Paul Grenada

One of the things I hoped to do during my time in Hawaii is learn from the culture and draw parallels between it and African American/Afro Caribbean culture. I was sure to find some, it being an isolated locale with an indigenous people that probably date back to around the time before the Native Americans became native to America.

I didn’t know exactly where I would be able to come across the culture on a regular basis when I first got here, but lo and behold I got a job. At an unnamed moving company that will remain unnamed because there will be times I have bad days at work, and will come to this blog to set someone on fire.

Needless to say, I found some parallels, and a few subtle differences that startled me a bit.

The company I work for has a large number of Native Hawaiians, Samoans, and Filipino’s. Didn’t think you’d find Filipino’s here did ya? Well about 10% of all Filipinos live away from the chain of islands. Based on its geography, and relationship with the United States, Hawaii is a logical landing spot for many.

Now, there are times when the workers like to “Talk Story” the kind of thing you find in African American culture. It happens in barber shops or on stoops, or cafeterias. People sit and talk, making themselves look good or making others look bad, or just sharing concerns without fear of judgment.

When they sit talking story, I at first notice a clear line between those who are Samoan or Hawaiian. I don’t know either language, but listening to them, you would think it was close enough for them to share a base.

Made me think of Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. The same root of Spanish, but with dialects that diverge at a point. I would think the same would apply to the Pacific Islanders, given geography and physical appearance.

Apparently not.

A Samoan can’t understand Hawaiian and vice versa, at least as it was explained to me by a Hawaiian co-worker. They don’t have the same language, and seem to have different ways of acting. It is something I plan to keep track of the longer I am here.

Another is the rate of violent crime. Coming from New York, going to sleep to the sound of gunshots might sound cliche, but at times it’s accurate. Nights are pretty tame, in fact, all I hear are firecrackers, in the middle of December, because it gets to about 90 degrees and they sell fireworks at the pharmacy.

Here, people don’t get shot; they get punched in the face. Kinda like NYC before the onset of gangs and fake rappers.

The people here, fight all the time. And it’s ingrained in the culture, there is an underlying idea of toughness that comes from a willingness to give as good as you get, making sure both parts in the equation come in high quantity. You will find many a local guy, with blistered hands and bruised knuckles. Honed from years of “thump”ing, for whatever reason seemed to be good at the time. In fact, one guy threatened to ‘bop me in the face’ for bumping into him on the bus.

It’s an endearing trait, in small quantities. The idea of having a fight and going home after feeling like you stood up for yourself seems to have been lost. In its place seems to be the thought of having an actual knuckle game that lasts no more than 47 seconds before going to the trunk to get the gun.

If you have a problem, swing, if not lets sit down, talk story and finish that bottle of vodka. After which we will be drunk enough to probably start a fight with someone else anyway.

Still, to be Hawaiian means you are going to be in your share of fist fights, and not many parents will be ashamed to hear of it from the principal.

It’s it the kind of thing picked up at a young age. On one day walking home from work, a little boy, no more than 11, runs down the street and yells, “Hey fa@@ot, lets go!” Now I have no idea who the person was, or where they were going, but it was safe to say the girls ranging in age of 8 to 15 whopping and chanting “fight, fight” all around him were not going to sit him down and ask him to express his feelings in song.

They also seem to have incredibly long finger nails, which I don’t get; based on my western ideas of toughness, one day I’m going to ask one of them about that.

But I digress.

Have a good one.