Ronald Takaki in his book A Different Mirror offers us a brief historical run through of immigration in America, the Pros, and cons that African American faced. He asserts that a multi-cultural approach to learning the history of America is necessary for us to understand, accept and respect people from different races, cultures, and backgrounds. He quotes Dean Fred Lukermann of the University of Minnesota who said that,”… multiculturalism has an intellectual purpose. By allowing us to see events from the viewpoints of different groups, a multicultural curriculum enables us to reach toward a more comprehensive understanding of American History”(Takaki 5). Takaki’s contribution to this goal is a retelling of American history from the point of view of the various ethnic and racial groups who settled here, attempting to see all the “different shores” from which they came as “equal points of departure” in the building of American culture.
Who is American? In the book’s first section, to trace the English colonists’ attempts to grapple with this question Takaki examines the policies they developed to deal with blacks and indigenous peoples during a time when the country seemed boundless. Questions of race and racism were particularly acute at this time, as the English tried to define themselves in contrast to the indigenous peoples they found in the New World. Yet much of the rhetoric used against the Indians, Takaki shows, was not based on color, at least not initially; it was similar to that being used against the Irish in the period when the English were colonizing Ireland and for similar reasons of land acquisition. The pattern Takaki establishes in this first section has social, political, and economic ramifications for the rest of the book, for the pattern repeated itself in different forms with each new immigrant group that arrived in the new country.Continuing this way, an interesting chapter “To “the land of hope”: Blacks in the Urban North” discusses the years 1910-1920 we learn about the migration of African Americans as they head toward complete freedom.
African Americans were learning every day who they were, discrimination was always evident with any race but the migration had a positive effect. They went through several difficulties but in the end, they were more concerned about their rights in the workplace and in schools as better opportunities presented themselves. Takaki Posits that it is the lack of this knowledge that is responsible for the violence and oppression that have been wrought upon cultural minorities for the entire span of American history. In 1882, America thought it wise to enact the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited the Chinese immigrant from entering U.S. soil based solely on their nationality (Takaki 9). The Asians were considered as strange and unassailable for the mere reason that the majority of America did not understand them at the time.
Entire communities were excluded from employment, education and other civil rights afforded to Ameican citizens. Much later after WW II, Japanese -American would be placed in the internment camps and detained by America. It did not matter if two-thirds of these detainees were American Citizens by birth(Takaki 349). Because of all of these events, cultural minorities are perceived in a negative light. They are continually excluded, oppressed, restricted or otherwise treated differently;y compared to the white majority. These people suffered from poverty, lack of education, unemployment and some of them chose a life of crime. But, now America is the only country where immigration is out of the unemployment list.
Overall, “A Different Mirror” by Ronald Takaki “America’s dilemma has been the denial of our immensely varied self” (p. 437). Along with standard historical sources, Takaki uses folk songs, poetry, and memoir to evoke the words and feelings of ordinary people. “Today, we need to stop denying our wholeness as members of one humanity as well as one nation. We originally came from many different shores, and our diversity has been at the center of the making of America” (p. 438).
“Let America be America again…Let American be the dream of dreamers dreamed..
.where equality is in the air we breathe” (p. 439).