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Takaki: Path to peace includes cultural understanding, conservation

If Ronald Takaki had his way, multicultural education would begin in kindergarten, Americans would conserve natural resources and the country would find peaceful solutions to international conflicts.
Takaki (Photo by Paul Jaronski, U-M Photo Services)

In the opening speech of the annual symposium honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Jan. 13, Takaki tied these ideas together as he promoted an understanding of cultural diversity and an end to violent warfare.

"I think our expanding cultural diversity ... offers a path to peace," said Takaki, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of "Strangers from a Different Shore" and "A Different Mirror." "Our diversity gives us the opportunity to relate to the people of the rest of the world."

Takaki offered an historical perspective about the "frontier mentality." He spoke of the advancing frontier in the United States as the country pushed westward, at times forcibly removing Native Americans from their land. Later, he said, the frontier went beyond continental borders as the country tried to expand the frontier into Asia, he said at the event, which was sponsored by the MLK Symposium Planning Committee.

That mentality, as well as the lexicon of the frontier and of warfare, is evident in President Bush's comments, such as "smoke them out" and wanted "dead or alive," Takaki said.

Just as the geographic frontier ended in the past, the country now is in the midst of a "cultural crisis" as it reaches the end of the racial frontier, Takaki said. "Whites are becoming a minority," he said. "It's already happened in California. ... This cultural crisis has precipitated a backlash."

What can be done? If he were president, Takaki said, he would do three things: see cultural diversity not as a crisis but as a chance to redefine who is American, with the help of multi- cultural education starting with the youngest students; eliminate the lexicon of the frontier and the "frontier culture of masculinity"; and move away from warfare and exploitation of the earth by mandating fuel-efficient cars and wind as a source of power.

"Conservation would be a nonviolent weapon of war," he said. "If King were here tonight he would ask us to expansively connect the dots ... from the civil rights movement to the movement of conservation, and to connect the dots to the movement of peace."

 

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