It’s been a long time since I was that idealistic college freshman taking an Asian American history course. The first assignment in that class had us reading Strangers From a Different Shore by Ronald Takaki. I remember thinking how great it was that someone took the time to make a textbook on Asian American history.
Takaki’s book helped me to understand the roles that Asian Americans had in shaping the America that we live in today. It also introduced me to the origins of many racial stereotypes and the history of discrimination that all Asian Americans endured.
As wonderful a contribution as Strangers was, I learned later that he was the reason why ethic studies courses were even offered in colleges in the first place. Takaki fought hard to convince the administrators of UC Berkeley to let him start an ethnic studies program where he taught the first black history course during the early 1970s.
Takaki’s hard work and influence for Asian Americans reaches far beyond anything I can put into words. It would be fair to say that had I not read his Strangers book, I might not have developed my passion for Asian media and perhaps never had the idea to start Ningin.
Ronald Takaki died this past Tuesday at the age of 70 having fought multiple sclerosis for 20 years. He leaves behind a great legacy and has touched the lives of many people, mine included.
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