‘Haole’ is NOT a 4-letter word
Amazing how what I perceived would be a warm, fuzzy and possibly funny Christmas Honolulu Lite column managed to irk more people than actor Will Smith saying Hitler probably wasn't born evil.
The column was simply a quiz to see if readers knew the key lines to various Christmas carols. Like, "Don we now: A) our cousin Darrell B) a gray sombrero C) a baby squirrel or D) our gay apparel. OK. It's not quite as difficult as "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" but I thought people would have fun with it. Apparently many did until they came across this item: Deck the halls with: A) bowels of haoles B) balls of folly C) jowels of Wally or D) boughs of holly.
That is when the holly, or at least the haole, hit the fan. In several letters and e-mails I was accused of encouraging violence against Caucasians and using offensive racist language. One outraged reader said he considered the term "haole" the same as the N-word, which is absurd.
This guy, like most of the letter writers, weren't brought up in Hawaii and didn't understand that A) haole is not an offensive racial term but a Hawaiian word for Caucasian and B) ethnic humor has been part of island culture for generations. I pointed out that ethnic humor has been the back bone, or at least funny bone, for comedians like Andy Bumatai and Frank DeLima forever.
"Ethnic humor is nothing more than racist hate speech disguised as humor," one of the more excitable correspondents wrote me. He added: "Maybe that's why Andy doesn't do it anymore."
Andy got a good laugh when I told him that. He doesn't do ethnic humor anymore? Andy Bumatai? The guy who says, "My dad was Filipino-Hawaiian ... he liked to work in the yard but he didn't have any land." Andy? Who posed next to a swimming pool sign that said, "No flips in pool" doesn't do ethnic humor?
"The trouble with these kind of people," Andy said, "is they say, 'That's not funny.' They don't say 'I don't think that's not funny.' "
That's a good point. Not to mention these self-appointed deciders of what is funny often seem to have no humor lobes in their brain cavities.
But there is an ongoing debate over whether the term "haole" is a racist term. I often point out that haole isn't racist or hate speech unless it's preceded by a modifier, like the "F-word." Just about any word becomes hate speech in that case: "f-ing haole ... kanaka, ... pake ... etc." Kanaka, pake, haole ... these aren't insulting terms, they are Hawaiian words that mean Hawaiian, Chinese and Caucasian.
The angry gentleman quoted above also thought the phrase "deck the halls with bowels of haoles" was encouraging violence against white people. I pointed out, maybe the bowels were donated. (OK, bad joke.)
"How about a punch line that says, "Deck the halls with bowels of kanakas?" angry man wrote.
I'll let Bumatai -- professional comedian and self-admitted kanaka -- answer this one: "Because it DOESN'T RHYME!"
Buy Charles Memminger's hilarious new book, "Hey, Waiter, There's An Umbrella In My Drink!" at island book stores or online
at any book retailer. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org