Making Waves: First impressions

We shouldn’t pay any attention to skin color; I don’t, probably because the first time I saw black people it was a good experience.

I was 4 years old, looking out of our living room window, and to my childhood delight I saw three black kids dressed in white pants and red sweaters dancing along the sidewalk. It was magical. They were waving their arms back and forth in unison, looking at me with big smiles. They waved at me smiling away. To a wide-eyed, little kid it was pure wonderment.


Now, lodged somewhere in my subconscious that moment is still with me. When I see someone with darker skin, I just smile. He’s not black or brown, he’s just people. I wish everyone in the world could have been that 4-year-old looking out the window at those kids dancing. Then, everyone would have a nicer picture in their head about darker or different skin people, they wouldn’t be different at all, and they aren’t.

The whole idea is not to see anything but a person’s smile.

But every kid didn’t see a something nice when they looked out of their childhood window. Maybe other 4 year old children, instead of seeing smiling kids, looked out and saw them punching someone.

That is what stayed with them and growing older, when they see a black or white person they react. The goal is not to react other than saying “hi.”

Hawaii is a shining example of this attitude. No one reacts much to the differences. Here we have a “just smile,” hang loose attitude. We take it for granted but bruddha, it’s a rare thing we have. Try smiling and saying hi to a stranger in a lot of places, and you’ll get the stink eye for your trouble, or worse.

It’s funny, we have never used the word “integration” in the islands, much less actually tried it. The whole idea of a law forcing people to be together is ridiculous to us, we’ve always been together. Not so in other cities in this country, they’ve always been apart.

From Puna to Princeville, Kauai, we kamaaina are pretty much a friendly group, a “melting pot” they call us, because we have all melted together into one big pot. It rarely boils over.

There really is aloha here. It’s so natural in us we don’t always see it, but notice that here there’s never been protests over different races, birthplaces or skin tone. How rude would that be?

We have occasional flareups with race, but we don’t really mean it much, it doesn’t go deep. Not so in other places, their racial flare ups are serious kine. You see it on the news every night, when they yell something at a different race they mean it and it comes with kicks and punches.

You don’t think this is paradise? Think again. In Los Angeles and Portland, they’re not watching race riots going on in Hawaii. Here we see shakas at the end of the island news. Here we see kupuna playing ukulele, and politicians humbly asking for your vote. Now you see it, now it comes to you, our special phrase, say it with me, “Lucky you live Hawaii.”


In Hawaii, every kid looks out the window and sees people dancing, or something like it. Aloha stays with us.

Dennis Gregory writes a bi-weekly column for West Hawaii Today and welcomes your comments at