Reflections on Being Micronesian in Hawai‘i
Suzie Sigrah Lāna‘i Union Church
What has been your experience?
To be honest, I haven’t experienced any differences. I guess, I had a lot people come up to me saying, “Oh you don’t look Micronesian,” because we’re lighter skinned. So people don’t treat us different.
People call Micronesians “roach” or “cockroach” because we’re everywhere, like we’re overpopulated. I don’t hear that on Lanai, mostly on Oahu. We’re everywhere. Working in all the fast food restaurants.
It’s embarrassing to hear that. It does hurt. At the same, we’ve experienced it our whole lives, so we don’t care for it or act upon it. Most of the time we try to ignore it.
It makes us want to stay on Lanai, everybody knows about each other, we’re more comfortable here.
I’ve lived here my whole life. I've heard people calling Micronesians names, but never experienced it myself. If a Micronesian does something bad everybody has to know about it, but if they do so something good, nobody knows about it. Our behavior isn’t “bad” so we’re not seen as Micronesian.
What do you want people to know?
Kosraeans are very respectful to our elders. We’re really welcoming. If you go to our island, it will be very welcoming, they will meet you at the airport and lei you.
It was really different coming here. We didn’t expect this when we came here. We didn’t expect the #MicronesianLivesMatter. We try to ignore it.
We didn’t experience/expect to have people already have a name for us, already labeled. I guess it’s how you approach a person, that makes them approach you in a certain. If you really get to know a Micronesian you’ll see how much of a difference it between how people think Micronesians are. And how they say go back to Micronesia, if we could, we would. People come here for labor, jobs, education. If we could go back for those things we would. But the living here is easier, I guess.
What makes you most proud to be Micronesian?
There is a lot of teamwork. We do everything together. It’s not like one is left out. If they know you’re Kosraean, they’re going to help you any way they can. If they know you’re Micronesian and you need help they’re going to help. It’s a tight community.
All I would like to say, all our chants, all the things we celebrate, if they just join us in that they will see so much more of who Micronesians are. It’s a good experience.
Telsin Kephas Lāna‘i Union Church
Born and raised on Kosrae, ancestors from Pingelap (outer island in Pohnpei), moved to Hawai‘i after college in December 2017
What has been your experience
For me coming to Hawaii, for us it’s the same weather and everything. Over here feels like home. It’s just the traffic and everything. For the interaction. For the people. Most of the people, as a Micronesian, it depends on how you treat people, if you show respect. If you come here, most of us come here for work, for education, so just come to, how do I call that, just to live - it’s like they come here and there’s no more respect. They do whatever they want. They show that they’re strong, they’re fighters. That’s when you’re going to fall into problems. People will treat you different.
Micronesians, arriving here, some people who don’t know me, they expect that all of us are bad. Until they get to know me. I’m not cruel, I don’t do bad stuff - because they heard on the news that a Micronesian robbed a store or did something bad, or killed someone! The name Micronesian is bad to those who don’t know Micronesian people. There are some who don’t know Micronesia at all.
When I experienced Micronesia or my home island, I had never experienced other life other than in Micronesia. There’s a lot of people, different people, foreign to Micronesia, Filipino, white, black, those people live in our place. We try to treat them well. They are guests to our island. But when I come here I see that some people that don’t know me “oh that’s a MC” (you can tell if someone is MC). When I come here it was different than what I expected.
When you come here, especially the locals, if they know you’re Micronesian they just (they don’t treat you cruel) they look at you like you’re someone that is bad.
It’s hard to find housing, good job. Before i came here I got my Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts - graduated in Micronesia from the National Campus - before I come here I had was working in agriculture, when I first come here I just build up my resume. I applied for a lot of jobs when I first come here. I mentioned on my resume that I’m MC - i don’t know if they see. When they call me up, “would you like to do housekeeping instead ?”(not the job I applied for). They call me and ask if I would like golf course Maintenance - at that time i was desperate - whatever job I could find in my first year here I took that job. I started working over there- my real field is agriculture, I applied for plant health technician, (that’s what I do back home). So a couple years later I try, but i was lucky no one was applying for the job, so I got it.
They assume all the MC will be good at housekeeping, dishes. No opportunity to go work in the areas that you are familiar with. But I kept on trying to I finally got the job that I liked.
What do you want people to know
When you’re talking about MC, you’re talking about, in Micronesia we have different people, way different language. There are 4 main islands, but there are many small islands that many people live in. The population is really high. We don’t really know each other. The language is not the same IT’s like saying Asians or Europeans are all the same. When you say MC you need to be more specific. For Me I am Kosrae, my language is different than Marshallese, Pohnpeian, Yapese, Chuukese, Palauan.
When they something about someone from MC, they should specify, just so that they know there is a difference.
What makes you most proud to be MC?
Unity for example when something happens to one of you and they know you are MC, everybody comes to help out. We are one community. When we go to Hawaii or the mainland, and we find out we are MC, we help each other. IN the community, everybody gets involved, helps out. It makes me proud to MC, because most of us help each other out.
When somebody dies away from MC, we need to do a fundraiser to ship the body back home. That’s expensive. In one night we can come together and raise all the money that’s needed. Thousands and thousands. To help out what’s needed.
I saw one incident on the news that involved a MC - Iremamber Sykap, some people ask me about that - some of my Hawaiian friends if I knew the kids. I saw some comments on the video on the news - some people say “all the MC should be deported because they cause a lot of trouble here.”We’re, all of us, we’re not that bad. Every community has some bad apples, some people who go down the wrong path. That’s h
About that incident, I think the Police, I think,
First, you need to take of back home, the parents need to lead the kids the way they want to go - not the stealing, that’s not what we’re about. They’re not raised right, I don’t know how to say it.
But still they don’t deserve to get shot.