Bikini Atoll has been used for westernized entertainment for decades, and Pacific Islanders are finally putting their foot down on the ongoing issue.
An island of people who have experienced nuclear testing are outraged with the ongoing products dedicated to their home.
Almost a month ago, Texas-based Manhattan Project Beer Company released a row of new products dedicated to nuclear bombs. One of its products is named “Bikini Atoll”.
Shortly after its release, Pacific Islanders took to Twitter and expressed their frustration about the company’s insensitivity. Some have photoshopped the picture of Bikini Atoll out of the beer and replaced it with the Twin Towers and the name 9/11.
Some messaged the company through social media and its website to voice their concerns, then asked if the company could remove its product or change the name. The company’s response – blocked.
Within the 24 hours of backlash, the company released a statement on Twitter addressing the issue:
“Our beer named Bikini Atoll was not created to mock or trivialize the nuclear testing that took place in the Marshall Islands. Through our brand and naming, we are creating awareness of the wider impacts and implications of the United States’s nuclear research programs and the pivotal moment in world history that is often forgotten.”
The statement included that it will only address this once in regards to the matter because they said they have received numerous harassments and death threats.
The company did not respond to requests for comment on this article.
Hideo Tokeak, a Marshallese living in El Paso, Texas, is one of the few who reached out and was blocked by the beer company.
“I find it kind of unprofessional that they would block the voice of the indigenous people stating their disapproval of their product,” Tokeak said in an email interview. “They claim to want to raise awareness on Bikini's nuclear legacy and yet they disregard and silence the voice of the people who have been living with this issue. I just don't feel that their response was not sincere or even apologetic. Mainland Americans seem to forget that narration is an important tool, Bikini is the Marshallese people's narration to tell in a way that they want to, a label on a beer does not justify the intense history.”
Something happened during this time frame. Pacific Islanders from all over Pacific regions came together to support the people of the Marshall Islands.
Tokeak said he was surprised by the outpouring of support from Pacific Islanders throughout the regions of Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia.
“We live in an era where us Pacific Islanders are no longer staying quiet about issues that concern us,” Tokeak said. “We are no longer letting bigger nations bully us into submission. We're not only standing up for ourselves but for each other. The ocean has always connected us, but colonialism divided us for a brief moment making us forget the ties that we once shared.”
Tokeak and others were not the only ones to reach out, but the Republic of the Marshall Islands did as well. In addition, petitions with thousands of signatures were circulating online to have the product removed.
Jack Niedenthal, secretary of health and human services in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, wrote a statement to the beer company.
“As a nation, the people of the Marshall Islands have one of the highest cancer rates in the world, all of our families can tell a personal cancer story that often times can be traced directly to the nuclear testing period, my family included.”
The inhabited islands were used as nuclear testing grounds between 1939 and 1946, according to Connie Goldsmith’s book, “Bombs Over Bikini: The World’s First Nuclear Disaster.” In 1941, then U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the top secret Manhattan Project to create an atomic bomb before the Germans did.
It does not help the beer company that its name is the same as a nuclear testing project.
“You’ll never forget your first sip,” reads the slogan of Manhattan Project Beer Company.
But the people of the Marshall Islands will never forget the violent history of nuclear testing.
That’s because mainstream commercials and cartoons will be sure to bring up that piece of history.
If anyone remembers the annoying but catchy swimsuit song by Brian Hyland that was played in many commercials, the song goes, “she wore an itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polkadot bikini.”
French fashion designer Louis Réard introduced the two piece swimsuit and named it bikini in 1946, not long after the nuclear bombs were detonated on Bikini Atoll.
On July 1, 1946, Able was the first bomb to hit Bikini Atoll in the U.S. Crossroads Project.
In Nickelodeon's “Spongebob,” everyone’s favorite sea creature lives in a pineapple under the sea in a town called Bikini Bottom. In the “Dying for Pie” episode, Spongebob was supposed to die eating a pie bomb from Squidward, who bought it from pirates. At the end of the episode, Spongebob saved the pie to share with Squidward but tripped, leading to the pie hitting Squidward and exploding. The cartoon showed a quick film of one of the bombs from the Crossroads Project.
This episode was showcased at the Micronesian Youth Summit earlier this year. The Hawaiʻi-based director for We Are Oceania, Josie Howard, spoke about the episode.
Howard also found out about the beer product through social media.
“Just to use the nuclear testing for entertainment, I mean first of all, it makes me feel really sad what our society has come to,” Howard said in a phone interview. “It’s almost not seeing us as human beings.”