How America's obsession with hula girls almost wrecked Hawai'i

We always do it for the benefit of benighted brown people, didn’t you know? /s


For someone espousing the Kingdom of Hawaii, that young lady looks fairly haole.
The history of Hawaii after the Westerners came is a tangled mess. The ali’i came out somewhat ahead,with the royal families mostly dying out and/or intermarried with the ‘invaders’, while the common people got mainly shafted. The largest problem is land ownership and proving who has rights to what; you can barely chuck a rock without hitting something that a Hawaiian has a claim to, but authenticating it is often tricky, and the current occupants don’t want to give it up either, especially if they have held it for longer than Hawaii has been a state. Hawaiians are very fractured as far as what form their government should take even should they be recognized. The loudest component wants Hawaii for Hawaiians, and the devil take everyone else, without addressing the hundreds of years that have passed since the Westerners arrived.

Disclaimer, I am a haole who has lived in Hawaii for half my life, and I freely claim all my biases.


Yeah my brother lived there for two years. It bugged him that people would look at him and make a negative assumption about him based on the color of his skin. His wife (thai) never got any shit.
Sure I suppose there’s a lesson in there about white privilage and what it feels like to be on the other side…
… in reality it was just another shitty part of his life there, when he realized that the island paradise he was searching for had its flaws and his marriage was going down the toilet.


Let’s not fall prey to the idea that white Europeans were somehow uniquely and exceptionally terrible; if you look at the history of Asia, Africa, or whatever, you’ll see war and conquest and slavery and murder and oppression and so on long before any Europeans showed up. It’s just that, thanks to the way history and technological development went, white Europeans had unique opportunities of being terrible to people all over the world.


I can say with 100% assurance that I’ve NEVER been obsessed with hula girls. Just for the record.


Wait, what? King Kamehameha? Was he a Saiyan?

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And only 4 years after the last King of Kauai capitulated to Kamehameha, he was conspiring with the Russians to get back his spot on top. History is a messy business.


I don’t think she’s from Hawaii, probably Australian actually.

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Me either. The 70s were never really my decade.

Now that I mention it, the article helps explain the 70s obsession with hula girls and all things Hawaiian, however obliquely.

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I had never really thought about Hawaii until President Obama… then I thought, Okay. All right.

All your biases are belong to us!


That one got old after my kids made that joke 1000 times when we were in Hawaii. Still, :grinning:

Y’know, I said something very similar but either it was eaten by the BBS or I was censored…

You don’t give native Hawaiians enough credit here. The Tahitians figured out how to invade the Hawaiian Islands and establish themselves as ruling aristocrats all by themselves without any white European imperialists to help them. Remember, Tahitian invasion of the Hawaiian Islands was well before Europeans were wandering the Pacific. If their own stories are to believed, they were fighting wars of aggression for centuries before Captain Cook dropped by.

Lots of societies developed imperial systems, not just Europeans. The Han Chinese built a series of empires, crushing outsiders or pushing them to the margins. I lost count of how many times they took over Tibet. The Mongols built their own empire that nearly conquered western Europe and Japan, and no, they weren’t copying European crusaders. They figured it out themselves. Islam built an empire that ruled the Mideast and North Africa. The Mexica built an empire in what is now Mexico. They didn’t need to sit around waiting for Cortez. The Inca built an extensive empire in South America. They conquered and exploited just fine without European help. The Ottomans built an empire based on their command of artillery. The Hollywood version might have dumped in Douglas Fairbanks Jr. to teach them how to cast a cannon, but that was the Hollywood version.

I admit that the European imperialist empire was unique in that it actually did span the entire world, unlike, let us say, the Mongols who only conquered two continents, but the Europeans did not invent imperialism. It has been around for millennia.


That isn’t what I’m talking about, though. The later period, once the plantation system of firmly established, the ruling class purposefully adopted western monarchial styles in order to argue that they were indeed western and civilzed. Many also adopted Christianity. Even the attempts to stop the planter class from overthrowing the monarchy through popular democratic demand did nothing to stop the overthrow of that government and the installation of a foreign power. And again, the existence of previous kinds of imperialism (which I don’t know if you’d call it imperialism, as I’d assume that the Tahitians and Hawaiians were probably more equal in cultural and technological power than the 19th century Hawaiians and the US at the time) doesn’t justify what happened. Period.

And please… no one thinks that Europeans invented imperialism–that completely flattens the differences between the different imperial systems historically and it downplays the continued impact of European and American imperialism. They aren’t all the same and to imagine that they are and that the existence of previous empire building justifies the continuation of the system is really missing the point.

The modern verison of Euro-centric imperialism carried with it a racist ideology to justify itself and the extraction of resources under the guise of the civilizing mission. Those structures have created the world we live in today and continues to lead to negative outcomes for countries that were colonized.



The main difference between the wrongs committed by my ancestors and the wrongs committed by everyone else is that I am heir to both the society and the material benefits of the wrongs that my ancestors wrought.
This fact, rather than my ancestor’s wrongs being unique, is why I spend time contemplating and examining those wrongs.


I wonder if similar things happened with the 'ori Tahiti. I’ll have to ask a friend who grew up in French Polynesia and knows quite a bit of the area’s colonial history.

But again, that is not unique. With hindsight it’s easy to say that European colonialism was horrible, and that the vestiges of those practices that remain with us today need to be recognized and removed. But to put a particular blame on “white people” is disingenuous.

I would further suggest that one of the ways that “America’s obsession with hula girls wrecked Hawai’i” is to cast Hawaii as some kind of idyllic Eden before the fall, and Hawaiians as a peaceful, submissive people. This notion gives lie to the true history of Hawaii as @Kaleberg and others have pointed out.


Odd, I would have expected the number to be over 9000.