-Remembering Ron Takaki
-Ron Takaki: Words from Dale Minami
-Ron Takaki: Words from Professor Larry Shinagawa
-Ron Takaki: Words from Scott Kurashige, PhD.
-Ron Takaki: Condolences from JACL National Director Floyd Mori
-Ron Takaki: CAPAC Statement
-Ron Takaki: a Pioneer, a Scholar, a Friend
-Remembering Professor Ron Takaki: The Power of a Multicultural America
-Ron Takaki: UC Berkeley Professor Emeritus of Ethnic Studies Passes (1939-2009)
-Ronald Takaki: People’s Historian
-Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund Mourns the Loss of Dr. Ronald Takaki
-Statement from The Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC): “The Guiding Principles of Ronald Takaki”
-AsianWeek Calls for Contributions on Professor Ronald Takaki
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 email@example.com.
By Dale Minami
When I met Ron Takaki in the UC Berkeley Asian American Studies conference room in the early 70’s, he seemed like a harmless, cordial and restrained scholar type. I was a Lecturer in the department but was somehow assigned to the Hiring Committee to interview this academic guy who was denied tenure at UCLA mainly for his support of Black Studies and Ethnic Studies while he was still untenured. He was duly hired to anchor the then evolving AAS program and to offer credibility to this young program.
We became friends and over the years I learned that his calm demeanor disguised a burning passion for social justice and equality, a passion which he passed on in the courses he taught, the conservative ideologues he debated and the famous books he wrote. Ron was one of the progenitors of the notion of diversity and his books opened this country’s eyes to the multi-cultural and technicolor history of this nation.
As I write this, I am looking at two of his books on my bookshelf at home – Iron Cages and A Pro-Slavery Crusade, his first books which were so dense that it took me two years to read. Actually, I think it was I who was dense because when I finally got through them, I gained an interpretation of history which is brilliant, illuminating and made me less dense, I think.
Once he returned to his own Hawaii roots in Pau Hana, I discerned a new style of writing which was more engaging, interesting and thoroughly educational. His next books became the bibles of diversity and earned him a Pulitzer Prize nomination. But he was not a harmless scholar as I had thought but a very subversive, active and dynamic advocate for recognition of America’s racism and the commonality of the experiences of minorities. Nor was he the restrained academic I had initially thought – he was an active academic, fearless in the marketplace of ideas and willing to debate anyone who challenged his democratic, multi-racial, progressive perspective.
We would get together occasionally after I left UC Berkeley and I came to love and admire him not just for his passion for social justice but for his uninhibited laugh, eyes closed, cackling over some incident or event which often had nothing to do with anything remotely intellectual and everything to do with his love of humanity.
He emailed me on April 29 to congratulate me for an award I received. He ended with “I feel fortunate to have you as a friend.” I wrote back “Ditto” and we planned to have lunch in June. We are still fortunate to have had a Ronald Takaki for the years he has given to all of us. I will miss him.
The greatest scholar, teacher, and mentor in the world – Dr. and Professor Ronald T. Takaki – has passed away. He was my personal mentor, my academic father figure, and meant the most to me. I am heartbroken with his passage. Dr. Takaki was a tireless promoter of civil rights, social justice, and the transformative power of scholarship. He was always kind to my entire family and took a special interest in my young son, Nathan. Nathan and I are devastated. It is no exaggeration to say that he institutionalized the fields of ethnic studiesand multiculturalism (I am honored to have been given the opportunity as a senior and young graduate student at Berkeley in 1983-1984 to have done the background research and some of the revisions for his proposal for the first Ph.D. Program in Ethnic Studies). Ron taught me to love the field of Ethnic Studies and Asian American Studies with both the head and the heart. I am sure that together with thousands of us who have gained from his great wisdom and compassion, that we resolve to make this world a better place through research, teaching, and service.
Dr. Takaki, you were the best and the brightest. You still are and will always be. In loving memory of Dr. “Ten Toes” Takaki,
Larry Hajime Shinagawa, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor and the Director of the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Maryland.
On Tuesday, May 26, 2009, our nation’s first African American president, who has appointed three Asian Americans to his cabinet, named the first Latina nominee to the Supreme Court. It’s hard to imagine a more fitting tribute to Professor Ronald Takaki, whose tireless writing, teaching, and lecturing played a pivotal role in propagating the idea of America as a multicultural nation. Undoubtedly, racism still haunts us in 2009. However, we now have a far greater sense of the United States as a land where all people can achieve their full potential, where the old notion of a white majority nation is rapidly fading, and where a new sense of possibility unbound by the stigma of race has arisen.
This is the America that Professor Takaki helped us to see evolving through the course of history-through the struggles of those who endured racism and discrimination, those who faced the lash of the whip and were forced into chains, those whose fought displacement and resisted genocide, those who came from distant lands and battled exclusion, and all those who rose above the petty concerns of an exploitative and dehumanizing system to fight for social justice.
As I only met Professor Takaki on a few brief occasions, I cannot count myself among those fortunate to claim his as a mentor and friend. Instead, having attended a university that did not offer a single Asian American Studies course in the late 1980s, I am among the tens of thousands whose introduction to ethnic studies was especially shaped by his books and public speaking. Indeed, my entire academic career has been shaped by two of Professor Takaki’s central themes. First, Asian American Studies, born out of struggle, must be at the forefront of the movement to democratize education and the broader society in which we live. And, second, this can only happen when we view Asian American history, culture, and politics within a multiracial context.
As we witness the color lines that defined the 20th century breaking down before our eyes, we can honor Professor Takaki’s legacy by tackling the new and ongoing challenges to humanity that confront us as a multiracial society in the 21st century.
Scott Kurashige, PhD, is an Associate Professor of History, American Culture, and Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies, at the University of Michigan.
The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) joins with others in mourning the loss of Professor Ronald Takaki. He was an accomplished scholar, author, academician and advocate. His teachings, articles and books were invaluable in documenting the Asian Pacific American experience in the United States, teaching us and others of our shared immigrant history and contributions to American society.
Professor Takaki possessed a gentleman’s demeanor but was not one to be under-estimated. He was a skilled warrior who spoke out eloquently and tirelessly for affirmative action. He did not feel that institutions of higher learning should be available only to the few, but rather accessible to all.
“Professor Takaki leaves us with a wonderful legacy of knowledge and student advocates who have studied under his wing and who shall carry forth his work and vision of an inclusive society,” stated JACL National Director Floyd Mori.
Today, Rep. Michael Honda (CA-15), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), issued the following statement on the passing of Ronald Takaki, Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California at Berkeley:
“On behalf of CAPAC, I extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Dr. Ronald Takaki. Dr. Takaki was a committed leader in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. We will miss him dearly.
“Dr. Takaki had a long, distinguished career in academia, where he was a pioneer in the field of ethnic studies, and helped establish a major in ethnic studies at UC Berkeley, and eventually a Ph.D. program – the first of its kind in the nation.
“He used these years of experience as an educator to dispel stereotypes and work for equality for Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and other minority communities by teaching classes and publishing works that documented the history and struggles of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in a multicultural America.
“We are indebted to his contributions and will continue his work of promoting equality and educating those in our great nation and beyond about America’s proud diversity. My prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time. He will be sorely missed by all.”
The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) is comprised of Members of Congress of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and members who have a strong dedication to promoting the well-being of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Since 1994, CAPAC has been addressing the needs of the AAPI community in all areas of American life. For more information on CAPAC, please call (202) 225-2631 or visit http://www.honda.house.gov/capac.
It is with a heavy heart that I read the news of Prof. Takaki’s passing this morning. And I feel it is my duty as a former student and a representative of the next generation of Asian-American scholars to write to in celebration of a true pioneer and a brilliant man.I first encountered Professor Takaki during my freshman summer at Cal. He was just an iconic name to me at that point, someone whom all the grad students spoke of with revery. Since he wasn’t teaching the summer term, he was in his office cleaning and was carting out a giant box of books to his car downstairs. There must have been fifteen boxes of books stacked inside that tiny office in Barrows Hall! As he walked by students in the hallway, he beamed his huge smile and my instructor said that with his long, white hair, Professor Takaki looked like a sage old lion to her! So, of course, we laughed ten minutes later when we saw him driving out of the faculty parking lot in an old Honda Civic with books piled up to the ceiling of his backseat.The next year, a friend of mine recommended that I sit in on his introductory Asian-American Studies class. On that day, Prof. Takaki was explaining the Frontier Thesis of historian Frederick Jackson Turner. But rather than blandly recite to us exactly what the thesis was, he was using Turner’s century-old thesis to drive home his point of “pedagogy” – that we must question what it is that we learn, challenge orthodox ideas, and examine their repercussions today. He asked us all what the Turner thesis was and, being a history major and armed with the confidence of a high AP US History score, I was the only one in class to answer the question. I thought I gave him the “correct” answer he wanted. But then Professor Takaki asked me, “Is that all? Was Turner right? Did he look at both sides? And where exactly is the frontier? ” Looking back, I realize that Professor Takaki wasn’t questioning my grasp of the thesis, but was in fact asking me to think critically and ask, “So what? And how does that apply to the world we live in today?”It’s been nine years since I sat in Professor Takaki’s classroom. These days, I’m a graduate student myself lucky enough to continue asking the questions about Asian-American immigration that Professor Takaki first posed so many years ago. But as I write this message from a research library in Manila, I can’t help but look back to that day in Berkeley when Professor Takaki challenged me to always question what you know and to always think about the repercussions of teaching. For the doctoral candidate that I am now, and the clueless undergraduate that I was then, the lessons of Prof. Takaki will always be a compass for my life.Alex Orquiza is US Fulbright Scholar, and Doctoral Candidate in History at the Johns Hopkins University.
One of my favorite classes at Berkeley was Asian American Studies 20A, which was a survey course on Asian American history. It was a great course to kick off my undergraduate career during my freshmen year. A big reason why I enjoyed the course is that I learned so much about the Asian American experience that I never heard or knew about growing up and taking your typical US history courses. A paragraph in a typical US history book was blown up into several books and academic talks in this class. I loved it.A big component of the course was this book called Strangers from a Different Shore, a really epic book describing the different immigration experiences of the communities that make up Asian America. I soon discovered that this book as well as other readings about ethnic studies and Asian American studies were linked to Ronald Takaki, a scholar and leader among Ethnic/Asian American studies.During my senior year of college, I took an Ethnic Studies course with Professor Takaki as the professor. I must admit – it was a bit surreal taking a course with him and I couldn’t help but notice that my expectations for his lectures were sky high. I mean, the guy was so inspirational in his readings and books. He HAD to have lectures that would blow me away. And while he did provoke and pose many questions to us students that made us critically think about race relations in the United States, I must admit that it was not really standing ovation worthy as I thought and expected his lectures would be.There was a stretch of time when he had guest lecturers take his place. Rumors spread that he was sick. Eventually, he came back and announced his immediate retirement. The last class of the semester became his last lecture he would give as a course professor. We gave him a standing ovation. It was the least we could do to honor his great work.Obviously, Asian American issues have had an important impact on my life since leaving Berkeley. I became involved and interested in API health issues, arts and media, and of course the film festival after taking these courses. I worked at the cultural center here at Yale. I have tried my best to continue having that discourse and conversations from the API perspective.I found out today, from Facebook out of all places, that Professor Takaki passed away. While it is sad to hear about his passing, his body of work and vision will continue living on. I do hope his readings and research continue to inspire others just as it has for me.
Garett Ng, MPH
I first met Ron Takaki when he was interviewed by Elizabeth Farnsworth, a journalist for the Jim Lehrer News Hour on PBS. On the broadcast, Elizabeth and Ron discussed his new book ‘Double Victory’ about women and minorities who fought during World War 2 against fascism abroad and sexism and racism at home. I contacted Ron after the interview, because I was interested in turning his book into a TV documentary. Ron instead pointed me in the direction of his epic masterpiece on multiculturalism, “A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America.” I quickly read that wonderful book, and answered Ron’s call; indeed it was the perfect book to transform into a television history of multicultural America. We formed a board, and set about seeking support and funding for the project. Alas, neither PBS nor private funding was forthcoming, and over time the project took a back seat to our busy lives. But in the meantime I had made a friend, and looked up to a remarkable human being who lived his principles. Ron was one of the most open and inclusive human beings I have ever met, and I will forever cherish the time we had together. He taught me what it means to understand and interpret history into my daily life. He taught me to reflect on important historical events in the formation of my own political views. He taught me to stand firm against the repressive hand of hatred and bigotry. He taught me how to love peoples from all walks of life. As I said to Ron once, as we sat outside of Black Oak Books in Berkeley, awaiting another talk he was to give there, Multiculturalism is certainly America’s Manifest Destiny. It is because of Ron’s enlightenment, and his guiding hand, that millions of citizens will more easily embrace this destiny, understand it, and live it. He will be sorely missed by us all, but has given voice to so many. It is up to us now to continue to live by the ideals he has enlivened in us. My condolences go out to his wife Carol and family at this time.
David O’Dell is a documentary writer and producer.
Professor Takaki is one of my heroes. As a young person with a strong interest in the “why” people do what they do and believe what they believe, he pestered me with hard questions that set me on a path of study, expertise and discovery. I am a Diversity professional and the reason I am is because Professor Takaki told me I had a culture as an African-American female that I needed to study, discover and catalogue. He also pushed me into comparative studies and the joy of learning and understanding other people’s cultures. He was a joy to learn from and a joy to know. Blessings to his family and honor always to his name.Terri Lyons, Cal, class of 1985
I was greatly saddened to hear of the death of Ronald Takaki last week. While I never had the pleasure of meeting him personally, it is no exaggeration to say that his work changed my life. I first read his scholarship at my brother’s suggestion at the age of thirteen. I read “Strangers from a Different Shore” with dutiful interest until a passage close to the end, when Takaki described the modern experience of a group of Asian American students dressed for a dance who were spat upon by white students on a bus. This was something that a teenager could really relate to. After that, I reread the entire book with intense attention. His book helped me to realize that the racism I faced at school was not, as the authorities generally treated it, just ‘kids being kids,’ but part of a long and complex history of immigration and multiculturalism. Many years later, I began to study these issues myself and read many others of Takaki’s books, but I will always remember my first encounter with his work and how he helped me, and countless students like me, to understand the society in which we live.
Heidi Kim is a PhD. candidate at Northwestern University in the English Department and a part-time lecturer in the Asian American Studies Program
By Gina Acebo
As we come to the end of this year’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I want to take a moment to remember UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies Professor Ronald Takaki who passed away recently.
Now truth be told, I was a wily undergrad student, looking for opportunities to learn more off-campus rather than in the classroom itself, but Professor Takaki’s class tapped into something different for me. In his lecture hall, he often spoke about the “Master Narrative” of American history, a pervasive and powerful but mistaken story that this country was settled by European immigrants and that Americans are white or of European ancestry.
He pushed and prodded us to ask the epistemological question, “How do you know what you know?” about this history of the people of the United States, especially given the realities of racially diverse populations in America. My early Asian American history courses offered a window to glance into my own Pilipino-American history linked with other Asian and Pacific Islander sisters and brothers. Takaki’s class, however, opened up a door to link the histories, literature and politics of Asian Americans, Chicanos/Latinos, Native Americans and African Americans.
As a young, third generation Pilipina who grew up in Oakland, I saw my reality and my identity not simply as “Asian American/Pilipina” but also tied to the lives of the Black community with whom we lived in our neighborhood. Professor Takaki’s class offered me a place to explore and contextualize these experiences. The discussions helped me to recognize that if I wanted the best opportunities now and for the future to be available and accessed to Asian Americans I would have to join hands with others. My community’s well-being, our desire to be counted and our demand for equity was and is inherently tied to how we support and fight for the best opportunities for the Black community as well as other communities of color.
After working as a labor and community organizer in racially diverse communities, and being exposed to Takaki’s views on multiculturalism, I now recognize the importance of multiracial formations for building a racially just society. Also, it is important to know how we must be vigilant in our commitment to connect our histories, our struggles and our victories.
I’m grateful to have been witness to Professor Takaki’s enthusiasm for teaching and to have been encouraged and pushed by him to think critically about my history and the history of the country my family now calls home.
Takaki was also instrumental in mentoring and training a generation of Ethnic Studies scholars. As Lane Hirabayashi, professor and chair of the UCLA Asian American Studies Department noted, “When I finished my Ph.D. at UC Berkeley in 1981, Ron strongly encouraged me to apply for an Institute of American Cultures post-doctoral fellowship at the Asian American Studies Center, UCLA.” Hirabayashi further explained, “He boldly told me that, whatever pressure my anthropology professors were putting on me, going down to the Asian American Studies Center would be a good career move…after a year at the Center, I determined that I would make a career switch over to Asian American and Ethnic Studies.”
Takaki’s teachings and scholarship remain among the most remarkable studies on race relations in America. “He had a very special gift of bringing to life – through his oratory and his voluminous writings – the dynamic interconnections between major historical and structural trends and the often unheard voices of ordinary people,” Nakanishi remarked.
By Jean-Paul R. deGuzman
Although I never met Ronald Takaki personally, his vividly textured corpus of work -that ranged from the annals of slavery to plantation life in Hawaii and beyond – has left an indelible mark on me and countless other ethnic studies and Asian American historians. Like many others, I picked up “Strangers From a Distant Shore” in my very first introductory Asian American Studies course. The wretched stories of oppression and the courageous tales of resistance that he captured in his works introduced me a vast new world filled with exciting possibilities for writing critical history that excavated the texture of everyday life to launch seismic assaults on orthodox cannons of race and ethnicity. “Strangers,” like the rest of his works on Asian American and multiethnic histories, was firmly grounded in the stories of everyday people. Their memories and poems, family stories and diary entries, as Professor Takaki emphasized, were important archives that deserved our attention. While most historical “syntheses” reduced the experiences of the proverbial little people, and particularly the marginalized in society, to the occasional “fun fact,” his work brought them center stage. Although his works were not perfect – very few things are – through harnessing those disparate voices with his rigorous research and moving narrative form, Takaki mobilized countless individuals to recover their own histories and understand themselves and their families as historical actors and agents.
In addition to his example of how to blend political and social history into compelling and thought-provoking narratives, Professor Takaki was a true scholar activist. Although it might be different elsewhere, I have often noticed the trend to deride historians and the history field as politically disengaged and lacking the radical edge found elsewhere. However, Professor Takaki put those assumptions to rest. From being a fixture in campus protests at Berkeley, to his public debates over multiculturalism and affirmative action, to his fights to nurture Ethnic Studies, he was an example of how academics (and even historians) can and should maintain committed efforts to social justice activities that spanned different communities.
Recently a friend of mine asked me, innocently enough, to confirm her assumption that there are only about ten Asian American historians in the field of Asian American Studies. Of course there are countless others, but since I was able to rattle off only maybe ten or twelve, I don’t think I satisfied her. However, with the loss of Professor Takaki that magic number has taken on completely new significance. In one sense, our ranks have gotten smaller. The loss is tremendous. But then again, with the strong legacy of empowering scholarship and activism that Professor Takaki left behind, the rest of us that aspire to become Asian American historians, regardless of our numbers, have a fine model to look to and build upon.
Jean-Paul deGuzman has an MA in Asian American Studies from UCLA where he is currently a doctoral student in the History Department at UCLA. JP’s research focuses on the intersections of marketing and migration, ethnic and community politics, and suburban and industrial development in, like, the San Fernando Valley. He also maintains political and academic interests in the contemporary L.A. labor movement. JP has published works in Amerasia Journal, Adolescent Behavior Research Studies, and Learning English/Learning America: Voices of Latinos and Asian Americans.
Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund Mourns the Loss of Dr. Ronald Takaki
Washington, DC – The Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF), the nation’s largest non-profit organization devoted solely to providing college scholarships to Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) students, mourns the recent loss of Dr. Ronald Takaki, professor emeritus of ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
“The loss of Dr. Takaki leaves a large void not only in the Asian and Pacific Islander American community, but in the field of education,” said Neil Horikoshi, APIASF President & Executive Director. “Dr. Takaki was able to inspire thousands of students during his tenure at Berkeley to really think about diversity in our country. His work has undoubtedly changed America for the better.”
Dr. Takaki taught for more than 30 years at the University of California, Berkeley and was a pioneer in the field of ethnic studies. He established the nation’s first ethnic studies Ph.D. program and was one of the leading scholars on diversity in America. He was a trusted advisor to many leaders and counseled President Clinton on his 1997 “One America in the 21st Century” speech on race. Dr. Takaki was also a critically acclaimed author.
“In a field like higher education where Asian and Pacific Islander Americans are so vastly underrepresented, Dr. Takaki was a bright light of inspiration,” said Horikoshi. “For this reason, APIASF is particularly saddened by this loss. I know that his legacy will continue to inspire future leaders in our community and in the field of education.”
Dr. Takaki passed away on Tuesday, May 26. He is survived by his wife, Carol, their three children and their grandchildren.
Based in Washington, D.C., the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF) is the nation’s largest non-profit organization devoted solely to providing scholarships for Asian and Pacific Islander Americans (APIA). Since 2003, APIASF has provided a critical bridge to higher education for APIA students across the country by awarding more than $2.4 million in scholarships to 1,075 students. APIASF manages two scholarship programs: APIASF’s general scholarship and the Gates Millennium Scholars/Asian Pacific Islander Americans funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Corporate supporters include, but are not limited to: The Coca-Cola Company, Farmers Insurance Group of Companies, ING, Macy’s Inc., McDonald’s, Sodexo Foundation, United Health Foundation, USA Funds, Wachovia Foundation, Wal-Mart Foundation and Wells Fargo. For more information on APIASF, please visit www.apiasf.org.
by Carmina Ocampo
On behalf of the attorneys at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) in Los Angeles, we express our sorrow at the passing of scholar activist Ronald Takaki. We also celebrate his life, his passion for justice and the guiding principles he taught us.
Reading “Strangers from a Different Shore” changed our lives and led us down the path of becoming civil rights lawyers. Karin Wang, Vice President of Programs says, “Although I never met him, Professor Takaki opened a new world to me and significantly affected my life. As an Asian American born and raised in the Midwest, I had no conception of Asian American history until one day in college, I opened ‘Strangers from a Different Shore.’ The stories that unfolded before me ultimately led me to a career as a civil rights lawyer. I kept that book until the covers fell off…”
Professor Takaki taught us how our ideas about justice, fairness, and equality were born from the struggles of African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, and other underrepresented minorities. From him, we learned how Asian Americans were deprived of their civil rights by discriminatory laws throughout American history. He also taught us about the diversity within the Asian American diaspora, encouraging us to advocate on behalf of underrepresented and impoverished Asian groups within the community.
Julie Su, Litigation Director says, “When I was at Stanford, we spoke out and sat in for ethnic studies and faculty and curricular diversity. For many of us Asian American student activists, Professor Takaki’s book gave us the language and the context by which we could articulate our collective history, our sense of community, and our solidarity with other communities of color. It helped support our substantive demand for Asian American studies and the vision and tactics by which we tried to get it. Those lessons continue to resonate constantly in my work today as an advocate for justice.”
Professor Takaki reminded us most of all of our shared histories with other people of color. He set an example in publicly opposing Proposition 209, the 1996 California initiative that banned affirmative action in public universities. He urged Asian Americans not to turn our backs on other communities of color and inspired us to work towards building bridges and coalitions.
Stewart Kwoh, Executive Director, recalls a class at UCLA where Professor Takaki elucidated how the Civil War affected all Americans by ending slavery. He says, “It was an important part of our journey to understand how Asian Americans are not separate from the struggles for racial equality for African Americans and indeed, all people of color in the U.S.”
Our work at APALC is infused by these principles that Professor Takaki fought for and believed in. We see all too well the threads that connect disparate struggles for social justice, where losses on one front can affect battles on others. For example, the lessons that Professor Takaki taught us about our own history – of anti-miscegenation and immigration discrimination – led APALC and more than 63 Asian American community organizations to file an amicus brief last year in support of equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples.
We thank Professor Takaki for teaching us about our history as Asian Americans and for giving us these principles to guide us in speaking out against injustice.
Carmina Ocampo is Staff Attorney at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), the nation’s largest legal organization serving the Asian and Pacific Islander communities.
San Francisco – AsianWeek.com today issued a call for contributions from former students and colleagues in remembrance of Professor Ronald Takaki who passed away on Tuesday May 26, 2009 at the age of 70.
Professor Takaki was the pre-eminent scholar on America’s multicultural history, author of over a dozen books, and Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley campus.
AsianWeek Editor and Publisher Ted Fang issued the following statement:
“Professor Ronald Takaki was about new beginnings. His scholarship opened new paths for a re-visioning of American history that included people of all colors and nationalities. His comparative approach celebrated differences, at the same time he found common bonds in the diversity of our humanity.
Professor Takaki devoted his life to the future of America. He taught tens of thousands of students. His books reached hundreds of thousands of readers. All of us have been affected by his teachings. As our nation approaches that day when all Americans will be minorities, we continue his work each in our own ways to embrace and enhance America’s manifest diversity.
As part of continuing on Professor Takaki’s vision, AsianWeek.com is accepting contributions from former students and colleagues on their remembrances or inspirations of Professor Takaki. Contributions can include writings, memories or photographs and should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.”
-U.S. Asian Wire