these are the facts.
fact 1: Adam Carolla has said a LOT of offensive things over the years. he’s offended a lot of people with a ton of awful comments spouted during his various quote-unquote “comedic” rants.
fact 2: i’m a light-skinned Part-Hawaiian living in Los Angeles. my relationship with my Hawaiian roots (on my dad’s side) is definitely nuanced. since i look very white, i faced a fair amount of racism growing up – particularly as i spent high school at the all-Hawaiian school, Kamehameha Schools. regardless of how awful kids can be, i have never really doubted my claim to my Hawaiian roots, but my resolve was obviously tested in high school. i’ve spoken more at length about this in other venues and articles – in particular during our fight against what used to be an extremely poorly named app. so if you’d like to understand this better, help yourself.
in the nearly two and a half decades i’ve spent on the continent, i’ve found that an alarming number of people to whom i’ve spoken here about Hawaiians have no actual idea what a Hawaiian is. these people seem to think that “Hawaiians” are simply people who’ve been raised in Hawaii, most of whom are of Asian, other Polynesian or European descent – or some mixture thereof. for people like this, i practically have to act out Captain Cook’s 1778 first contact with the Natives before they begin to understand that “Native Hawaiians” actually exist.
to be fair, there is good reason for this ignorance, due in large part to the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893 followed by an 1896 law suppressing instruction of the Hawaiian language in schools throughout the islands. this ersatz ban of the language in schools, and the occasional sadistic glee with which it appears to have been carried out, caused nearly irreparable damage to the Native Hawaiians’ psyche and to their understanding of their own culture. if Hawaiians themselves no longer understood their history and culture, how could we expect non-Hawaiians to have understood them?
thankfully, since the growth of Hawaiian Immersion schools which began in the ‘90s, repairs to our collective psyche have begun, but we still have such a long way to go. the damage of 120-plus years peppered with borderline war crimes will take more than two decades of immersion schools to correct – particularly when to this day there is no treaty of annexation between the United States and the Kingdom of Hawaii, but that’s a whole other story.
over the years i’ve become a more and more outspoken advocate for Hawaiian causes, and i hope to continue to be an agent of understanding and education of Hawaiian ideals and culture – particularly on the continent where i live.
but let’s put a pin in that and get back to the point at hand.
fact 3: of all the people who hate Adam Carolla, Native Hawaiians are undoubtedly near the top of the list. here is the earliest recorded reason for that: an excerpt from the transcript of a December 2003 episode of the old radio show Loveline with Dr. Drew and Adam Carolla (thank you, Honolulu Advertiser, for preserving this transcript).
Dr. Drew: I wonder if Hawai’i has weathermen.
Adam Carolla: I’m sure.
D: Cause it’s the same everyday, no matter what.
C: Maybe they don’t. Hawaiians are too dumb. They can’t figure out barometric pressure. They don’t know what that means.
D: They have wind some days.
C: Here’s the problem with weather in Hawai’i. There’s a bunch of big words.
C: And they can’t handle big words over there, because they’re the world’s dumbest people.
D: Well, they can’t (sic) handle big words, but they must have three letters.
C: Yeah, they handle big words, but it’s got to be the name of a fat chick or some drink. They don’t do science. Close your eyes and picture all the great Hawaiian scientists over the years. (Laughs) They’re retarded people. They stay on the island. They’re in-bred, obviously. They’re the dumbest people we have.
D: I have met some smart South Pacific people. Not who lived there.
C: People are smart enough to move. Everyone close your eyes and think of all the amazing contributions the Hawaiian scientific community has made over the years. (Long pause) Uh … They’re stupid people.
D: All right. Let’s hear from them. Let’s hear what they have to say. It’d be interesting to hear what they have to say.
C: What, the Hawaiians? First off, they don’t know how to dial the phone. They can’t call. They don’t know what they’re doing. They have big calves. That’s all. They’re stupid people. We really should start bringing some of them in ’cause they’re strong. They’re a strong, sturdy breed.
needless to say (and this is Chad again obviously), those comments got Loveline cancelled from the Hawaii radio station which was airing them at the time, KPOI, and yet to date i have never seen or heard of Carolla ever apologizing for those comments. in fact, he’s recently stated that he will never again apologize for his “comedy” – not that i’ve ever seen evidence of a single actual apology from him ever, but whatever.
but btw, do you see a joke in there? i mean, where’s the punchline? i don’t have millions of fans like Carolla, so maybe i don’t know of what i speak, but i thought that comedy was a craft. actually i do have some experience with comedy and to some degree i can even relate with poor Carolla’s plight coming up with “three, fours of comedy a day unscripted”.
back in my early twenties i did dozens of comedy improv shows in NYC. they were good money, but after every single show somebody would come up to us to tell us how insensitive this or that joke was. i understand that that’s the nature of comedy. you make fun of things, so somebody is going to take offense, but honestly in many cases these people were right. it bothered me even then. some of the people in my troupe were honestly lazy. they would go straight to getting a cheap laugh instead of putting some thought and effort behind making an actual joke. i called it “Pee pee Caca humor” because more often than not, it tended towards bodily functions, and now and then i would urge my lazier colleagues to please try just a little harder. and the racist “jokes” didn’t even get laughs most of the time. they would only get laughs if there were racists in the audience, and this was NYC, not some podunk town in the Ozarks.
quick side note: though we haven’t been connected to the western world for more than a few centuries, the ancient Hawaiians innovated navigation techniques and methods of sustainability that are still studied today. and perhaps it’s because my all-Hawaiian high school happens to have the largest endowment of any other high school in the world, but many of the Hawaiians i know are extremely well-educated – doctors, PhDs, scientists, research fellows.
fact 4: for over a decade i’ve worked for an ad agency for which i have a ton of respect. i love their values, their culture, many of their employees and though it’s of course imperfect – as all humans and human creations are -, i’ve considered it my home for a very long time and haven’t regretted that for a moment. overall, i really can’t say enough about their management, their staff, everything. it’s a wonderful place run by extraordinary people … and yet, even this place has some serious gaps of understanding, respect and appreciation for Native Hawaiians. i won’t name this agency – and you’ll see exactly why in a moment -, but … i mean, seriously. let’s not pretend google doesn’t exist, mkay?
fact 5: perhaps you’ve already figured out where this is all going, but here it is: this genuinely wonderful unnamed agency recently did a bit of creative work for Adam Carolla’s “Mangria” product. the management and the majority of my co-workers have been thankfully understanding of my refusal to touch said work, and though i absolutely appreciate that fact very much, it is nonetheless upsetting that we as an organization are okay with aligning ourselves with such an unapologetic racist and homophobe.
true, i myself haven’t lifted a finger for this work, and that’s why i’ve gone this far without making a fuss, but now that we’re apparently promoting our work for Carolla as something of which we should be proud – the moment that we as an organization basically put our stamp of approval on such an awful scourge to the culture and the people whom i hold most dear – that’s when i can keep my mouth shut no more.
to all my Hawaiian brothers and sisters, i am truly sorry. i’m an employee of this company, not an executive, nor a manager – i don’t even supervise anybody. i have nonetheless been outspoken for years in my praise of it. so when this process began – when i first heard that we were considering this work – i made my opinions very clear. i expressed my upset and tried to educate people as to why, through Carolla’s ignorant spread of hateful rhetoric about Hawaiians, he is further endangering an already severely endangered culture and hurting our causes and goals of protecting and restoring our dignity as a people – causes that span from the Thirty Meter Telescope to water rights on Maui to restoration of the Kingdom of Hawaii – all issues and causes i care very much about and for which i continue to fight. unfortunately within these walls i’m just a lowly employee amongst people i’m discovering know much less about me than i previously thought.
though i can’t take away the fact that we have helped this awful person, i can assure you that i myself didn’t touch a single piece of work and haven’t even seen the video or videos we apparently produced for him. i don’t support, agree with or even understand why such an awesome company would want to help Carolla, but i’m not in a position to make those kinds of decisions. if i were, this conversation would not be happening.
i hope you can forgive the owners and executives of my agency. i promise you that their actions stem not from malice but from ignorance, and i also promise you that i will never flag in my goals at spreading the understanding of Hawaii and the Native Hawaiians amongst everybody i meet here on the continent.
it’s a very weird position in which i’ve found myself. to not completely abandon my people, i’m forced to publicly air my utter disgust with a person in a business relationship with my employers. so much for job security, but i guess there are more important things in life than a job – like integrity.
– Chad Kukahiko