- Raced to Death in 1920s Hawai'i: Injustice and Revenge in the Fukunaga Case by Jonathan Y. Okamura
Hawai'i has long been portrayed by the tourist industry, writers and visitors as a racial paradise despite an equally long trajectory of racial injustice that contradicts this narrative. Jonathan Y. Okamura's book, Raced to Death in 1920s [End Page 181] Hawai'i: Injustice and Revenge in the Fukunaga Case, illustrates this point with both a robust historical account of this event and the historical receipts to validate his arguments. Drawing from police and court records, local and territorial newspaper reports in English and Japanese, and other archival documents, Okamura's engrossing account of the Fukunaga case demonstrates that this is more than just a crime story. Rather, Okamura uncovers the murder of Gill Jamieson, a Haole (white) boy by Yutaka "Myles" Fukunaga, which further exposed a larger story of racial injustice and Haole supremacy in Hawai'i. Okamura discusses the intricacies of the crime, capture, confession, trial and eventual execution of Myles Fukunaga. As the case revealed, Fukunaga's motives for killing Gill Jamieson, whose father Frederick was an executive at the Hawaiian Trust Company, was his attempt to get revenge for the way his parents were treated by the company over an issue with overdue rent. It also illuminated the state of his mental health since Myles previously tried (unsuccessfully), to commit suicide. Fukunaga's crime as he later confessed, was meant to also hasten his own death.
Fukunaga's case was also racially significant because it became the boiling point of a long and contentious conflict between Haole sugar planters and Japanese workers in Hawai'i. As the numbers of Japanese were growing and they were becoming more troublesome to the Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association (HSPA), as Okamura notes an anti-Japanese campaign was implemented, "which sought to subordinate Japanese Americans because they were considered the most dangerous threat to Haole settler colonial control" (p. 13). For example,Japanese organized with Filipinos in 1920 and 1924 against the HSPA. Their efforts resulted in the loss of millions of dollars to the sugar planters. In response, Haoles continued their attacks on Japanese and Filipino labor leaders and workers, pursued an effort to end Japanese language schools, and condemned Hawai'i's Japanese community in the press in order to exert their power to this perceived economic and cultural threat.
The Fukunaga case also revealed the contradiction of the narrative of Hawai'i as a racial paradise with the reality of racial injustice and oppression non-Haoles experienced through Haole domination. It is here that Okamura contends Fukunaga was "raced to death." By that he means the expediency by which Haoles convicted, sentenced, and executed Fukunaga because he was Japanese, and his crime disrupted the dominance of Haole control in Hawai'i. The entire event took place over the course of four days, which included a two-day trial and sentencing. As Okamura notes, this demonstrated the fervor by which Haoles wanted to enact revenge on the killing of one of their own as swiftly as possible, to demonstrate their supremacy in Hawai'i. The trial itself was a sham. Over the course of two days, a biased jury was established (a [End Page 182] number of them knew the father of the victim), Fukunaga's defense attorneys did nothing to really challenge the bias nature of the jury selection, nor did they even attempt to exonerate him in his defense with the possibility of legal insanity. This was most evident in his court mandated psychiatric examination, which was conducted over the course of 90 minutes, rather than the ten days required by Hawai'i territorial law to provide a thorough evaluation. The racialization of Fukunaga by police, the court, press, and public also demonstrated how his race was being used as the excuse for his crime and not the possibility of him being legally insane as other...