Eliminating Pacific Islander Stereotypes

By Cassandra Ordonio

contributor

When do you ever see Pacific Islanders in the media? How are they portrayed, in your eyes?

During my first year at City College, I was reading the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle and there was a headline that caught my attention: “Bay Area baby may be California’s biggest.” A Pacific Islander couple gave birth to a baby of 15 pounds and two ounces.

I can see why it’s newsworthy. It’s unusual for an infant to be over the “healthy” weight limit com- pared to the average American baby weight of 7.5 pounds. Comments were posted online about the article that said “future starting left tackle for the 49ers.”

Another comment read “I wonder if the family’s hearing from the football scouts yet. ProTip: don’t give newborn sized clothing as a gift to a new mom. Give her clothing sized for a six-month old. Oversized clothing can easily be worn. Under- sized clothing can’t.”

Finally, the last comment said “Samoans are just big people. I grew up with a lot of them and they are just ALWAYS big so this is not that surprising. In fact, when I started reading it, I said to myself, ‘I’ll bet the parents are from Samoa. The kid will be a great lineman for the Niners someday.’”

This wasn’t surprising to me, really. I’ve heard it all before.

Weight isn’t the only thing stereotyped in the Pacific Islander community. There are stereotypes stating Pacific Islanders are lazy and alcoholics. Other stereotypes say Pacific Islanders are uneducated and can only be in gangs.

Instead people state their own facts or making fun of the stereo- types. Why not do something about it? Raise awareness. Actually take the time to educate yourself on Pacific Islander culture. Also, educate your- self that it’s not an issue in just the U.S.: it’s a global issue as well.

During World War II, the U.S. demonstrated a nuclear device on the Bikini Atoll.

The Marshallese mistook the nuclear fallout for snow, resulting in burned skin, women conceiving jelly babies and forced migration from the Marshall Islands to the poverty areas of Hawaii. This inci- dent wasn’t considered newsworthy back then.

Today, there are parts of Marshall Islands still considered unlivable.

Also, take a look at U.S. ter- ritories such as: American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands having limited

voting powers.
Lastly, take a look at the issue

of rising sea levels affecting Pacific Islanders. This is one of the issues I dread the most.

No Pacific Islander wants to become a climate change refugee. Imagine the loss of culture.

Here in America, we’re consid- ered the land of opportunity.

According to recent demo- graphic polls, native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NPHI) are one of the fastest-growing racial groups statewide, with a population of 29 percent in California. Studies also show about 19 percent of NHPI attain their Bachelor’s degree, 17 percent have health insurance, and only 46 percent own homes in Cali- fornia alone.

Instead of preparing Pacific Islander youth to graduate high school, prepare them for college. This isn’t just for the Pacific Island- er youth, this is for all younger generations who grew up in the middle-class and working-class. Because knowledge is power.

Samoans are not destined to be football players or security guards. Filipino and Chamorros are short and stumpy, Fijians are not Indi- ans, and not every girl who wears a flower in her hair is Hawaiian.

Pacific Islanders are not and never will be a failing statistic and will not be subjected to the stereo- type we are portrayed by.

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