“We have to rethink what we think about history, to rethink who we are as Americans. We need to rededicate ourselves to the principles that gave birth to this country.” Ronald Takaki, a third-generation American of Japanese ancestry and professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley for over two decades, reflects on the past and the future of America’s expanding ethnic diversity and how this diversity will affect the way we relate as individuals and as a nation to the rest of the world. Takaki explores how various ethnic groups experienced World War II in widely different ways. The fight was not only against fascism abroad but also against prejudice here at home. From hospital wards to assembly lines, minorities insisted that their country live up to its founding ideal of equality. Takaki recounts the struggles and personal victories of these minorities. “I feel this tremendous passion to re-write American history, to make sure that I am part of this history. I am American too.”
Takaki is the author of the prize-winning books A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America and Double Victory: A Multicultural History of America in WWII.
Topics Explored in this Dialogue:
- What memory of World War II do we want to carry with us into the 21st century?
- How history can teach us what we need to know in the present
- Takaki’s personal experience growing up third generation Japanese-American
- The story of the of 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated Military unit
- The essential importance of the Navajo Code Talkers
- Jewish-Americans, finding their voice
- A remarkable story of a Puerto Rican boy living with a Japanese-American family going to fight the Japanese
- Fighting the Nazis at the same time defending a democracy that was denying equality to all
Program Number: 2841 Host: Michael Toms Interview Date: 9/19/2000