By the 1920s, the number of full-blooded Polynesian in Hawaii was only 25,000, down from 40,000 in 1900 and 300,000 in 1800. It stood as an example of support for Hitler's Darwinistic view of the world – in other words, what would happen to the Germans if they did not maintain themselves as a people of great power, preventing their being overrun by their neighbors.
By the 1920s, whites were in political control of the Hawaiian Islands. The descendants of the missionaries had become owners of large tracts of land and had become dominant in sugar growing. It was they who in 1893 had engineered the coup that overthrew Hawaii's last ruling monarch, Queen Liliuokalani, and it was they who had crushed the armed uprising by Hawaiians that soon followed.
The official U.S. annexation of the Hawaiian Islands had come on June 14, 1900. Hawaii had become a U.S. territory and Hawaiians had become U.S. citizens, with full civil rights, including the right to vote for anyone over twenty-one who could speak, read and write either English or Hawaiian.
With the right to vote having been granted, a Hawaiian political party developed – the Home Rule Party – whose slogan was "look to the skin," and soon after the annexation they became the overwhelming majority in both houses of Hawaii's legislature. Acting to preserve Hawaiian culture, they passed a law that would have made the Hawaiian version of witch doctors licensed physicians. But the U.S. appointed governor-general of Hawaii, Sanford B. Dole, vetoed it.
The powerful white establishment fought against Hawaiian power in other ways. Using wine and women, they overcame the shame of their missionary forebears and managed to seduce a Hawaiian prince, Jonah Kuhio (called Prince Cupid by the whites) to switch from the Home Rule Party into the Republican Party. Prince Kuhio had a darker skin than the leader of the Home Rule Party, Robert Wilcox, who was half white, and Prince Kuhio enjoyed the prestige of being Hawaiian royalty. Wilcox lost to Kuhio in appealing for support from the Hawaiians, and Prince Kuhio succeeded Wilcox as Hawaii's delegate to Washington and as the nominal political leader in Hawaii. Prince Kuhio was able to lead enough Hawaiian voters from the Home Rule Party to the Republican Party that the Republican Party became dominant in the islands, controlling Hawaii's legislative and executive branches of government – a success aided by workers on plantations having been intimidated into voting solidly Republican.
Prince Kuhio was naïve in his hope to build Hawaii's Republican Party into a political instrument for Hawaiians. His slogan was "Hawaii for the Hawaiians," but by 1920 the Hawaiian islands were filled with Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese and Filipinos – brought by whites to work on their plantations. The Hawaiians had not wanted to work on the plantations. In the eyes of the plantation owners the Hawaiians were "indolent and lazy" because they preferred to cultivate their own little taro patches in the coolest hours of the day and pursue swimming, fishing and other pleasures the rest of the day.
By the twenties, sugar imports had increased, pineapple growing had become a part of the economy, and tourism had grown. Hawaiians had been doing well enough on their diminished properties, but many had migrated away from their fishing villages into urban areas – mainly to Honolulu's poorest neighborhoods. Some of them worked at government jobs or as stevedores. And some of them contacted those diseases common in the poorer areas of town, diseases such as tuberculosis and syphilis, and the death rate of these Hawaiians was twice that of Hawaiians living outside the city.
The influx of white tourists and a few white settlers made old white establishment nervous. But tourism was good business and tourist money most welcome – for buying luxuries from the mainland and necessary for a balance of payments with the mainland. In 1925, at Waikiki Beach, the pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel was built, eclipsing a couple of smaller hotels at the beach. Honolulu now had paved streets. Pineapple canneries were along its waterfront. What had been a small port town during the nineteenth century was now a center of trans-Pacific commerce between the Americas and the East.
There had been a belief in the white establishment in Hawaii that the Japanese migrants would never assimilate – part of an old belief that the East was East and the West was West and never would the twain meet. But the sons and daughters of immigrant labor, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino and others, had become Americanized by attending public schools, creating a generation gap with their parents. What Hitler did not want for his beloved Germans would now increase in Hawaii – an interbreeding among people of different races. Hawaii, and Hawaiians, were becoming a blend of peoples.
Copyright © 1998-2011 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.