Rep Hanohano Accused of Workplace Violence after Racist Tirade Aimed at State Workers
Transcript of letter to State Foundation on Culture and the Arts Executive Director Eva Laird Smith:
On Monday, February 25, 2013, an unfortunate incident occurred at the Hawaii State Capitol while the Exhibit Specialists were installing works of art from the Art in Public Places collection. While performing our duties at Representative Hanohano's office, room #418, the ES team were subjected to what I believe falls under the definition of workplace violence.
As the ES were installing the works, the Representative came out of her personal office and began a tirade on how "ugly" the artwork was and why weren't artworks being installed in her office done by Native Hawaiian artists. The ES answered her inquiries politely, but were addressed with culturally insensitive and racist criticisms such as "...any work done by Haoles, Japs, Paranges, Pakes, you can just take away right now and on and on....". We were shocked into silence by the Representative's use of such offensive language. But we were especially taken aback when Representative Hanohano threatened to cut funding to the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts if she didn't get any artwork done by Native Hawaiian artists. We stated that we would gladly remove the artwork if she was not happy with the selection. Representative Hanohano replied that she'll "leave them up for awhile, and when she gets sick of them we can come get them later".
As the State of Hawaii has a zero tolerance policy and does not condone workplace violence, I will not permit the Exhibit Specialists to return to work in her office.On a personal note, as a third generation Japanese American born and raised in Hawaii, I am deeply offended, hurt and angered by her remarks. I am old enough to have lived in a time and place where the next thing following the word [racial slur] was a punch to the face.
The Exhibit Specialist team is a culturally diverse group of highly trained professionals; as such we pride ourselves on our ability to educate and share our love of the arts with the community. I have worked for the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts for over 10 years and have never been subjected to such hateful racist language in the workplace before. This kind of blatant racist language must never be tolerated anywhere in the state of Hawaii, but especially not at the State Capitol. As an elected official, Representative Hanohano must be held accountable.
James T. Kuroda
Senior Exhibit Specialist
State Foundation on Culture and the Arts Art in Public Places Program
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HNN: Hanohano apologizes for racial slurs about Capitol artwork
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H247: Hanohano apologizes for racist comments
Hanohano on Thursday issued the following statement and apology:
First and foremost, I’d like to express my sincere apology to any individuals or groups who may have been offended by my comments. Clearly comments that were intended to be an impassioned plea for increasing the visibility and support for Native Hawaiian artists were expressed in a manner that did not accurately reflect their intent, sentiment or the integrity of this office.
I accept full responsibility for this unfortunate incident and, again, I apologize.
My office has already reached out to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to assist us in obtaining additional training for all of our staff. We are committed to taking immediate steps to ensure that an incident like this never happens again.
I will also be reaching out to the State Foundation for Culture and the Arts to attempt to rebuild and improve that relationship.
I stand firm in my position that individuals who serve in state leadership positions should be thoroughly educated and informed on the history and native culture of Hawaii.
I am hopeful that this unfortunate incident can serve as a platform for improving dialogue and cross-cultural relationships between state departments.
Hanohano also delivered an apology on the floor of the state House of Representatives.
The full text:
Ka Hua olelo o ka la – MIHI – Apology
O ku’u leo mihi ho’i keia e noi ha’aha’a nei ia ‘oukou i ka huikala mai ia’u.
I am an honest and straight speaking woman whom descends from long line of proud leaders and warriors from Puna of Hawaii Island.
I aloha all of our people in Hawaii and will continue to find ways to champion the plethora of issues and challenges that my Hawaiian people continue to endure.
I firmly believe in my naau, in my heart that when my native people don’t just survive but actually thrive and prosper then ALL of our other ethnicities of Hawaii nei shall find greater benefit and blessing.
Todayʻs word is MIHI and I humbly apologize to all of you whom may have been offended by sentiments expressed that were taken into the news media.
I realize that as public elected officials we all come to the table and kukakuka about the issues that matter most to our communities. Sometimes we agree, and sometimes we donʻt however let me reaffirm my commitment to all of you that I shall serve my people and the people of the State of Hawaii to the best of my ability, integrity and for the honor of my kupuna.
House Speaker Joe Souki issued the following statement:
“I absolutely do not condone this type of offensive language and behavior by anyone. I have spoken to Rep. Hanohano and emphasized that this is not in keeping with the spirit of the House of Representatives. She will be sending a letter of apology to the State Foundation on Culture and Arts Exhibit team specialists. As Speaker of the House I have also extended my sincerest apology to the members of the Exhibit team.”
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