In Strangers From A Different Shore, Ronald Takaki argues that the ostensible necessity of relocating Japanese Americans during World War II were so utterly wrongheaded as to be an unconstitutional affront to them. Takaki contrasts how the lives of Japanese living in California, within the American mainland, differed greatly from those living in Hawaii after the U. S. entered WWII.
He notes how close to 100,000 Japanese-Californians were forcefully placed in internment camps on short notice, yet Japanese-Hawaiians who lived off the mainland had been embraced as locals by their fellow Hawaiians and their lives were not quite as dramatically altered as those on the mainland. Takaki argues that Hawaii was a case in which political and economic interests created an opportunity for cultural development in a time of crisis and he attributes to its multi-ethnic community identity.
He subsequently suggests that the treatment of Japanese mainlanders was the manifestation of a fundamental xenophobic distrust coming from the U. S. government, acting contrary to intelligence it solicited that reported that at the very least, most Japanese were passively loyal to the United States. The problem with Takaki’s argument is that he never fully puts the pieces together to cement it. Although he clearly highlights the differences between the two cases of acceptance and isolation, he never really establishes anything more than this contrast, as if that somehow provides cutting insight into the psyche of the parties involved.
Takaki notes that Hawaiian journalists ‘behaved responsibly’ while mainland journalists ‘stirred anti-Japanese hysteria’ without trying to make some kind of analysis about either party. Takaki is able to establish Hawaii as a tolerant melting pot, but is unable to provide any reason why mainlanders should be inherently more xenophobic. Mind you, I don’t believe that Takaki’s assertions are wrong but simply put, they seem to be lacking in any substantially interesting foundation.