Transracial and “Fia Palagi”

Okay, if the name Rachel Dolezal does not ring a bell with you, yet, it means either you don’t care about what’s going on in the world, let alone in America (especially with race relations) or you actually live under a rock; or you’ve been stranded in the middle of a swimming pool without a phone and/or Internet connection.  Or better still, you may have been “rip van winkling” lol!...

So who is Dolezal? Well, she is a white woman who served as president of the Spokane (Washington)
Dolezal - after and before
chapter of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), and claimed/portrayed herself as being Black. She has since resigned amid all the controversy.

Now, instead of going into all the ramifications, repercussions, spinoffs or personal/biographical revelations of the story, there’s a word/concept that has surfaced/resurfaced (at least connotatively) because of it; which, to me, is a reminder of something similar about the Samoans. The word is “transracial” and the Samoan equivalent is called “fia palagi” (wannabe White). Some Samoans have named their children after the concept.

“Fia palagi”, however, is not so much having to do with changes in physical appearance, but rather in the behavioral, character and other social aspects.  Basically, it has to do with socio-cultural non-conformity and therefore adherence to societal roles, duties and responsibilities are at issue. Dislike of Samoan foods can also be grounds for reproof.  So, in other words, if a Samoan changes his/her appearance (hair, face, etc.) to imitate a palagi, but still  conforms to the social and cultural norms and the so-called “faa-Samoa” (Samoan Way), in its broad sense, he/she may not be blamed for being “fia palagi”.  Conversely, a Samoan can be culpable of “fia palagi” if resistant to the faa-Samoa even without any conspicuous changes in physical appearance.  Then there are also the in-betweens.  Individualistic attitudes (as opposed to the preferred traditional communal abidance) sometimes become the root of  “fia palagi” accusations.

The other aspect of a Samoan’s behavior that would invite the “fia palagi” label and blame is in language - specifically English.  When a Samoan tends to use English more in actual face-to-face casual conversations, he/she is likely going to absorb the blame, especially if the language expectations of the conversation are exclusively Samoan. The accusation is often directed more to those who are understood and known by others to be genuine Samoans.

What could be the likely motives behind “fia palagi” - or transracial for that matter?  To fit in, a sense of belonging or getting ahead, maybe?  In that case, could a “fia palagi” person become a fence-sitter or marginalized outside Samoa?   Samoans who migrate abroad as adults and already fluent in Samoan, sometimes become participants and perpetrators of the WWW (Wannabe White Way) ...lol.

Relatively, though, I believe the so-called “wannabe” trend made popular by the hip hop culture has more to do with appearance, music and “slanguage”.    The B-Stylers are an example. They are Japanese kids who want to be Black (fia meauli tagata uli).  I wonder if Dolezal had any B-Stylers connections. Hehee.

Ia suifua loa u liva liva aso e le ‘ai se tamiu.... LOL!


  1. LOL.. Too funny and also too familiar. :)

    1. Thanks! I like your "fia palagi" alias (hahahaa...j/k)... Sisipeni (sixpence).