Ronald Takaki Has Died: A Great Loss for the Country, and for Race Scholarship

takaki AsianWeek has a sad notice, about the untimely death of the great scholar of race and racism, Prof. Ronald Takaki at U. California-Berkeley (Photo: AsianWeek).

I will do a long post over the next week or so, but for now their summary is fine:

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.

HeraldNet has this good post too.

New Book: The Myth of the Model Minority

Rosalind Chou and Joe have a new book, just out, that is described as follows in the catalog copy (sorry for the self promotion!):

With their apparent success in schools and careers, Asian Americans have long been viewed by white Americans as the “model minority.” Yet few Americans realize the lives of many Asian Americans are constantly stressed by racism. This reality becomes clear from the voices of Asian Americans heard in this first in-depth book on the experiences of racism among Asian Americans from many different nations and social classes. Chou and Feagin assess racial stereotyping and discrimination from dozens of interviews across the country with Asian Americans in a variety of settings, from elementary schools to colleges, workplaces, and other public arenas

They got some very nice cover comments from social science and legal researchers you may know:

Missing from the discussion of whether Asian Americans can be considered ‘honorary whites’ are the voices of Asian Americans themselves and the ways they experience and negotiate their racial status. This book captures how individual Asian Americans encounter racial hostility and discrimination in a variety of social and institutional spaces, and the distinct ways they strategically respond to such treatment. Some respondents resign themselves to situations while others challenge and actively resist stereotyping, inequitable treatment, and harassment. But as Chou and Feagin convincingly argue, all are both blessed and cursed with the “double consciousness” shaped by a pervasive ‘white racial frame.’-Michael Omi, University of California-Berkeley

This landmark work covers new research ground in documenting the significant yet unrecognized barriers of discrimination and marginalization faced by Asian Americans in the United States today. As an often invisible and silent minority, Asian Americans can at last find voice in this brilliant work that recognizes the reality of their experience. The courage, nobility, and honesty of the authors will assist all involved in the struggle for equity and inclusion.”\ -Edna B. Chun, Broward Community College

Most Americans believe Asian Americans are content, do not suffer from discrimination, and are all in the path to whiteness. Chou and Feagin document convincingly with interview data that they are not content, suffer from discrimination, and are, for the most part, regarded as ‘perpetual foreigners.’ Bravo to the authors for bringing to the fore the racial oppression endured by Asian Americans!  Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Duke University

Through a compelling analysis of white racism experienced by Asian Americans in their everyday lives, Chou and Feagin offer a powerful examination of the psychological and emotional burdens imposed by racism in contemporary society. This book offers an insightful critique of research on assimilation that focuses on indicators of integration such as educational and occupational attainment while ignoring the serious forms of racism examined in this book. Leland T. Saito, University of Southern California

This is the book we have long needed. Asian Americans have been stereotyped since the nineteenth century as the ‘model minority’: overachieving whiz kids who are too polite to protest about civil rights. It is difficult to explain to even sympathetic students of race relations how this apparently positive image has been damaging to Asian Americans as well as other minority groups. In this study, however, the authors are persuasive because they are comprehensive and thoughtful. They show how the ‘model minority’ is a myth, and, like most generalizations of this nature, too inaccurate to be useful. They reveal how it reflects invidious assumptions and is abused for political purposes, not only serving as a means of attacking African Americans and Latino/as but also generating backlash against Asian Americans as too good for their own good. Anyone who cares about Asian Americans-indeed, who is interested in the dynamics of diversity-should be interested in this detailed critique. Very highly recommended. Frank H. Wu, Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White.

We welcome your comments too, if you get a chance to look at our book.

Racism Against Japanese American Citizens

May marks the 66th anniversary of the eradication of Portland, Oregon’s thriving Japantown business district when the area’s entire population of Japanese and Japanese Americans was forced into a makeshift WWII internment camp.   Today, Japanese American businessman Sho Dozono is a major player in the city’s mayoral campaign (the primary is May 20), and with Dozono’s political campaign,  “an incredible local cycle of racism, exile, and endurance has finally come full circle,” writes Lawrence Maushard for Portland Indie Media.  Although Dozono himself was not in the camps, over 110,000 Japanese American citizens were.    


In February, 1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order  9066, gave the military broad powers to ban any citizen from a fifty to sixty-mile wide coastal area that extended from California north to Washington State and inland into Arizona.  Although the internment of Japanese Americans is often portrayed as “war-time hysteria,” Maushard it actually followed a consistent pattern of systemic racism against Asian Americans.  Maushard interviewed Executive Director June Arima Schumann of the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center in Portland, and she put it this way:

“Well, if you look at the history of intolerance in this country, including Oregon, Pearl Harbor simply acted as an excuse to take action against Japanese to remove them from our community, because of this whole chain of activities that had been hostile towards Chinese, and later Japanese.”

Once the internment began operations it was closely followed by —  and supported by the newspapers of the day.  Evacuation and detention notices were then posted in public places such as store walls and telephone poles, as well as constant articles and commentary in the major newspapers.  The local paper, The Oregonian, ran almost daily updates on evacuation information, instructions, and photos (like the one here, from The Oregonian, 1942).


Of course, when Executive Order 9066 was first issued and the process started most Japanese Americans thought they would be safe because they were citizens.  One woman, Harue “Mae” Ninomiya now 89, detained with her family, recalled:

“My brother and I, we thought we would be able to stay home and run the (family grocery) store because we were citizens. I didn’t think they would take citizens away.  I knew that my mother and father beings aliens would be [put in camps], but it was really a shock to hear that we all had to go.”

And, it is shocking…especially given the deplorable conditions in the camps.    Again quoting Executive Director Schumann about the conditions in Maushard’s piece:

“What they did was take away the partitions of the animal stalls, swept away the manure on the dirt floor, laid rolls of 2x4s, and then put 1×10 or 12×10 boards across to make the floor. So people lived on top of what used to be where the manure was…”

This is remains a seldom acknowledged part of American history.  Most of the time when I teach about this in my college classes, fewer than 5% of students have ever even heard about the internment camps, and almost none of them has any depth of knowledge about racism against Japanese Americans.