Haole, in its current definition, first became associated with the children of Caucasian immigrants in the early 1820s. It unified the self-identity of these Hawai'i-born children whose parents were as much culturally different as they were similar. For Haole children whose first language was Hawaiian, their parents were generally either religious missionaries or secular businessmen, and hailed from both Europe and North America, not necessarily speaking the same language or English dialect.
With the first three generations of Haole playing key roles in the rise of the economic and political power shifts that have lasted through the current day, "Haole" evolved into a term that was often used in contempt. Though its first usage in such context had to do with classist origins, it has evolved further to racial meaning, erroneously replacing "malihini" (newcomer) in addressing people of Caucasian descent who move to Hawai'i from the U.S. mainland. Today it is often applied to any who are of Caucasian ancestry, or to those who think or behave in a foreign manner.
In current application, Haole can be used descriptively or as a racially derogatory word (often, if not generally, preceded by an obscene invective).
Some linguists believe that this etymology is erroneous, however, for these reasons:
However, as the word predates the first written Hawaiian dictionary by centuries, and pronunciations have evolved over that time, the debate continues, and each camp has its adherents.
St. Chad Piianaia, a Hawaiian educated in England, said the word haole implies thief or robber (from hao, thief, and le, lazy). In 1944, Hawaiian scholar Charles Kenn wrote, "In the primary and esoteric meaning, haole indicates a race that has no relation to one's own; an outsider, one who does not conform to the mores of the group; one that is void of the life element because of inattention to natural laws which make for the goodness in man. In its secondary meaning, haole ... implies a thief, a robber, one not to be trusted. ... During the course of time, meanings of words change, and today, in a very general way, haole does not necessarily connote a negative thought ... The word has come to refer to one of Nordic descent, whether born in Hawaii or elsewhere." (Kenn)
Native Hawaiian Professor Fred Beckley said, "The white people came to be known as ha-ole (without breath) because after they said their prayers, they did not breathe three times as was customary in ancient Hawaii." (Kenn)
The word has been adopted on many of the Pacific Islands to refer to non-local individuals. In practice, though, the word is not so highly charged in many of the other islands, such as Guam or Saipan. Other Polynesian languages, such as Tongan and Samoan, use the word pālangi or papālangi (ultimately linked to a word meaning Western European, or a Frank, see farangi).
"Got race?" The production of haole and the distortion of indigeneity in the Rice decision.(racial discrimination case )
Mar 22, 2006; Abstract This paper is part of a larger project that explores haole (white people, foreigners) as a colonial form of...