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From Majority to Minority; Lessons From My Hawaiian Vacation

I recently took a fabulous trip to Hawaii.  While I was there I got to do and see a lot of things. You know the touristy stuff like the Mountain Top of Mauna Kea, the live lava flow at Kilauea, hiking up Diamond Back Peaks, The Pearl Harbor Memorial or even drinks on the beach at Waikiki.   There was more, but you get the idea.  Also while I was on the island I tried to be a student of the overall culture there.

Here are some takeaways on the culture. Here on the mainland, we don’t pronounce the name of their state as it should be. It is Ha-VIE-ee not HUH-why-hee as most mainlanders pronounce it.

There is somewhat of a not so subtle dislike for the mainlanders and the U.S. Government who pretty much took away their monarchy government and implemented elected democracy. We also forced the islanders to adopt our language, English.  In return for this, they have come up with a name for those of us who have brought all of this upon them.  We are called Haole(s). As I was told by many Anglo-European types, the term is NOT a term of endearment, in fact it can be extremely derogatory.

Now understand at no time during my visit did I feel unwelcomed or unwanted.  There was something else going on during my visit as well. Understand where Hawaii is. It is 5-6 hours away from Japan, China, Tahiti and many other Pacific Rim nations.  Accordingly, many Asians visit the islands.   So the native Hawaiian people look a lot different than me, just as do the Asian folks.  The only large group of people on the island that kind of look like me were the Australians, but even though they speak English, we don’t talk the same.

Bottom line is this, as an old white guy, I felt like I was a minority on the island. Here again, that is ok too, but it certainly gave me a different prospective on things. It gave me pause to think, that people who are different than me view things in their collective workplaces.  I am thinking of what some call white privilege – check out Tim Gardner’s recent post on the matter.

Does your workplace welcome people who don’t share your political views of the organization?  Does your organization welcome people who may speak differently than most people in your organization? How do you treat people who have different physical attributes than most of your employees – do you seek out their input and feedback? OR… do you make up “secret names” for these people? Do you try and drive them away or do you embrace their views, their ideas?  I don’t need to continue, I think you get it.

The world continues to become a smaller and smaller place as our economies continue to become more and more global. As an old guy (I have children who are adults and not old) I am learning that their generation is intolerant of some of old people who have old ways and refuse to change.

So to bring this full circle, my point is this. You need to check your organization and see where they come down on these issues?  Do you share and support your organizations values and mores, or are they misaligned with your person views? Can you, or a group of like-minded people change your organization or not. If not what do you do?  Can we all change the world by changing our workplaces one at a time?  I hope so!

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