been going to school in town since 8th grade and honestly, I never really heard pidgin in school by teachers or students.  In my high school barely anyone spoke pidgin at all.  Some people may say it’s just because I went to a private school, but a lot of these families lived in the Chinatown/downtown area so I consider their speaking habits as a partial reflection of the area they live in.  If I was given that survey, I probably would have put down Japanese/Chinese in that area of Oahu because so many of my classmates were bilingual in those two languages.  I’m not sure if I have a narrow perspective concerning this area, or the other participants in the survey were focused more on pidgin/haven’t had much contact in the area.




3 thoughts on “Stereotypes in Hawaii

  1. Interesting reflections on her research exploring the perceptions and stereotypes as both universal and anecdotal. What I find interesting in addition to pidgin being looked down on are locals who grew up with pidgin but feel like they don’t really speak it, usually said in a self-deprecating way (as if they don’t really belong to the community of pidgin speakers). Why is that?

    • I think it is similar to any other situation where one person doesn’t feel apart of a group because they’re different, except this feeling is magnified because language is a huge portion of everyday life. Personally, I look at my not speaking pidgin in a self-deprecating way because I’m local and I feel my lack of pidgin skills make me less local (especially because I’m technically part haole aka white.

  2. Pingback: Around Oahu: Honolulu’s Chinatown | HotPressJess

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