Racism in Hawaiʻi is alive and well

After a racist joke was told by a DJ on Island 98.5 concerning Micronesians, listener reactions show a sad state of affairs when it comes to equality in the islands.

Marshallese kids

On the morning of Friday, May 23, at around 7:15 a.m., Disc jockey Brandon “KreyZ” Oshiro of Island 98.5’s radio show “The Wake Up Crew” told a joke for the show’s “stupid joke Friday” segment. The joke was directed toward Micronesian immigrants, who are the most recent and least established group of immigrants to come to Hawaiʻi, and who have suffered the brunt of racial jokes, slurs and violence in the past decade. The joke was as follows:

“Why aren’t there many beautiful Micronesians? Because babies with birth defects are usually terminated before birth.”

Following the joke’s airing, a petition on change.org went up calling on 98.5 to end “derogatory racist jokes and comments against the people of Micronesia.” The petition has reached 2,104 signatures out of 2,500 needed as of publication, and features the following video of Micronesian slam poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner entitled “Lessons from Hawaiʻi,” in which she strongly and clearly articulates the effect racism has had on her and other Micronesian immigrants:

Shortly after the petition went live, 98.5 aired an official apology for the joke throughout the next day and DJ KreyZ Oshiro posted an apology on Instagram, which was only up for a few days and has since been removed in an obvious attempt to sweep the issue under the rug.

Unfortunately, the real tragedy is the public reaction to the apology, which was largely antagonistic toward Micronesians, telling them to “go back home if they can’t take a joke,” and other such statements. Rather than chastising Oshiro for his racist joke, the reaction from the general public shows a sad lack of tolerance in our “Aloha state.”

Many of the most antagonistic and racist comments have since been taken down by the radio station, as they only go to prove the point that jokes like this one are neither funny nor healthy for community co-habitation.

Chuck Cotton, general manager for Clear Channel Hawaii, parent company for Island 98.5, spoke with The Independent, saying that it was an irresponsible act by one employee, who has been disciplined. Cotton has offered time on a public affairs program for Micronesian leaders to speak about community issues on the air. Clear Channel has also instituted sensitivity training for on-air personnel.

And yet the morning crew DJs continue to make light of the apology on air, warning their listeners a mere three days ago, in a mocking tone, to “make no ethnic jokes.”


Read Next

Indigenous issues