Diversity Drives Creativity, Innovation

by Elpidio R. Estioko

Diversity is important because it opens our world to different perspectives. Each culture, nationality and person has different knowledge and point of view. Our diversity opens opportunities for creativity and innovation.

National Asian American United (NAAU) President Joel Wong believes that diversity is really very important for us to consider and put into practice by building bridges through understanding Asian Culture and Heritage. This applies not only in the Bay Area or in Hawaii but all over the country.

His group launched a Civic Leadership Forum Silicon Valley featuring a 40-minute dialog between Asian American communities over Ding Ding TV (a Chinese American tech new media) with him as moderator. While the event is in the Bay Area, Hawaii can likewise benefit from the forum. Maybe a diversity group in Hawaii can duplicate the program launched by NAAU.

The panelists were people of diverse backgrounds and diverse experiences. They are Kathy Watanabe, Council Member, City of Santa Clara, Santa Clara, California; Chris Norwood, President, Milpitas Unified School District Board; Francis Espiritu, President-Publisher, Philippine News Today and past president of the San Mateo County Filipino-American Chamber of Commerce; Rosa Kim Trustee, Fremont Union High School District; Naomi Nakano – Matsumoto, Executive Administrator at Office of Supervisor Otto Lee, Santa Clara County District 3; and Queenie Ngu.

It was held on Jan. 27 from 4:30 pm over Ding Ding TV Silicon Valley Studio located in Santa Clara, California. Dr. Xiaoyan Zhang delivered the keynote speech on “How social media divides us and how AAPI leaders leverage their cultural strengths to work together.”

There were multicultural artist performances such as Chinese music, Vietnamese dance and fashion show, Filipino singing, and Korean dance. To view the full forum, visit facebook.com/DingDingTV.

As I See It, diversity is of paramount importance for many reasons. First, we can learn about various cultures that will propel us to greatness. It teaches us to be innovative and creative.

Second, diversity gives us the chance to understand each other thereby promoting better communication and understanding leading to good relationship. It will make us complete and more diverse in our daily life.

Third, it will also give us an idea of how to approach problems that are unique to people by networking with them for a common goal. Since we understand the culture and their heritage, we would know how to make things relevant and encompassing. That’s how important diversity is!

According to the census, of Hawaii’s residents 38.6% were Asian, 24.7% Caucasian, 10% Pacific Islander, 8.9% Hispanic and roughly 1.6% African. One can attribute cultural diversity in Hawaii to its rich history of immigration.
The influence of Asian cultures on Hawaii dates back to the rise of the sugar industry when the Chinese immigrated to Hawaii to work on plantations beginning in the late 18th century. The first arrival of Chinese immigrants marked the beginning of cultural diversity in Hawaii. By the mid 1800’s, there were nearly 50,000 Chinese immigrants making Hawaii their home.

But instead of returning to China, these people continued to stay in Hawaii after their work contracts expired. They then excelled in small business ownership and lived in areas such as Chinatown in Honolulu and because the majority of Chinese immigrants were male, they often married into other ethnic groups, including native Hawaiians.

Next came the Japanese who immigrated to Hawaii to work on the plantations in the early 1800s. But from 1869 to 1885, Japan banned emigration to Hawaii because it did not want their citizens to become foreign laborers. However, when the country lifted the ban, Japanese began settling in large numbers in Hawaii. In 1920, over 40% of Hawaii’s residents were of Japanese ancestry.  

Within the sugar industry, Filipinos were the largest ethnic group of all workers. Over 120,000 Filipinos immigrated to Hawaii between 1907 to 1931 mostly coming from Ilocos Norte. Today, there are still significant numbers of Filipinos immigrating to Hawaii from the Philippines, so, as a result, Filipinos have become the largest single ethnicity, representing 25% of Hawaii’s population.

Also, I found out that thousands of Koreans immigrated to the islands from 1896-1910. Many worked on the sugar plantations. From 1911 to 1924, the Korean workers requested picture brides and the resulting unions in Hawaii strengthened the Korean presence in the islands.

Today, there are almost 300,000 claiming some degree of Hawaiian heritage. The ancient Hawaiians are immigrants too as their ancestors came from Polynesia, principally from the Marquesas and Tahiti. They made the arduous journey across the Pacific to the Hawaiian Islands beginning in the 3rd century. At the time when the first Westerners first explored the islands, there were between 250,000 to 800,000 Hawaiians.

Another one of the fastest-growing groups in Hawaii is Pacific Islanders. They mostly hail from Fiji, Guam, Tahiti and Samoa. Other than Hawaiians, Samoans are the largest group of Polynesians to have come to Hawaii. They grew steadily in numbers. So, by the 1970’s, there were over 13,000 Samoans, the majority of which lived on Oahu. Currently, 28,000 people of Samoan ancestry live in Hawaii.

Aside from Hawaiians, Asians and Pacific Islanders, Hawaii also welcomed big communities of Portuguese, American Protestant missionaries and Puerto Ricans due to the state’s plantation industry.

Diversity, I would say, made and is continuing to make Hawaii a progressive island state!

ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and a multi-awarded journalist here in the US. For feedbacks, comments… please email the author at estiokoelpidio@gmail.com.

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