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Shu_Qi_Cannes_2015 Facts are important. But they can be inconvenient. Despite the stream of “think” pieces about “hookup culture” over the past decade there is no evidence that young people today are more promiscuous than in the past. In fact, on the contrary. Young people today are by most measures less promiscuous than past post-WW2 generations, in particular, Baby Boomers. Those articles ultimately are not about the behavior of young people, but the fears, dreams, and nightmares, of a declining Baby Boomer cohort which refuses to go into the sunset quietly. I’m not a Boomer, so I won’t psychoanalyze their motives, but like literature the facts proffered in these essays are a means toward probing deeper issues and questions about the human condition, their generation’s condition and preoccupations, as opposed to being literally true (some of the more recent articles will even admit that the statistical evidence falsifies their premise, but then proceed to suggest there are anecdotal data that lend credence to their premise!).

This applies to other things. Today Quartz put up a piece, If Asian Americans saw white Americans the way white Americans see black Americans, which is not really about Asian Americans at all, but simply uses them as a prop, often in a mendacious manner. First, it gives a nod to the Asian American “Model Minority Myth,” stating that there is “perception that they are high achievers relative to other American ethnic groups.” Get it? There’s a perception. There’s a myth in some scholarly and political quarters that the model minority idea is a myth, founded mostly on assertion (e.g., just stating that it’s a false myth) and slicing and dicing the statistics to emphasize ways in which Asian Americans are disadvantaged in relation to non-Hispanic whites. For example, there is often a focus on the diversity among Asian Americans, ranging from affluent Indian Americans, to groups with more conventional socioeconomic profiles like Filipinos, and finally, those which are somewhat disadvantaged such the Hmong. This is to show that Asian Americans are not a model minority…some of them are struggling. But the logic is not applied to whites! Those who purport to debunk the myth of the model minority would not accede to debunking the idea of white privilege by pointing to the state of Appalachia, and rural white America more generally. Group averages for we, but not thee?

51fMlNGN4lL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ And yet the Quartz piece engages in some interesting jujitsu by actually reporting the statistics of Asian American advantage vis-a-vis white Americans in the service of a broader agenda of putting whites in their place in relation to their critiques of black Americans. In particular it quotes Anil Dash as saying “If Asian Americans talked about white Americans the way whites talk about black folks, they’d bring back the Exclusion Act.”

This to me is really bizarre, and why I term the piece mendacious: Asian Americans do talk about white Americans the way whites talk about black folks. This sort of thing was a clear subtext of Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Many (most?) Asian American kids who grew up with immigrant parents were barraged with assertions about the disreputable character of their “American” (white) friends, and how it was important to keep on the straight & narrow. Immigrants from Asia often perceive white Americans to be sexually obsessed, lazy, and prone to a general amorality and fixation on short term hedonic interests. These are polite ways to condense the sort of attitude many Asian immigrants have toward the white American mainstream, which they worry will absorb and corrupt their children. Dash must know this, as he probably had immigrant parents, or was friends with people from immigrant backgrounds. Most white Americans don’t know this, partly because most white Americans don’t have non-white friends. But anyone from an Asian American background would be aware of the stereotypes and perceptions.

The tacit misrepresentation of Asian Americans here, not acknowledging that they do engage in the exact sort of behavior you are hypothetically positing they might engage in and so alienate white people, is not surprising. Asian Americans are often simply bit characters in a drama involving broader social and political streams which dominate the political landscape. For many decades conservatives asserted that Asian Americans were “natural Republicans,” and expressed confusion as to why more were not voting for their party. But this was an empty talking point; over the past generation the Republican party has become the de facto white Christian party, and many Asian Americans are not Christian, and all are not white. Some conservative Christian Asian Americans can identify with Republicans because of their religious ties, but socially conservative Indian Americans, to give one example, naturally have a difficult time identifying with a party which wears evangelical Protestantism on its sleeve as modern Republicans often do. This isn’t rocket science.

Screenshot 2016-05-12 21.34.16 On the flip side of this, many liberals erase Asian Americans from the landscape of our culture if it does not serve their framework of white privilege uber alles. When it came out many people pointed me to The New York Times infographic, Money, Race and Success: How Your School District Compares. The only mention of Asians is this: “Reliable estimates were not available for Asian-Americans.” But my wife pointed out to me that within the chart itself you still had Asian Americans tabulated! If you check the bubble plots at the top right , you see schools like Cupertino Union. It’s 73% Asian American. If you read this blog you know that it irritates me that Asian Americans are routinely elided out of these stories. It’s too regular to be due to a lack of data. It’s because it doesn’t fit the narrative of white privilege and domination. So Asian Americans are skipped over to make the picture neat and tidy.

Instead of taking reality as it is, in all its complexity and nuance, people attempt to fit the data into a narrative straightjacket. Complexity is a talking point only when confronted with a hypothesis you disagree with. When the data does not cooperate in a simple fashion with your own model, the data conveniently goes unmentioned. In a putatively multicultural America the dominant narrative on the Left side of the cultural and political spectrum is that of a dichotomy between whites, who have privilege, and non-whites, who are oppressed.

The black American template, unique, and rooted deeply in the soil of this country, is injected into strange and inappropriate contexts when it comes to people whose ancestors are from Latin America and Asia. White liberals and minorities are assumed to naturally form an alliance against the majority white rump; white liberals because of their moral virtue, and minorities because of their interests. The injustices experienced by someone with a name like Raheem Washington, who grew up in the inner city, are rather easy to enumerate. Raheem Washington begins life with some disadvantages. But there is a particular mainstream narrative where someone with a name like Deepa Iyer (Update: When I wrote this post I actually didn’t know who “Deepa Iyer” was, I just thought up a plausible name! Turns out there really is a Deepa Iyer of some prominence!!!), who might have elite educations, affluent parents, and a good secure career, has more common with Raheem Washington than their white colleagues at the university that they might work at. And of course, there is the further aspect that often goes unmentioned that someone with the name Iyer is from the top echelons of South Asia’s caste system, and so benefits from thousands of years of privilege! And yet it is common among Indian Americans for literal Brahmins to style themselves PoC tribunes of the plebs, oppressed by white America.

A genuine multiculturalism would actually acknowledge the real empirical texture of this nation’s changing demographics. And, a genuine multiculturalism rooted in fact, rather than vacuous critical theory, would dig deep into the richness of human history, rather than outlining broad sketches where white privilege reigns supreme from Sumer to America. As it is, often liberal multiculturalism is simply an inversion of white supremacist theory. That’s unfortunate, because there are real political debates and values divergences which we can grapple with and debate as a society, but the water is immediately muddied and when the facts are subordinate to an ideological narrative. No side really wishes to live in the reality we are given, instead of their imagining.

* Many of the things I said above can be generalized to the American Right as well, though the particularities will differ.

** I shouldn’t have to say this, but any racist comment isn’t going to be published. That’s not going to stop some of you, but I thought I’d give you fair warning.

 
• Category: Ideology, Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Asian Americans 
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The Wall Street Journal is reporting on a suit brought by Asian American organizations, Harvard Accused of Bias Against Asian-Americans:

The complaint, filed by a coalition of 64 organizations, says the university has set quotas to keep the numbers of Asian-American students significantly lower than the quality of their applications merits. It cites third-party academic research on the SAT exam showing that Asian-Americans have to score on average about 140 points higher than white students, 270 points higher than Hispanic students and 450 points higher than African-American students to equal their chances of gaining admission to Harvard. The exam is scored on a 2400-point scale.

Ron Unz, among others, has written about this, before. So not a big surprise as to the underlying empirical trends. Liberal commentator and Harvard grad Matt Yglesias has talked about the patterns for years. It’s an open secret. The question is whether anyone cares, and whether the legal system will do anything about.

But let me note something, a lawyer defending Harvard notes:

Robert Iuliano, Harvard’s general counsel, said the school’s admissions policies are “fully compliant with the law.” The school says its admissions process takes into account a variety of factors besides academics, including applicants’ extracurricular activities and leadership qualities.

This is what a leader looks like

This is what a leader looks like

It strikes me as unlikely that Asian American applicants lack extracurricular activities. Though first generation immigrants may come from societies where academic achievement is the summum bonum, they know that in American admissions criteria that non-academic strengths matter. But, you can’t manufacture leadership and charisma. Harvard’s role is to educate and inculcate the leaders of the next generation of Americans. It is the training ground for our natural aristocracy. Can American society actually conceive of a situation where 40% of those leaders are Asian? I doubt it. Asian Americans are not seen as plausible leaders. Especially by the established oligarchs, who would prefer their own offspring to inherit the mantles of power. Asian males in particular exhibit a “penalty” in the dating game. White females perceive them to be sexually impotent (on average), and for better or worse the opinions of white females as to who is a plausible leader in our society is very telling. If American women won’t want have to have sex with them, then why would the broader society see them as creditable leaders?

This is related to something Josh Harkinson at Mother Jones pointed out recently: Asians are far underrepresented in top management in relation to their representation among rank and file workers, especially in technical positions, in Silicon Valley. This is well known. People make all sorts of excuses for this. For example, a large number of the Asians are immigrants to the children of immigrants, who may not have the “social capital” to be successful in management at an American firm.

For me, here’s the upshot: we just need to be honest. Perhaps the cultural skills and dispositions that Asian Americans bring to the labor force are naturally more amenable to technical positions and professions like medicine than they are to management. It may not be as much discrimination, even of the implicit sort, as opposed to the natural sorting of personality types. This is an option we may need to entertain, rather than assuming that it is all invidious discrimination. It does strike me as obvious that Harvard and other Ivy League schools are attempting to racially balance by putting their fingers on the admission knobs in just the perfect manner. Though I’m not particularly happy about this, being transparent and honest would at least allow us to address what’s going on, and wonder whether we should do something about it. The fact is that Asian Americans are doing relatively well, even if their proportion at Harvard is 20% instead of 40%. Do we as a society need to abolish all discrimination by any means necessary? I’d say no.

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Asian Americans 
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journal.pmed.0030260.g001

Cite: Murray, Christopher JL, et al. “Eight Americas: investigating mortality disparities across races, counties, and race-counties in the United States.” PLoS Medicine 3.9 (2006): e260.

The above is a map which illustrates life expectancy for white males and females by county in the United States from the paper Eight Americas: Investigating Mortality Disparities across Races, Counties, and Race-Counties in the United States. I’m reproducing it because it shows the wide variation in life expectancy for white Americans. Second, the results show the huge disparities in life expectancy by ethnic group:

When race-county combinations are considered, life expectancy disparities are dramatically larger. For example, Native American males in the cluster of Bennet, Jackson, Mellette, Shannon, Todd, and Washabaugh Counties in South Dakota had a life expectancy of 58 y in 1997–2001, compared to Asian females in Bergen County, New Jersey, with a life expectancy of 91 y, a gap of 33 y.

Life expectancy is important because it can’t be contextualized and reinterpreted with sophistry. Asian Americans tend to live longer than white Americans. How’s that a model for you? (yes, I know, the immigration systems selects for longer lived Asians!)

The whole issue is on my mind because of a post over at the Aerogram, Debunking the Model Minority Myth with Humor: The Rise of the South Asian Comedian. How exactly does the piece illustrate how South Asian comedians are “debunking” the model minority myth? Honestly I have no idea. The piece itself states:

…The stereotypical “American Dream” for South Asians includes children equipped with an above average education. As the model minority, 64 percent of Indian-Americans had a Bachelor’s degree or higher according to the US Census of 2004. In addition, 60 percent of Indian-Americans had management or professional jobs, compared with a national average of 33 percent.

First, what the hell is with the quotes? Shouldn’t the American dream be about equipping children with above average education? The author of the piece herself has a biography which runs like so:

Born and raised in California, Lakshmi is a journalist and educator currently based in Berkeley. Over the past few years, she has worked with newspapers, radio and magazines from Gaborone, Botswana, to Los Angeles. She is a graduate of Pitzer College where she studied global communications and studio arts. She is presently pursuing her master’s at UC Berkeley School of Journalism.

“She” sure seems “educated” to “me” (I have no idea why I put quotations here). Second, she is honest enough to straight up admit that Indian-Americans have social statistics which are perfectly in keeping with the idea that on average they are a model minority.

What’s going on here? The problem here is simple: a particular class of educated Asian Americans schooled in post-colonial critical race theory posits a model of the world where everything is dichotomized into white people with privilege and poor oppressed “people of color.” Another symptom of this tendency to think in a binary is to talk about the “Global North” and “Global South.” No matter the word games which might be offered to obscure the overall thesis, this model removes most agency from “people of color”, and makes white people the movers and shakers of the world’s phenomena (e.g., stuff like facial symmetry is asserted to be Western beauty standards). But, critical race theory inverts the moral valence which one finds among white supremacists and their ilk, with whom they share key presuppositions (e.g., white people are sui generis). Where the model for white supremacists is that white people have a particular virtuous genius, for critical race theorists white people are the “Ice People” who introduce the contagion of bourgeois oppressive patriarchal values. It is in many ways a resurrection of the theory of the Noble Savage, as the idyll of nonwhites was shattered by the all consuming nature of the colonial experience which the white devils imposed upon them.

You can see how then that the Asian American model minority is “problematic.” Asian Americans do better on a host of social statistics than white Americans. But since white privilege is the all determinative variable which explains all social phenomena this outcome is perplexing. The solution from what I can tell is a long campaign of obfuscation, lying, and outright propaganda. Asian American activists schooled in critical race theory simply assert that the model minority concept is a myth, and trust that their sympathetic audiences will ascent to their knowledge of this domain. Mind you, they do bring up examples such as the Hmong to highlight how Asian-Americans are diverse, and not all are Taiwanese or Indian professionals. But the fact is that the Southeast Asian refugee experience is a secondary narrative numerically. The inversion of weights in this case is purely in the service of propaganda, which is persuasive to their innumerate audience. It would be like debunking white privilege by pointing out the reality of the whites of Appalachia, and much of rural America. All of a sudden these race hustling sophists would point out the importance of averages.

Of course theory is information for free. And a false theory can implant false information in the minds of many. Another paper, The White Ceiling Heuristic and the Underestimation of Asian-American Income:

The belief that ethnic majorities dominate ethnic minorities informs research on intergroup processes. This belief can lead to the social heuristic that the ethnic majority sets an upper limit that minority groups cannot surpass, but this possibility has not received much attention. In three studies of perceived income, we examined how this heuristic, which we term the White ceiling heuristic leads people to inaccurately estimate the income of a minority group that surpasses the majority. We found that Asian Americans, whose median income has surpassed White median income for nearly three decades, are still perceived as making less than Whites, with the least accurate estimations being made by people who strongly believe that Whites are privileged. In contrast, income estimates for other minorities were fairly accurate. Thus, perceptions of minorities are shaped both by stereotype content and a heuristic.

Basically those whites who are very conscious of white privilege as an idea underestimate Asian American income. This tells us that the propaganda is working, though that’s not a surprise as most people are stupid and uninformed, and use theory to explain the world.

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Asian Americans 
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I was at ASHG this week, so I’ve followed reactions to the election passively. But one thing I’ve seen is repeated commentary on the fact that Asian Americans have swung toward the Democrats over the past generation. The thing that pisses me off is that there is a very obvious low-hanging fruit sort of explanation out there, and I’m frankly sick and tired of reading people ramble on without any awareness of this reality. We spent the past few months talking about the power of polls, and quant data vs. qual (bullshit) analysis, with some of my readers going into full on let’s-see-if-Razib-is-moron-enough-to-swallow-this-crap mode.

In short, it’s religion. Barry Kosmin has documented that between 1990 and 2010 Asian Americans have become far less Christian, on average. Meanwhile, the Republican party has become far more Christian in terms of its identity. Do you really require more than two sentences to infer from this what the outcome will be in terms of how Asian Americans will vote?

Below I took the data from Pew’s Religious Identification Survey in terms of how all Americans lean politically based on religion, and compared it to how Asian Americans lean based on religion.


All Americans Lean Rep/Rep Lean Dem/Dem No Lean
Evangelical Churches 50% 34% 16%
Mainline Churches 41% 43% 16%
Catholics 33% 48% 19%
Buddhists 18% 67% 15%
Hindus 13% 63% 24%
Unaffiliated 23% 55% 23%
Asian Americans
Evangelical Churches 56% 28% 16%
Mainline Churches 37% 44% 18%
Catholics 42% 41% 17%
Buddhists 27% 56% 17%
Hindus 9% 72% 19%
Unaffiliated 21% 63% 16%

Now compare the above to the breakdown of Asian American religiosity. Over half of Asian Americans are non-Christian. The track record of non-Christians voting for Republicans in today’s America is not good. In contrast, Asian American lean toward Republicans is fine, assuming that they are Christian (the Evangelical group above excludes historically black churches). Asian American Catholics are somewhat more Democrat than white non-Hispanic Catholics, but far less than Hispanic Catholics. But the issue is that Christians, aggregating the Evangelical, Mainline, and Catholic categories together, only make up ~40 percent of the Asian American population. In 1990 60 percent of Asian Americans were Christian. Today 30 percent follow non-Christian religions. In 1990 15 percent did.

These data may not explain all the variation between then and now (the two causal factors being the growing identification of the Republican party with Christianity, and the growing non-Christianity of Asian America), but they can explain most of the variation. In other words, if you want to present another model, show me the data. I don’t care about your opinion or intuition. Intuition is another word for private bullshit. There is social science out there that doesn’t require an esoteric regression model. It’s not even in the class of a non-obvious prediction. Rather, the description screams out at you. It’s aggravating that people can’t be bothered to find this stuff when they can be bothered to subject me to long ramblings and ruminations.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Asian Americans, Data Analysis, Demographics 
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Razib Khan
About Razib Khan

"I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com"