The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Sara Lockwood '22 RGLP Reflection: Reckoning with Complexity

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As a hapa girl born and raised in Hawaiʻi, my culture is a mix of many. Half Chinese and half white, I grew up with the influence of both Chinese and American traditions. I grew up folding wonton and grilling burgers, playing mahjong and uno. I was also greatly influenced by the other cultures around me—Hawaiian culture, Japanese culture, Filipino culture, Samoan culture, and so many more.

My family moved to Hawaiʻi when my father was three years old and my grandfather, a marine, was stationed on Oʻahu. This has also influenced the way I move through the world. The military has always had a difficult relationship with locals since the illegal annexation of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. My family would not be in Hawaiʻi were it not for the millitary. Our home is a result of a settler colonial project. I am from Hawaiʻi, I am of Hawaiʻi, but Hawaiʻi will never be mine. 

My grandmother was a textile artist who admired pacific art. She founded our family business—an educational and cultural tourism company. With my grandmotherʻs interest in Pacific arts and cultures, my family was and continues to be more grounded in local culture than other transplants but as a part of the tourism industry, however much we try to be an ethical and culturally sensitive company, we are complacent in the commodification of Hawaiian culture and land.

My family business provided me with many opportunities to travel, especially through the Pacific and Asia. I had the opportunity to engage with people from different places and with different backgrounds fairly often. From these interactions I learned a lot about communication and difference and similarity. I was very lucky and privileged to have these opportunities and my parents made sure that I was aware of that.

All of these things have informed my culture and the way I move through the world. I understand the messiness of existence, but I also understand the impulse to categorize things as “right” or “wrong” or to fit things in tidy little boxes. In RGLP, we discussed the importance of being comfortable with ambiguity. As I see it, being comfortable with ambiguity is reckoning with the complexities of human existence and understanding that simple answers are simply incomplete.

Written by Sara Lockwood, a member of the Spring 2021 Cohort of the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program

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