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September 22, 2003

Brown Senator from Illinois?

The World on PRI had a segment on a Sikh Indian American running for a senate seat in Illinois as a Republican. The piece highlights the fact that the candidate dresses like a traditional Sikh. What get's on my nerves about this sort of piece are moments like when a spokesmen for an Indian American Republican group says they (Indian Americans) are "natural" Republicans. This is all glossy marketing, after all, Jews, blacks and now Latinos have been "natural" Republicans as well. Working class whites from the south are also "natural" Democratics (post-1964 presidential politics). Politics is more complex than pre-digested soundbites and many choices are obviously individual. Our culture is so saturated with discourse framed in identity politics and the importance of group affiliation that even the putatively individualistic Right now views issues through that lens. Perhaps that's what most irritated me when National Review editor Ramesh Ponnuru profiled Indian American Republican Bobby Jindal, who is running for the spot of governor of Louisiana. I know that Ramesh might be able to bring some extra perspective because of his commonalities with the candidate-but I don't want this to be such a big factor that non-white conservatives (or liberals, or fill-in-the-black) are stuck in the same box as black conservatives, always being dictated & defined by race from both the Left & the Right through both ostracism & encouragement despite their attempt to argue that we need to transcend ethnic affiliation as a key organizing principle of civic life.

Posted by razib at 03:10 PM

laways being dictated & defined by race
You seem to define everyone else by race - why not brown people?

Posted by: fredrik at September 22, 2003 04:02 PM

Actually I early on considered about posting on GNXP the first time Jindal hit me up for money-and that was early-my former firm was an early backer as Jindal is strongly endorsed by the incumbent governor. But I thought it's only of note because of his heritage, and hence not really of note.
It's funny. I came on to GNXP a firm race skeptic. You guys convinced me race was more objective than I believed. But I'm now a refined skeptic-as I think race can have as much practical import under our equal protection laws as knowing someone's zodiac sign.

Posted by: martin at September 22, 2003 04:20 PM

fredrik, see here. also, i bolded "as a key organizing principle of civic life" in the last setence, for a reason....

in short, individuals aren't defined by their race, it is race(s) that are defined by the individuals. whatever group traits we speak of-we deny that this should always be projected upon the individual.

perhaps i should add an automatic caveat into every single post that what we say about populations does not deny equality before the law or individual differences and uniqueness?. what about generality vs. the specific is so difficult for human beings to understand?

P.S. my interest in racial differences is driven primarily by the problems with assuming that matching organ donars can come equally from any sub-population. as part of a very small racial minority it is a real concern....

Posted by: razib at September 22, 2003 04:21 PM

lans sakes freddy, you been down on razib lately.

I don't doubt legitimate criticisms of the site and its participants can be formulated. In fact usually I'm all ears.

But leaving abbreviated snarks doesn't help anybody. Spit it out man. Let us have it, but you're going to have to articulate yourself if you want to criticize productively instead of just fishing for a reaction.

You comment a lot, and it's not even always negative, so there must be something here that you think is salvageable. But you seldom reveal yourself. I just wish I had a better idea about your world-view, which would give your criticism some context.

Posted by: Jason Malloy at September 22, 2003 11:29 PM