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Planters and Workers (Excerpt)


The best jobs, the supervisory positions or those requiring skills, were reserved for whites.  In 1882, for example, 88% of all lunas and clerks were white.  Most laborers were nonwhite: 29% were Hawaiian and 48% were Chinese.  None of the lunas were Chinese.


In 1904, the Hawaiian Sugar PlantersŐ Association limited skilled positions to ŇAmerican citizens, or those eligible for citizenship.Ó  Asians could not hold skilled jobs because they could not become citizens, according to a 1790 federal law that limited American citizenship to white people.  By 1914, the plantersŐ restriction was still in force.  There were only 1 Japanese, 1 Hawaiian, and 2 part-Hawaiian mill engineers; the remaining 41 mill engineers were of European ancestry.  The racial division was especially visible in the supervisorsŐ jobs.  Of the 377 overseers, 313 were white.  Only 2 were Chinese and 17 Japanese.


A Japanese worker bluntly explained why he and other Japanese would never get ahead on the plantation.  Told by an interviewer that he would be promoted, the worker retorted: ŇDonŐt kid me.  You know yourself I havenŐt got a chance.  You canŐt go very high up and get big money unless your skin is white.  You can work here all your life and yet a haole who doesnŐt know a thing about the work can be ahead of you in no time.Ó