In response to a column last week asserting that "Kill Haole Day" is a much-talked-about but otherwise nonexistent annual exercise in Hawaii schools, there were lots of e-mailed anecdotes that started with phrases like "Back in the 1970s …," "Back in 1959 …," "Back in 1968 when me and my brother used to surf on the North Shore." Some were firsthand accounts of last-day-of-school targeting of white kids; others were fables passed down through the years.
There were also a number of people who quoted statistics about recent hate crimes in Hawaii schools or mentioned the incidents in Kona a few years back. While these things do point to problems of racism and bullying that exist in Hawaii schools (and in Hawaii in general, as well as America in general), there was nothing in the avalanche of e-mail that affirmed the contemporary existence of a Kill Haole Day, a day — supposedly the last day of school — where hate crimes are carried out on white kids.
In terms of actual, first-person, eyewitness accounts of Kill Haole Day, no one had any that happened in the last three decades. Not one teacher, not one police officer, not one victim or perpetrator.
Several teachers and principals weighed in:
» "In my 33 years of teaching in Waianae and at Campbell High, I know of no Kill Haole Day incidences. Like you said, it is a myth," wrote Ed Ikeda.
» "After 40 years with the DOE at Kalaheo High School, arguably the most ‘haole school’ in the state, I have yet to experience ‘Kill Haole Day,’" wrote Karen Kanda. "After eight years as the vice principal in which I personally patrolled the campus on a daily basis and served as the primary disciplinarian, I can totally support your claim that this is a myth. Yet this myth persists like the bogeyman in the closet."
» "From 1972 to 1984, I taught at the well-mixed Kailua High School. We all knew the term, but never knew a date nor saw nor heard of an incident," said retired teacher Bob Reed.
To be clear (though people will read their own issues into any discussion of this subject), it would be absurd to suggest there are no problems of racism or bullying or hate crimes in Hawaii schools. If those things exist in the larger society, they will of course exist in a school setting.
But to state that Kill Haole Day is some sort of long-standing tradition in Hawaii schools that continues unchecked year after year up through contemporary times is just wrong. It labels an entire group of people as violent racists and tells an entire group of kids that they can expect to be victimized.
Lee Cataluna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.