The Annoying yet Inevitable Stereotype of Being a Polynesian College Student

Dwayne-Johnson-The-Rock-TattoosIn 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.

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38 thoughts on “The Annoying yet Inevitable Stereotype of Being a Polynesian College Student

    1. Bobby Talia

      Love it! Im attending a private university in SoCal strictly for school. I usually get unusual responses from students when I tell them that I’m not here on an athletic scholarship.
      #BreakTheStereotype

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s awesome! keep grinding out there and good things will happen. I know what that’s like for sure. Always good to hear and see other polys a part of the same movement!

        Like

      2. tomas

        But in other words good stuff uce! Its time for Polynesians to start being thrown into the loop of this mainstream world. Once we get our foot in the door USO trust me, people are going to start listening. I’m Tongan but we really are just generalized and demeaned to a few stereotypes. Good stuff.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. yea got a lot of heat from my professor for misspelling that haha this was an assignment for class so usually that type of mistake would fly under the radar but since it got a lot of attention online my poor spelling skills were exposed lol thanks though took! We definitely experience a lot of the same things, glad to hear from other polys doing their thing! much love uso.

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      4. Aaone Fuimaono

        This was an Incredible read! Its amazing how little this world knows of our Polynesian People and our capabilities. Our abilities have been labeled into certain categories based on Samoan Celebs when we are so much more than what they depict. Tired of being stereotyped as uneducated savages because of actions of other arrogant Polynesians when Samoan Men and Women despite the lack of resources on island are beyond capable and Highly educated!

        Stay Blessed.. n Keep Up the Awesome Job!!

        Like

  1. Meki

    Well said. I totally agree with you concerning the whole “stereotyping” of Samoans pursuing an education. It’s refreshing to see young educated Samoans speak out on this controversial issue. You should seriously think about getting into politics. We will need educated and innovative leaders such as yourself in the future. I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.

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  2. Principal and principles

    Please don’t continue to perpetuate Polynesian stereotypes.

    Principle= fundamental truth or source

    Principal= highest authority of an organization or group

    Sorry to be part of the grammar police but it really sticks out. This is an otherwise well-written article. Myself and husband are both Polynesians living in Hawaii. Even here with such a diversity of races we experience predjudices and assumptions from time to time although we both possess college degrees.

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  3. Malia

    I’m a grad student at ISU, and this topic has been addressed with my personal and professional development in my program. It is a struggle, especially when my culture is addressed many of times. This is what motivates me o get my PhD as a college educator to sphelp educate the world about the Polynesian culture. I appreciate your words.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea I feel you. It’s definitely something that has constantly been addressed amongst my peers at school as well so it’s refreshing to hear that these conversations are taking place everywhere! good luck to you and I really do hope you get your PhD! we could use more Polynesians with there Doctorates and you’d be among the few!

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  4. Seini

    I find it so refreshing to hear this coming from a Polynesian male’s perspective who is not in school for sports. I loved your answer to the classmate who asked you what were you were doing at school! It’s exciting when we address the stereotypes that we face and try to bring awareness to those who aren’t familiar with our presence in education. I think our generation knows that we our an invisible minority, but I love how we are not afraid to voice our concerns about how society perceives us. It’s also nice to know that there are others out there like me who’re ready to make a difference within our Polynesian community and to the world! #EducationIsPower

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    1. heck yea! super reassuring for me to knowing that i’m not alone in this. The movement is real and Polynesians are coming up! it’s just gonna take some time. It’s tough sometimes but lets keep grinding! #EducationIsPower

      Like

  5. Ti'a

    Absolutely love this and can totally relate. From American Samoa and a grad student at American University (Washington D.C.). Nearly always get asked if I played football in H.S. or if I’m on athletic scholarship and never if I was on academic scholarship (which I was). I even feel like at times like I’m automatically underestimated because of the way I look. Lol!

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  6. Crystal

    I love reading what other people think of the Polynesian culture. I think you wrote exactly what a lot of us think at some point, it might be more than stereotypes, it can also come from parental and peer pressure to do what Polynesians are famous for (sports and entertainment), but I like that you spoke out and I want to share this to everyone I know. You should continue your research or your writing papers like this because it is always a topic of interest to everyone to understand our culture! Keep up the good writing 🙂 good luck with college, you got this!!

    Like

  7. Nicely written. But, get used to it and don’t be so sensitive. Prejudice and stereotypes are part of the American culture and neither are going anywhere. That’s not to say you shouldn’t continue to strive to break the mold, but you’re wasting energy worrying about if someone thinks you play football or not. Just succeed smile in the face of the ignorant.

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    1. I’m far from sensitive lol Just refusing to accept the stereotypes that all my peers growing up felt they had to internalized. I don’t think I’m wasting my energy and time either because it’s a problem. I’m not sitting around all day worrying but these are important conversations that need to take place in my community. Growing up I thought the only avenue to college was through sports and do did a lot of my friends. I want kids that are just like me to know that they shouldn’t feel limited by what others think and if I can do that through writing then I think my time was well spent. Thank you though! I will continue to smile through adversity and in the face of the ignorant!

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  8. Well-said. I feel blessed to have grown up in Samoa where success in education was and is the main emphasis for all. We didnt have sports scholarships etc and the only way to go to university, was to excel academically and earn one of a limited number of annual scholarships awarded to students from Samoa – to go to either NZ or Australia. Parents, extended family and even our churches/pastors all prioritized education and while it was quite competitive, there was also the general sense that everyone wanted and expected you to do well at school. Sports were what people played for fun – or because they were ‘poor academic performers’. It surprised me when I moved overseas and found that Samoans who did well in academics were seen as the exception and as unusual. There were even those who said it wasnt Samoan to prioritize education…and I was like, ummm…I grew up in Samoa and its VERY Samoan to value education?!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Heck yea! My mom tells me the same thing! I only spent 7th grade going to 8th grade in Samoa but I know what you’re saying to be true. sucks that the competitive nature doesent translate into their mainland academics.

      Like

  9. Kroy Wen

    So did you graduate bro? If so thats all it matters, stop complaining and whining, Samoans I know don’t do that they just just achieve!

    Like

    1. No havent graduated yet. Currently in my 3rd year. Not whining just expressing myself and reaching out to MY community lol Samoans i know embrace these type of articles and acknowledge that these are important conversations to have in order for change to come about. Thank you though! Ill graduate and achieve without a doubt in my mind.

      Like

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