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August 03, 2003

Culture matters

I found this old 1994 article on immigration by Roy Beck, head of NUMBERS USA, via a Joe Guzzardi piece in VDARE. Most readers probably know the story of the Hmongs and Wausau so I won't repeat it. Now, here is a charming part of the piece from someone who dissents with the majority view:

In the eyes of some residents, though, this "paradise" may well have been boring. "This was a rather sterile community, and we needed ethnic diversity," says Phyllis A. Bermingham, the director of the county department that administers the jobs program for welfare recipients. "I'm glad Wausau had major refugee resettlement.

What is unstated is that the opinion of this woman is surely colored by the fact that her employment is guaranteed by the continued presence, even the increase, of a minority group that has incredible rates of welfare usage. The case of the Hmongs and The United States is related to my previous post Why is Africa Poor?-culture matters. The Laotian immigration pattern is somewhat the reverse of the South Asian stream into this country, while the latter takes the cream of the society, the latter is taking literally the "huddled masses" that Emma Lazarus spoke of.

The CIA Factbook entry on Laos indicates that the lowland Lao form 70% of the population of the nation. Very few of these come to The United States (I have met a few-they dislike being assumed to be Hmong). The lowland Lao are close relatives of the Thai, in fact, basically they are Thai that live north of the Mekong and south of China. The historical origins of the Thai people is in southern China, in Yunnan province, where they are called "Dai," and fought Han attempts at expansion for centuries through the military might of the kingdom of Nanchao (conquered by the Mongols under Khublai Khan). The Hmong, also called the Miao, who have a presence in south China as well, are outside this cultural matrix. The Hmong are neither Therevada Buddhist or participants in the Daoist-Buddhist-Confucian synthesis that characterizes China, and they have not traditionally been settled agriculturalists. Though perhaps as much as 10% of the population of Laos, they are most certainly a people that are in Laos, not of Laos. An analogy would be if immigration from Norway to The United States consisted mostly of Sami herders.

I state all this not to make the Hmong seem like savages, but to highlight that the Homg are outside the stream of civilization and development in their putative homeland-they are not participants in the wider Buddhist civilization of mainland Southeast Asia and have never been [1]. They have been marginalized to the hillsides where they can practice their wandering slash & burn style of agriculture-and traditionally embrace of Buddhism, settled agriculture & literacy are the hallmarks of assimilation to the Other, to a Lao identity. Though the Lao society might not be as advanced or sophisticated as that of The United States, it has concepts in common with that of the West, a world religion, a tradition of literacy and kingship & centralized rule, cities & historical memory. The Hmong are from an age before-hold-overs from the early years of the Neolithic, preserving their folkways in the out-of-the-way glens & forests away from the light of history.

We can not expect them to make the transition from marginally Neolithic to post-Industrial with any ease. It wouldn't take a genius to figure out that groups like the Homg or Somali Bantus are less assimilable than Chinese from Fujian or Germans from Romania.

[1] The "Hmong" will at some point probably become a Christian nation, as it is a way of preserving their ethnic identity and yet connecting themselves to an advanced civilization, conversions are common in both the US & Asia. As I note, Hmong that become Buddhist assimilate after a few generations as the racial & cultural gap becomes too small to preserve any ethnic separation.

Godless comments:

I want to be on record saying that I think Joe Guzzardi is a dishonest demagogue. I don't believe he's telling the truth about the Hmong man in his classroom. He tosses in casual cultural denigrations as a matter of course:

They marry in a cultural ceremony – something involving a chicken, I believe - until they can legally marry at 18. But they don’t wait to have children of their own.

Now, I could describe Christianity in similarly contemptuous terms (e.g. as people who believe they're drinking blood) but I don't, because showing a certain degree of respect for the arbitrary aspects of other cultures is a sign of intellectual maturity. Guzzardi is entitled to bring up the welfare dependence of the Hmong, but his motivations are clearly racial rather than economic. Even if the Hmong were millionaire entrepreneurs, he'd bring up the irrelevancy of their harmless "chicken ritual" and casually repeat/fabricate anecdotal innuendo. How else to describe his change of tactics in gratuitously bashing IIT graduates:

Stahl’s report reflects an astonishingly arrogant “We are the best, we are the brightest” attitude on the part of I.I.T. graduates. We Americans are simply inferior. Here’s what Sun’s Khosla thinks of American universities:

“When I finished IIT-Delhi and went to Carnegie Mellon for my Masters, I thought I was cruising all the way through Carnegie-Mellon because it was so easy relative to the education I had gotten at IIT-Delhi.”

Remember, this lecture comes from one of the most backward nations in the world —and is delivered to one of the most progressive.

So - irrelevant digs at India's poverty aside - which is it? Is Guzzardi mad at immigrants because they can't get jobs, or because they can get jobs (and start companies to produce jobs)? Or, more likely, is he just a crypto-white nationalist like Brimelow and Sam Francis? I noticed that he doesn't actually link to the financial and academic statistics on the IIT graduates...could this be because they're the exact *opposite* of the Hmong?

IIT students carry approximately 50 percent more courses than the typical U.S. undergrad , gaining a mastery over their subject matter that often makes graduate school in the United States a breeze. "My first year at Berkeley when I was doing my master's, that was the easiest year I had ever had in my life," recalls Mashruwala. "I either knew it or I could sit at home and do the whole subject in one-quarter the time of everyone else."

Such rigorous training also makes IIT grads especially appealing to high-tech companies like Microsoft, Intel and Cisco, who send recruiters across the Pacific on yearly trips. Between American companies and American grad schools, IIT grads have become a major force of immigration. In recent years, 40 percent to 50 percent of IIT grads have elected to come to the United States to pursue graduate degrees, according to Mashruwala. About 20,000 IITans live in the United States right now, almost 20 percent of the total IIT grad population since the system's inception. Most never return to India.
IIT grads had begun filtering into U.S. industry and academia by the early 1970s, but they didn't crack the executive ceiling until 1982 when IIT graduate Vinod Khosla helped bootstrap Sun Microsystems -- making Khosla an entrepreneurial poster boy for IIT grads. Since then, more than 1,000 Indian entrepreneurs have started companies in Silicon Valley, creating hundreds, if not thousands, of multi-millionaire IITan entrepreneurs with companies worth more than $40 billion. Mashruwala estimates the average net worth of the 60 classmates he keeps in touch with in this country at between $6 million and $7 million.

Guzzardi's selective and ideologically loaded citation of statistics is reminiscent of Peter Brimelow blaming James Taranto for the Jose Resendiz murder. Which is, of course, as nonsensical as blaming Brimelow for the criminal excesses of white nationalists who share his crypto-WN worldview. One can make a balanced case against mass unskilled immigration (e.g. NumbersUSA) without resorting to the tactics of demagogues like Guzzardi, Francis, and Brimelow.

Godless retracts:

Actually, while I stand by my assessment of Francis and Brimelow, Guzzardi generally isn't so bad. For example:

The two events got me thinking (again) about one of America’s most controversial topics—religious and ethnic diversity. I’m forever tinkering with my feelings about diversity. My ever-shifting position is a logical consequence of my job at the Lodi Adult School where I have students from 20 different countries in my classes. I’ve lived on both sides of the diversity coin. The West Los Angeles primary school I attended was distinctly not diverse. We were all Roman Catholic, white and middle class. But when I was ready to start high school, my family moved to Puerto Rico. [1] I was one of only a handful of kids who didn’t speak Spanish. And since Americans weren’t particularly welcome, I was out of the loop.

In most ways, it doesn’t really matter what anyone thinks about multiculturalism. Diversity in America, and especially California, is here to stay. Individual opinions will not influence California’s diversity. The Public Policy Institute of California (www.ppic.org) recently released a new report, “A State of Diversity: Demographic Trends in California’s Regions.”[PDF] The report found that in each of California’s nine regions, population growth in the 1990s was greatest for either Hispanic or Asian/Pacific Islanders. In three of the nine regions, no race or ethnic group constitutes a majority. These trends started in 1980 and will continue well into future decades.

Personally, I accept multiculturalism but with qualifications. I don’t like to hear people say, “Our diversity is our strength” or “Celebrate diversity” because those phrases are trite and dismissive of diversity’s inherent complexities.

and here:

Every March for the past sixteen years, high school principals have competed in two regional play-offs en route to the Spanish Lip-Sync State Championship. Mexican-American students provide the back-up vocals. The principals--many are neither Mexican nor Spanish speaking - make fools of themselves in the name of school spirit.

But why can’t they look silly lip-syncing “Tutti Frutti?”

The lip-sync contest, while harmless enough on the surface, shows how extracurricular activities conducted in Spanish are increasingly accepted in California schools without question. But at a time when more and more Mexican students struggle to graduate, presumably because of limited English skills, the continued emphasis on Spanish is not productive.
Maybe as an Italian-American, I am not the right guy to comment on the Mexican ethnic to-dos. Maybe I am still bent out of shape because poor Christopher Columbus has been relegated to the dung pile while Chavez is elevated to sainthood.

But really that’s not what bothers me. When I lived in New York, I went to the San Gennaro Festival every year. I watched the parade, ate canollis and calzones. But then, I went back to my life - as an American!

And to this day I vividly remember when my grandmother told me that the four happiest days of her life were the days her three children were born - and the day she became an American citizen.

Somehow, I don’t get the feeling that we’re headed down that road.

These are totally fair statements, and I'm actually in agreement with the sentiment. The lack of assimilation is a problem - but immigrants are not all bad people , even unskilled immigrants, and that's something I need to say more often as well. So, yeah, I was wrong. I think Guzzardi is inconsistent in his rationales for opposing immigration, and I do think that his occasional cheap shots at the Hmong and Mexicans [2] are unwarranted, but overall he's not such a bad guy. He's annoyed about the cultural problems with mass immigration, as opposed to someone like myself who's more concerned with the economic problems with mass unskilled immigration. That's a legitimate philosophical divide, though it means we will overlap on some issues (opposition to unskilled immigration) and butt heads on others (skilled immigration). Guzzardi is certainly no Sam Francis.

[1] Guzzardi entered the US from Puerto Rico...the irony is killing me...
[2] For example, that otherwise balanced article was titled "California's being Invaded". It's of a piece with titles like "Mexican Meddlers". In my opinion, such pieces are more for preaching to the choir than for making converts.

Posted by razib at 07:40 PM

One can make a balanced case against mass unskilled immigration (e.g. NumbersUSA) without resorting to the tactics of demagogues like Guzzardi, Francis, and Brimelow.

VDARE doesn't hide the fact that it opposes pretty much all immigration, and largely on racial grounds. I don't see how this makes them "demagogues".

Anyway, has it occurred to you how much race realism and IQ research has been promoted by the white racialist organizations you so despise? VDARE runs Steve Sailer's stuff (another who opposes all immigration - is he a "demagogue" too?), AmRen runs guys like Rushton and Levin, and the Pioneer Fund has funded practically all modern IQ research, just to name a few examples off the top of my head.

Posted by: Oleg at August 4, 2003 12:14 AM

for the record, i don't think guzzardi is that bad. he's a writer, he blows some things out of proportion-part of the craft... (i definitely don't think he's a crypto-WN).

Posted by: razib at August 4, 2003 12:27 AM

oleg, you should change your handle, everyone thinks you're a russian ;) btw godless-titles are often determined/changed by editors.

Posted by: razib at August 4, 2003 01:29 AM

Oleg, Rushton has some interesting insights but not a very sound theoretical explanation and Levin is a philosopher with no scientific training whose specialty seems to be in making soundbites out of research into genetic differences which totally discredit the whole area (like where he said he would take Mengele over Stalin or something like that). Neither Rushton nor Levin have brought much prestige to the area and the marginal benefits of their insights outweigh the costs in relegating it to crank science among uninformed observers

Posted by: Jason Soon at August 4, 2003 05:23 AM

correction - I meant 'benefits outweighed by the costs'

Posted by: Jason Soon at August 4, 2003 05:24 AM

I wonder if Jared Taylor became a White Nationalist in Japan? I mean, the Japanese are probably more racist than the Germans ever were!
Perhaps being brought up in a homogenous and xenophobic society like Japan awoke his racial sensibility?

Jared Taylor is by far the brightest and most articulate White Nationalist this side of Alain De Benoist. He is very clever in bringing the Jews to his cause. If the Jews jump off the "multiculti" wagon, maybe the PC cult can fade away and we can start discussing anew race, western culture, inmigration policies and related issues.

Posted by: eufrenio at August 4, 2003 06:17 AM

Can anyone please explain who is gonna do the shitwork if we don't have immigrants?

If Americans did it we'd have to raise the wage to prohibitively high rates.

And anyway, Americans won't do the stoop labor anymore.

I've tried axing the Vdare guys this and they don't answer, so someone here give it a go.

Posted by: Diana at August 4, 2003 07:10 AM


I have difficulty believing that nobody can automate the task of picking melons. If there were no longer a steady supply of illegals and migrants, the question is not if someone would invent an automated melon picker, but how many competing designs would appear on the market the first season.

People will use less unskilled labor, and unskilled laborers will find better jobs with insurance benefits. (Like driving the melon picker.) Some things will become more expensive and some things less expensive.

Godless is right: People will substitute one thing for another.

Posted by: Bob at August 4, 2003 08:30 AM

I do think that Brimelow and especially Francis lean too close to racialism and white nationalism, but I also think there are valid concerns about even skilled immigration. Certainly Brimelow's comments about an INS office being full of people who are "almost entirely colored" are questionable. Francis' connections with the CofCC are definately questionable, but I think both Brimelow and Francis often do make good points about our screwball immigration policy.

There are definately valid, non-racist reasons to be concerned about skilled non-white immigration. For example, Asians (who tend to be skilled) did vote for Al Gore by a substantial margin (55-41 VNS and ~62-35 LA Times). Asians also voted for Gray Davis in 2002 by a substantial margin, while whites actually voted against Davis in 2002. Hispanics who have high incomes (and are presumably skilled) also tend to remain Democratic, if somewhat less so than their poor, unskilled counterparts. I also am not a big fan of the H1B visas, which force foreign workers to work for artificially low salaries (since HIB holders are bound to the company that hires them).

That being said, I do favor skilled immigration (perhaps ~300K per year, depending on where the economy is) and I don't by any means support discriminating in favor of Europeans. While voting patterns are a concern, I don't think they are a valid reason for discrimination. I also don't think European immigrants, who have been steeped in socialism and low morals, would vote much more sensibly than skilled non-whites immigrants.

Moreover, our #1 problem is not how Asians or skilled Hispanics vote (both are small groups), but how the masses of current and future unskilled immigrants, who are likely to stay poor, dependent, and resentful (esp. with masses of new unskilled immigrants to keep wages at rock bottom levels), will affect the long-term political and economic stability of the U.S.

Posted by: Matt W. at August 4, 2003 12:44 PM