Why Is Barack Obama Black?

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In a series of provocative video discussions, Ronald Takaki (author, scholar, and professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley) will discuss important issues regarding the 2008 presidential election from a multicultural perspective. Check out this AsianWeek exclusive!

Ron Takaki is one of the most preeminent scholars of our nation’s diversity. He is a professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught over 20,000 students during 34 years of teaching.

Born in 1939, Professor Takaki is the grandson of immigrant Japanese plantation workers in Hawaii. He graduated from the College of Wooster, Ohio, in 1961. Six years later, after receiving his Ph.D. in American history from UC Berkeley, Takaki went to UCLA to teach its first Black history course.

In 1972, Professor Takaki returned to Berkeley to teach in the newly instituted Department of Ethnic Studies. His comparative approach to the study of race and ethnicity provided the conceptual framework for the B.A. program and the Ph.D. program in Comparative Ethnic Studies as well as for the university’s multicultural requirement for graduation, known as the American Cultures Requirement.

The Berkeley faculty has honored Professor Takaki with a Distinguished Teaching Award.

Takaki has lectured in Japan, Russia, Armenia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Austria, and South Africa.

He has debated Nathan Glazer and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. on issues such as affirmative action and multicultural education.

Takaki is a fellow of the Society of American Historians; its executive secretary, Mark Carnes stated that Takaki “has re-shaped American history.”

In 1997, Professor Takaki helped President Bill Clinton write his major speech on race, “One America in the 21st Century.”

Professor Takaki is the author of 12 books. Iron Cages: Race and Culture in 19th Century America has been critically acclaimed. Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans has been selected by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the best 100 non-fiction books of the 20th century, and A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America is read on college campuses across the country and has over half a million copies in print.

The revised and updated edition of A Different Mirror will be published in December 2008. With new chapters on refugees from Vietnam and Afghanistan, and on the recent waves of Mexican immigrants, the study will present the epic story of America from the 1607 founding of Jamestown to the beginning of the 21st century. This study of the past speaks to America’s future.

The Los Angeles Times has described Takaki as a “minority Everyman. He is a rare hybrid, a multicultural scholar.”


If you have questions for Ron Takaki, please email us at asianweek@asianweek.com!

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