Hawaii’s Ethnicities after World War II


There were a variety of social contracts in Hawaii during the time of the word war II since the islands have been home to a very diverse culture for centuries. In is one of the states with the richest diversity in terms of race and ethnicity in the US (Beth, B. & David, F. 1989). This is clearly depicted by Bath Bailey and David Farber in “The first strange place”. There were all sorts of immigrants who worked in the military as well as civilians in war time Hawaii.

For those who were still immigrating to Hawaii, they really found the place strange, unlike all the rumors which had been spread about the place being a paradise. The capital Honolulu even though it was an urban city, it had many men than women. There was a lot of sexual discrimination and the new comers were often chased from their families by those who claimed to be natives. In this island, issues of ethnicity, race meant differently compared to the mainland US.

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Before the war, there was a significant number of immigrant Asians who were more than the whites. There was a combination of Japanese, Portuguese, Puerto Ricans, Chinese, and Filipinos among others Asian citizens. They detested the kind of racism they were subjected to by Americans who were relocating from the mainland. There was a complicated mix of ethnicity and racism whereby those from the mainland only recognized people to be either white or black.

The phenomenon of race and ethnicity has played a crucial role in shaping present day Hawaii just like it did during the word war II. In the following days after Japan attacked the Pearl Harbor, there was a lot of pressure for the administration to act. The largest African American print media championed for what they called the ‘Double V’ campaign.  There was a clamor that America should retaliate and attack Japan as well any perceived racial prejudice which could have prompted Japan to act that way (Tom C. 2003).

Double V was meant to fight the enemies both within and those in the battlefields.

In such a circumstance, the military had to devise ways of winning the war irrespective of the means used; and this gave leeway for opportunistic members of the military to enhance racial segregation among other discriminatory practices. Race was a predominant factor in Hawaii during the World War II. There was a very inconsistent policy on discrimination and was mostly driven by the desires of the population to win the war. At the time of this war, there were very overlapping policies as to how to deal with perceived enemies.

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In the Hawaiian war, there was a combination of state power which was on its extreme, cases of racial relations were high and there were no provisions for black Americans. The many military personnel who came from the mainland carried with them this racial and ethnic prejudices to Hawaii; thus the resultant cases of segregation.

People who came to Hawaii during the war time found a place which was very strange in many ways. It was a place whereby there existed many unexplored opportunities compared to mainland America. It was however conspicuous that the presence of the federal government was more felt than in the mainland. 

During the period of war, Hawaiians stayed under the strong control of the federal government and all indications were that of a wartime state. There was a total blackout for all people with little or no information flow. There were also military courts in practice and very little correspondence was taking place irrespective of the race and ethnicity (Robert, A. 2004).

The only heavy presence was that of government agents specifically soldiers and war workers who were predominantly African Americans.

There was also Puerto Ricans who are also of African descent. These are the reasons that racial data was hard to gather because of the intermarriages, and the parameters used in the census in the mainland were not sensible among Hawaiians.  

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Census was a tool of discrimination whereby people were recognized along their ancestry as either Caucasians or Negro even though there was also a heavy presence of Japanese citizens and aliens. The “Haole” was the most conspicuous group and they were literally the ‘strangers’.

Most of the people who had come to Hawaii to work in the farms were not considered as haoles; rather they were referred to as “other Caucasians”. There was a stiff competition between those who considered themselves as natives, the fact that the state had a rich mix of ethnicities notwithstanding (Robert, M. & Anne, M. 1996).  


It is evident that racial, ethnic and gender relations played a key role in war time Hawaii whereby people were easily identified using the said parameters. It was a place with a very unique mix of people, who did not belong to any specific origin, but of course there were those from the mainland who felt that they rightfully belonged to Hawaii, and the rest were strangers.

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