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June 24, 2003

Asian-American Race Traitors?

Michelle Malkin decries the joy that Asian-American activists are showing toward the recent ruling reaffirming affirmative action in higher education. Increasing underrepresented minorities almost certainly decreases the representation of Asians-Americans as well as European-Americans. Of course, these "activists" exist to create the problem that they campaign against, the racialization of Asian-America and a high wall of tension between their own ethnic groups and whites [1]. These are the not the professional mainstream of Asian America, doctors, engineers & businessmen, but white collar lawyers and public sector employees who are sociologically far outside the mainstream of the ethnos that they act as activists for! Their raison d'Ítre is debunking the Myth of the Model Minority. Their motto? "Asian America sucks a hell of a lot more than you think, and it's whitey's fault!"

[1] Asian-American is of course an artifical construction. Even "natural" coalitions between groups racially and culturally affinal such as Korean-Americans & Japanese-Americans can be tripped up over rivalry and distrust and lack of historical experience together. South Asians in particular seem a bit out of place-but of course, for the Asian-American activists, the reference is always whitey, so if you ain't white, you ain't Latino and you ain't black, you must be an Asian or Pacific Islander!

Posted by razib at 07:48 PM

frankly I don't understand why such a big deal is made out of this in the US. Firstly if you didn't have race-based AA you'd have class-based AA and the disproportionate numbers of people who qualified for the latter would still be native americans or blacks, perhaps less so but want to bet that they won't still be the majority beneficiaries? Race is basically a proxy for class and a proxy for paying back whatever reparations will be inevitably demanded for past depredations. I'm not saying whether this is on balance a good or bad thing, I'm merely being a dispassionate economist analysing alternatives here and taking the state of the world as given. Taking the state of the world as given, if there weren't any race-based AA there would be class-based AA or some explicit reparations policy demanded by various activitists. On balance it's not clear that race based AA is necessarily the worst of the evils.

Secondly what happened to States Rights which conservatives like to crow about? It's up to state voters to put up referendums and deal with it this way.

Thirdly isn't it ironic that Michelle Malkin who decries the balkanisation of US society is talking about 'traitorous' Asian Americans who support AA as if Asian Americans were a group who should advance their racial interests? It seems to me that if some of these Asian Americans put their left-liberal ideology before their race then that's exactly the sort of assimilated American we want:)
IMHO Michelle Malkin is a shrill, hypocritical airhead typical of conservative activists - which isn't to say that race based AA is an ideal policy but their arguments just reek of contradiction. Why is she now arguing that Asian Americans should think like a race? If I'm smart enough to get in regardless why should I give a damned if some borderline smart Asian can't?

Posted by: Jason Soon at June 24, 2003 08:03 PM

jason-as we've blogged before, middle-class blacks do as badly or worse than poor whites & asians on academic metrics-they are ones who benefit from college admissions AA, not poor ghetto blacks (this seems a stereotype in ppls heads, but note that only 25% of black americans come from that SES). and, believe it or not, most of the poor people in the united states are non-hispanic white, and until recently, so were most welfare recipients (i believe in the last few years it has dropped below 50%).

Posted by: razib at June 24, 2003 08:09 PM

"Taking the state of the world as given, if there weren't any race-based AA there would be class-based AA or some explicit reparations policy demanded by various activitists. On balance it's not clear that race based AA is necessarily the worst of the evils."

Well, for starters, I might be more inclined to go for class based AA policy since anyone can potentially end up in a poor socioeconomic class. However, race is not malleable.

BTW, as Razib and GC have alluded in prior posts, there is doubt as to whether poor Blacks or poor Latinos could still succesfully compete with poor Asians or poor Whites without AA. This is based on IQ tests to that effect.

"Secondly what happened to States Rights which conservatives like to crow about? It's up to state voters to put up referendums and deal with it this way."

To my knowledge, only California has this type of referendum process with direct voter participation. There may be other states which do too, but I am only aware of California. California obviously got rid of its AA in the public sector.

However, you indirectly bring up a key point: by action or inaction, the populace of America has decided to support AA as it is. Every year, we get the results of numerous polls which 'show' how most Americans really don't favor AA and want to do away with it. Yet, our politicians consistently let AA stand. Why?! It's because despite the populace supposedly being against AA, they (especially the majority White populace)never make it a high priority to do away with it. If people cared more about this issue, it wouldn't be the law of the land. Ditto for immigration and tort reform in America.

"Why is she now arguing that Asian Americans should think like a race?"

Maybe this is presumptious. Yet, she probably asserts this proposition because, for many Blacks and, to a lesser degree, Hispanics, AA is a core issue on which they cast their vote. Since AA often greatly adversely affects Asians, she probably feels with some justification that Asians need to look out for their interests more with regard to AA.

"If I'm smart enough to get in regardless why should I give a damned if some borderline smart Asian can't?"

What are the reasons anyone decides to support any cause? Maybe some people support something because it's good for the sake of principle, their race, their family, themselves...

Lemme ask you this:

Do you have any significant friendships with borderline smart Asians?

If 'yes', then maybe you would support doing away with AA so that they might have a better chance of getting into a competitive field.

Do you have any intent on having kids someday?

If 'yes', then how are you so sure that your progeny will be as smart as you. What if they are only borderline smart and might have gotten into med school/ law school/ business school were it not for AA? Steve Sailer sometimes alludes to how his kids will fare without AA in America.

If your answer was 'no' to both questions then I guess you've got less reason than other Asians to care about the effects of AA.

Posted by: R at June 24, 2003 09:31 PM

R - I was speaking hypothetically. I don't live in the US so I'm not affected by all this. All I was doing was pointing out the contradiction in MM's complaining about balkanisation one day and race traitors the next. There is a sound body of liberal theory (liberal in the generic sense) which thinks that AA makes sense. People who are willing to sacrifice their racial interests to adhere coherently to their philosophical positions get my respect more than that silly opportunist bitch.

Posted by: Jason Soon at June 24, 2003 10:11 PM

Razib - point taken re middle class blacks. The picture in my head is that AA can potentially be justified on liberal grounds as a proxy policy for indirect reparations - a liberal society would make amends for past govt abuse of minority groups by *temporary* favourtism. Now the majority of beneficiaries being middle class blacks who presumably have overcome generational advantage seems to mean this theoretical picture isn't working so well in reality but the point still remains that class-based AA is simply a *marginal* change in targetting (more efficient targetting) of such a policy, and not philosophically as big a leap from AA as you might think.

Posted by: Jason Soon at June 24, 2003 10:19 PM

BTW Vdare *is* a racial collectivist site, not a liberal individualist site so I suppose it isn't surprising that MM's article get a run there. On the spectrum of liberal individualist, liberal collectivist and racial collectivist, no prizes for guessing which position I find most primitive. (and as I've argued a cosmetically liberal collectivist policy like race based AA can in fact be derived from liberal individualist principles)

Posted by: Jason Soon at June 24, 2003 10:25 PM

There is another way to look at the efforts of East and South Asians to promote a common identity with SE Asians, Pacific Islanders, and any other random groups with lower average IQs, support affirmative action: it's a self-preservation tactic.

The poor test scores and per capita income of the SE Asians/PIs can be averaged with those of the E/S Asians. The skewed statistics thus produced ("xx% of Asians are still in poverty!" "Asian average per capita income is $7,000 less than whites!") are used by E/S Asians to hide their own material successes from the masses.

Combined with a strategy of throwing their weight behind political positions supported by blacks and Latinos, this gains them goodwill, prevents the less adept minorities from figuring out that most E/S Asians actually are a part of the rich "oppressor class," and maybe keeps them from being the target of race riots.

Hiding the fact that they are socioeconomically mobile especially benefits recent E/S Asian immigrants who are gonna need another generation to get on their feet and in the mean time find themselves in a dangerous neighborhood with lots of resentful neighbors who are going nowhere fast. In otherwords, suburban ABCs at Columbia are agitating against whitey to try to make sure their uncle's brother-in-law's friend, an illegal Fujianese waiter in New York, doesn't get beat to death by some blacks as a joke.

Asians feel safe and justified antagonizing whites not only because whites these days aren't known for engaging in pogroms, but also because they have the sneaking suspicion that in the event of another black/Latino uprising, the high IQ E/S Asians share with their white co-workers isn't going to prove enough of a bond for the latter to want to bail their asses out. Koreans definitely got this impression after the National Guard didn't show up in South Central after the Rodney King trial.

Posted by: Eric Lien at June 24, 2003 10:48 PM

Asians don't benefit from college admissions affirmative action, but they do benefit from some other kinds like minority business loans. That's why Indian immigrant businessmen successfully campaigned to have South Asians lumped in with East Asians.

Posted by: Steve Sailer at June 25, 2003 03:11 AM

Eric, Razib, Steve etc. make interesting points. And I agree with Jason Soon in that Malkin is being a dim-wit or at least is being schizophrenically tribalistic.

I don't deny that people with a rough sense of identity can sometimes act in ethnic self-interest. But I see a lot of difficulty in establishing motive. With this topic, I'm seeing the same problem I see with how some people invariably interpret Jewish politics. Were Jews "genuinely altruistic" (whatever that might mean) with their involvement in Civil Rights, or was it instead somehow part of a complex self-interested ethnic power-struggle, etc.? I'm not sure where, if any, truth lies in that, but I do know this goes on ad naseum into contradictory depths, until you get people who claim that every Jew from Dr. Laura to Ron Jeremy, no matter how seemingly opposite, is somehow working together against perceived non-Jewish interests.

I really don't have a solution, I just wish there was some kind of better metric for establishing motives of this type. Also there are more ways to interpret the forces that are shaping politics that I think shouldn't be ignored.

Alternatively, I'd like to point out that Asian-Americans have high I.Q.s and are likely to be socialized into high-I.Q. culture which is often leftish. In other words maybe this is a symbol of greater Asian assimilation instead of less.

Let's allow the possibility that these Asians aren't supporting these policies because it ultimately benefits Asian opportunity (which is debatable), and aren't using them as a weapon against the majority ethnicity (which is convoluted), but, in fact are supporting them for the same reason many high I.Q. whites support them, being roughly part of the same portion of American culture.

Posted by: Jason Malloy at June 25, 2003 08:18 AM

Those who support AA, no matter what "race" they belong to, often fall into the category of "activist."

If persons are born "activists", just as a person is born a homosexual or blue-eyed etc., one might find a certain irreducible portion of all ethnic groups falling into the "activist" category. There may be a "bell curve" distribution of activism.

Activists of both left and right are often shrill and airheaded. In fact, on the shrill-o-meter, leftist activists have a decided advantage. On the airhead-o-meter, they are just about even.

Posted by: RB at June 25, 2003 11:19 AM

The notion that some activists actually want Asian-Americans to be more aware of their identity as a "race" vis-a-vis white Americans is depressing enough. The desire to actively pursue a division between races, however expressed, has got to be the most socially perverse and retrograde impulse in American society today (that's the modern Left for you!!).

It's also flatly dangerous. What do you think will happen if folks like these manage to draw a line around every race & ethnicity in American today and politicize it contra the interests of white Americans? Don't you think white Americans would follow suit, and start taking their "race" a bit more to heart? Is that what these activists want?

Frikkin' ijits.

Posted by: Whaq at June 25, 2003 11:58 AM

Jason Malloy's point was another way of putting what I'd put with my comments.

Posted by: Jason Soon at June 26, 2003 05:35 AM