comscore 'Kill Haole Day' myth diverts attention from real problems | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Lee Cataluna

‘Kill Haole Day’ myth diverts attention from real problems


"Kill Haole Day" is largely a myth. That a federal judge has cited it as a long-standing island tradition in a legal opinion is shocking, damaging and wrong.

Yes, start your venomous e-mail to me right now. Tell me that your sister’s friend’s cousin’s ex-boyfriend used to live in Hawaii in 1973 and he swears "Kill Haole Day" not only happens, but is a huge event, like Christmas or May Day. Tell me I’m protecting the horrendous practice by pretending it doesn’t exist.

Here’s the thing though: Name names. Give dates and locations. Where exactly did this occur? To whom? What specifically occurred and who were the perpetrators? Because if this is a widespread racist crime that has become a tradition in Hawaii, why are there no records of it? The judge (in an appeals court ruling on a case against Kamehameha Schools) cited a brief 1999 newspaper story that quoted a Republican state senator who claimed it was a tradition. No data, just inflammatory assertions by a politician.

If it is true, somebody should be documenting the details of each incident, so send them to me. I’ll compile a report and send it wide, because if this is really a tradition, it must be stopped immediately.

I’m not saying it never happened. White kids do get picked on in Hawaii schools, as do Hawaiian kids and Filipino kids and kids of every race, color, shape and size. Getting picked on in school is part of most people’s childhood regardless of who they are and where they go to school. Though common, it’s not OK, and that’s why there are so many anti-bullying campaigns.

In 12 years of attending Hawaii public school and 20 years of covering news in Hawaii, I have never once come across an actual report of a "Kill Haole Day" assault. High school fights, yes. School yard violence, yes. Race-based gang brutality, yes. But not an established, traditional "Kill Haole Day."

The existence of the term "Kill Haole Day" is bad enough even if nothing ever happens. No kid should live in fear of that threat. But the people who perpetuate that myth want to believe that when it comes to bullying and prejudice, they’ve got it worse than anyone else.

Has a white kid ever been harassed on the last day of school in Hawaii? Sure. Mostly water balloon fights or silly string attacks. Sometimes worse. But it’s equal opportunity harassment.

Hawaii schools have a long way to go to achieve tolerance, safety, compassion, acceptance for all students. But insisting that there exists this decades-long tradition of setting out to hurt white kids one day a year doesn’t help because it isn’t true and it takes away the focus from the problems that are real and should be fixed.

Lee Cataluna can be reached at


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