The Student News Site of Granite Bay High School

Granite Bay Today

The Student News Site of Granite Bay High School

Granite Bay Today

The Student News Site of Granite Bay High School

Granite Bay Today

Hawaiian culture should not be a costume


  Imagine having an African American day, Indian day or Native American Day. While it may seem like a kind thing to have, it’s extremely easy for people to disrespect the culture of ethnicities they are not a part of.

  These are all hypothetical examples of days that are dedicated to others’ cultures, yet for the most part, none of these are common because people are aware of cultural appropriation and being politically correct. But for some incomprehensible reason, Granite Bay High School always has ‘Hawaiian Day’ as one of the spirit day themes.

  I cannot express the extent of my disgust on this issue. Being of Hawaiian descent, and someone who avidly participates and practices the Hawaiian culture, I find the ‘Hawaiian Day’ theme very offensive.  

  Initially, it may seem like a neat concept, but when I come to school and see everyone in plastic leis, grass skirts and coconut bras, I honestly want to scratch my eyes out.

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  For some reason unknown to me, people have this idea that Hawaiians actually wore these items. Hawaiians have never worn coconut bras, grass skirts and wouldn’t give plastic leis a second glance. Yet for some reason – this is what people associate Hawai’i with.

  When it comes to Hawai’i, people tend to be very ignorant. The Hawaiian culture has been whitewashed. When Hawai’i was first annexed, the United States government banned Hawaiians from practicing their language, dancing, hula, etc. Now, even the names of the islands are said incorrectly by the people on the mainland, and the Hawaiian pronunciation is completely neglected.

  Also, every time I tell people that I’m Hawaiian and speak the language, they accuse me of lying, and forcefully tell me that “Hawaiian isn’t a language.”

  Whenever this happens, I’m blown away by their obliviousness. stupidity and their audacity to tell me that Hawaiian isn’t a language.

  If Hawaiian isn’t a language then where do the words aloha, mahalo and ohana come from? These words are extremely overused and only known because of Lilo and Stitch, yet some people refuse to admit that Hawaiian is a language.

  Students are exceptionally ignorant when it comes to the Hawaiian culture, but I don’t blame them. That’s not where my animosity comes from.

  I don’t like when a population who is so oblivious to Hawaiian culture, my culture, has the nerve to dedicate a spirit day to it, as if being Hawaiian is some type of costume.

  Having done hula for years, I can tell you the effort put into the art that is hula. If you think that we dance in those fake plastic grass skirts and those headache-inducing colorful flower leis students wear on ‘Hawaiian Day,’ then you are beyond wrong.

  I have pulled all-nighters just making headpieces for my costumes. I don’t know why people think of the Hawaiians as being uncultured. Do you think we didn’t have cloth in Hawai’i? Is that why you think that we had to wear grass skirts and coconut bras?

  The Hawaiians either wore skirts and tube top-esque shirts or they danced in the nude; coconut bras and grass skirts were never worn.

  For those people who think that those shirts with palm trees, beaches or pineapple designs on them are Hawaiian shirts, here’s your moment of enlightenment: they’re not. None of the things on those shirts are exclusively Hawaiian, so I don’t know why those tacky shirts are associated with Hawai’i.

  I’ll admit, some of my family members own Hawaiian shirts, but they don’t have the stereotypical design of inauthentic Hawaiian shirts. They have designs of taro, poi or spam on them; they have things that are actually accurately associated with Hawai’i.

  Honestly, I cannot fathom why someone’s ethnicity is a spirit day. It’s demeaning to my culture, especially when I see people’s horribly inaccurate portrayals of what Hawai’i is.

  Dressing up as a Hawaiian is very insulting. Being Hawaiian isn’t a costume for me – I am not allowed the option to decide when I want to be Hawaiian or when I don’t want to. It’s who I am. If anything, the ‘Hawaiian’ day we have at GBHS should be changed to Tourist day, because it definitely is not Hawaiian day.


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  • J

    JjFeb 15, 2023 at 8:43 am

    Hi there,
    I just read your article. I’m not Hawaiian but creole and I’ve always felt weird about people dressing as “Hawaiians” with plastic skirts and fake flowers. It’s so sad that no one actually teaches about the cultural appropriation theme and I always look up before doing something. I really love your culture, thank you for writing this! We’re with you.

  • J

    Jasmine KealohimakalaniAug 4, 2021 at 3:42 pm

    It is so sad to see this and as a Hawaiian myself living now in Tennessee this type of stuff happens all the time. The fake grass skirts and fake leis and schools encouraging students to wear Hawaiian attire is offensive. Why are Hawaiians not afforded the same respect as other groups? If you want to learn the culture then be respectful, but if there was an African American day no one would attempt to dress like them or come up with their own ideas about the people or their culture.

  • A

    Angelica BasurtoMay 15, 2020 at 11:49 am

    How do you feel about other races EMBRACING your culture, and would love to learn more about it ? ☺️ We get we’re not your race but how come we specifically cannot ? We understand there isn’t a lot of people who understand your culture but it seems as though your also outing people who absolutely love your culture/language and want to be more educated about it. Nor have I ever met a person who:
    “accuse(d) me(you) of lying, and forcefully tell me (you) that “Hawaiian isn’t a language.”“ you can literally tell them yes & could possibly teach them a few words so they can understand it IS a language and have realized they were wrong for offending another person of another race/culture than them.

    I have truly been fascinated with your culture but to say
    “When it comes to Hawai’i, people tend to be very ignorant. The Hawaiian culture has been whitewashed.” , this argument applies and points directly to ALL of us not just a certain group of people. I know many people fascinated and would love to try Hula but because of this article I feel as though I am being banned from a certain culture that seems amazing to learn more of.

  • I

    IreneJun 10, 2019 at 9:14 am

    I loved your article! I am so sad that you have to go through this. I am not Hawaiian, I am from italy but I have a big passion for the real Hawaiian culture and every time I see this kind of event it makes me really sad. I have never been in Hawaii, it is my lifelong dream to go. I am learning Hawaiian as a language student and want to write my thesis on the Hawaiian language. Also learning hula online as best as I have with the limited resources. I will admit, my costume has some plumeria on it, it’s not a real costume but I did my best with what I have here in Europe. I wear a kukui nut lei and a silk plumeria lei and hapa. I grow my own hibiscus to wear in my hair instead of plastic 🙂 be proud of your amazing culture! 🙂 it will survive!

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Hawaiian culture should not be a costume