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Ronald Takaki (1939–2009)

Author of A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America

Includes the names: Ronald Takaki, Ronald T. Takaki

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Ronald Takaki was a distinguished scholar of race and ethnicity. Born to a Japanese father and a Japanese American mother, Takaki studied at the College of Wooster, Ohio, and received his Ph.D. in American History from the University of California, Berkeley. He taught UCLA's first Black History course before joining UC Berkeley's Department of Ethnic Studies in 1972, which had been recently created in response to student demand for course offerings that better reflected the diversity of the American experience. Takaki became one of its key members, developing the Ethnic Studies major and helping to make coursework in racial and ethnic diversity a requirement for graduation. He was a vocal proponent of multicultural education in the country at large, regularly appearing on programs such as NBC's Today and PBS's NewsHour to discuss issues of race and ethnicity in the United States. [adapted from A Different Mirror for Young People: A History of Multicultural America (2012)]

My grandfather emigrated from Japan to work on the cane fields of Hawaii in 1886, and my mother was born on the Hawi Plantation. As a teenager growing up on Oahu, I was not academically inclined but was actually a surfer. During my senior year, I took a religion course taught by Dr. Shunji Nishi, a Japanese American with a Ph.D. I remember going home and asking my mother, who only had an eighth-grade education: "Mom, what's a Ph.D.?" She answered: "I don't know but he must be very smart." Dr. Nishi became a role model for me, and he arranged for me to attend the College of Wooster. There my fellow white students asked me questions like: "How long have you been in this county? Where did you learn to speak English?" They did not see me as a fellow American. I did not look white or European in ancestry. As a scholar, I have been seeking to write a more inclusive and hence more accurate history of Americans, Chicanos, Native Americans as well as certain European immigrant groups like the Irish and Jews. My scholarship seeks not to separate our diverse groups but to show how our experiences were different but they were not disparate. Multicultural history, as I write and present it, leads not to what Schlesinger calls the "disuniting of America" but rather to the re-uniting of America. [retrieved from Amazon.com, 11/29/2012]
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