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The "Double-V" Campaign in World War II Hawaii: African Americans, Racial Ideology, and Federal Power

Beth Bailey and David Farber
Journal of Social History
Vol. 26, No. 4 (Summer, 1993), pp. 817-843
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3788782
Page Count: 27
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The "Double-V" Campaign in World War II Hawaii: African Americans, Racial Ideology, and Federal Power
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Abstract

We employ Victor Turner's ideas about "the processual structure of social action" to demonstrate how racial identity and racism are historically constructed in the United States. Specifically, we examine the experiences of the 30,000 African American military personnel and war workers who served in Hawaii during World War II. Most residents of Hawaii had no experience with the mainland's bi-polar model of race relations or with African Americans. In addition, Hawaii was under martial law for most of the war, which meant that the military's strict codes of protocol and order governed daily human interactions. As a result of these factors, Hawaii was a racially liminal place. In WWII Hawaii, African Americans took advantage of this liminality to refigure the paradigm of race as master signifier in America. They insisted on their identity as co-participants in the war effort and so gained a measure of social justice. We argue that by focusing less on an essentialist racial identity in the United States and more on how racial identities and racism are deployed by Americans to specific ends we might gain a better perspective on people's struggles for social justice and equality.

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