A Queen's Diary
February is the month used in observance of Black History. I am a woman of color, but what color? I was born in the 70’s on the Island of Hawai’i to a Black army soldier from St. Louis Missouri and a native wahine (woman), of a mixed race herself-Hawaiian and Chinese. My color? I like to call it a well-done golden McDonald’s French fry color, with extra salt. The salt being the confusion of growing up as a minority of minorities amongst minorities meaning, 'A female, whos’ skin color could be called a lighter tint of Black, that spoke Hawaiian, and had hair and eyes resembling that of an Asian woman.' With all of these exotic features encompassed, I did not want to be…Black. I wanted to be considered a Hawaiian and that was it. That was all I knew how to be. From the way I spoke, my cuisine, and hobbies; which included body surfing and laying out in the sun, which I still enjoy ‘til this day, is what a local girl on an island did. I recently discovered where this feeling originated.
According to The Hawaiian Journal of History vol. 22 (1988)- “While all racial groups in Hawaii in the late 20th century were minorities, Blacks represented one of the smallest populations in the State. In 1980, Blacks in Hawaii were counted by the United States census at 17,364 persons or 1.8 percent of the total State Population and was contrasts in 1980 with a total of 26,495,025 Blacks, comprising 11.7 percent of the total population. 86.4 percent of these Blacks were members of the armed forces or military dependents.”
Soon after a man by the name of Captain James Cook sailed an exploratory expedition in 1778, the Hawaiian Islands were opened to foreign visitors and new inhabitants, amongst them were the first blacks to sail to the islands as crew members of merchant ships in the early 19th century, many leaving their ships to become residents of the islands and were called haole ‘ele’ele or foreign black. In later years, marriages occurred with Hawaiians, and these people and their children became classified in census as Portuguese or Part-Hawaiian.
When Hawaii became a Territory of the United States, many American Negros that were brought to the Islands as members of the Army or Navy merged with the residents through intermarriage and association with local groups but did not separate and their identity as Blacks and were diffused with that of the other ethnicities of the Island like Asian, Puerto Rican and Chinese.
Kathryn Takara, an Instructor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Hawaii wrote in the mid-1980s: “Because of the stigmas and negative stereotypes associate with descendants of slaves, some Blacks in the past chose to be identified with another race that was more acceptable and familiar to the local Hawaiian community. Blacks who called themselves part-negro in the 1910 census found it easier to become part-Hawaiian in 1920. Even today, a few fear the possible or imagined repercussions of being discovered of Negro origins.”
Even with my slanted almond-shaped Asian eyes, my wavy textured hair, my learned proper etiquette and speech, and well-done golden McDonald’s French fry colored skin, I am still Black and not only according to the United States Census, but according to society. My narrative now is that I AM Black and proud to be.