Let’s embrace the melting pot

One can believe it comes from our forefathers and is still happening today because of how we were brought up. I was born and raised in Hawai‘i, known as the melting pot of the world. This means that there is not much discrimination. Through interracial marriages, Hawaiians have merged into one race, and even created a new way of speaking English. This sounds nice and well for Hawaiians living this lifestyle, but still some will not let go of who they are and what they believe. It is always difficult to have the majority of people accepting change, but in this case most Hawaiians have grown to accept this lifestyle.

How did this all come about and what can we learn from this? The truth is that Hawai‘i experienced conditions much like what slavery was in America before abolition. I grew up in the 50’s and can say I experienced the formation of what was to come. Though never once did my parents say, to me or my siblings, to stay with your own kind. It was still obvious that being with your own race was the way it should be.

When sugar became Hawai‘i’s gift to the world, the plantations brought in workers from many countries to work the fields. Americans would not work the fields, mostly because wages were too low. When foreigners arrived for work, the plantations planted different races in different communities mostly to hamper communication, but also to keep the workers from clashing. Eventually most of the workers began speaking English, which was the first step of intermingling.

As a young Portuguese boy, now in school with local and emigrant children, I had no problem mingling with other children, but I sensed a caution of identity. When our little league coach had decided to drive the team to another practice site, with the help of some parents, I was told by a teammate that I could not ride in this one particular vehicle, because I was not Japanese. It didn’t affect me much, because I was too young to understand. But when I started my high school years, I could clearly see that I didn’t fit in to some social groups. It is important for me to point out that not all were brought up to defend their race by isolating. It was mostly parents with fears of seeing their kids interacting with other cultures and learning bad habits. As time went on it was inevitable the Islanders would blend together.

The pure-blooded Hawaiians stood to lose the most. Like the American Indian, much had been taken from them: jobs, property, and their way of living. When it came to understanding cultures, language, and status, well, it all was up for grabs. Slowly, but surely as an adult now, I can clearly see the transformation. If you were to ask a Hawaiian today, he or she could probably not reveal their nationality, due to not knowing.

My point on racism is just this: In the United States we are already melding as Americans. We have made good strides on civil rights. There is no reason to continuing to live like our ancestors. As God-loving human beings, created equal, we need to see a future of less racism, and more respect for the whole human race. We do have equal rights, we just need to make it work. All races have good people and bad people, so no one is to blame for bad feelings but ourselves. If we can make a difference for good, our country will prevail, but only with less anger and more love.

Someday we will all be of One Race… If not here on earth, surely in Heaven.

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Dennis Santos is Kaua‘i born and raised, Santa Barbara, California

3 Comments
  1. LJA July 9, 2020 8:19 pm Reply

    Thank you Dennis.
    We are Of one race. The HUMAN race. We all bleed red.


  2. Ann Wright July 15, 2020 5:27 am Reply

    Dennis, Thank you so much for writing this article. Annie


  3. Chris Taylor July 16, 2020 8:45 am Reply

    Thanks, Dennis for your thoughtful article. Like you, I am of Portuguese descent with roots in Kauai. I see the cultural assimilation that my family has undergone (both imposed as well as chosen) as by in large a subtractive process. We no longer have access to our native language, our traditional foods, music, dances, religion or customs. While this transformation has been beneficial in many ways. especially for a light-skinned family such as ours, I think the spiritual and emotional cost of spending five generations in this melting pot has been devastating. I strongly believe that some of America’s most harmful and intractable tendencies (including imperial militarism, white supremacy, unrestrained racial capitalism, gun/school violence, police violence, prison industrialism, and toxic masculinity to name a few) can be directly traced to our people’s loss of cultural identity and the tearing of the social fabric that traditionally holds families and communities together. The artificial “White” cultural norms that replace what was lost seem to only benefit the 1% and leave the rest of us lost and fighting for scraps. I’m wondering if it is time to re-envision the melting pot. Is there a way to live side by side without losing touch with what roots us in our diverse cultural identities?

    My great grand parents (1st generation immigrants from the Madeira Islands) are buried just outside of Kapa’a in Saint Catherine Cemetery which stands on a bluff over-looking the vast blue-green Pacific Ocean. The rainbows that form just beyond the breaking waves, are stunning not because the colors have melted together but because the whole visible spectrum of light shines side by side, with each element retaining its own distinct and unique character.

    I wonder how my immigrant ancestors would have felt about the thought of their entire cultural identity being lost in a span of five generations? Likely, they never had time to stop and consider the question in their frantic struggle to eek out a life on this beautiful but unforgiving island.


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