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A Journal of Crime, Conflict & World Order
Social Justice Vol. 35, No. 2 (2008); see article archive below.

Paul T. Takagi Honored

Gregory Shank

On April 19, 2008, the Association for Asian American Studies honored Professor (Emeritus) Paul Takagi with a Lifetime Achievement Award during its Chicago conference on "Where Is the 'Heart' of Asian America? American Identity and Exceptionalism in an Age of Globalization and Imperialism." Paul rose to address the 250 to 300 people who had assembled for the ceremony. "The last time I spoke before a group this large," he said, "was when I taught a radical criminology class in Berkeley. The guys in back lit up joints." Laughter erupted. He did not segue, as he often did, to the stresses induced by the Vietnam War draft, and the troubling options these young men faced of resisting and going to jail, or leaving friends and family behind for a new life in Canada, a country that did not want them. Instead, Paul discussed an innovative approach to senior care for Asians, such as the community-based Kokoro Assisted Living Center in San Francisco, and Kimochi, nonprofit organization dedicated to the well-being of seniors in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is one of the more lasting and unheralded legacies of Asian American activism, with both referring to the heart and spirit.

In July 2007, on the U.C. Berkeley campus, Paul also had been honored as the inaugural recipient of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency's Gerhard Mueller Award. Dr. Barry Krisberg, the NCCD's president since 1983, explained that the award recognizes outstanding contributions to criminology that bring a global perspective to U.S. justice policy and advance human rights. Gerhard Mueller (1926-2006) was a pioneering force in international criminal law, with a distinguished career as a law professor at New York University and Rutgers University; at the United Nations, he was responsible for U.N. programs dealing with crime and justice worldwide. Mueller fought against the death penalty, and wrote both the U.N. standards to prohibit torture and the minimal standards on prisons for the European Union. Krisberg noted that the acclaim and recognition Takagi richly deserves have been elusive because he challenged boundaries and pushed people out of their comfort zones.

Speaking to the value of Professor Takagi's work to national policymakers, city leaders, and organizations such as the Commission on Civil Rights and the Urban League was Rose M. Ochi, NCCD Board Chair, whose own public service has included appointments in the Justice Department as an assistant attorney general during the Clinton administration and as associate director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy at the White House; she has also led the effort to establish Manzanar National Historic Site as part of the National Park System. Manzanar, in California's Owens Valley, was the first of 10 permanent War Relocation Centers at which up to 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans were forcefully confined beginning in 1942. A native Californian born in 1923, Takagi was interned by the U.S. army at Manzanar, provoking in him an intense, lifelong interest in issues related to imprisonment, human rights, and the political, economic, and ideological forces that led to the tragic and unprecedented dispossession and confinement of people of Japanese heritage on the West Coast. In Manzanar, he honed his journalistic skills while working on the staff of the Manzanar Free Press. Rose Ochi noted Takagi's seminal 1974 study on police killings of civilians (and particularly the overuse of force against African Americans), "A Garrison State in a 'Democratic' Society," which appeared in the first issue of Social Justice (then entitled Crime and Social Justice). She also called attention to his determined effort to reveal the rights violations and the acceptance of such abuse in police culture in the January 1979 killing of Eulia Love, an African-American widowed mother of three children in Los Angeles.

Having returned to California in 1947 after a troubling experience at the University of Illinois and a stint as a factory worker in Chicago, Takagi graduated from U.C. Berkeley in 1949. He credits counterculture icon Timothy Leary (1920-1996), then a Ph.D. student in psychology and later assistant professor at U.C. Berkeley, with inspiring him to become a serious scholar. From 1952 to 1953, Takagi worked as a probation officer in Alameda County's Adult Probation Department. By early 1963, he was a parole officer in Los Angeles working with drug users and dealers; jazz icon Dexter Gordon was among the group he supervised. Three years later, he transferred to San Quentin Prison, where he worked as a classification officer. In that period, the California Board of Corrections and the Department of Corrections became concerned about the rising number of drug crimes and decided that the logical person to conduct a study of the phenomenon was the "nut" in Los Angeles who had asked to work mainly with drug offenders. After completing his doctoral work at Stanford University in 1964, Takagi was invited to join the faculty at the School of Criminology, U.C. Berkeley, in 1965. His work on statistical methods and parole for the Department of Corrections' Research Division and Youth and Adult Corrections Agency had caught the attention of criminologists there and Takagi relished the idea of having a different forum to criticize the California prison system. The Free Speech Movement, which had erupted at Berkeley from September 10, 1964, through January 4, 1965, influenced his thinking. When Dr. Takagi received tenure in 1968, he became the first Japanese American to be tenured in the social sciences and later would be the first to become an associate dean on the campus.

On January 21, 1969, the Third World Strike at Berkeley began and the Asian component asked Professor Takagi to be their sponsor. It was an event he had been waiting for all his life, making it possible to speak publicly about issues of race, power, and exploitative economic relations. As the first Asian American Dean in the history of the university, he was in a position of some authority. Among those sponsored by Takagi was Floyd Huen, who wrote the original proposal for Asian American studies at Berkeley (and in the U.S.), convened the first national meeting about Asian American studies at Berkeley in 1968, and led the Third World Strike on behalf of Asian American Political Alliance. Scholar-activist L. Ling-chi Wang was another. He co-taught the first course on Asian American history at Berkeley in the winter quarter of 1969. According to Dr. Wang, who recently retired from U.C. Berkeley as a teacher and administrator, Paul Takagi was the faculty sponsor of the "experimental course," then called Asian Studies 100X, and the mentor for most of those involved in that struggle. Today, Asian-American studies programs exist at 140 universities.

At the award ceremony, Professor Takagi's former students and colleagues discussed the turbulent, exciting years at Berkeley's School of Criminology, with its deep involvement in struggles for prison reform, community control of the police, decriminalization of drug offenses, and rape crisis intervention, as well as close links with the Black Panther Party, the United Farm Workers Union, and the antiwar (Southeast Asia), feminist, and antiracist movements. Despite the School's unique educational role and unbridled popularity--some 700 students attended the introductory criminology course co-taught by Paul Takagi, Barry Krisberg, and Tony Platt--it was closed due to pressure emanating from law enforcement officials and Governor Ronald Reagan's office.

Throughout this period, students admired Dr. Takagi's dignity, integrity, and capacity to maintain an independent voice amid strongly competing political currents. He remained accessible on and off campus, and imparted to students both rigorous research skills and an appreciation that the true story in social science is not to be found solely in books, lectures, or library stacks, but also through participatory research within the community. Such research combines social investigation, education, and action designed to support those with less power in their organizational or community settings; it is, in short, informed praxis. With the demise of the School of Criminology in June 1976, Professor Takagi was relocated to the School of Education at Berkeley. During the 1980s, Paul and Tony Platt were jointly awarded the Paul Tappan Award for 1980-1981, and Paul was elected the chair of the criminology section of the American Sociological Association, 1986-1987.

During the presidency of Jimmy Carter (1977 to 1981), Paul traveled extensively to speak against the police use of deadly force. At the conference of a black organization in Los Angeles, an African American man approached him and asked whether Paul had authored an article on police killings of civilians. Upon learning that he had, the man--a former police captain in Atlantic City now working for the U.S. Department of Justice--grinned broadly and said he had been looking for Paul. During the next four years, under his new friend's scheduling, Paul spoke mainly before black police organizations throughout the country. With his itinerary excluding only the Deep South, he even went north to Alaska, where the audience consisted of 46 white judges (and even a member of Supreme Court).

In Chicago, Paul participated in a panel on the police use of deadly force. In the audience was Minister Louis Farrakhan. Although the Nation of Islam was then well known, Paul had no knowledge of its leader when he was asked to join Farrakhan and his wife for breakfast. They became friends and Farrakhan invited Paul to the organization's headquarters. Though Paul never visited Farrakhan's office, home, or mosque, Farrakhan always remembered Paul when speaking in the Bay Area--once in Oakland and once on the Berkeley campus.

Also during the Carter years, funding became available for organizations to upgrade the educational material used by teachers on minorities (African Americans and Chicanos). Paul was asked to train teachers in the Southwest, and he agreed to do so.

Upon Paul's retirement from the Education faculty, Ronald V. Dellums honored Dr. Takagi on the floor of the House of Representatives (Congressional Record, March 14, 1989: E770). Dellums had come to know him and his work over a period of two decades and "counted on his knowledge, his training, his wisdom, and his ability to articulate the critical issues and problems about the justice and penal system in the United States." Dr. Takagi still performs that role. He is currently writing a book, partly autobiographical, that frames the decision to intern Japanese Americans during World War II in terms of the arguments promoted by eugenicists and accepted by crucial elements of the political elite, sectors of California business, including newspaper owners, and segments of the labor movement.

Select Archive

Paul Takagi, "A Garrison State in a 'Democratic' Society." Crime and Social Justice 1 (Spring-Summer 1974). Download pdf file.

Sid Harring, Tony Platt, Richard Speiglman, and Paul Takagi, "The Management of Police Killings." Crime and Social Justice 8 (Fall-Winter 1977). Download pdf file.

Tony Platt and Paul Takagi, "Intellectuals for Law and Order: A Critique of the New 'Realists.'" Crime and Social Justice 8 (Fall-Winter 1977). Download pdf file.

Paul Takagi and Tony Platt, "Behind the Gilded Ghetto: An Analysis of Race, Class, and Crime in Chinatown." Crime and Social Justice 9 (Spring-Summer 1978). Download pdf file.

Paul Takagi, "LEAA's Research Solicitation: Police Use of Deadly Force." Crime and Social Justice 11 (Spring-Summer 1979). Download pdf file.

Paul Takagi, "The Walnut Street Jail: A Penal Reform to Centralize the Powers of the State." In Punishment and Penal Discipline, San Francisco, Crime and Social Justice Associates (1980): 48-56. Reprinted by permission from Federal Probation (December 1975). Download pdf file.

Paul Takagi, "Delinquency in School and Society: The Quest for a Theory and Method." Crime and Social Justice 17 (Spring-Summer 1982). Download pdf file.

Paul Takagi, "Growing Up as a Japanese Boy in Sacramento County." Social Justice Vol. 26: 2 (1999). Download pdf file.

Paul Takagi and Gregory Shank, "Critique of Restorative Justice." Vol. 31: 3 (2004). Download pdf file.

Paul Takagi, "Asian Communities in the United States: A Class Analysis." Our Socialism, Vol. 1, No. 3 (May 1983: 49–55). Download pdf file.

Citation: Gregory Shank. (2008). "Paul T. Takagi Honored." Social Justice Vol. 35, No. 2. Copyright © 2008 Social Justice, ISSN 1043-1578. Social Justice, P.O. Box 40601, San Francisco, CA 94140. SocialJust@aol.com.