How to Demolish Racism1 Michael Haas



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How to Demolish Racism1

Michael Haas
Abstract: A major part of the quest for Hawaiʻi statehood was conceived in the Islands as a way to end racism that had been imposed since the coup that toppled the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi in 1893. Once statehood became a reality, the effort to reverse the racist economic, environmental, governmental, and political systems was not accomplished quickly. But it was: No race now subordinates any other. The paper outlines the steps taken and philosophy of governance underlying the transformation, which unfortunately may not be duplicated elsewhere until some of the lessons learned are taken to heart and enacted into law.

How Racism Entered the Hawaiian Islands1
The Kingdom of Hawaiʻi was formally established in 1810 and adopted a constitution in 1840. The constitution granted universal suffrage for adult males and females, the first country in the world to do so. By mid-century, the Kingdom had been diplomatically recognized by dozens of countries, three of which (Britain, France, and the United States) pledged never to allow colonization of the progressive country, which for example, illuminated the royal palace with electricity before the White House in Washington (Hawaiian Electric 2013).2

By mid-century, when foreigners discovered that the climate and land were ideal for sugarcane production, the Kingdom achieved First World status because sufficient capital had been accumulated to maintain a self-sustaining economy. The Kingdom even shipped food to California during the period of the Gold Rush.

However, the success of the sugar industry placed White capitalist settlers in a position to control the economy, whereupon they demanded a say in how the political system affected the economy. During the last half of the nineteenth century, as the United States engaged in import restrictions to protect sugar growers in Louisiana, White control over the Kingdom’s political system increased, women were denied to vote, and voting was gradually restricted to those with a minimum of income or property, marginalizing Native Hawaiians.

In 1893, a secret plot ended the monarchy: White conspirators got approval from the American consul to have Marines land in Honolulu and place the reigning queen under house arrest, forcing her to abdicate. Although the takeover was rejected by President Grover Cleveland as a violation of international law (Blount 1893; Dudley and Agard 1990:25-46; Dougherty 1992:169), his successor William McKinley obtained majorities in both houses of Congress to annex the Islands in 1898, since he could not get the required supermajority in the Senate to adopt a proposed annexation treaty. In view of the fact that annexation was not accomplished consistent with international law, the Islands have been militarily occupied ever since.

After annexation in 1898, Congress established the Territory of Hawaiʻi by the Organic Act of 1900, with governors appointed by the president of the United States. One requirement, to avoid carpetbaggers, was that governors had to have lives in the Islands at least five years. In addition, a nonvoting delegate was to be elected to the House of Representatives by a new voting system that enfranchised all adult males regardless of wealth, and the Territory was permitted to continue the practice, begun in the days of the monarchy, to elect members of a House of Representatives and Senate to govern the Territory in matters not superseded by acts of Congress. The level of control exercised by governors, according to a Congressional report, was “centralized to an extent known in the United States and probably almost as centralized as it was in France under Louis XIV” (U.S. Congress 1903:I,10; Daws 1968:313). Presidents consulted with the White financial community in selecting governors, so White political control was imposed over a predominantly non-White population, in which the plurality of citizens had Japanese ancestry, with significant representation from Chinese, Native Hawaiians, and later Filipinos. Before statehood, counties could not collect property taxes, which was a power of the Territorial government centered in Honolulu. No cities have ever been incorporated in the Islands.

Racism During the Territorial Period (1900−1959)

Ethnic Displacement. In 1900, elections were held for the Territorial legislature and for the nonvoting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. Native Hawaiian Robert Wilcox then emerged as the standard-bearer of the Home Rule Party on a platform of reestablishing the monarchy. Native Hawaiians accounted for more than two-thirds of the eligible voters, and his party swept the first elections to the Territorial legislature in 1900, controlling 73 percent of the seats. He was elected to Congress, where he lobbied for restoration of the monarchy. When the Territorial legislature first convened, Hawaiian was spoken by the majority during proceedings. But they could accomplish little due to the power held by White governors.

The Caucasian minority then panicked and decided to negotiate with Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianole, erstwhile heir to the throne: If he would run for the position of nonvoting delegate to Congress, they would place his name on the White-led Republican Party ballot (Fuchs 1961:159). Kūhiō then defeated Wilcox in 1902, was reelected in 1904 and thereafter, serving until 1921. The Home Rule Party gradually faded away.

From 1902, with Native Hawaiian support, the Republican Party attained a firm political hegemony in the Territorial legislature, while electing most Congressional delegates in the next half century. In short, as of 1902, some 29,000 Whites, of whom fewer than 2,000 were registered to vote, controlled a population of 154,000 (Haas 2016:Table 3.1). Throughout most of the Territorial era, Native Hawaiians voted Caucasians into a dominant position to share such rewards of power as contracts and jobs. By 1926, among government workers, Native Hawaiians constituted 62 percent of the blue-collar workers, 55 percent of the clerical workers, and 35 percent of the professionals (Littler 1929:79).

Even governors appointed by Democrats Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt did not challenge the power of the Caucasian Republicans, who treated government as an extension of the plantation system of autocratic rule, with elites at the top, virtual serfs at the bottom, and a middle level of professionals and shopkeepers as a buffer between the two layers. Sugar conglomerates and allied corporations assumed an even more oligopolistic control over the Territory’s economy (Kent 1983:ch6).

In 1952, Congress passed an immigration act that permitted aliens born in Japan to become American citizens. In 1954, after a flood of Japanese in Hawai‛i became American citizens (HSB 1954:A3), the Democratic Party achieved a landslide in elections for the Territorial legislature. The 1954 victory, known as the Democratic Revolution, occurred in part because the White oligarchy refused to co-opt enough Japanese Americans into prominent positions within the Republican Party. As the largest bloc of voters, Japanese cast their ballots largely for the Democratic candidates (Digman and Tuttle 1961). Nevertheless, while controlling the Territorial legislature, the Democrats did not antagonize the Big Five (Kent 1983:ch10), who could still pull the plug on the fragile Island economy. Even governors appointed by Democrats Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt did not challenge the power of the Caucasian Republicans, who treated government as an extension of the plantation system of autocratic rule, with elites at the top, virtual serfs at the bottom, and a middle level of professionals and shopkeepers as a buffer between the two layers. Sugar conglomerates and allied corporations also assumed an oligopolistic control over the Territory’s economy (Kent 1983:ch6).

In short, up to World War II, the political displacement of Caucasians over the former monarchy was secure because Native Hawaiian leaders were co-opted.


Hawaiian Homesteads and Housing Discrimination. The problem of homelessness in Hawai‛i began with the adoption of private property in the mid-nineteenth century, which soon resulted in the eviction of hundreds of Native Hawaiians from ancestral agricultural lands. Many Native Hawaiians were landless and could not live as they had for centuries. After the election of Prince Kūhiō as the Territory’s nonvoting representative in Congress in 1902, he felt obligated to do something for his people. An organization, ‛Ahahui Pu‛uhonua, urged the political and social advancement of Native Hawaiians, including providing land for homes. In 1919, the Territorial legislature recommended that some land be set aside for Native Hawaiians. Plantation owners, whose leases on government lands were about to expire, offered to donate their least desirable lands for Native Hawaiian homesteads (Daws 1968:297; Faludi 1991). They would then control nearly all the remaining arable land (Shoemaker 1946:194).

In 1921, Congress passed the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, which set aside some 200,000 acres of the nearly 1.8 million acres of ceded lands for 99-year leases by those with at least half-Hawaiian ancestry at an annual rent of $.02 per acre. The rent was to be paid to the Territory’s Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL), which in turn was obligated to prepare new land for more occupants with electricity, roads, water, and other infrastructure. In order to raise initial capital to provide infrastructure for homesteaders, DHHL leased more than 60 percent of the homestead-designated land to corporations and wealthy individuals on a long-term basis (Faludi 1991). The initial rent to corporations was as low as $3.33 per acre, a reasonable figure in 1921 but a giveaway by the time of statehood, so DHHL increasingly lacked sufficient funds to offer basic services to the homesteaders. As a result of lack of infrastructure development, most homestead land was unsuitable for habitation, and only 21 percent to the present has been distributed because roads, power lines, and water supplies were not made available for the remaining 79 percent (Hawai‛i OHA 1998:172,199; Pang 2009). That Washington did not provide funds for these improvements was only a subset of the fact that members of Congress paid less attention to matters of conservation, roads, and even harbor improvements in territories than in the states that elected them. The homestead law also repealed a provision of the Organic Act that banned corporations from owning more than 1,000 acres, so they went on a buying spree; by 1930, 2.6 million of the total 4.1 million acres of land were owned by Caucasians (Fuchs 1961:258).

The Hawaiian homestead system set up segregated enclaves of Native Hawaiians that was clearly discrimination in favor of the indigenous population. But that was not an issue for the population, which believed that they deserved special consideration.

Instead, the main problem of housing discrimination was that Whites had long settled in certain parts of the Islands and would not allow sales of their property to non-Whites, even though no law prevented such transfers. Ads in local newspapers openly discouraged renters of certain ethnic groups and gave preference to others right up to and beyond statehood until they were outlawed by the federal Civil Rights Act of 1968.


Immigration Crackdown. Restrictive immigrations laws applied when Hawai‛i was annexed by the United States. One provision of the Organic Act of 1900 was to prohibit Chinese from moving to the continental United States from the Islands. The Congressional law known as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was applied to the Territory in 1902.

During the first decade of the twentieth century, Koreans left for Hawai‛i, but the flow stopped when the Korean government learned about harsh labor conditions (Takaki 2008:238). Okinawans, from the southern part of Japan, also migrated to the Islands from 1900 among the 40,000 Japanese admitted soon after the establishment of the Territory (Haas 2016:Table 3.2).

The census of 1900 revealed that Japanese had become the largest ethnic group, constituting 40 percent of the population. A Board of Immigration was established in 1905 to attract Europeans to move to the Islands, but few came, and most were dissatisfied with plantation labor, and the office ran out of funds by 1913. In 1907, the Territory set up the Dillingham Commission to explore ways of importing more workers besides Japanese, but options were few.

Under the terms of the Root-Takahara Agreement of 1908, known as the Gentleman’s Agreement between American and Japanese leaders, further immigration of Japanese and Korean men was banned, though they were allowed to import “picture brides” from photographs in catalogs. The agreement also prohibited Japanese and Koreans from relocating from Hawai‛i to the continental United States.

Since the United States controlled new lands after the Spanish-American War of 1898, especially after the suppression of the Philippine independence movement by 1909, many workers could be attracted from the Philippines and Puerto Rico without immigration restrictions. Puerto Rican authorities, however, opposed the recruitment effort soon after a few left for Hawai‛i. Fearing future labor unrest, plantation owners carefully selected illiterate Filipinos from the Ilocos provinces in the rural north of the country to fill the ranks of Japanese workers leaving for the towns after annexation.

During World War I, when Japan and the United States were allies, American military personnel were sent to the Islands in case of German aggression in the Islands. Native Hawaiians, some of whom had Caucasian last names due to intermarriage, were considered Whites in the draft. African American soldiers and those with Asian backgrounds were in segregated units. Rejected by prostitutes in Honolulu, on one occasion, Blacks attacked the women and looted homes, whereupon the army declared martial law for a time during 1916 (Budnick 2005:37). Very few African Americans stayed after the war.

In 1917, Congress passed the Barred Zone Act, prohibiting immigration from the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia except for the Philippines. During the early 1920s, when Congress contemplated banning all Asians from immigration to the United States, the Dillingham Commission petitioned for an exemption to bring in more Chinese but opposed more Japanese because they had become the largest ethnic group in the Islands; their children would become citizens at birth, ultimately leading to Japanese wresting political power from the alliance between Native Hawaiians and Whites. But Congress did not agree: The Immigration Act of 1924, sometimes known as the Japanese Exclusion Act, set an annual quota of only one hundred immigrants from all parts of Asia but the Philippines. By then, some 15,000 Japanese and 1,000 Korean “picture brides” had arrived in the Islands (ibid., 26). In

short, Hawai‛i had little impact on immigration policies during the Territorial era.


Voting Restrictions. Caucasians and Native Hawaiians automatically became citizens of the United States under the Organic Act of 1900. Hawai‛i residents born in China, Japan, and Korea were not allowed to become naturalized citizens, based on the Naturalization Act of 1790, which limited that possibility to Caucasians. Chinese and Japanese who were citizens of the Kingdom of Hawai‛i nevertheless sought an exemption. After being turned away from the polls, they had to go to court, which established their rights in 1901: Chinese and Japanese won their cases in Achi v Kapiolani Estate (1USDistCtHaw86) and US v Ching Tai Sai (1USDistCtHaw118).

Filipinos and Puerto Ricans also tried to gain citizenship. But in 1916, Filipinos lost a similar case, In re Ocamo (4USDistCtHaw77), as they were considered “subjects” of the United States in view of the existence of American colonial rule over the Philippines. Puerto Ricans, however, won the right to vote in Sanchez v Kalauokalani (24Haw21) in 1917.

Asians who served with the U.S. army during World War I, including some Japanese, did not gain eligibility to become citizens. And when a Japan-born Hawai‛i resident tried to become a citizen, the U.S. Supreme Court turned him down during 1922 in Ozawa v United States (260US178).

Children of Chinese, Filipino, and Japanese parents born in Hawai‛i were eligible to vote upon reaching the age of 21 after annexation. But voting precincts on the plantations placed markers used for voting around pencils tied with string onto an overhead cable above the location of ballots, such that any movement of the string was visible outside voting booths. Anyone who moved the marker to vote on the Democratic side of the ballot could thus be spotted and would subsequently be fired and blackballed from future employment (Fuchs 1961:179). Accordingly, clever Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, and Koreans turned the ballots around.

During the Territorial era, American citizens of Japanese ancestry were also forced to prove that they were born in the United States by bringing their birth certificate to voter registration offices. Those with White faces, even aliens, were registered without question (ibid., 177).

When voting districts were first established in the beginning of the Territorial era, most residents lived on plantations, so representation was fairly evenly distributed across the islands. By the time of statehood, the population was concentrated in Honolulu, but voting districts were not redrawn, contrary to a provision in the Organic Act; representation was unequal between urban and rural populations. Caucasians and Chinese were predominantly urban residents, whereas American-born Filipinos and Japanese were overrepresented in the later years of the Territorial legislature. The one-person-one-vote principle was violated, though the U.S. Supreme Court did not rule on the matter of equal representation until Baker v Carr (1962) and Reynolds v Sims (1964)–that is, after statehood.


Economic Challenges. Annexation solved the problem of access to the American market for pineapple and sugarcane and opened the door to a flood of goods from the continental United States. As of 1900, some 95 percent of all exports of the Territory of Hawai‘i went to the continental United States (Hitch 1992:89).

Sugarcane cultivation dominated the Island economy, while despoiling the pristine environment to the point that food had to be imported. Pineapple initially had difficulty making inroads into consumer preferences, since the fruit was considered a luxury product, so a nationwide advertising program was launched with much success (Taylor, Welty, Eyre 1976:165). A small cannery was built in 1903 near a major plantation on O‛ahu, and by 1907 the world’s largest fruit cannery was built near downtown Honolulu. Efforts to develop other export crops floundered because small islands required overspecialization in commodities in order to be viable (ibid., 111-16). Efforts at finding ways to grow crops that do best in temperate climates failed, and the scale of production for other crops no longer permitted Hawai‛i to export on a commercially viable basis (Hitch 1992:111-16).

Agriculture remained the dominant source of income for the Islands during the Territorial era, spurring a demand for more plantation workers. Efforts to develop tourism and other sources of income developed slowly, so economic growth was unimpressive. The main politico-economic problem in the Territorial era was the deliberate inequality in incomes between Whites and non-Whites that was destined to boil over into major labor-management. Thanks to the prosperity of the sugar industry, unemployment problems were less severe in Hawai‛i than in the continental United States during the Great Depression (Budnick 2005:68,70,71).

From 1900, Caucasian-owned businesses in Honolulu preferred to hire their own kind (Okihiro 1991), and Chinese and Japanese entrepreneurs followed suit (Shoemaker 1946:187; Yama and Freeman 1954). A pattern of ethnic specialization in urban occupations resulted (Shoemaker 1939:ch23): Whites ran the larger retail stores, while Chinese and Japanese owned smaller businesses, such as those selling dry goods. In hotels, Whites were department heads and desk clerks, whereas Japanese were cooks and waiters, and Filipinos were roomboys and dishwashers. In other words, there was a racial caste system, with Whites allowing the smaller number of Chinese to advance while keeping Filipinos and Japanese in dead-end jobs (Honolulu Star-Bulletin 1985).

On the plantations, Filipinos and Japanese were kept subordinate under penalty of being blackballed if they complained. If they left the plantations in pursuit of new jobs in the towns, they were arrested for vagrancy and sent back (Fuchs 1961:207-12). Filipinos who could not stand the tyranny departed for the continental United States, leaving the more compliant behind.
Labor Unrest. In 1900, Japanese went on strike on almost every plantation, demanding better working conditions. But only meager concessions were granted after their protests were broken up by police, a job long dominated by Native Hawaiians. Chinese left the plantations, some to join kinfolk who had already set up shops.

In cooperation with White businesses, Native Hawaiians formed several unions in 1902 to prevent “cheap labor” Chinese and Japanese from taking their jobs (Budnick 2005:16-18). In 1904, the Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association decided to hire only those eligible for American citizenship for skilled labor jobs, thereby excluding most Asians. However, the effort was unsuccessful, as those leaving the plantations acquired skills for servicing their own businesses.

Primarily due to linguistic differences, Filipinos and Japanese initially formed separate unions. When strikes arose, plantation owners thought that they could substitute the other ethnic group as strikebreakers or import more Filipinos, eager to work for pay on arrival.

Labor inspectors, whether from Tokyo or Washington, were ineffective in enforcing contracts that required humane working conditions (Hitch 1992:68). The principal cause of protest was that supervisors were not properly trained for their jobs and needlessly provoked workers with harsh treatment (Beechert 1992:235).

In 1904, some 2,000 Japanese workers at Wai‘alua plantation on O‘ahu struck for higher wages and better working conditions, but the plantation manager quelled the unrest by improving conditions of work but refused to raise pay. Other complaints were over such matters as sexual harassment of a female Japanese worker (U.S. Bureau of Labor 1906:136-37). Strikes also emerged in 1905 and 1906. Some 1,700 Japanese struck at Lahainā in 1907, and one worker was killed in the effort to quell the protest.

Labor agents, realizing that plantation workers would be eager to relocate to the continental United States, began to recruit more workers. Although the Territorial legislature imposed a hefty license fee to discourage them, at least one-third of all plantation workers either returned to Asia or relocated to the continental United States during the first decade of the twentieth century (Budnick 2005:33).

In 1909, a massive one-month strike by Japanese protested low wages and poor working conditions. In response, management had strike organizers, including editors of Japanese language newspapers, fined and jailed, and 5,000 workers were evicted from their homes (ibid., 30; Beechert 2011:200). Japanese language newspaper editor Fred Makino was pardoned in the following year, however.

Plantation workers from Russia’s Siberia, unhappy with working conditions, rioted in 1910, demanding that their leader be released from jail for vagrancy. Honolulu police used clubs, firehoses, and whips to stop them (Budnick 2005:31). An investigation of labor conditions by the U.S. Department of Labor during the era concluded that conditions were “semi-feudal” (ibid., 37).

In 1916, there was a major dockworker strike by Japanese and Native Hawaiians. Rather than negotiating settlements, management refused to bargain with representatives of the workers. Although the protest was repressed, management later granted improvements in wages and working conditions.

A strike during 1920 ended with no settlement of value. Three months later, however, wages were discretely increased 50 percent, and management began to build cottages for married couples, as those with families were deemed much less likely to strike in the future (Takaki 2008:246-47). The strike was primarily led by a newly organized Hawai‘i Laborers’ Association with a mass base of Filipinos and Japanese—the first multiethnic trade union in the United States. When the governor rejected a petition to incorporate the multiethnic labor union in 1922, labor organizing seemed doomed, and many more Japanese left the plantations for the towns.

Federal and Territorial legislation during the 1920s repressed union organizing by laws that criminalized “criminal syndicalism” and picketing. Plantation owners tried to propagandize the loyalty of workers by stressing that they were providing free housing and medical care (Beechert 1992:234).

Instead, the industry pressured the Territorial legislature to adopt the Conspiracy Law in 1921. The law, which clearly violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, prohibited unions from distributing flyers criticizing plantations and banned union newspapers from criticizing the sugar industry. That same year an Emergency Labor Commission was established in Hawai‘i to pressure Congress to allow the industry to recruit Chinese workers. Prince Kūhiō, the nonvoting delegate to Congress from the Islands, carried the message. Although the request fell on deaf ears, Samuel Gompers of the American Federation of Labor criticized Hawai‘i plantation working conditions as “an act of shame and disgrace” (Budnick 2005:51). An independent study in 1926 criticized cruel mid-level personnel, but the industry did not accept the recommendations for improvement (HSPA 1926:I,iv-v). An Unlawful Assembly and Riot Act passed by the Territorial legislature in 1929, provided up to twenty years of hard labor for peaceful assembly without a permit.

Filipinos, meanwhile, calculated that they had lower disposable income in Hawai‘i than they enjoyed in the Philippines (Willis 1955:19). Mostly illiterate, they could not write home to their families. Social workers who tried to teach them English were evicted by plantation owners. They had, in effect, become serfs (Abbott 1967:ch12). In 1924, some 13,000 Filipinos struck at 23 of the 45 plantations (MacDonald 1944), asking for a $2 increase in pay per day, a reduction of hours from 10 to 8, improvements in housing, and cessation of brutal discipline. After eight months of a strike on Kaua‘i, Filipino strikers took two strikebreakers hostage when management began to evict striking Filipinos from their homes on the Hanapēpē plantation. After sheriff’s deputies were summoned, 16 Filipinos were shot dead and 4 police died, whereupon the National Guard arrived to break up the disturbance. As a result, 66 strikers were given four-year jail sentences, though some were allowed to return to the Philippines. The incident is known as the Hanapēpē Massacre (Johannessen 1956:70; MacDonald 1944:130).

A similar incident, though less bloody, occurred in Hilo during 1938, when longshore workers were demanding higher wages. As a ship entered the port to be serviced by strikebreakers, about 60 police shielded the ship from some 500 protesters, including Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, and Native Hawaiians from several unions. Some 55 of the strikers, mostly Japanese, were shot and wounded in what has been called the Hilo Massacre (ibid., 138).

The Hilo Massacre occurred even after the right to strike was written into federal law in the National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act) of 1935 during the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, setting up the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to mediate disputes. Nevertheless, the Territorial government still allowed plantation owners to bully workers. They could impose physical discipline (the whip) and threaten to blackball troublemakers, who would have no choice but to move their families to the continental United States in order to start their lives all over again.

The economic domination of the Islands was by five firms (Alexander & Baldwin, American Factors, C. Brewer, Castle & Cooke, Theo H. Davies), which accounted for 93 percent of Territorial income from 1910-1930 (Haas 1992:Table 1.5). The Big Five also controlled the politics so completely during the Territorial period that the NLRB Regional Director used the term “fascism” to describe the situation, and the U.S. Department of Labor characterized plantation conditions as “almost equivalent to slavery” (Budnick 2005:83). Another descriptive term was “feudalism” (Moore 1969:34). Despite heroic efforts of trade unions, the first major union contract was not signed until 1941. But the war soon intervened, and other contracts were not successfully negotiated until the first few years after World War II. The eventual transition to labor harmony in the Islands was a long and stony path.


Governmental Efforts to Institutionalize Racism. The Territorial governor was given extraordinary power, including the right to invoke martial law and suspend habeas corpus. The governor initially made hundreds of appointments without civil service regulations, including the power to discriminate with impunity across a wide variety of economic, political, and social life.

Aside from editorial criticisms of ethnic groups in White-owned newspapers, which often vilified non-Whites (Chapin 2011; cf. Daws 1968:309-10,314,381), several methods were used to subordinate non-Whites. The Republicans openly espoused a Social Darwinism that relegated everyone but themselves to a secondary status (Haas 1992:53-58):



Education. Under the Territory, speaking Hawaiian was banned in schools. From 1907, English was required in all private and public schools. English alone was the official language, though bills were still translated into Hawaiian into the second decade of the twentieth century (Budnick 2005:32).

In 1920, alarmed at reports of discrimination in education, investigators from Washington went to Hawai‛i. The resulting report criticized the Territorial government for restricting upward mobility by having only four public high schools, thus accommodating about 3 percent of the eligible population (U.S. Interior Department 1920). Most high schools served Caucasians. In response, the Territory opened five new high schools and fifteen new intermediate schools.

The Territory also adopted a suggestion by the author of that report to segregate students by language competence, though the law specifically did not allow racial discrimination (Bunker 1922). Beginning in 1924, children certified competent in oral English could enroll in English Standard Schools, where White students and teachers prevailed. The other public schools, attended by non-Whites, were mostly taught by Native Hawaiians. As a result, middle class White parents could send their children to public schools in order to obtain college preparation at lower cost than in private schools, which spent twice as much per student as public schools (Steuber 1964:249,302), while non-Whites were frozen out of such opportunities for educational advancement (ibid., 255-56).

Linguistic segregation in public schools was transparently racist, as non-White children disproportionately went to inferior schools, while White parents sent their children to public schools of higher quality. The desired academic result, preparing Whites for college while retarding the educational attainments of non-Whites, was achieved thereby. Some Japanese parents, accordingly, sent their children to Japan, desiring that they have the best education possible. Other Japanese continued to send their offspring to Japanese language schools, which offered more than just language instruction until they were shut down during World War II.

Even when non-White students had exemplary English, an accent based on the local Creole tongue, known as Hawai‛i Creole English, was deemed a sufficient basis for assigning them to “nonstandard” schools (ibid., 254). Speaking the Creole patois was thus actively discouraged.3 But that meant that non-Whites developed camaraderie by speaking a forbidden tongue together outside school as a symbol of their resistance to White racism (Meredith 1965)

Private schools with instruction in other languages existed in the days of the monarchy (Brieske 1961). But the Territorial government perceived that they were threats to “Americanization.” After the strength of Japanese workers was demonstrated in the 1920 labor strike, the Territorial government, under pressure from the American military, passed a law that year seeking to regulate and ban all language schools other than those in English and Hawaiian; more stringent amendments were adopted in 1923 and 1925. At the time, there were 7 language schools in Chinese, 9 in Korean, and the remaining 177 were in Japanese, operated by Japanese temples. In 1923, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed efforts to ban the teaching of German during World War I in Meyer v Nebraska (262US390), so the Territory was clearly engaging in virulent racism. Four year later, the U.S. Supreme Court in Farrington v Tokushige (273US274) ruled that the restrictions on language schools in Hawai‛i were also unconstitutional; the ruling also served to reverse racism in two states besides the Territory of Hawai‛i (Asato 2005).

The Department of Public Instruction secretly adopted a policy in 1928 to exclude 20 percent of all graduates of grades 8 and 9 from attending public high school. Those allowed to go to high school were then selected by a committee of teachers (Budnick 2005:73).

In 1931, the report of the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Education, known as the Prosser Report, recommended limited financial support for public schools, which would place emphasis on vocational rather than academic education. The aim was to keep non-Whites on the plantations. A federal report later in the year noted that the Territory allocated half of the money that states in the continental United States spent on average for public education (ibid., 65).

Racial discrimination was also evident because neighborhood rural schools enrolled students from Filipino and Japanese plantation camps as well as from Hawaiian homestead communities. White children went to public schools near military bases. Honolulu schools were more mixed. According to a study by Stanford Professor William Odell, 24 percent of students in the Islands were receiving less than a 5th grade education compared to an average of 11 percent in the other forty-eight states (ibid., 135).

The University of Hawai‛i (UH) was underfunded during the Territorial era. Enrollment was considerably lower than the rate of applications. Initially, two-thirds of the students were Caucasians, with Chinese as the largest minority (Wist 1940:168,210). The enrollment of Native Hawaiians was modest (Haas 1992:Table 12.1a). There was no law or medical school in the Islands. The aim of Territorial rulers was to maintain White majorities in certain middle-class jobs, while steering non-Whites away from college preparation or forcing their families to spend thousands of dollars to send them to colleges in the continental United States, where often they would stay after graduation. As for the content of higher education, a critic once told young Barack Obama that the aim was to train non-Whites to think White (Obama 1995:97).


Employment. To keep workers from leaving the plantations, government jobs and government contract workers were reserved to citizens by a 1903 law, so only Caucasians and Native Hawaiians qualified at first. But even Chinese Americans were excluded as early as 1908 (Budnick 2005:28). In 1915, government licensing boards prohibited aliens and nonresidents from entering the dental and medical professions. Civil service positions were restricted to three-year residents by a law passed in 1925.

By 1926, more than half of all those in professional occupations in government were White, and most of the rest were Native Hawaiians (ibidem.). Native Hawaiians constituted more than half of government workers in blue- and white-collar positions. Chinese born in Hawai‛i accounted for 5 percent of the professionals, while the corresponding figure for Japanese was 3 percent. If there were no qualified applicants for a position, such as university professor, regulations required a 90-day local search before hiring someone from the continental United States—and then only for an initial one-year contract.

As more residents born in the Islands of Chinese and Japanese ancestry came of age and received college degrees, they were still largely excluded from employment in Caucasian businesses. Accordingly, they sought jobs in the federal and Territorial governments. Their path was eased the establishment in 1939 of a civil service system for Territorial government jobs, though the less numerous jobs in the counties were protected by a civil service system from 1913. Thanks to the Federal Ramspeck Act of 1940, discrimination based on race, creed, and color in federal government jobs was declared illegal

From 1925-1954, the number of Chinese doubled in the Territorial government. Japanese increased sevenfold. Correspondingly, there was a 58 percent reduction in the percentage of Native Hawaiians, and Whites plummeted 43 percent (Haas 1992:Table 2.13).

Much of the increase of Japanese in government jobs was due to the hiring of schoolteachers. Although there were more Native Hawaiian educators during the 1880s and early 1890s, Caucasian teachers began to dominate after the coup of 1893 (ibid., Table 5.8). By 1900, 71 percent were White, and 28 percent were Native Hawaiians (Hawai‛i 1900:99). Up to 1930, qualifications were stretched to encourage as many as possible to relieve a shortage of qualified teachers, and many were imported from the continental United States.

In 1931, when the University of Hawai‛i opened the Teacher College, called the College of Education from 1957, existing and prospective teachers enrolled to be certified as educators. Because former credentials were no longer honored unless teachers were recertified at UH, the percentage of Native Hawaiian teachers dropped sharply. As of 1948, Whites accounted for 47 percent, Japanese 46 percent, and Native Hawaiians were down to 6 percent. Teaching increasingly became a “Japanese job” as they graduated from UH with teaching degrees in much larger numbers than Caucasians (Haas 1992:Table 11.4). However, Superintendent Albert Miyasato recalled aspiring “to become a school administrator and being told—even by members of my own race—that this wasn’t my place” (Kaser 1975). He became Acting School Superintendent in 1975.

In 1955, the first year when Democrats dominated the legislature, a law forbidding employment discrimination in the private sector was adopted. Unlike similar laws in progressive states, the law in Hawai‘i uniquely applied to employers with only one employee. White businesses then decided to hire more non-Whites in order to avoid possible litigation and consumer boycotts (cf. Fuchs 1961:397,436). White-dominated firms in the Islands began hiring Japanese and other non-Whites.
Criminal Justice. Native Hawaiian males were the principal police personnel during the period of the monarchy, and they continued to outnumber other ethnic groups during the Territorial period. One barrier to the entry of other groups was the 5’8” height requirement, which disproportionately screened out Asians and women. In time, Japanese were able to pass that requirement if they were interested, but short women were still excluded. Females also could not serve on grand juries until 1951.

The Massie Case perhaps best typifies how the system operated between the period of the monarchy and statehood (Wright 1966; Marumoto 1983; Stannard 2005): One evening in 1931, Thalia Massie, Naval Lieutenant Thomas Massie’s spouse, wandered out of a Waikīkī nightclub, evidently seeking a taxi to go home. When her husband arrived home, she saw her face bruised and her lips swollen. She claimed that she had been raped by “some Hawaiian boys.” At about the same time, police arrested five young local men who were arguing with a couple in a car in another part of town. After police brought the five into her hospital room several times, she identified all five as her rapists, but her “eyewitness” evidence was so slim and evidence was so contradictory that the judge later declared a mistrial in Hawaii v Ahakuelo (CrimNo11782).

The Massies then sought revenge. Not waiting for a retrial, they sought help from two subordinate naval officers. One of the five defendants was captured, tortured, and accidentally shot and killed. In 1932, the conspirators were convicted of manslaughter in Hawai‛i v Massie (CrimNo11891) despite an eloquent defense by their attorney, Clarence Darrow. After sentence of ten years of hard labor was issued, Governor Lawrence Judd commuted the sentence to one hour of detention in the office of the governor. When the hour of detention was up, the Massies boarded a naval vessel bound for the continental United States.

Aware that the incident was the ninth biggest Associated Press news story of 1932 (Budnick 2005:66), Judd was under intense pressure from Washington, where members of Congress were considering scrapping the Territorial government for a non-elective commission form of government or even imposing martial law. The U.S. Senate even passed a law to rescind Territorial law that made two hung juries an automatic acquittal so that the case against the alleged rapists could be tried again. The governor then commissioned the Pinkerton Detective Agency to undertake an independent investigation of the case. In 1933, the 279-page report concluded that no rape occurred and that the accused were also innocent of assault (ibid., 66-67).

For Asians and Native Hawaiians, lenience toward the Massies was “Haole justice”—that Caucasians clearly believed that they were above the law, ruling as a colonial power (Stannard 2005; Rosa 2014). Indeed, many White residents continued to imagine that they alone were qualified to hold together what they saw as a fragile multiracial society (cf. du Puy 1932; Tsai 2009). Non-Whites, meanwhile, realized that their best strategy for overcoming “Haole justice” was to elect the governor by achieving success in a struggle for statehood (Wright 1966). In contrast with the Massie case, a similar case in the United States, resulting in the exoneration of police for beating up Rodney King in Los Angeles, provoked a race riot in 1992.
Conclusion. The Territorial era brought many bitter conflicts to the fore. Racism was established in the towns and on the plantations because Whites subscribing to Social Darwinism were in full control during the Territorial era. Native Hawaiians were the most numerous voters initially, but the heir to the throne was co-opted to go to Washington to help his people. He achieved a pyrrhic victory in the form of the Hawaiian homestead system, which has not has the intended effect of uplifting the indigenous people. Instead, homesteads were conceived as a plan for residential segregation. The federal government stopped immigration from Asia except for the Philippines, but naturalization of those born in Asian was barred, thereby restricting voting along racial lines. Economic domination by Whites was complete, so plantation workers felt the brunt of the brutality and inequality. White governors ensured that educational and employment benefits would accrue mainly to the Caucasian population. The Massie Case, however, exposed the colonial mentality of those in power, uniting non-Whites to seek statehood.

Then came World War II, when the American military rescinded many democratic rights. And after the war, statehood was delayed by Southern Senators, fearing that there would be two non-White Senators, as well as Republicans not eager for two new Democratic Senators.



Early Statehood Era
Nevertheless, President Eisenhower, a Republican, favored statehood and signed the Admission Act in 1959. A majority vote of the people approved statehood, though some Native Hawaiians refused to vote because independence was not on the ballot. A state constitution, already drawn up before statehood, was also ratified by the voters.

Although the holdover appointive White Republican governor was elected in 1959, he lost in the election of 1962 and was succeeded by John Burns, a White Democrat who had long been seeking statehood and was a champion of the rights of local Japanese during the war, who thus were not incarcerated. Political power then shifted from White Republicans to Democrats, most of whose supporters were Japanese, though Japanese Democrats already began to dominate the legislature following the 1954 elections. The death of the White Democratic governor in 1974 brought into office George Ariyoshi, a Japanese who had been voted his Lieutenant Governor running mate in 1970.

Was such a displacement sufficient to end racism? Japanese at first thought so, as they were in power and therefore did not have to endure the discrimination that they had suffered during the Territorial period. Nevertheless, with one major ethnic group in control, they could re-impose racism against everyone else if they wanted.

However, inheriting racist government presented unexpected challenges. In public education, Japanese were overwhelmingly schoolteachers. State government employees were also primarily Japanese except for White domination of the Department of Health. Whites, controlling the economy and politics, had informally designated certain lower-level government jobs as Japanese jobs while refusing to hire Japanese in the private sector.

After statehood, there was a major influx of Whites to enjoy the new state in professional jobs and small businesses, thereby threatening Japanese dominance among the voting public. Filipinos were still on the plantations, but they were moving to Honolulu to take up low-level jobs in the burgeoning tourist industry as plantations closed due to foreign competition. Filipinos were increasing in population in part because of the Immigration Act of 1965. Many Native Hawaiians, still upset that the monarchy had not been restored, had sunk in status below groups that the monarchy once welcomed to the Islands. Demographic changes after statehood presented a serious challenge to the Japanese (Haas 2016:Table 3.1).



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