Many of you who have read my blog or follow me on social media know that I’m very passionate and protective of our community. Today, I was talking to a friend about a well-known person and a post they made. However, it kind of rubbed me the wrong way they dismissed their behavior or portrayal of our community in the media. And, many of you know I’m pretty open about how I view the responsibility those in the public eye have to our community.
Even as a small creator, I’ve asked that if I’ve ever said or done anything, that you approach me to let me know. I began this journey to learn about our community, the culture, and the traditions. During this time, I’ve learn about our history, our traditions and views before colonization. I’m no expert, but I think I have a pretty good idea of those who would use our culture for clout and those who are truly vested in uplifting the Pasifika voice. Both have the responsibility to future of our community. We are the future ancestors, and it’s time to wake up and see that.
Google is Free Excuse
Listen, I get it. As POC it is not our responsibility to be the educators of our culture. We shouldn’t always have to pop up when a social injustice happens or someone outside our community is too lazy to do the work. However, the reality is that we are not as big as the Black, Asian, Hispanic, etc. communities. Especially in America. When someone Googles the Samoan culture in America, what are they going to find? You might see some history about American Samoa, citizenship, the culture of Samoa, etc. But, does the every day America just want to Google an old history blog? Probably not. So, what is their first taste or glimpse into the Samoan or Pasifika culture going to come from? Mass media.
It’s easy to say, “Google is free,” and move about your life. I get it. I’ve told people before that I’m Samoan, and they’re like, “Tell me about that.” I want to respond, “How much time do you have?” Cause I could go on for days about our rich culture. Why we do things the way we do. I guess what is upsetting is that last year an episode was aired that portrayed our customs in an exaggerated form. So, while you think, “Just Google it,” will solve it, you forget there are countless of us other Samoans or Pacific Islanders out here trying to explain to our non-Pacific friends that that’s an overexaggeration. And, for someone who has done her research on where the Fa’a Samoa tradition comes from, I’m talking to them about how it was done so that the chiefs of the village could take care of their families.
I’m out here trying to help change our ideas about Fa’a Samoa, maybe also help those outside our community understand. Cause trust me, I grew up in the freaking South – Arkansas to be specific. When I went to Australia and had to experience Fa’a Samoa, I was like, “WTF is happening here?” To this day, I’m still a bit jarred by it. But, here’s something to realize, I know the history. I also know that you can sit down and talk to your parents about it. That is something we have to do anyways in the diaspora. It’s going to be tough, but if we want to change things for the better, then we have to talk and do something about it. So, when events come around for Fa’a Samoa, my mom talks to my sister and me. She doesn’t just ask. We negotiate, and come to a solution. Now, I understand not everyone’s family is like that, but the cycle has to stop somewhere and you can just blast on national television the most exaggerated parts of it.
Google is free, but so is being able to take responsibility to educate those outside our community. I mean I’m doing it.
It’s a Job
Here’s another aspect that I can also kind of see. You have a job. Being an entertainer, you have to entertain. However, I know and have seen many Pasifika people on social media, tv, and movies who are able to entertain and still educate. Now, I’m not saying we don’t speak out about the negative things happening in our community. I think we have to do that. Like when it come to domestic violence or assault, needing to change our attitudes about gender roles, Christianity’s colonized ways, etc. What I’m talking about though is the core values of our community.
Again I emphasize, we are a small community in the States. Our views and how we are portrayed is very limited. I mean just look Polynesian American actors on Google. You won’t find many and you might find one blog/article about. So, when you think about portraying our culture to the mass media there is some responsibility that comes with the territory whether you like it or not. Anyone who enters that realm has to understand this. I mean I watch The Bachelor and The Bachelorette regularly. It’s on it’s like 20-something season. If you don’t get the basic crazy that comes with being on the show, then you don’t need to go on the show.
You can tell me it’s a job and you’re just an employee trying to get ratings or tickets, but when the cameras are off, when you are off the show, what are you saying? Are you just claiming your heritage for clout or do you truly care what is happening in our community? Do you really cherish our culture and the legacy our ancestors left behind for us to carry on?
Feedback vs. Attacking
I understand not all of us get to learn about our culture or get to learn to understand it. Heck, I’m on year three now of diving into the different aspects of Samoan culture let alone the other islands. However, I’m determined to get there one day. One thing that has helped me on my journey is the feedback I’ve received from different people. On Tik Tok, I’ve been corrected about how I say things. In conversation, I’ve been able to adjust my thinking about something I made assumptions about. I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for the feedback I’ve received from islanders who know more than I do.
I’ve never been attacked by our people, I have from colonizers. However, I know what it’s like to receive harsh criticism. I get it on the regs from my own mother who still makes me feel like I have to validate my Pasifika card. However, it has only pushed me further to understand everything a bit more. I get that many of our people can attack a person by how they portray our community. Our worst critics are the people in our circle. However, you can make excuses or learn from it.
I’m reminded of a blog that Measina wrote about Hobbs and Shaw. It was interesting to see The Rock’s response to that blog. Her blog was a great review and very insightful. She gave her feedback with love. I know not many people do that. Some come with jabs, others can be right out rude. However, if you’re in the wrong, you need to recognize that. I’ve been there before. I was met with jabs not right out hate. But, I had posted a video on Tik Tok about the Siva Tau and the Sipi Tau. Except I put “Sipa Tau.” Man, did the Tongans let me know! And, rightfully so. While that video gained like 3,000 views, I wasn’t willing to compromise the culture for clout. That’s what irresponsible and people don’t care do. You know how I know? Cause I see it on Tik Tok from people outside the community making statements about our community. One girl outside our community called a song Samoan when it was Tongan. She gained a lot of views. When corrected she was like, “It won’t let me edit.” Doesn’t matter. Take it down and reupload. If it was a good video, you will still get many views. Cause that’s what happened with my video. I took it down, reuploaded with the right content, and still got views.
What gives me hope is seeing the ones on Tik Tok who do both. They entertain while being Pasifika and they educate. They are passionate and always open about our community. To you creators, I see you and appreciate you. Thank you for using your platform as future ancestors for generations to see and learn from.
Our community is small, but it is also strong. There are so many people doing the work right now in film and tv to showcase our people’s culture. We don’t need to take away the hours they put in by portraying our culture in an unforgiving light. You don’t like the feedback you’ve been given about how you portray our culture and community, then maybe you shouldn’t be teaching it. Right now we are in an age of information and technology. What videos will last forever? Years from now when our kids or grandkids do research on what the Pasifika community was doing, what will they read or watch?
These are the things I think of. There’s a line between entertaining people while being Pasifika, and entertaining people at the expense of teaching people the wrong thing about our culture. Are you opening up conversations and staying there to talk about it, or are you creating a mess and saying, “Your problem, not mine?” For me, I will always be open to learn, willing to talk, and hopefully aiding our people in uplifting our voices for the world to see the beautiful culture and people we come from.