Remembering Ron Takaki

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It is with great sadness to announce that Professor Emeritus Ronald Takaki passed away on the evening of May 26th, 2009. He is survived by his wife, Carol Takaki, his three children Dana, Troy, and Todd Takaki, and his grandchildren.

Ron Takaki was one of the most preeminent scholars of our nation’s diversity, and considered “the father” of multicultural studies. As an academic, historian, ethnographer and author, his work helped dispel stereotypes of Asian Americans. In his study of multicultural people’s history in America, Takaki seeked to unite Americans, today and in the future, with each other and with the rest of the world.

He was a professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught over 20,000 students during 34 years of teaching.

Born in 1939, Professor Takaki was 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.

As a Professor, Takaki hoped that his students would learn that skills of critical thinking and effective writing could be used in a revolutionary way. Epistemology, critical thinking, or in Takaki’s words “how do you know, you know, what you know about the America and the world you live in?” was a question Takaki posed to his students to challenge the way they looked at history, current policies, and even life.

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 was 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.

AsianWeek will be running a series of articles on honoring and remembering Ronald Takaki on AsianWeek.com. If you would like to contribute with written pieces, pictures, or videos, feel free to contact Beleza Chan at belezachan@gmail.com.

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