Economic hardship exacerbates resistance to multiculturalism. Historically in the United States, one of the causes of racial tension has been competition in the labor market. Each successive wave of immigrant, working more cheaply than the one that has preceded, is perceived as crowding the former immigrant group out of the labor market. Meanwhile, the more established immigrant group is beginning to raise its expectations.
In the sugar fields of Hawaii, Chinese labourers supplanted the Japanese; workers were brought over from Mexico to augment the cheap labour force; when the Chinese began to organize and demand more money, plantation owners found the Filipinos would work yet more cheaply. Meanwhile, the military, with its racially diverse corps of soldiers and sailors, found Hawaii a strategic defensive base.
There are many ills that plague Hawaii: some residual historical racial tensions, the continuing displacement of the Hawaiian native, the destructive ecological shifts to accommodate tourism, native species of life forms (including exotic birds) driven to or at the edge of extinction, and the economic inaccessibility of a desired standard of living for many. Nonetheless, Hawaii has succeeded in establishing a relatively harmonious and vibrant culturally mixed society.
As our boat sailed from the Island of Maui, in the distance stood the last sugar refinery in the Islands – the cultivation of sugar supplanted by countries who can grow cane and refine sugar from it for far less than can the Islands.