Takaki recalls a morning in 1997 when he received a call from the assistant to President Bill Clinton, inviting him to come to the White House as part of a gathering of civil rights leaders. Takaki told the president that at some point in the twentieth century, white people will no longer be the majority in the US, meaning “we will all be minorities.” In the speech President Clinton gave the following day, he cited many of the historical events covered in A Different Mirror to demonstrate the beauty of multicultural America. Yet he also argued that the US faced the possibility of further inequality and segregation, and that it must turn away from this fate.
In some ways, the optimism Takaki describes here can seem somewhat foreign from a contemporary perspective. At the time he is writing, the idea that the US will soon be a nation where no one racial group is the majority seems positive. Yet in the face of rising prejudice against various racial, ethnic, and religious groups, the notion of an increasingly equal society can seem like a naïve dream.
Takaki emphasizes that “the future is in our hands,” and that it is possible to redefine our image of the US to encompass its complex, multiethnic reality. The US is a country of “borderlands,” zones where several different cultures meet in the same space. The future of the US is multiethnic because the past is, too. Figures like Tiger Woods and President Barack Obama speak proudly of their multiracial heritage, which is reflective of the US more broadly. Takaki urges that we stop “denying our wholeness as members of one humanity as well as one nation.” Across the country, people from wildly different places struggle together for freedom and justice. As the demographics of the US change, perhaps there will finally be a chance to “let America be America again.”
The idea of “let[ing] America be America again,” which comes from Langston Hughes, acknowledges that the US has never been a white nation, and that if people accept and embrace this, perhaps the country will live up to the ideals on which it was founded.