Open Letter to Big Pati & Culture Crew from a Micronesian Parent

Dear Big Pati, Culture Crew, and your drinking buddies,

My name is Vidalino Staley Raatior, a proud Chuukese, Micronesian parent of an island girl. I am an educator, a youth advocate, and a fan. I write on behalf of my daughter and the thousands of Micronesian girls (and boys) growing up in Hawaii, Guam, and elsewhere on the US continent. I listened to and watched with sadness the now infamous video of your drunken jam session with Anuhea and other Hawaiian friends and artists in which “Micronesian” was shushed with such glee. Like many Micronesians who watched that video, I had to replay it several times with utter disbelief, immense anger, and sadness.

Just like that, Island Girl, the one song that elevated island beauty and bridged our Nesian liquid continent was transformed into an anthem of ignorance and hymn of Micronesian discrimination. With the help of Anuhea, the model of Island Girl strength, and one too many bottles of ice cold truth-tellers, the once empowering hit song for us islanders became the drunken song of divisiveness. I found myself asking, “How can these Polynesian artists write songs of love, Aloha, empowerment yet sing silence, exclusion, discrimination?” It saddened me to know that the song I love so much is now tainted.

Your apology video days later fell short. First, you excused the incident as being a “jam session people were drinking… having fun.” Yes, we know and have experienced the negative effects of alcohol on our better judgement. But we also know that alcohol is the great truth equalizer. Often the truth is revealed under the liquid influence. Second, you danced around the shushing of Micronesians during what was clearly shushing. You Big Pati and Dan may not have uttered it, but your friends did. It’s on video. And in that video your group all laughed that unfiltered laughter of self-importance and pride in your accomplishments of voicing the Hawaiian prejudice against the Micronesian community. Clearly you all enjoyed this act of exclusion of Micronesian women from the song.

Allow me to share why this video was painful in so many ways. If you don’t already know or fail to admit it, discrimination against Micronesians in Hawaii is as real as Trump’s discriminatory policies / views against Mexicans, Jews, women, African Americans and immigrants. You cannot simply explain away your racially-motivated exclusion by saying you have Micronesian friends. Trump used the same excuse for his anti-Semitic policies saying his son in law is Jewish. Perhaps you’ve lived in Utah too long to know that racial discrimination against my Micronesian community in Hawaii is real.

Yes, sadly in that State of glossified Aloha spirit, there exists racially motivated injustices against the Micronesian immigrant community including against US-born Micronesian Americans. Micronesians are scapegoated by politicians for crimes and homelessness, kept out of fair housing laws by unscrupulous landlords, denied health insurance coverage and other social services for which we as tax payers help fund. Teachers blame Micronesian kids for achievement gaps and accuse parents of not caring for their children. Even churches have their share of prejudice against Micronesians. Now we can add musical artists to the new reality of bullies from whom to protect our Micronesian children.

Thanks to you and your friends you’ve made shushing Micronesians cool. You practically musicalized the virtual and real bullying of exclusion that already exists in Hawaii. I know all too well that painful reality in Hawaii because I lived, worked, attended school, raised a family in Hawaii the last five years. I feared the day my Micronesian daughter and son would come home and ask why their teachers and fellow students dislike Micronesians. Sadly, other Micronesian parents have gone through those painful experiences with their children in Hawaii. I felt it in the look. I listened to students and parents share about blatant discrimination on school grounds. I led teacher training workshops where teachers asked questions that were blatantly discriminatory without them realizing it.

Of course, as a human being who will never achieve perfection I accept your apology. But I just can’t help but think that had your jam session not been videotaped and shared on social media, you and your friends would have woken up the next morning perhaps hungover and went about your business singing and shushing Micronesians. And that cycle of prejudice would have continued to spin unchecked. For a fan, that’s a truly sad realization.

This is now your new reality for which you must take responsibility to correct. Micronesian sensitivity to your shushing is not the issue. Racial discrimination by people in Hawaii is the problem.

I humbly suggest that as often as you can on your tours, in your songs, among your fellow artists, you express your views about the reality of racially motivated acts of discrimination against the latest immigrants in Hawaii who are the Micronesians. Hawaiian youth who look up to you and Anuhea need to hear you verbalize your positive views about Pacific Islanders (all people for that matter) coming together rather than excluding each other. Name the reality of prejudice against Micronesians and speak up against it. Confront that reality in the community head on rather than believing that the hotel room jam session was just a one-off incident that doesn’t reflect the total picture of your friends views.

It’s not an uncommon occurrence of racists to shush the voices of Micronesians in Hawaii. You have just joined in whether you care to admit it or not. Now you must not only unjoin, but help others (starting with your drinking buddies) to break the cycle of discrimination.

Killisou! Kalahngan! Kamagar! Sa hachigchig! Kulo! Mesulang! Komol! and Mahalo! Feel free to contact me (vid@raatior.com) if you ever want to have more dialogue on this topic. I remain,

A hopeful fan,

Vid Raatior

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