Asian Air 


Is Honolulu an Asian American Paradise?

magine a place where everyone looks like Jason Scott Lee and Kelly Hu. Where trade winds keep the air balmy year-round, day and night, and the horizon is always piled with dazzling cumulus. Where you can always find a Zippy's for saimin and teriyaki plates heaped with rice and macaroni salad. Where it's the Whites who are the minority.
AA Paradise?

     A stroll through Ala Moana Shopping Center or Kapiolani Park will satisfy anyone that in Honolulu Asians are the majority. This impression is borne out by the numbers. The city's 610,000 Asian/Pacific Islanders comprise 68% of its 900,000 total residents, making the Honolulu area the nation's third largest AA population center. Even excluding about 100,000 native Hawaiians, Samoans and other non-Filipino Pacific Islanders, Asians make up 57%, over twice the percentage for Whites (26%).
     Honolulu is also unique in being the only major metro area in which Japanese Americans outnumber all other Asian nationalities. JAs (200,000) are followed by Filipinos (170,000), Chinese (54,000), Coreans (23,000), Vietnamese (8,000) and Indians (1,500). McKinley High, Honolulu's first public school and the alma mater of Daniel Inouye, Hiram Fong and Bette Midler, is known as "Tokyo High".
     Racial harmony, marketed as Aloha Spirit, has become the island's trademark, but the various Asian nationalities originally arrrived not in the spirit of multiculturalism but to serve as strikebreakers to help the Big Five keep each preceding nationality of laborers in line. It is only during the past half century or so that Hawaii's Asians have come to see the advantage of joining forces to resist an exploitative white minority.
     Asian immigration to Hawaii began in 1789 with the arrrival of a few Chinese artisans. Hawaii was still an independent kingdom. Asians were few until various European and American entrepreneurs began seeing the potential for big profit in sugar cane. They used cold-blooded machinations to gain power over native Hawaiians, then brought over 46,000 Chinese laborers between 1852 and 1899.
     As Chinese workers grew in number, they began making demands for better wages and working conditions. The Big Five's response was to recruit 180,000 Japanese between 1886 and 1925. As the Japanese became the islands' largest ethnic group, they too began organizing to fight inhumane working conditions. The plantation owners sought to break them by bringing over 100,000 Filipinos. As citizens of a U.S. territory, they were exempt temporarily from the barrage of anti-Asian legislation directed against Chinese and Japanese immigration. About 3,500 Coreans were also recruited between 1904 and 1905.
     The first instance of inter-Asian cooperation on the islands was seen in 1919 when 12,000 Filipinos and Japanese jointly staged a strike. For the most part, however, the Big Five's ruthless tactics and absolute economic dominance remained intact until World War II. Only after Hawaii became a state in 1959 did Asian numerical strength begin translating into political and economic power. Today Honolulu's commercial and professional life is dominated by Asians, though many Whites enjoy above-average affluence thanks to old-money connections and a steady influx of wealthy mainlanders seeking a retirement home.
     The surf and luau lifestyle is, of course, only a pretty myth for most Honolulu residents. Like other Americans, they spend most of their days earning a living. Unfortunately, the majority are employed in tourism, an industry that had been stagnating for nearly a decade even before 9/11. The islands' strategic location between East Asia and North America -- not to mention its appealing lifestyle -- has begun attracting a small influx of tech jobs, but Honolulu's economic prospects remain uncertain for the forseeable future.
     Is Honolulu an Asian American paradise? Or is it just a remote outpost irrelevant to the most ambitious Asian Americans?

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(Updated Tuesday, Apr 1, 2008, 06:02:46 PM)

Wow... how ironic! I am a 17 year old Korean gal born in California and currently living in Hawaii. I plan on applying to Boston University in Massachusetts and I was wondering what it's like there. Is there a large percentage of Koreans? I'm personally a very open-minded and friendly person who stops to talk to any person who looks interesting on the streets or at the malls... would this be something I shouldn't do if I get to Boston?
di_kimchee    Sunday, July 21, 2002 at 01:59:08 (PDT)
Having lived in Hawaii and the mainland, I can truly say that Asian Americans get along better in the islands and are more culturally in tune with each other. The cordial atmosphere I suppose, is attibuted to the limitation of livable land and tight quarters. From personal experience I find the people in Hawaii more affable, genuine and out-going. There was a lot of prejudice against the non-natives and haoles in particular. I never agreed with "kill haole day" in grade school and never used the word "haole crap." I hated those who did as much as those in the mainland who use those type of venaculars here. Sure, I miss the weather, lifestyle, leisure, food and most important; family, but the faltering economy, high priced living,and opportunitis keep me here.
dragon breath    Monday, July 15, 2002 at 17:55:47 (PDT)
"Mainland AA Women are too warped in their thinking of white is good metality that many are turning into white sluts with low self esteem.
So much better in Hawaii where most of the Asian women have a healthier lifestyle and love and respect us."

To the writer of this entry, I bet the mainland AA women you meet are probably put off by the fact that you see them not as people but as Asian creatures who should throw themselves at your feet and submissively do your bidding.

As an AA woman who grew up in Hawaii and now live happily in the Northwest (with high self-esteem, a healthy lifestyle and a non-slutty outlook, thank you), I can tell you that I'm just as "Asian" now as I was when I lived in Hawaii. And when I lived in Hawaii, I still wouldn't have given you the time of the day.

There are women for guys like you, buddy, Asian women who are not picky and will be grateful to you. They're called mail-order brides.

Northwest girl
   Friday, July 05, 2002 at 20:50:07 (PDT)

I am an AJA, born and raised in Honolulu. Left at age 24 and have been living in the Boston area the past fourteen years. Let me say that I LOVE going back to Honolulu once a year for vacation. Living in Boston, where the dominant culture is Irish Catholic, it's a huge soul replenishment to be in Hawaii, where everyone looks like me, acts like me, and eats the same stuff I do. And the political cultural history of Honolulu-- at least for the past half-century --is HEAVILY Asian-American. Though I live a good life in Boston (great job, house, etc.), I constantly debate whether I should move back to Honolulu. The job market sucks there, but it's a personal decision-- job status and $$, versus being a part of the majority population in paradise? All of us Hawaii AAs in Boston face the same issues.
   Tuesday, June 25, 2002 at 13:06:24 (PDT)
There are just as many Asian women who only "date white guys" in Hawaii as there are on the mainland, percentage wise, that is.

However, the difference is that in Hawaii, it's not unusual to find white women who will date Asian guys, unlike the mainland, where most white women think Asian men are second rate.
Annapolis-Harvard Law Grad
   Thursday, June 20, 2002 at 19:42:35 (PDT)