Why Are Multiracial Communities So Dangerous

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  GEORGE J. SA´ NCHEZ Why Are Multiracial Communities So Dangerous?  A Comparative Look at Hawai‘i; Cape Town, South Africa; and Boyle Heights,California ABSTRACT  This essay was the author’s presidential address at the annual meeting of thePacific Coast Branch, American Historical Association, in Waikoloa Beach, Hawai‘i, onAugust 6, 2016. The address compares three multiracial communities—in Boyle Heights,California; Cape Town, South Africa; and various sites in Hawai‘i—and asks why these areasoften sparked controversy and were considered dangerous by the powers governing thesesocieties. How these communities became multiracial through labor migration and urbanland policies is explored, as well as the nature of interracial life that was created. Each ofthese communities shares a common history of interracial radicalism that threatened whitesupremacy, as well as confronting policies of forced removalsthat attempted to destroy theirmultiracial nature. Finally, the address, given in Hawai‘i at the end of the Obama presidency,addresses the importance of keeping local histories alive through projects of historicalmemory and museums of conscience.  KEYWORDS  Hawai‘i ,  Cape Town ,  Boyle Heights , restrictive covenants ,  multiracial For more than twenty years, I have been exploring the history of multiracialcommunities in the United States and beyond. I want to take you on a bit of a journey through this terrain to ask: why are multiracial communities sodangerous to so many in the historical past and even in the present? The titleof this conference—‘‘Unchartered Terrain: The Challenge of Re-Imagining Traveling to the Past’’—evokes the notion that traveling to the past is a chal-lenging experience, and my own journey has taken me to unexpected placesand uncharted terrain. But most of my travels began with efforts to under-stand the multiracial history of the neighborhood I was born into: an enclaveof East Los Angeles, California, called Boyle Heights.However, tonight I must start by saying a few words about our very location here in the state of Hawai‘i. As we conclude the last days of the presidency of the first president from Hawai‘i, Barack Obama, and spendtime exploring his birthplace, I want to remind us all of how easy it is to see 153  Pacific Historical Review , Vol.  86  , Number  1 , pps.  153 – 170 .  ISSN  0030 - 8684 , electronic  ISSN  1533 - 8584  ©  2017   by the Pacific Coast Branch, American Historical Association. All rights reserved.Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through theUniversity of California Press’s Reprints and Permissions web page, http://www.ucpress.edu/ journals.php?p ¼ reprints. DOI: https://doi.org/ 10 . 1525 /phr. 2017  . 86  . 1 . 153 .  only a multiracial paradise around us during our travels. 1  Whether seduced by the heat, the trade winds, or the Aloha spirit, we tend to forget the largerhistory of colonialism, struggle, and survival that marks the history of Hawai‘i, beginning with the landing of the British captain James Cook inKealakekua Bay just a few miles south of us on this island in  1788 . Thesupposed discovery of these islands was followed by a host of European andU.S. traders that shook native Hawaiian culture to its core. It introducedforeign missionaries, planters, and wealthy white advisors to the Hawaiiankingdom who eventually transformed the islands from kin-based productionto an export economy focused on a global marketplace and constructed a new class of wage laborers. 2 On  this   island, you can see the transition in concrete form by going up tothe Waimea Plains, where the rolling hills and grasslands in the shadow of Mauna Kea volcano give evidence of a cowboy culture called ‘‘paniolo’’ by theHawaiians. When the next British explorer of the eighteenth century, Cap-tain George Vancouver, purposefully left cattle from California on this islandin February   1793 , the livestock flourished in the Hawaiian environment. Butthe intention of the British explorer was merely to encourage the natives tobreed them as food for British trading ships that used Hawai‘i as a stopover toChina and the Americas. One author called this approach ‘‘cattle colonial-ism’’ by western powers, bringing Hawai‘i into the orbit of European andU.S. trade. 3 In the  1830 s, King Kamehameha III employed Mexican va-queros, most famously Joaqu´ın Armas from San Diego, California, to trainindigenous Hawaiians to corral the cattle. The Hawaiian name ‘‘paniolos’’—from ‘‘espan˜oles’’—a name that would stick to the Hawaiian cowboys, indi-cated a global and multiracial process that would further immerse the islandsinto the growing hide and tallow trade in the Pacific. The cattle economy eventually required fencing and a new private property governance structurethat pushed the Hawaiian kingdom toward a landscape of parceled land,European notions of land ownership, and concentration in the hands of foreign commoners like John Palmer Parker of Parker Ranch. 1 . Indeed, depicting Hawai‘i as a multiracial paradise has a long scholarly tradition. For a review of this substantial historiography, see Jonathan Y. Okamura,  Ethnicity and Inequality in Hawai‘i  (Philadelphia: Temple University Press,  2008 ),  7  – 16  . 2 . See Gary Okihiro,  Cane Fires: The Anti-Japanese Movement in Hawaii,  1865  – 1945   (Phila-delphia: Temple Univ. Press,  1991 ),  3 – 7  .  3 . See John Ryan Fischer,  Cattle Colonialism: An Environmental History of the Conquest of  California and Hawai‘i   (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,  2015 ). 154  PACIFIC HISTORICAL REVIEW FEBRUARY 2017  CAPITALISM, LABOR MIGRATION, AND MULTIRACIAL COMMUNITIES The cultural borrowings across the Pacific that shaped paniolos eventually increased with the labor needs of the growing sugar cane culture that took over Hawaiian land and agriculture in the late nineteenth century. Furthereast from Waimea is Honokaa, where in June  1893 , all  250  sugar cane workers went on strike and marched into town from the nearby fields to protest the shooting of a fellow Japanese worker by a supervisor. 4 Historianand good friend Gary Okihiro calls this event one of many ‘‘cane fires’’ thaterupted as acts of resistance as workers protested oppression on Hawai‘i’s plantations at the end of nineteenth century. These events were precursors tothe major strikes that hit the sugar industry after the U.S. annexation of Hawai‘i in  1900  and the termination of penal contract labor. Major plantation walkouts followed in  1909 ,  1920 , and  1924 , often led by Japanese or Filipino workers but also involving native Hawaiians, Chinese, Portuguese, and PuertoRican migrant laborers. All of these workers were brought to fulfill theexpanding labor needs of the growing sugar and pineapple plantations.Across the globe, the dramatic transformation of rural economies that pushed migrant workers to Hawai‘i in the late nineteenth century also pro- pelled many of them towards Boyle Heights in California. The turn tocommercial agriculture in Japan, Mexico, and Italy alienated many villagersfrom their families’ traditional farmland, turning them into a pool of  working-class individuals in need of wage labor to survive. 5 Many of thesemigrants were coming from societies embedded in revolutionary movementsand brought with them ideologies of socialism, communism, or communi-tarianism, and histories of organizing. While recruiting workers from abroad was critical to building a low-wage labor force for industrial production, it was also dangerous because of the potential for organized resistance, emerging from workers who were familiar with each other’s abilities to improve theirlabor condition.The  haole  , or white elite, that controlled the Hawaiian plantations knownas the Big Five, were perfectly aware that when they recruited a multinational work force, they were making it more difficult to organize collectively against 4 . Okihiro,  Cane Fires  ,  42 . 5 . See, for example, Eiichiro Azuma,  Between Two Empires: Race, History, and Transnationalismin Japanese America  (New York: Oxford University Press,  2005 ),  27  – 29 ; Stephanie Lewthwaite,  Race, Place, and Reform in Mexican Los Angeles   (Tucson: University of Arizona Press,  2009 ),  20 – 22 ;and Donna R. Gabaccia, ‘‘Worker Internationalism and Italian Labor Migration,  1870 – 1914 ,’’  International Labor and Working-Class History  45  (Spring   1994 ),  64 . Sa´nchez | Why Are Multiracial Communities So Dangerous?  155  the white elite minority landowners. In an  1883  planter newsletter, theHawaiian Sugar Planters Association explained that they were recruiting Por-tuguese workers because, ‘‘we need them especially as an  offset   to the Chinese;not that the Chinese are undesirable—far from it—but we lay great stress onthe necessity of having our labor  mixed  . By employing different nationalities,there is less danger of collusion among laborers, and the employer, on the whole, secures better discipline.’’ 6 Haole planters skillfully utilized racial, ethnic,and linguistic differences, along with national distrust to keep labor radicalismfrom taking root among the intentionally divided labor force.But the potential unification of this multiracial labor force is also one of the reasons why Hawaiian workers would eventually be seen as dangerous inthe face of white supremacy and domination. In  1938 , when Hilo’s long-shoremen joined local residents across racial and ethnic divides to protest wage cutting by preventing the unloading of cargo at the port, the HiloChamber of Commerce enlisted the support of the local sheriff. On August 1 ,  1938 , in what would become known as the Hilo Massacre, police bayo-neted, clubbed, and shot at the crowd supporting the striking longshoremen,sending fifty-one to the community hospital. 7 This level of confrontation would only grow after World War II under Congress of Industrial Organiza-tions (CIO) locals of the International Longshoremen’s and Warehouse-men’s Union (ILWU). The increase in conflict led decisively to thesuccessful and widespread sugar strike of   1946  , organized by native Hawaiian, Japanese, Filipino, Portuguese, and other workers under the banner of inter-racialism. Uniting dock and plantation workers in the sugar and pineappleindustries under the notion of ‘‘ending racial discrimination,’’ the ILWUsuccessfully advanced workers’ rights and wages, while leading Hawaiian politics into an era of Democratic Party rule and a commitment toward fulland equal opportunity for all. 8 CREATING URBAN MIXTURE FROM POLICIES OF SEGREGATION Now, I am not the first to be drawn to a comparison between the Hawaiianstruggle for social equality and the well-known battle against apartheid in 6  . Samuel T. Alexander, G.N. Wilcox, William O. Smith, and A. Unna, ‘‘Report of theCommittee on Labor,’’  Planters Monthly  2  (November  1883 ),  245 , Hawaiian Collection, SpecialCollection, University of Hawai‘i, Manoa, quoted in Moon-Kie Jung,  Reworking Race: The Making of Hawaii’s Interracial Labor Movement   (New York: Columbia University Press,  2006  ),  73 . 7  . Jung,  Reworking Race  ,  126  – 27  . 8 . Ibid.,  168 – 74 . 156  PACIFIC HISTORICAL REVIEW FEBRUARY 2017
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