A Different Mirror

A Different Mirror

by

Ronald Takaki

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on A Different Mirror can help.
Ronald Takaki is the author of A Different Mirror. He was born in Hawaii to Japanese-American parents, and notes in his book that because of this, people often don’t see him as American—even though his ancestors immigrated to the United States from Japan all the way back in the 1800s. After earning his PhD in American history from the University of California, Berkley, he went on to teach Black Studies at UCLA and develop the Ethnic Studies program at Berkley. He also had a formative influence on Ethnic Studies as an academic field more generally. In A Different Mirror, Takaki seeks to illuminate the exploitation and class struggles that ethnic groups endure in the US, and give voice to those people’s hopes and dreams about the country. His overarching purpose in sharing the multiethnic reality of the US is to “let America be America again,” a phrase he borrows from poet Langston Hughes. A Different Mirror grapples with American history even before its so-called “discovery” by European colonizer Christopher Columbus until contemporary times, when questions of how to handle the swelling numbers of undocumented immigrants in the US remain both pressing and unanswered. In reaching back to the past and laying bare the racism, exploitation, and injustice that permeated American history, Takaki hopes that readers can use that ugly reality to positively shape the future.

Ronald Takaki Quotes in A Different Mirror

The A Different Mirror quotes below are all either spoken by Ronald Takaki or refer to Ronald Takaki. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Unity vs. Division Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Back Bay edition of A Different Mirror published in 2008.
Chapter 1: A Different Mirror Quotes

“Race,” observed Toni Morrison, has functioned as a “metaphor” necessary to the “construction of Americanness”: in the creation of our national identity, “American” has been defined as “white.” Not to be “white” is to be designated as the “Other”—different, inferior, and unassimilable.

Related Characters: Ronald Takaki (speaker)
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1, Chapter 2: The “Tempest” in the Wilderness Quotes

This demonization of Indians served complicated ends. The enemy was not only external but also internal. To the Puritans, the Indians were like Caliban, a "born devil": they had failed to control their appetites, to create boundaries separating mind from body. They represented what English men and women in America thought they were not, and, more important—what they must not become. As exiles living in the wilderness far from “civilization,” the Puritans used their negative images of Indians to delineate the moral requirements they had set up for themselves.

Related Characters: Ronald Takaki (speaker), Caliban
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1, Chapter 3: The Hidden Origins of Slavery Quotes

The planters had come to a crossroads. They could open economic opportunities to white workers and extend political privileges to them, but this would erode their own economic advantage and potentially undermine their political hegemony. Or they could try to reorganize society on the basis of class and race. By importing and buying more slaves, they could reduce their dependency on an armed white labor force and exploit workers from Africa, who could be denied the right to bear arms because of their race.

Related Characters: Ronald Takaki (speaker)
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2, Chapter 6: Fleeing “the Tyrant’s Heel” Quotes

Many Irish saw parallels between themselves as a degraded people and blacks in bondage. In Ireland, they had identified themselves as the "slaves" of the British, and many supported the abolition of slavery in the United States. ln 1842, thousands of them signed a petition that declared: "Irishmen and Irishwomen! treat the colored people as your equals, as brethren." But Irish sympathy for black slaves seemed to disappear with the Atlantic crossing. In America, many of them became antiblack.

Related Characters: Ronald Takaki (speaker)
Page Number: 142
Explanation and Analysis:

President Abbott Lawrence Lowell viewed the Irish favorably and highlighted Harvard's role in assimilating them into American society. “What we need,” he had explained earlier, “is not to dominate the Irish but to absorb them. We want them to become rich,” he added, “send their sons to our colleges, and share our prosperity and our sentiments.” In his opinion, however, such inclusionism should be reserved for certain groups. The "theory of universal political equality” he argued, should not be applied to "tribal Indians," "Chinese," or "negroes under all conditions, [but] only to our own race, and to those people whom we can assimilate rapidly." Lowell added that the Irish were unlike Jewish immigrants: they were Christian as well as culturally similar to Americans of English origin. The Irish could, therefore, become "so merged in the American people that they would not be ‘distinguished as a class.’”

Related Characters: Ronald Takaki (speaker), Abbott Lawrence Lowell (speaker)
Related Symbols: Harvard University
Page Number: 152
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2, Chapter 7: “Foreigners in Their Native Land” Quotes

Justifying this racial hierarchy, mine owner Sylvester Mowry invoked the images as well as language used earlier by slavemasters to describe the affection and loyalty of their slaves. "My own experience has taught me that the lower class of Mexicans…,” Mowry declared, “are docile, faithful, good servants, capable of strong attachments when firmly and kindly treated. They have been ‘peons’ for generations. They will always remain so, as it is their natural condition.”

But, like the enslaved blacks of the Old South, Mexican workers demonstrated that they were capable of defying these stereotypes of docility and submissiveness. Demanding self-respect and better wages, they repeatedly went on strike.

Related Characters: Ronald Takaki (speaker)
Related Symbols: Strikes
Page Number: 173-174
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2, Chapter 8: Searching for Gold Mountain Quotes

What enabled businessmen like Crocker to degrade the Chinese into a subservient laboring caste was the dominant ideology that defined America as a racially homogeneous society and Americans as white. The status of racial inferiority assigned to the Chinese had been prefigured in the black and Indian past.

Related Characters: Ronald Takaki (speaker)
Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3, Chapter 10: Pacific Crossings Quotes

Though they imported workers along with supplies, planters were conscious of the nationalities of their laborers. They were systematically developing an ethnically diverse labor force in order to create divisions among their workers and reinforce management control. Complaining about the frequency of strikes on plantations where the workers were mostly from the same country, plantation managers recommended: “Keep a variety of laborers, that is different nationalities, and thus prevent any concerted action in case of strikes, for there are few, if any, cases of Japs, Chinese, and Portuguese entering into a strike as a unit.”

Related Characters: Ronald Takaki (speaker)
Related Symbols: Strikes
Page Number: 237-238
Explanation and Analysis:

In their demand for a higher wage, the strikers explained: "We have decided to permanently settle here, to incorporate ourselves with the body politique [sic] of Hawaii—to unite our destiny with that of Hawaii, sharing the prosperity and adversity of Hawaii with other citizens of Hawaii." Significantly, the Japanese were framing their demands in “American” terms. They argued that the deplorable conditions on the plantations perpetuated an "undemocratic and un-American" society of "plutocrats and coolies." Fair wages would encourage laborers to work more industriously and productively. The goal of the strike was to create "a thriving and contented middle class—the realization of the high ideal of Americanism."

Related Characters: Ronald Takaki (speaker)
Related Symbols: Strikes
Page Number: 243
Explanation and Analysis:

“We try hard to be American but Americans always say you always Japanese. Irish become American and all time talk about Ireland; Italians become Americans even if do all time like in Italy; but Japanese can never be anything but Jap.”

Related Characters: Ronald Takaki
Page Number: 258
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3, Chapter 11: The Exodus from Russia Quotes

Expressions of resentment and ethnic epithets began to circulate: "Jews are an unassimilable race, as dangerous to a college as indigestible food to man." […]

President Abbott Lawrence Lowell announced that the college had a "Jewish problem" and led efforts to curb their enrollment. "It is the duty of Harvard," he wrote privately in a letter to a member of the Board of Overseers on March 29, 1922, "to receive just as many boys who have come, or whose parents have come, to this country without our background as we can effectively educate; including in education the imparting, not only of book knowledge, but of ideas and traditions of our people. Experience seems to place that proportion at about 15%."

Related Characters: Ronald Takaki (speaker), Abbott Lawrence Lowell (speaker)
Related Symbols: Harvard University
Page Number: 286
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3, Chapter 12: El Norte Quotes

For many Mexicans, the border was only an imaginary line between Mexico and the United States—one that could be crossed and recrossed at will. Living in El Norte, they created a Mexican-American world called the barrio.

Related Characters: Ronald Takaki (speaker)
Page Number: 307
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4, Chapter 14: World War II Quotes

In a letter to the NAACP, a soldier wrote: "I am a Negro soldier 22 years old. I won't fight or die in vain. If I fight, suffer or die it will be for the freedom of every black man to live equally with other races." Scheduled to be drafted into the army, a black youth declared: “Just carve on my tombstone, ‘Here lies a black man killed fighting a yellow man for the protection of a white man.’”

Related Characters: Ronald Takaki (speaker)
Page Number: 351
Explanation and Analysis:

“There's one other great incident of humanity that I'm very familiar with, the three hundred years of slavery in my own country, where people for generations were not allowed to be free, subject to the dictates of another race. Held in bondage, forced to work, and forced to do what another person wanted you to do. And if you didn't obey, there were no laws against killing you and destroying your family. So I said, ‘As you talk, I see there's a close parallel between the history of my people in America and what's happened to the Jews in Europe.’”

Related Characters: Ronald Takaki
Page Number: 378
Explanation and Analysis:

“I think one man is as good as another so long as he's honest and decent and not a nigger or a Chinaman. Uncle Will [Young, the Confederate veteran] says the Lord made a white man of dust, a nigger from mud, then threw up what was left and it came down a Chinaman. He does hate Chinese and Japs. So do I. It is race prejudice I guess. But I am strongly of the opinion that Negroes ought to be in Africa, yellow men in Asia, and white men in Europe and America.”

Related Characters: President Harry Truman (speaker), Ronald Takaki
Page Number: 381
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4, Chapter 15: Out of the War Quotes

At a deeper level, the split between Jews and blacks reflected a larger ideological divide, as conflicting visions of equality emerged. The Civil Rights Movement had begun as a struggle for equality for blacks through integration, which was often defined as a condition of equality. To "overcome" meant to integrate the schools, buses, lunch counters, and other public facilities; this goal was expanded to include equality of opportunity for voting and employment. But in 1966, like earlier black nationalists such as Marcus Garvey, Stokely Carmichael and other young militant blacks issued a clarion call for Black Power […] Equality, for many black militants, now meant self-determination for blacks as a colonized people in America. The cry of black nationalism was for separatism rather than integration, and there was no place for whites, including Jews, in the movement for black liberation.

Related Characters: Ronald Takaki (speaker), Marcus Garvey
Page Number: 395
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4, Chapter 16: Again, the “Tempest-Tost” Quotes

Facing a rising nativist backlash against illegal immigrants, many Irish newcomers joined Mexican Americans in demanding comprehensive immigration reform that would enable all of them to become legalized. In February 2006, fifteen hundred Irish participated in an immigration reform rally in San Francisco. One of them, Elaine, worked as a nanny. "We're all in the same boat," she told a reporter. "The Irish are lucky because we speak English and we're white. We do get treated better. But we [undocumented immigrants] are all hard workers. We all want a better life." Elaine explained that she would like to become a legal permanent resident so that she could build a stable life in her adopted country without fear of being picked up by immigration authorities. She also would like to take her six-year-old son to Ireland so he can maintain his ties to his grandparents and his Irish heritage.

Related Characters: Ronald Takaki (speaker)
Page Number: 408
Explanation and Analysis:

Most of the shop signs in Westminster were in Vietnamese only. But the merchants of Little Saigon have begun to reach out for a larger customer market. In some Vietnamese stores, signs announce: "Se habla español.”

Related Characters: Ronald Takaki (speaker)
Page Number: 418
Explanation and Analysis:

“Afghans have integrated instead of assimilated […] Fremont would be a good example. Afghans have managed to keep their culture and identity. It hasn't been lost in the idea of assimilation. That's when you totally and completely become the culture that you have immigrated to and completely lose your people's original identity. Afghans have kept their uniqueness, the beauty of their culture, and at the same time have thoroughly functioned in today's society. I think that's what integration means.”

Related Characters: Ronald Takaki
Page Number: 426
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire A Different Mirror LitChart as a printable PDF.
A Different Mirror PDF

Ronald Takaki Character Timeline in A Different Mirror

The timeline below shows where the character Ronald Takaki appears in A Different Mirror. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: A Different Mirror
Whiteness and the Other Theme Icon
Labor, Profit, and the Building of the Nation Theme Icon
Citizenship, Identity, and the American Dream Theme Icon
Ronald Takaki describes flying into Norfolk, Virginia, and talking to the taxi driver who collects him from... (full context)
Unity vs. Division Theme Icon
Whiteness and the Other Theme Icon
Labor, Profit, and the Building of the Nation Theme Icon
Segregation vs. Assimilation Theme Icon
Citizenship, Identity, and the American Dream Theme Icon
Takaki knows that the driver’s thoughts were influenced by what Takaki calls the “Master Narrative of... (full context)
Unity vs. Division Theme Icon
Whiteness and the Other Theme Icon
Citizenship, Identity, and the American Dream Theme Icon
...American history.” However, his study of immigrants was limited to those who came from Europe. Takaki explains that today, overhauling the Master Narrative is urgent. White people will soon be a... (full context)
Unity vs. Division Theme Icon
Whiteness and the Other Theme Icon
Labor, Profit, and the Building of the Nation Theme Icon
Segregation vs. Assimilation Theme Icon
Citizenship, Identity, and the American Dream Theme Icon
...one ethnic group at a time, which means the “bigger picture” is difficult to see. Takaki aims to study “race and ethnicity inclusively and comparatively,” examining many different groups side by... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 2: The “Tempest” in the Wilderness
Unity vs. Division Theme Icon
Whiteness and the Other Theme Icon
Labor, Profit, and the Building of the Nation Theme Icon
Citizenship, Identity, and the American Dream Theme Icon
Takaki explains that the English Puritans were brought to the US by “an economic reality”—population increase,... (full context)
Whiteness and the Other Theme Icon
Labor, Profit, and the Building of the Nation Theme Icon
Citizenship, Identity, and the American Dream Theme Icon
...an island, and colonizes it. The island is inhabited by an indigenous person called Caliban. Takaki explains that it’s easy to see how The Tempest could be a metaphor for the... (full context)
Unity vs. Division Theme Icon
Whiteness and the Other Theme Icon
Labor, Profit, and the Building of the Nation Theme Icon
Segregation vs. Assimilation Theme Icon
...The Sea Adventure getting caught in a shipwreck in the islands of Bermuda in 1609. Takaki points out that Shakespeare’s description of the island on which Prospero gets stranded directly echoes... (full context)
Unity vs. Division Theme Icon
Whiteness and the Other Theme Icon
Labor, Profit, and the Building of the Nation Theme Icon
Segregation vs. Assimilation Theme Icon
...that it was up to Native communities if they wished to sell more land. But, Takaki points out, Jefferson then deliberately created economic and social conditions that essentially forced Natives to... (full context)
Part 2, Introduction: The Rise of the Cotton Kingdom
Unity vs. Division Theme Icon
Whiteness and the Other Theme Icon
Labor, Profit, and the Building of the Nation Theme Icon
Citizenship, Identity, and the American Dream Theme Icon
Takaki explains that the United States was founded on a contradiction. While the Declaration of Independence... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 5: “No More Peck o’Corn”
Whiteness and the Other Theme Icon
Labor, Profit, and the Building of the Nation Theme Icon
...rebellion, suspecting that the enslaved might harbor desires to seek violent revenge on white people. Takaki argues that Sambo both “existed and did not exist.” Some enslaved people certainly acted like... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 6: Fleeing “the Tyrant’s Heel”
Unity vs. Division Theme Icon
Whiteness and the Other Theme Icon
Labor, Profit, and the Building of the Nation Theme Icon
Segregation vs. Assimilation Theme Icon
Citizenship, Identity, and the American Dream Theme Icon
Takaki explains that the upward mobility of Irish people rested in the fact that as white... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 14: World War II
Unity vs. Division Theme Icon
Whiteness and the Other Theme Icon
Segregation vs. Assimilation Theme Icon
Citizenship, Identity, and the American Dream Theme Icon
Takaki quotes a young Mexican American who reacted to the news of Pearl Harbor with patriotic... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 15: Out of the War
Unity vs. Division Theme Icon
Whiteness and the Other Theme Icon
Labor, Profit, and the Building of the Nation Theme Icon
Segregation vs. Assimilation Theme Icon
Citizenship, Identity, and the American Dream Theme Icon
...for their own difficulties. A battle over affirmative action ensued. What these ideological conflicts disguised, Takaki explains, was the fact that the Cold War had created enormous debts, leading to the... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 16: Again, the “Tempest-Tost”
Unity vs. Division Theme Icon
Segregation vs. Assimilation Theme Icon
Citizenship, Identity, and the American Dream Theme Icon
At the time Takaki is writing, there are 12 million undocumented immigrants in the US, most of whom have... (full context)
Unity vs. Division Theme Icon
Labor, Profit, and the Building of the Nation Theme Icon
Segregation vs. Assimilation Theme Icon
Citizenship, Identity, and the American Dream Theme Icon
...been a sharp increase in the percentage of Mexican Americans who are US citizens, which Takaki asserts is a highly promising turn of events for the community. (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 17: “We Will All Be Minorities”
Unity vs. Division Theme Icon
Whiteness and the Other Theme Icon
Segregation vs. Assimilation Theme Icon
Citizenship, Identity, and the American Dream Theme Icon
Takaki recalls a morning in 1997 when he received a call from the assistant to President... (full context)
Unity vs. Division Theme Icon
Whiteness and the Other Theme Icon
Segregation vs. Assimilation Theme Icon
Citizenship, Identity, and the American Dream Theme Icon
Takaki emphasizes that “the future is in our hands,” and that it is possible to redefine... (full context)
Author’s Note: Epistemology and Epiphany
Unity vs. Division Theme Icon
Labor, Profit, and the Building of the Nation Theme Icon
Segregation vs. Assimilation Theme Icon
Citizenship, Identity, and the American Dream Theme Icon
A Different Mirror reflects the reality of Takaki’s own life. He was born in Hawaii in 1939; his father was a Japanese immigrant... (full context)
Unity vs. Division Theme Icon
Whiteness and the Other Theme Icon
Labor, Profit, and the Building of the Nation Theme Icon
Segregation vs. Assimilation Theme Icon
Citizenship, Identity, and the American Dream Theme Icon
At college, Takaki experienced a “culture shock,” and found that those around him did not believe that he... (full context)
Unity vs. Division Theme Icon
Whiteness and the Other Theme Icon
Labor, Profit, and the Building of the Nation Theme Icon
Segregation vs. Assimilation Theme Icon
Citizenship, Identity, and the American Dream Theme Icon
Despite enormous success early in his career, Takaki was denied tenure. However, a silver lining came when he took a position in the... (full context)