Have you ever heard of Hawaiian micro-aggressions?

I never knew micro-aggressions; particularly Hawaiian micro-aggressions were a thing.  And it’s a somewhat serious thing to many people. I learned about these in conversations with Ku’ulei from @mauli.oli.

She shared with me that there are many common words and phrases that people use today that are considered micro-aggressions towards Hawaiians.

A micro-aggression is a word or phrase that can intentionally or unintentionally demean a person or a group of people.

Here are three of them that she shared with me.


Hawaiian Time

Whenever someone is late to any type of engagement, we say that he or she is on Hawaiian time.  I’m a native Hawaiian and I’ve used this phrase numerous times even in describing myself.

However, in thinking about the Hawaiian values of showing aloha or respect for others, ha’aha’a or humility and ‘ike pono then the phrase Hawaiian time does indeed become offensive.

Being late to any engagement would be considered disrespectful and arrogant, there would be no room for it in Hawaiian culture.


Big Island

The proper name for our island is Hawai’i.  It’s also known by the name Moku O Keawe, which means Island of Keawe.  This name honors the great grandfather of Kamehameha I, chief Keaweʻīkekahialiʻiokamoku, and is a reminder of the peace and prosperity during his reign.

So why is Big Island a micro-aggression to some Hawaiians?  Because it’s the name given to the island by colonizers around the time of the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.

It is a description that was adopted and used as the primary name of the island.

Imagine if everyone called your oldest child big girl or big boy instead of by their real name.  It wouldn’t be long until you or your child would get annoyed.

So yes, the site that you’re reading this on, Big Island Pulse, has a micro-aggression in it.

Heck I had no idea-


Calling the United States, The Mainland

As far as many Hawaiians are concerned, Hawai’i is the MAIN-land.  The contiguous 48 is America or the United States

Using the name mainland for the United States has been indoctrinated over generations to instill into Hawaiians that America is superior to Hawai’i which is why the term MAIN- land is used to describe America.

Long before I was educated about the illegal overthrow of Hawai’i, I had a friend who shared this with me years ago and I’ll be honest, it went way over my head.


After hearing all of this, I was absolutely blown away.  I was shocked to find out that words I have been using my whole life caused people some distress.

My college history professor once said, “the greatest weapon of indoctrination is time.”  Those words have sure come to life here.

What are your thoughts about micro-aggressions?  What other groups deal with micro-aggressions?

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