In the world of sports we are viewed as heroic warriors who are built for speed, strength and dominance on the football field. Proud Polynesians have cultivated the game of football with their broad shoulders and stout lower half. In the world of entertainment and mainstream media, we are depicted by images of movie star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and other notable charismatic WWE personas. Polynesians typically have big bodies and sun kissed skin covered in traditional tattoos across their chest, arms, and abnormally large calf muscles. We are seen as entertainers, warriors, singers, actors, and athletes. In the world of advertising our homelands are used to promote a lifestyle that promises relaxation and a beautiful tropical getaway. Our islands are portrayed by palm trees, turquoise blue water, and a palm-sized coconut shaded by a miniature pink umbrella. In the world of education we are depicted as…as…well…we aren’t depicted at all.
Maybe that’s why before people even ask me what my name is I get a confident point aimed at the middle of my ribcage followed by the question “football? or rugby?” In fact one of the first people I met when I arrived at Central Washington University was a girl who went as far as asking me what I was doing here if wasn’t playing a sport. Slightly offended and unsure, I answered with a timid “education?” Over the past three years that I have been a college student my peers and I have been referred to as scary, jocks and my personal favorite: intimidating. Although comments like these have gotten under my skin at times, I’ve grown to understand why people would assume who I am, what my interests are, and the the type of things I do with my free time simply because I have long hair, a wide frame, and weigh 215 pounds. It only makes sense that before you even ask me for something as simple as my name you place me into a box that consists of two possibilities. I mean come on, what else could I possibly be? An engineer? A doctor? A lawyer? How about the idea of a Polynesian principle? or a politician even!? All I’m trying to say is that sometimes people need to think before they speak.
Yes I am a Samoan student who is proud of his people and all that they’ve accomplished. We are amazing athletes, entertainers, and come from from a very traditional culture, but those categories should not limit who we are. We are innovators and pioneers who used the stars to navigate the waters of the South Pacific long before maps and compasses. We are warriors who have always found a way to persevere and triumph. We are the purest form of loyalty and love, ready to protect those we care about and what we believe in. We cannot be contained or described by just one characteristic. So what am I doing here you ask? To show the world that being Polynesian means so much more.