Online Outrage

What is it about online commenting that enables people to make totally racist and insulting comments?

TMT Protest in Waimea
A protest against TMT in Waimea, May 27, 2015
This is something I have been seeing all too often in the recent round of local controversies. This is nothing new, we all know and see it if we participate at all in online forums. But I can not just let it slide, I cringe every time.

I make a point of following the pro/anti TMT issue. It is an issue that reveals some of the simmering tensions here in the islands, among those are issues of race and cultural identity.

You cannot reason with zealots. They deify a pile of rocks and worship a mythical past which was in reality a Hobbesian fantasm of violence, disease and poverty. – Richard Johnson Esq. in a Civil Beat comment

I have neglected to include the most egregious comments here, they are just too rude for me to re-post. You will just have to settle for the moderately insulting comments here. Want to see the worst? Just wait for another TMT article in the local press and read the comments.

You have it pretty good with your play stations, minivans and EBT welfare handouts. No need work brah, fake state ged em. RKimo in a HTH comment

the strategy they are employing assures the ignorant and racist hawhiners will prevail over knowledge and science by forcing tmt to select another site. st1d in a SA comment

You can not say this is harmless. The ability to even type such comment reveals all to much about the person making the comment. These sentiments must have a basis in the psyche of the commentator. How can someone see the world in these terms? How can they not see that a person’s character has little do do with the color of one’s skin or the culture into which they were born. The thoughts, the insults are so easy let loose, applied to people without really knowing that person, simply a judgement based on a user name.

Admittedly online anonymity has a lot to do with it, it makes it easy to denigrate or insult someone whom you would not think of doing so while confronting them face-to-face. It also makes these comments all the more revealing, in a forum unrestrained by social rules or fear of consequences people express their true thoughts, views that might otherwise remain hidden.

One of the reasons I so like Hawaiʻi is the mix of cultures that coexist here. The history of these islands has seen mass migration of several cultures into the islands from around the Pacific rim. The resultant mix is rich and lively, just everyday life. It is also not a place where someone with a significant racial bias can be comfortable. Here other cultures and people who look different are part of everyday life, it is not a place where you can forget that other cultures exist.

Students Under the Stars
A group of local school students with the 20″ telescope
One of my closest co-workers is a descendant of the Chinese laborers who came here generations ago. Daily conversations give me a glimpse into growing up on Oahu and the Chinese culture that has flourished in the islands.

Indeed, the observatory staff is a direct reflection of the islands, the majority of the staff grew up here, or have been in the islands most of their lives. Chinese, Spanish, French, American, and even Hawaiian cultures are represented in the faces around me. Spending my days in the very rural town of Waimea simply extends this. The Filipino lady who makes my lunch, the farmers whom I buy veggies from, or the Hawaiian auntie I buy teri-pork from most Wednesdays. I stop and talk story, I get a glimpse into other lives, other ways of seeing the world. How can you come to know people and continue the hate?

Yet, even here in Hawaiʻi, an undertone of racism is present, revealed in these online comments. We see some who continue the long history of discrimination of those with darker shades of skin. We see native Hawaiians who have come to hate those they see as having come to “their” islands, displacing the old ways of life here. The multiple cultures that exist here give someone who is ready to hate ample opportunity so do so.

While Hawaii has become quite diverse, there are many places where this is a new experience. Continued mass migration from economic strife or warfare has brought so many strange customs and cultures into parts of our world that have rarely seen such differences before. So many people are not comfortable with this, seeing different dress and other skin tones, of hearing different languages around them. The result has occasionally demonstrated the worst of humanity. While a little racism exists in us all, we need to learn to crush it and see past it to the people with whom we share our communities.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

2 thoughts on “Online Outrage”

  1. It all boils down to caring Andrew. Those that do not care if they hurt people will say and do anything.

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