Ryan Chartrand

Cal Poly’s Provocative Perspective series continued with the 2006-07 theme of California by hosting a discussion by author and University of California, Berkeley ethnic studies professor Ron Takaki entitled “The Current Dialog and Crisis in Immigration: Its Effect on Education.” Takaki explored a variety of topics dealing with racial diversity in America during a breakfast on campus Thursday morning.

Each year the Provocative Perspective series takes on a different theme to present various points of view from experts on a similar subject. This year’s California theme was chosen by Cornel Morton, vice president of Student Affairs, who also serves as the sponsor.

Takaki, the grandson of a Japanese immigrant, has written 11 books, including “A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America,” a comparative history of diverse Americans that asks the question how can education reflect all voices in our history? The professor has given speeches on diversity all over the world and helped former President Bill Clinton write a major speech on race in 1997.

“California is a racially diverse state; we have 10 million unauthorized Mexican immigrants. Congress is currently wrestling with a comprehensive immigration bill, but what would that be? My speech will address the issue why is this happening,” Takaki said. “It is not just a question of what to do when they get here, but why are they coming by the millions.”

Takaki’s research has dealt extensively with the subject of the Mexican migration into the U.S., linking some of the immigration increases to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the deployment of the National Guard to the borders.

After NAFTA became official in 1994, a majority of the Mexican corn farmers could not compete with the low prices of the U.S., became bankrupt and traveled north to find work.

“We chose Ron Takaki because he is well-renowned for his expertise in Asian American history and diversity. He brings a unique contribution to our series,” said Joy Pedersen, program coordinator of Cal Poly Community Center.

Takaki’s research also analyzes the militarization of the border and its effects on the number of Mexican immigrants.

“Before Bush ordered the National Guard down to protect the border 50 percent of illegal Mexican people went back across into Mexico, now with the all the protection in place only 25 percent return home. More people are staying in the U.S. because it is too dangerous for them to cross again,” Takaki said.

The professor’s visit to Cal Poly will also include a meeting with some of the administration to discuss making Cal Poly a more diverse campus. Takaki was the first teacher of African American Studies at University of California, Los Angeles, and helped found its centers for African American, Asian American, Mexican American and Native American studies.

Takaki’s next personal project will be to update his book “A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America” to include chapters on illegal immigrants with recent debates, and a chapter on Muslim Americans and the changes this group of people has experienced since Sept. 11, 2001.

“In a college education it’s critical to know the history of American diversity. A college education today requires a person to know about their society,” Takaki said.

Takaki is the fourth speaker for the series this year; the next speaker will be David Hayes-Bautista, director for the Center and the Study of Latino Health and Culture at the School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles. Hayes-Bautista’s lecture will be entitled “La Nueva California: Latinos in the Golden State.”

Hayes-Bautista will make his speech on April 12.

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