Nothing makes me madder than when I find other people hanging their choice of artwork in my personal office. They don’t know what I like! Even if my aides picked it out, they don’t know what I like! Anyone would be furious in a situation like that! Anyone would lose their temper! And that’s why I’m apologizing to the state House of Representatives today.
Actually, that’s not how Hawaii state representative Faye Hanohano (Dem., Puna) began her apology.
The incident started when Hanohano saw state employees installing artwork in her outer office. Hanohano, an energetic advocate for Native Hawaiian interests, came out of the inner office, and spoke heatedly to the Exhibit Specialists doing the work.
Indicating her preference for work by Native Hawaiian artists, she said the stuff they were putting up was ugly, and reportedly added “any work done by Haoles, Japs, Paranges, Pakes, you can take them away right now.” (These terms refer to people whose ancestry is white, Japanese, part-Samoan, and Chinese. I learned some new words, thanks to Rep. Hanohano.) She threatened to cut funding to the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.
Word got out, and it wasn’t word about the tyranny of the arts establishment. For example, in a letter to the director of the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, Senior Exhibit Specialist James Kuroda called this “workplace violence,” to which he would not subject his staff. He wrote, “On a personal note, as a third generation Japanese American born and raised in Hawaii, I am deeply offended, hurt and angered by her remarks. I am old enough to have lived in a time and place where the next thing following the word [Jap] was a punch to the face.”
I’ve learned from people who grew up in Hawaii that sometimes it’s a harmonious interracial paradise, and sometimes it’s really not.
So Hanohano apologized. Tearfully. For her usual Hawaiian Word of the Day, she chose “mihi” – to apologize. (More new words!)
“I aloha all of our people in Hawaii” she said. “I firmly believe in my naau, in my heart, that when my native people don’t just survive but actually thrive and prosper then all of our other ethnicities of Hawaii nei shall find greater benefit and blessing.”
“I humbly apologize to all of you who may have been offended by sentiments expressed that were taken into the news media. I realize that as public elected officials, we all come to the table and kukakuka [confer] about the issues that matter most to our communities. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we don’t. However, let me reaffirm my commitment to all of you that I shall serve my people and the people of the state of Hawaii to the best of my ability, integrity and for the honor of my kupuna [ancestors].”
She also issued a written apology.
First and foremost, I’d like to express my sincere apology to any individuals or groups who may have been offended by my comments. Clearly comments that were intended to be an impassioned plea for increasing the visibility and support for Native Hawaiian artists were expressed in a manner that did not accurately reflect their intent, sentiment or the integrity of this office. I accept full responsibility for this unfortunate incident and, again, I apologize.
My office has already reached out to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to assist us in obtaining additional training for all of our staff. We are committed to taking immediate steps to ensure that an incident like this never happens again.
I will also be reaching out to the State Foundation for Culture and the Arts to attempt to rebuild and improve that relationship. I stand firm in my position that individuals who serve in state leadership positions should be thoroughly educated and informed on the history and native culture of Hawai’i. I am hopeful that this unfortunate incident can serve as a platform for improving dialogue and cross-cultural relationships between state departments.
This may have been hard for her to say, but it’s not good. What’s wrong? Let’s see. In the spoken apology, vague media blaming. And “Sometimes we don’t agree” – about calling people names?
In the written apology, “may have been offended” Oh, I’d say people have definitely been offended. She accepts responsibility — for wording her “impassioned plea” inaccurately. She mysteriously implicates her staff by including them in the EEOC training. Finally, she makes a pitch for “individuals who serve in state leadership positions” to be educated in Hawaiian history and culture. In other words, really, we’re all to blame here, aren’t we?
This apology has not cooled things out as much she might have hoped. For example, Chu Lan Shubert-Kwock, of the Chinatown Business and Community Association, says Hanohano should step down. “I think deep down she’s not that sorry because she still thinks she’s right in her direction, in how she’s going to represent her district, and she’s only fighting for one type of person.”
I need to learn more Hawaiian words. If mihi is “apologize,” how do you say “apologize insincerely,” “apologize for the wrong thing,” or “make matters worse”? Or, maybe, “I apologize for not taking time to review the selection of art for my office – let’s take another look at what’s available?”