"A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America" by Ronald Takaki

A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America

In A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America, Ronald Takaki reveals the history of many cultural and racial groups that constituted the American nation. He accomplished this goal from the perspective that helps the reader better understand what being an American means. Each chapter is an exciting and dramatic story of a certain ethnic group filled with folk songs, music, poems and literature for better comprehension and feeling of the epoch.

 

The Chapter 4 “From Removal to Reservations”

The Chapter 4 “From Removal to Reservations” is dedicated to the issue of the relations with the Indians. It covers the topic of the governmental policies against Indian people from the times of Thomass Jefferson. American colonists were interested in the rich lands of Indians. The chapter tells about the presidency of Jackson and his policy against Indian people. It was a period of mass colonization of new territories by the newly arrived white people. They brought their culture and values. The myths about the huge deposits of gold attracted many white people. White colonists took the lands of Indians and drove them to the reservations. They exterminated the bisons in the West, which were the main food of local tribes, and brought new diseases.

Finally, the railway road built by colonists in the West raised the question of Indians future. It led to the numerous conflicts and war. Indians were not aware of inequality of forces because each tribe contacted with a limited number of settlers. So, even small Indian tribes often declared war to the colonies, hoping for a victory. Thus, the war between the white people and Indians was inevitable. Jackson’s approach to the Indians was mean since he used violent methods of deception and extermination. According to the book, Jackson “uprooted seventy thousand Indians and drove them west to the Mississippi river” (Takaki, Chapter 4). The resettlement was the main starategy of the government. One of the relocations called “The Trail of Tears” tells about the specific situation of Cherokees, who were forced to leave Georgia.

Chapter 6 "The Flight from Ireland"

In chapter 6 “The Flight from Ireland”, the reader gets immersed into the problems of the Irish exiles. The way from uneducated savages to an immigrant group with the highest rate of citizenship is presented. In my opinion, the Irish had no chance of staying in their homeland because of tyranny and starvation caused by the Englishmen. Once the British conquerors came, they initiated land confiscations that resulted in eviction of peasant families. The next step was the reform of farming system with an introduction of ranching, which meant that 90% of laborers were not needed anymore.

Another reason for the escape was a famine caused by the lack of land and later crop disease that ruined most of the harvest. During those years an incredible number of the Irish people died. Once they came to America, they had to do hazardous work, which caused high mortality rate (Takaki "Fleeing "the Tyrant's Heel"). I believe that this state of affairs was caused by the fact that many Irish were mostly skillful in agriculture and could not get better jobs in a more industrial and commercial society.

The author makes the reader feel that the attitude of Americans towards Irish was as to people belonging to the lowest class. However, those stereotypes were changed by the Irish women and their daughters. The problems of marriage provoked Irish women to immigrate to America, where in a while they had 80% of jobs among servants. They were still uneducated and worked hard, but their daughters, which were born in America, avoided house work and started to work as secretaries, nurses, teachers, etc. (Takaki "Fleeing "the Tyrant's Heel"). To my mind, this generation helped Irish immigrants to make a step forward in their development and completely assimilate with time.

The Chapter 9 “The Reservation to Reorganization”

The Chapter 9 “The Reservation to Reorganization” covers the issue of Massacre at Wounded Knee, Indians assimilation and new deal between new government and Indian people. It tells about the Wild West, which is a very important part of the American history. First of all, it is true to say that American Frontier was a significant period in the history of the American Western territories known as Wild West for the next generations. It began with the first British colonies in the New World and stopped its existence at the beginning of the 20th century. The Wild West and the period of the American Frontier have been always associated in my mind with unimaginable adventures, and romantic cowboys, bravely protecting themselves and their lands in the fights with the bandits and in the war with the Indians.

Nowadays, people cannot say certainly that all of the abovementioned is true. It is simply a part of the American spiritual culture. However, according to Ghost Dance (1996), the real life in the Wild West was not as romantic as many people think. The white colonists from New England moved to the western territories because of forests of Oregon, while the natives of the southern states inhabited the vast territories in Texas, New Mexico and California (Takaki, Chapter 9). The significant question raised in the chapter is the policy of allotment, which government implemented towards Indians. As a result, even those plants that were left for the reservations were passed to white Americans.

Chapter 11 "The Exodus from Russia"

In chapter 11 Takaki tells the story of Jews who escaped to America because of the repressions in Russia, where acts of violence against Jews were officially encouraged. While in the homeland, they were required to live within one isolated area and not to cross the pale. By the beginning of the World War I, a great amount of Jews migrated to America seeking freedom and a better life. This immigrant generation was unique, as they were exiles who came to America mainly with families planning to stay. Unlike the Irish emigrants, Jews were educated and often very skilled workers.

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Many of them brought useful skills to America, which were especially needed in New York. The Lower East Side has become a spreading industrial beehive. Thousands of workers were young girls packed together in sweatshops working elbow-to-elbow at the sewing machines (Takaki "The Exodus from Russia"). The reader is assured that those skills and the desire for better life were the background factors for quick success of these people. As a result, nowadays Jews have assimilated as well as other minorities in the United States.

The author describes an incredible striving to become a real Americans and stop being oppressed in the native land. As the new nations entered the United States, they needed to assimilate. For this reason, they gave up certain customs and cultural traits, changed their clothes and started to learn English. It is fascinating that Jews managed to assimilate in the country which was totally different from their homeland. Moreover, they managed to preserve their culture, language and religion.

Conclusion

In general, the book covers a very controversial period of the American history. In the course of the long struggle, colonists used all tools against Indians. They introduced reservations and allotments, having superior weaponry, economic superiority, better organization, perfidious politics and diplomacy. Nowadays, the Indians remain the most oppressed part of the American population.

To conclude, many immigrants moved to America seeking jobs that are more lucrative or fleeing from tyranny and repressions in the 19th and 20th centuries. Takaki discovers each of the main ethnic groups having arrived to America as migrant workers. The author demonstrates that some managed to settle, while others returned home. He thus uncovers the face of a true American with all its multicultural features.

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