Pacific Revisions of Blackness: Blacks Address Race and Belonging in Hawai‘i

David Yoo, Russell Leong, Keith Camacho, Nitasha Tamar Sharma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hawai'i is heralded as a model of U.S. multiculturalism due to its demographic diversity, yet those wishing to invalidate Barak Obama's “Americanness” and his “blackness” depict the state as extranational. Local debates over sovereignty, however, can divide islanders into Hawaiians and colonial settlers. These national and local discourses of Hawai'i curiously neglect Blacks, who are an absent presence and a present absence in the islands: despite the disproportionate influence that Black cultural forms (particularly hip hop and reggae) exercise on the islands’ culture, Hawai'i's Blacks and their histories remain virtually unknown. Hawai'i's colonial and immigrant history, imported U.S. racist thinking, and indigenous Hawaiian ideologies have shaped ideas of belonging and difference in which culture, race, and ancestry are intertwined. The biologization of race developed on the continent and is rooted in the notion of blood purity that benefits Whites. The quantification of blood and a hierarchical sorting of people based on phenotype competes with Hawaiians’ emphasis on genealogy and ancestry distinct from the concept of “race.” The lives of Blacks in Hawai'i reveal distinct yet overlapping experiences with Hawaiians, distinguish among settlers, and raise the specter of race-and racism-in a site where ethnic identities are privileged.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-60
JournalAmerasia Journal
StatePublished - 2011


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