Racism in “A Different Mirror” by R.Takaki

Phenotype refers to an individual’s observable characteristics such as physical appearance, mode of communication, behavior, and how the behavior affects an individual’s performance. In regard to Takaki’s works, phenotype thus alludes to the racial identities that have existed in America for centuries albeit grudgingly due to racial stratification and segregation (Takaki, p. 1). Takaki’s work claims that racism cannot be alienated from the American way of life and offers a solution in education, where the curriculum should be revised to include cultural education to produce graduates with an all-inclusive cultural mindset (Takaki, p. 3). His works also differ greatly from those of renowned Americans such as Benjamin Franklin.

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Takaki’s personal experiences prove that race determines how people relate to each other. For instance, despite having been born an American, Takaki does not possess a genuine American identity. He is perceived and treated as a stranger regardless of his perfect American English. All this is based on his physically identifiable Japanese ancestry (Takaki, p. 1). Takaki adds that on arrival, the Irish were fairly treated as they were considered compatible with the ‘white Americans’ especially because of their skin color (p. 7). On the other hand, the African Americans were discriminated against, to the extent they were omitted from America’s history by some historians. Thus each race has its unique experiences passed down from one generation to the next.

The fact that America is a multicultural society triggers both fear and anxiety especially among the ‘white Americans’. It is predicted that the whites who are the majority might become the minority in the future -by 2056 (Takaki, p. 1). Some scholars like Hirsch argue that a diverse culture will result in social conflicts especially if fostered through the introduction of a culturally diverse curriculum.

According to Takaki, outward appearance, especially skin color, determines people’s experiences in a multicultural but heavily racial American society (p. 1). Takaki explains that the “white man” is a metaphor that explicitly depicts the ideal American identity (p. 2). As such, people from other races such as Asians, Africans, Arabs, and Hispanics are perceived as inferior, and that the perceived white American identity creates a notion of us (the other races) versus them (the white Americans). In his works, Takaki focuses on the history of race relations and argues that the American ruling class has propagated the notion that only the white are genuine Americans, and that all other races do not have an equal claim to the American identity. He therefore harshly judges leaders such as Benjamin Franklin for propagating ideas that sustained racial inequalities. Takaki’s assessment of Franklin contrasts the image created by Franklin about racial matters. Franklin adopts a diplomatic approach to the American cultural differences and largely refers to the race of men (Franklin, p. 116). Furthermore, Franklin propagates equal rights to all people, including the weaker men (Franklin, p. 111). By this, Franklin implies that in America there exist inferior races, which deserve equal opportunities as the whites.

Takaki’s work has brought a new dimension to race relations in America. Other than unearthing the historical perspective or racial inequalities, Takaki reveals how a person’s skin color bears on his personal experiences. Furthermore, Takaki states that skin color is used to determine whether one is a genuine American or not. Takaki is also critical of renowned American iconic figures such as Benjamin Franklin on the issue of the American identity. Takaki’s work has brought a new dimension within which race relations have gained a new meaning.

Works cited

  1. Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. The Art of Virtue is also Acceptable. Bedford, Massachusetts: Applewood Books. 2008. Print.
  2. Ronald Takaki. A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America. n.d. 2011.
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