Driven by political insiders, Asians here are facing a disturbing threat to their children’s future: the movement to deny Asian children educational opportunities and government employment. This threat is through Initiative 1000 (on your ballot as Referendum 88), which would implement quotas and caps by race for college admissions, public employment, and government contracting.
For now, in Washington, such discrimination is illegal under our Civil Rights Act. But government and corporate insiders want to repeal those rights through Initiative 1000 (I-1000). This represents the ultimate betrayal to our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents who worked so hard and endured harsh racism just to make better lives for their children. We must honor those sacrifices by ensuring Asian children are not denied the dignity, the fairness, and the respect our elders earned for them. We must reject I-1000.
I-1000 legalizes anti-Asian bias through quotes and caps
The lawsuit against Harvard disclosed what Asian families knew: Colleges and universities discriminate against Asians. Under Harvard’s affirmative action policy, Asians are not invited unless their SAT scores are at least 300 points higher than other groups. Harvard then caps the number of Asians for admission. And even though Asian applicants score significantly higher than all other groups in every objective category, they have the lowest admission rate.
The same is happening through medical school affirmative action policies, where other groups are admitted up to 10 times the rate as Asians with the same MCAT and GPA scores.
If I-1000 passes, anti-Asian discrimination will be legalized here through Harvard-style quotas and caps, which the powerful insiders behind I-1000 concealed in hidden loopholes. Agencies will count students and employees by race, decide which races get favored status, set targets for those races, and make college admission and employment decisions in favor of those races. These are, by definition, quotas. They will be implemented at every level of government.
Bureaucrats will be empowered to decide whom to include and exclude from colleges, universities, and government employment based upon favored race status.
Asians know exactly what that means. We have often been the group excluded by those in power. I-1000 will legalize such discrimination by using an insider-filled government agency to enforce caps against us. It is unfair to deny our children educational and employment opportunities because they are Asian.
While we as parents have attained educations and jobs, our children have not and they will be the ones to feel the full impact of Asian discrimination if I-1000 passes. We must stand up and reject I-1000.
I-1000 divides us
I-1000 is divisive, pitting race against race. It is even splitting our own community: Asian insiders are attacking Asians who oppose I-1000, condemning them personally and marginalizing them as outsiders. This is what I-1000 does, just as a proposal. Imagine what will happen if it passes. We must reject I-1000.
We can be quiet no longer
Asians are disregarded as the quiet stepchild of the civil rights movement. We have always supported equal treatment for all, yet when we face discrimination, we are ignored. None of the so-called civil rights groups supporting I-1000 stood up for us in the face of racism in education, such as at Harvard. In fact, the ACLU even applauded that discrimination.
Those groups have dismissed us in the past, and now they expect us to support discrimination against our children. To this we must say no. In honor of those who came before us who sacrificed so much, and on behalf of our children who have done nothing wrong to warrant discrimination, we must stand our ground and fight this prejudice. We must take our stand at the ballot box because there, the anti-Asian Establishment cannot ignore us. With your ballot in hand, focus on our children’s future, their right to dignity, their right to fairness, and their fundamental right to respect. Reject racism. Reject I-1000.
Yvonne Kinoshita Ward is past president of the Asian Bar Association of Washington and past chair of the Washington Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs. She was twice named a Top Contributor to the Asian Community by the Northwest Asian Weekly and was awarded the Washington State Association for Justice Carl J. Maxey Award for promoting diversity in the legal profession.
When analyzing student performance by race, Minnesota combines a widely diverse group — children of new Karen refugees from Myanmar, sons and daughters of Chinese graduate students, and descendants of Hmong farmers — into one broad category: Asian-American.
That will soon change under a little publicized “data disaggregation” law that allows the state to collect more detailed ethnic information on students, in an effort to better understand which groups are struggling and how to help. But it has also led to outrage among some Asian-Americans, particularly those of Chinese descent, who say the practice is racist and could be used against them.
“The passion that we’re seeing flare up … has been an outlier in terms of the level of activity that we usually see from the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community,” said Sia Her, executive director of the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans.
The stuff of statisticians has become a flash point for Asian-Americans nationally. A lawsuit that accuses Harvard of discriminating against them, for example, has stirred a debate about whether elite academic institutions hold such students to higher standards as “model minorities” and artificially cap their admission numbers. Critics of data disaggregation fear that it opens the door to higher-performing Asian-Americans receiving fewer resources and opportunities. Asian-Americans have mobilized to try to stop similar measures in California, Rhode Island and Massachusetts in recent years.
In Minnesota and nationally, Asian-Americans as a whole have higher levels of education and academic achievement than other minorities — in some cases surpassing whites — driven largely by an influx of highly skilled, well-educated immigrants.
But Minnesota’s case is unusual in that nearly two-thirds of its Asian-American population comes from southeast Asian countries such as Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Many are Hmong, an ethnic group from remote mountainous regions with little access to formal schooling and where cultural traditions were largely oral. Language barriers and poverty have remained obstacles in America.
Wide disparity in academic performance among Asian students
Minnesota is implementing a law that would collect more detailed data on students’ ethnic backgrounds to better understand which groups need more resources. Among Asian-Americans, for instance, there are broad educational disparities.
A 2011 study found that 54.8 percent of Minnesota’s young Asian-American students were proficient in math. But there were stark differences among ethnic groups: 83.1 percent for students of Chinese descent (highest in the state); 36.6 percent for those with a Hmong background; and 12.1 percent for kids of Karen heritage (lowest in the state). The latter figure reflects the influx of refugee Karen students who are still learning English and have parents who may have spent decades in refugee camps. Similarly wide variations persisted in reading proficiency.
“So our highest-performing students … and our lowest-performing students were all wrapped up in the category of Asian, which meant that we weren’t strategically placing resources or focusing policy or really understanding the communities and the students that we were serving,” said Josh Crosson, senior policy director for the education advocacy organization EdAllies.
The All Kids Count law, passed in 2016, aimed to address such disparities. The state Department of Education is collecting detailed ethnic data on minority groups from five school districts during the 2018-19 year, including St. Paul, Minnetonka and Worthington, and will post the breakdown of graduation rates and Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments math and reading scores in the summer. White students are not being asked about the details of their ancestry.
The agency is using a federal grant of nearly $2 million to set up a data-collection system as it prepares to launch the program at another 100 school districts in the coming school year. The process relies on parents filling out a form about their child’s ethnic background, though they can decline to answer.
Eh Tah Khu is eager to see the more detailed data. A refugee himself, he said that Karen parents can’t always help children with homework if they don’t speak English, are working late shifts and received little schooling themselves.
Working with the Roseville School District, he realized that Karen parents often didn’t show up to parent-teacher conferences even when notices were translated in their language — they carried assumptions from their homeland that it was solely the school’s responsibility to educate students.
“They don’t understand the school system here,” said Khu, co-executive director of the Karen Organization of Minnesota.
But the concept has also drawn opposition in the Twin Cities Asian-American community, and a bill to repeal it has drawn wide support among people concerned about ethnic profiling.
Eden Prairie Council Member P.G. Narayanan, an Indian immigrant, disputed any link between ethnic background and academic performance, and questioned the value of using such categories with children who are second- and third-generation Americans — a view echoed by a range of Chinese-Americans. Foes of the All Kids Count law say the state should simply help struggling students without regard to their cultural background.
Some opposition in the Chinese-American community reflects concerns about past discrimination. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 barred Chinese laborers from immigrating for many decades, and domestic segregation drove the creation of Chinatowns and barred Chinese-Americans from white schools.
The legislation, authored by Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, was held over last month for consideration in the education omnibus bill.
Chinese parents and other Asians “see data disaggregation as part of this broader picture of affirmative action, which they believe is taking away their spots in college to succeed,” said Mary Szto, who has researched discrimination against Chinese people and is a visiting professor at Mitchell-Hamline School of Law.
Szto said that after World War II, people of Asian heritage were held up as a model minority, “which meant they were better than other minorities in assimilating to white culture. Asians were being used as a way to shame other minority groups and basically as a political pawn.
She said the model minority myth hurts all Asian-Americans: Those who have more educational resources are expected to get higher test scores than everyone else; those who lack resources are less likely to get help.
Zoe Zhi, a Chinese immigrant and Woodbury mother of three, said outstanding Asian-American students may be held to higher standards in college admissions or employment, and that opponents of data disaggregation see their effort as just the beginning of fighting potential discrimination.
“Once you identify the ethnic groups separately and then you engage in racial and ethnic profiling … that’s a slippery slope to go down,” she said.
Identity politics has engulfed the humanities and social sciences on American campuses; now it is taking over the hard sciences. The STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and math —are under attack for being insufficiently “diverse.” The pressure to increase the representation of females, blacks, and Hispanics comes from the federal government, university administrators, and scientific societies themselves. That pressure is changing how science is taught and how scientific qualifications are evaluated. The results will be disastrous for scientific innovation and for American competitiveness.
A scientist at UCLA reports: “All across the country the big question now in STEM is: how can we promote more women and minorities by ‘changing’ (i.e., lowering) the requirements we had previously set for graduate level study?” Mathematical problem-solving is being deemphasized in favor of more qualitative group projects; the pace of undergraduate physics education is being slowed down so that no one gets left behind.
The National Science Foundation (NSF), a federal agency that funds university research, is consumed by diversity ideology. Progress in science, it argues, requires a “diverse STEM workforce.” Programs to boost diversity in STEM pour forth from its coffers in wild abundance. The NSF jump-started the implicit-bias industry in the 1990s by underwriting the development of the implicit association test (IAT). (The IAT purports to reveal a subject’s unconscious biases by measuring the speed with which he associates minority faces with positive or negative words.) Since then, the NSF has continued to dump millions of dollars into implicit-bias activism. In July 2017, it awarded $1 million to the University of New Hampshire and two other institutions to develop a “bias-awareness intervention tool.” Another $2 million that same month went to the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University to “remediate microaggressions and implicit biases” in engineering classrooms.
The tortuously named “Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science” (INCLUDES) bankrolls “fundamental research in the science of broadening participation.” There is no such “science,” just an enormous expenditure of resources that ducks the fundamental problems of basic skills and attitudes toward academic achievement. A typical INCLUDES grant from October 2017 directs $300,000 toward increasing Native American math involvement by incorporating “indigenous knowledge systems” into Navajo Nation Math Circles.
The INCLUDES initiative has already generated its own parasitic endeavor, Early-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER). The purpose of EAGER funding is to evaluate INCLUDES grants and to pressure actual science grantees to incorporate diversity considerations into their research. The ultimate goal of such programs is to change the culture of STEM so that “inclusion and equity” are at its very core.
Somehow, NSF-backed scientists managed to rack up more than 200 Nobel Prizes before the agency realized that scientific progress depends on “diversity.” Those “un-diverse” scientists discovered the fundamental particles of matter and unlocked the genetics of viruses. Now that academic victimology has established a beachhead at the agency, however, it remains to be seen whether the pace of such breakthroughs will continue. The NSF is conducting a half-million-dollar study of “intersectionality” in the STEM fields.
“Intersectionality” refers to the increased oppression allegedly experienced by individuals who can check off several categories of victimhood—being female, black, and trans, say. The NSF study’s theory is that such intersectionality lies behind the lack of diversity in STEM. Two sociologists are polling more than 10,000 scientists and engineers in nine professional organizations about the “social and cultural variables” that produce “disadvantage and marginalization” in STEM workplaces.
One of the study’s directors is a University of Michigan sociologist specializing in gender and sexuality. Erin Cech has received multiple NSF grants; her latest publication is “Rugged Meritocrats: The Role of Overt Bias and the Meritocratic Ideology in Trump Supporters’ Opposition to Social Justice Efforts.” The other lead researcher, Tom Waidzunas, is a sociologist at Temple University; he studies the “dynamics of gender and sexuality” within STEM, as well as how “scientists come to know, and hence constitute, sexuality and sexual desire.” Such politically constituted social-justice research was not likely envisioned by Congress in 1950 when it created the NSF to “promote the progress of science.”
The diversity mania also determines the way medical research is carried out. The NIH has onerous requirements that government-sponsored clinical trials include the same proportion of female and minority patients as is found in the medical school’s “catchment area” (its geographic zone of study). If some of these populations drop out of medical trials at disproportionate rates or are difficult to recruit, too bad. If these URM and female-enrollment quotas are not met, the medical school must “invest the appropriate effort to correct under-accrual,” in the words of the NIH guidelines.
That “appropriate effort” can cost a fortune. Schools such as the Mayo Clinic, located in overwhelmingly white areas, must still meet a diversity quota. Lung cancer and coronary-artery disease afflict adults. If a particular immigrant group in a research trial’s catchment area contains a disproportionate share of young people compared with the aging white population, that immigrant group will be less susceptible to those adult diseases. Nevertheless, cancer and heart-disease drug researchers must recruit from that community in numbers proportionate to its share of the overall population.
Accrediting bodies reinforce the diversity compulsion. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education requires that medical schools maintain detailed diversity metrics on their efforts to interview and hire URM faculty. Medical school search committees go through lengthy implicit-bias training sessions and expend enormous amounts of effort looking for something that they often know a priori doesn’t exist: qualified URM faculty candidates. The very definition of diversity used by academic review panels is becoming ever more exacting. A 2015 panel assessing the academic strength of San Diego State University’s biology department complained that the faculty, though relatively representative of traditional “underserved groups,” nevertheless failed to mirror the “diversity of peoples in Southern California.” The use of a school’s immediate surroundings as a demographic benchmark for its faculty is a significant escalation of the war between the diversocrats and academic standards. Naturally, the accrediting panel made no effort to ascertain whether those Southern California peoples—including Hmong, Salvadorans, and Somalis—are netting Ph.D.s in biology in numbers proportional to their Southern California population.
Many private foundations fund only gender- and race-exclusive science training; others that do fund basic research, such as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, nevertheless divert huge sums to diversity.
The major scientific societies push the idea that implicit bias is impeding the careers of otherwise competitive scientists. In February 2018, Erin Cech presented preliminary findings from the NSF intersectionality study at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting; naturally, those results showed “systemic anti-LGBTQ bias within STEM industry and academia.” Another AAAS session addressed how the “hierarchical nature” of science exacerbates gender bias and stereotypes, and called for the “equal representation of women” across STEM.
STEM departments are creating their own internal diversity enforcers. The engineering school at UCLA minted its first associate dean of diversity and inclusion in 2017, despite already being subject to enormous pressures from UCLA’s fantastically remunerated Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and other bureaucrats. “One of my jobs,” the new engineering diversocrat, Scott Brandenberg, told UCLA’s student newspaper, is “to avoid implicit bias in the hiring process.”
The science diversity charade wastes extraordinary amounts of time and money that could be going into basic research and its real-world application. If that were its only consequence, the cost would be high enough. But identity politics is now altering the standards for scientific competence and the way future scientists are trained.
“Diversity” is now an explicit job qualification in the STEM fields. A current job listing for a lecturer in biology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst announces that because diversity is “critical to the university’s goals of achieving excellence in all areas,” the biology department “holistically” assesses applicants and “favorably considers experiences overcoming barriers”—experiences assumed to be universal among URMs. The University of California at San Diego physics department advertised an assistant-professor position several years ago with a “specific emphasis on contributions to diversity,” such as a candidate’s “awareness of inequities faced by underrepresented groups.” Social-justice concerns apparently trump the quest to solve the mystery of dark energy. All five candidates on UC San Diego’s short list were females, leading one male candidate with a specialty in extragalactic physics to wonder why the school had even solicited applications from Asian and white men.
Entry requirements for graduate education are being revised. The American Astronomical Society has recommended that Ph.D. programs in astronomy eliminate the requirement that applicants take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) in physics, since it has a disparate impact on females and URMs and allegedly does not predict future research output. Harvard and other departments have complied, even though an objective test like the GRE can spotlight talent from less prestigious schools. The NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program has dropped all science GREs for applicants in all fields.
Expectations are changing at the undergraduate level, as well. Oxford University extended the time on its undergraduate math and computer science exams last year, hoping to increase the number of female high-scorers; results were modest. Expect test-time extensions nevertheless to spread to the U.S.
Medical school administrators urge admissions committees to overlook the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores of black and Hispanic student applicants and employ “holistic review” in order to engineer a diverse class. The result is a vast gap in entering qualifications. From 2013 to 2016, medical schools nationally admitted 57 percent of black applicants with a low MCAT of 24 to 26, but only 8 percent of whites and 6 percent of Asians with those same low scores, according to Claremont McKenna professor Frederick Lynch. Individual schools have larger score disparities. This achievement gap does not close over the course of medical school, but the URM students who do complete their medical training will be fanatically sought after anyway. Adding to medical schools’ diversity woes is the fact that the number of male URM student applicants has been declining in recent years, making it even harder to find qualified candidates.
Racial preferences in med school programs are sometimes justified on the basis that minorities want doctors who “look like them.” Arguably, however, minority patients with serious illnesses want the same thing as anyone else: subject mastery.
The push for gender proportionality in medical education and research is not quite as quixotic as the crusade for URM proportionality, but it, too, distorts decision making. Two-thirds of the applicants for oncology fellowships at a prestigious medical school are male. Half of the oncology department’s fellowship picks are female, however, even though females do not cluster at the top of the applicant pool.
A network of so-called teaching and learning centers at universities across the country is seeking to make science classrooms more “inclusive” by changing pedagogy and expectations for student learning. The STEM faculty is too white, male, and heteronormative, according to these centers, making it hard for females, blacks, Hispanics, and the LGBTQ population to learn. Lecturing and objective exams should be de- emphasized in favor of “culturally sensitive pedagogies that play close attention to students’ social identities,” in the words of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. STEM teaching should be more “open- than closed-ended,” more “reflective than prescriptive,” according to the association. At the University of Michigan, the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program collaborates with the Center for Learning and Teaching to develop “deliberately inclusive and equitable approaches to syllabus design, writing assignments, grading, and discussion.” Yale has created a special undergraduate laboratory course, with funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, that aims to enhance URM students’ “feelings of identifying as a scientist.” It does so by being “non-prescriptive” in what students research; they develop their own research questions. But “feelings” are only going to get you so far without mastery of the building blocks of scientific knowledge.
Mastering those building blocks involves the memorization of facts, among other skills. Assessing student knowledge of those facts can produce disparate results. The solution is to change the test or, ideally, eliminate it. A medical school supervisor recently advised a professor to write an exam that was less “fact-based” than the one he had proposed, even though knowledge of pathophysiology and the working of drugs, say, entails knowing facts.
Grading on a curve is another vilified practice for those interested in building “inclusive” STEM classrooms. The only surprising aspect of that vilification is that it acknowledges one of the most self-defeating aspects of black and Hispanic culture: the stigma against “acting white.” URMs may “reject competitiveness as an academic motivator,” explains a 2015 UCLA report on the undergraduate academic-achievement gap. Instead, URMs “draw strength in peer acceptance, nurturance, and cooperation.” Translation: instead of pulling all-nighters studying for a linear algebra exam, they may be inclined to hang out in the Afro-Am or LatinX center. This rejection of academic competitiveness is a “coping mechanism,” says the UCLA inclusiveness report, that allows individuals to “devalue” things that threaten their sense of well-being, such as high academic expectations. A grading curve contributes to academic competition by objectively ranking students. As a result, URMs will be further alienated and further withhold their academic efforts. The solution, according to diversity proponents, is to throw out the curve and grade students on whether they have achieved the expected learning outcomes. This sounds unobjectionable; but in practice, a curve is the only reliable defense against raging grade inflation.
An introductory chemistry course at UC Berkeley exemplifies “culturally sensitive pedagogy.” Its creators described the course in a January 2018 webinar for STEM teachers, sponsored by the University of California’s STEM Faculty Learning Community. A primary goal of the course, according to teachers Erin Palmer and Sabriya Rosemund, is to disrupt the “racialized and gendered construct of scientific brilliance,” which defines “good science” as getting all the right answers. The course maintains instead that “all students are scientifically brilliant.” Science is a practice of collective sense-making that calls forth “inclusive ways” of being brilliant. Students in this “inclusive” Chem 1A course work in groups arranging data cards in the proper sequence to represent chemical processes, among other tasks. Chemical terms of art are avoided wherever possible to accommodate students’ different academic backgrounds. The instructors hold the teams “accountable to group thinking”; a team can’t question an instructor unless it has arrived collectively at the question and poses it in “we” language.
Progressive pedagogy has long embraced the idea that students should work exclusively in groups as a way to model collectivist democracy. This political agenda is simply a pretext for masking individual differences in achievement that might reinforce group stereotypes. Here, the rationale for group organization is that students are modeling “collective chemical practice.” The group design “makes space for students to recognize themselves as competent thinkers and doers of chemistry.” Are they competent thinkers and doers of chemistry? It’s hard to say. The course’s grading is idiosyncratic, and thus not comparable with other intro-chemistry courses. The final grade is based on homework (notoriously easy to crib), a final exam (which the teachers wish they could ditch), and an informal presentation to friends or family about the chemistry of compounds. Use of slang or a language other than English in this presentation is encouraged. One such effort featured a photo of the character Joey from the TV sitcom Friends dressed in several layers of unmatched clothes to suggest the relationship between positive and negative charges. The teachers have done no follow-up evaluation to see how students performed in their subsequent courses, nor have they determined whether the attrition rate of URMs is lower than in traditional chemistry classes. What they do know is that students showed a positive shift in believing that they were good at science. Scientific self-esteem is now an academic goal.
STEM industry leaders are fully on board the diversity juggernaut, having absorbed academic identity politics. The giant Silicon Valley companies offer gender- and race-exclusive mentoring programs and give special consideration to females and URMs in hiring and promotions. Managers go through the same costly implicit-bias training as faculty committees. In August 2017, Google fired computer engineer James Damore for questioning the premises of Google’s diversity training and policies. The discrimination lawsuit he subsequently filed against the Silicon Valley giant reveals a workplace culture infused with academic victimology. Employees denounce the advocacy of gender- and race-blind policies as a “microaggression” and the product of “racism” and “misogyny.” Managers apologize for promoting males, even when females are being promoted at a higher rate. All-male research teams are mocked; employees self-righteously offer to protect Google’s oppressed females and URMs from “blinkered, pig-ignorant” conservative opinion. A manager reprimands
someone for pointing out that white males are actually underrepresented at Google compared with the general population. The manager informs the errant employee that caring about facts may seem to be a trait of engineers, but “being absolutely correct is inappropriate” when it comes to “discussions of race and justice.” Facts are especially inappropriate “in the context of the threat” faced by minorities and females at Google. Needless to say, no female or underrepresented minority faces a threat at Google.
In February 2018, an associate general counsel with the National Labor Relations Board upheld Google’s firing of Damore on the grounds that his statements about “purported biological differences between men and women” were “discriminatory and constituted sexual harassment.” This decision means that every evolutionary biologist, neurologist, or economist studying different risk preferences or levels of aggression between males and females could be fired for harassment. Since Damore had already withdrawn the complaint that he had filed with the NLRB, the opinion does not have the force of law, but it indicates which way the wind is blowing in federal agencies.
In January 2018, a former YouTube and Google recruiter filed another suit against Google, claiming that he was wrongfully fired for refusing to obey Google’s gender and race mandates. He and other recruiters had allegedly been ordered to purge all software-engineering applicants who were not female, black, or Hispanic from the entry-level hiring pipeline. In response, Google claimed that finding a “diverse pool” of qualified candidates allows it to “hire the best people.” But adding any irrelevant criterion such as race or gender to job specifications inevitably lowers the caliber of the applicant base by excluding candidates with potentially superior qualifications.
The idea that females and URMs are being discriminated against in STEM is demonstrably false. A physician-scientist at a top medical school describes the environment in which he works:
The sheer effort that is expended in complete good faith at the graduate, post-graduate, and faculty level chasing after a declining population of minority applicants is astonishing. URMs are encouraged to apply, indeed begged to apply, to medical school and post-graduate medical training programs. Everyone at this level is trying incredibly hard to be fair, generous, forgiving, thoughtful, kind, and encouraging to these applicants. But if the pool of candidates is actually declining, no amount of effort, exhortation, or threat will achieve diversity. It’s one thing to do poorly on the MCAT; it’s another not even to bother taking it. The latter is now the bigger problem because the academy has already relaxed its standards and come up with all kinds of ways to explain away the need to do well on these tests.
When it comes to URMs, math deficits show up at the earliest ages. It is only there where the achievement gap can be overcome, through more rigorous, structured classrooms and through a change in family culture to put a high premium on academic achievement. The institutional response to the achievement gap, however, is racial preferences. College freshmen are brought into elite academic environments for which they are unprepared, especially in the STEM fields, in order to satisfy administrators’ desire to look out upon a “diverse” student body. Those inaptly named preference “beneficiaries” drop out of their STEM studies at high rates, despite the availability of numerous tutoring and mentoring programs. This experience of academic failure only exacerbates the anti-acting-white syndrome acknowledged in the UCLA study. You can read through report after report on achieving diversity in STEM, however, without coming across any acknowledgment of the academic skills gap.
As for females, they, too, are the target of constant efforts to boost their representation in STEM environments. Yet we are to believe that highly educated heads of research teams are so benighted that they refuse to hire or promote scientists whose superior qualifications would increase the lab’s chance of a scientific breakthrough, just because those scientists are female. The diversity crusade rests on the claim that absent discrimination, every scientific field would show gender parity. That belief is ungrounded. Males outperform females at the highest reaches of mathematical reasoning (and are overrepresented at
the lowest level of mathematical incompetence). Differences in math precocity between boys and girls show up as early as kindergarten. For decades, males in every ethnic group have scored higher than females in their same ethnic group on the math SAT. In 2016, the percentage of males scoring above 700 (on an 800-point scale) was nearly twice as large as the percentage of females in that range. There are 2.5 males in the U.S. in the top 0.01 percent of math ability for every female, according to a paper published in February 2018 in the journal Intelligence. But female high-scorers are more likely than male high-scorers to possess strong verbal skills as well, according to authors Jonathan Wai, Jaret Hodges, and Matthew Makel, giving them a greater range of career options. Traditionally, individuals who score well in both the math and verbal domains are less likely to pursue a STEM career. Moreover, females on average are more interested in people-centered rather than abstract work, which helps explain why females account for 75 percent of health-care-related workers but only 14 percent of engineering workers and 25 percent of computer workers. Nearly 82 percent of obstetrics and gynecology medical residents in 2016 were female. Is gynecology biased against males, or are females selecting where they want to work?
The extraordinary accomplishments of Western science were achieved without regard to the complexions of its creators. Now, however, funders, industry leaders, and academic administrators maintain that scientific progress will stall unless we pay close attention to identity and try to engineer proportional representation in schools and laboratories. The truth is exactly the opposite: lowering standards and diverting scientists’ energy into combating phantom sexism and racism is reckless in a highly competitive, ruthless, and unforgiving global marketplace. Driven by unapologetic meritocracy, China is catching up fast to the U.S. in science and technology. Identity politics in American science is a political self-indulgence that we cannot afford.
Increasingly we sort each other into groups, making sweeping assumptions based on binary labels.
Kanye West, ever the iconoclast, set social media ablaze last month when he donned a red “Make America Great Again” hat in support of President Trump. Whether a genuine expression of political belief or a publicity stunt, Mr. West’s selfie sparked a much-needed discussion on the role of identity in politics.
At the heart of Mr. West’s message is the idea that all of us—no matter our race, religion or background—have the right to be more than one thing. It’s a message that resonates with millions of Americans who refuse to conform to stereotypes—me included.
I grew up in poverty during the Great Depression, the son of blue-collar parents who passionately defended Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. As a young man, I followed my father into the steelworking trade, where I became a card-carrying member of a labor union. When I was elected to the Senate decades later, I became best friends with Teddy Kennedy, the chamber’s liberal lion. Today, I am, among other things, an advocate for the legalization of medical marijuana research and a strong proponent of transgender rights in the military.
I am also a Republican.
In fact, I am a lifelong Republican with impeccable conservative credentials, including multiple honors from the Heritage Foundation and an A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association. My record on fiscal policy is so strong that President Reagan dubbed me “Mr. Balanced Budget.” I was the architect of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a key player in the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, and the principal author of the tax-reform bill that passed Congress in December.
All of which is to say that I can be more than one thing. I can be the son of working-class parents and also a pro-business Republican. I can be a bipartisan deal maker and also a consistent conservative. I can be an ally to the transgender community and also a committed Christian. As much as my critics would like to pigeonhole me—dismissing more than eight decades of accrued wisdom and life experience based solely on the “R” that follows my name—I can’t be reduced to a party platform.
I am more than the sum of my parts, and so is every American. Yet increasingly we sort each other into groups, making sweeping assumptions based on binary labels: Democrat or Republican, black or white, male or female. These labels are mere pixels in the picture of an individual’s identity; they are not the picture itself. No word—no matter how descriptive—could ever distill all the nuance and complexity that is a single human being.
Our tendency to use labels to box each other in is indicative of a much larger societal problem: the unleashing of identity politics. Identity politics is tribalism by another name. It is the deliberate and often unnatural segregation of people into categories for political gain. Under this cynical program, the identity of the group subsumes the identity of the individual, allowing little room for independence, self-realization or free thought.
Some play down the dangers of this practice, but identity politics is a blight on our democracy. It feeds fear, division, acrimony and anger. Worse, identity politics is inimical to the very idea of what it means to be American.
For more than two centuries, we have been able to weave together the disparate threads of a diverse society more successfully than any nation on earth. How? Through the unifying power of the American idea that all of us—regardless of color, class or creed—are equal, and that we can work together to build a more perfect union. It’s the idea that our dignity comes not from the groups to which we belong but from our inherent worth as individuals—as children of the same God and partakers of the same human condition.
Identity politics turns the American idea on its head. Rather than looking beyond arbitrary differences in color, class and creed, identity politics separates us along these lines. It puts the demands of the collective before the sovereignty of the individual. In doing so, identity politics conditions us to define ourselves and each other by the groups to which we belong. Soon, we lose sight of the myriad values that unite us. We come to see each other only through the distorted prism of our differences. Where identity politics reigns, so, too, do its regents: polarization, gridlock and groupthink.
Identity politics is cancer on our political culture. If we allow it to metastasize, civility will cease, our national community will crumble, and the U.S. will become a divided country of ideological ghettos.
To save the American experiment, we must reject the tribalism of our time. Both on the left and right, we must renounce identity politics in every form. We must resist the temptation to use labels, and we must allow each other room to be more than one thing.
Ideas—not identity—should be the driving force of our politics. By restoring the primacy of ideas to public discourse, we can foster an environment that will allow democracy to thrive, an environment of free thought and open deliberation unconstrained by the excesses of political correctness.
If we let any identity define us going forward, it should be our common identity as Americans, as men and women steadfastly committed to upholding the virtues of liberty and independence upon which our nation was founded. It’s the only way to preserve the American experiment for future generations.
Mr. Hatch, a Utah Republican, is president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate and chairman of the Finance Committee.
Source: A flyer distributed at an Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month event on 5/17/2018 in Washington DC
We Asian Americans deserve to be treated the Same as other races.
PLEASE HELP US FIX THE CENSUS 2020 RACE BOX!
In the current version submitted to the Congress for approval (left), Asian Americans are treated differently than White, African Americans and American Indians. Why? The Census first implemented a box for Chinese in 1870, coinciding with the Burlingame Treaty of 1868, which eventually led to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
It is time to end this hurtful legacy and we need your help!
Please email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the census bureau at 800-923-8282.
Please contact your Representative and Senator in the Congress.
The Census form sets a BAD example. Data disaggregation targeting Asian Americans now appears in the mortgage application form, the CommonApp (for college application), preschool application and even on the Death certificate in Minnesota.
Contact us at: email@example.com or 978-494-3909 .
For several years I’ve lived in California, one of the greatest states in the United States of America and a peaceful place where different background people live, I never realized there’s a unusual signal in the US until a registration form in Pleasanton Unified School District(PUSD) has been presented to me. My daughter’s entry registration form from her elementary school mandatorily requires every Asian American parent to identify their children’s ethnical data based on their parents’ and grandparents’ original country.
— To read the full article, please open the following pdf file:
Identity politics—the artificial segmentation of Americans into antagonistic groups organized along often imagined ethnic, racial and sexual categories—is tearing America apart. President Trump can do something about it.
According to former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese and Heritage Fellow Mike Conzalez, the reason that President Trump could do something to overcome identity politics is that “government played a key role in creating these identities.” Thus government might be able to undo some of the damage.
It started innocently enough in 1966, when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission began collecting employment data on African Americans and a few other groups to ferret out racial discrimination. Tragically, this laudable goal ended up promoting victimhood, say Meese and Gonzalez.
“Being listed on the EEO-1 was a crucial prerequisite for benefiting from a difference-conscious justice,” [University of California, San Diego political scientist John Skrentny] concludes [in his book The Minority Rights Revolution]. “Without much thought given to what they were doing, [policy makers] created and legitimized for civil society a new discourse of race, group difference and rights. This discourse mirrored racist talk.”
In 1977, the Office of Management and Budget took a step forward on the road to identity politics by standardizing what it meant to be “white, black, Hispanic, Asian and American Indian and Alaska native” nationwide. The Census Bureau, dubbed “the ethno-racial pentagon,” then divided the country by race, with great detail. Think of all those boxes with different ethnic options.
The 2020 Census is projected to go further along the lines of identity with a new “write-in area” for the country from which the families of respondents, black and white, as well as Hispanics, come; nevertheless this increased specificity “will still divide [respondents] under the pan-ethnic umbrellas.”
Meese and Gonzalez propose ending government sanctioned fixation on race and ethnicity:
The Commerce Department must submit 2020 census questions to Congress by the end of next month. Mr. Trump should issue an executive order directing the OMB to rescind the 1977 directive (and a 1997 revision) and the Census Bureau to abandon pan-ethnic categories in favor of a question about national origin—either fill-in-the-blank or a box for every country in the world, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.
The order should further instruct all federal agencies to root out the collection of this faux data—which occurs internally throughout the executive branch and is forced on states and government contractors through federal policies and regulations. Mr. Trump could instruct agencies to report back on their progress after, say, six months.
“It is necessary and desirable to recognize and encourage the ongoing assimilation of the many strands that make up the American people into a common culture,” Mr. Glazer wrote. “One encourages what one recognizes and dissuades what one does not.” Mr. Trump has an opportunity to encourage unity and dissuade the division of Americans by race and ethnicity.
We can all be proud of our origins, but identity politics promotes assimilation, sows discord, and most of these minute and divisive distinctions are statistically meaningless anyway.
The Connecticut legislature held a March 8 hearing on , an act that called for banning ethnic subgroup data disaggregation in the Connecticut education system. As a Ph.D. candidate in Social Policy who studies mental health and trauma, I was invited by the bill’s supporters to on the damage a potential data collection program would impose on students, parents and teachers.
This March, three bills were introduced into the Connecticut Legislature on the ethnic origin data collection issue. The hearing for the first bill was scheduled the second day of a snow storm; I drafted my husband for this hundred-mile ride. I was able to join the 500 of the bill who were mostly Chinese parents with their American children. The children distributed small scarves to supporters that resembled American flags. Their cheerful, yet serious young faces made them appear more mature than their age.
In the past six months, the Chinese immigrant community has been actively engaged in opposing national origin data collection. One day after the hearing, another was introduced in the Public Health Committee, calling for detailed ethnic subgroup data collection in order to address health disparities. The bill was considered racist by many because whites were exempted from this ethnic subgroup data collection. Chinese immigrants in Connecticut quickly organized a group of physicians, statisticians and other concerned individuals to testify against the bill. I submitted a as well.
From what I learned from social media, due to the large number of bills scheduled for hearings that day, people coming to advocate on behalf of this particular bill waited until midnight. One of the major arguments supporting ethnic data disaggregation is that immigrants from Southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia came to United States as refugees because of war and political persecution. As a result, they endured traumas and hardships that affect their overall well-being. Advocates sincerely believe that ethnic and national origin disaggregation can address the health disparity.
I feel very personally connected with these refugees who fled their homes because what they went through was very similar to what my family experienced. During the Cultural Revolution in China, my grandparents were sent to a labor camp for 10 years, leaving their three sons to grow up without their parents. My grandmother spent the rest of her life criticizing the communist government, and I was her captive audience. Even though I was born 10 years after the Cultural Revolution, these horrific images and stories were carved into my heart. I came to the U.S. as an international student; however, in my heart I am still that child whose family so desperately wanted to flee the country but failed to do so. When I passed the security check at U.S. customs, I felt like a burden had been lifted because the people who had perished could finally rest in peace. Trauma can carry over for generations, and it leads to adverse health outcomes; I see these traumas manifested in my family. I have loved ones who have died by suicide or are disabled because of their mental illnesses. The claws of intergenerational trauma have a hold on my generation as well.
However, ethnic data disaggregation is not the solution. National origin cannot and should not be used as a tool to identify any specific health need. For example, not every Cambodian immigrant is a refugee, and not every refugee develops trauma-related illnesses. This same logic applies to Chinese, Syrians, Cubans, Jews and other immigrants who were exposed to tremendous stress and hardship before they immigrated. Linking a specific ethnicity to a certain illness is very dangerous to that community. It attaches a label of “medical burden” to whole communities, and “healthy” people can begin shaming and avoiding people who are sick for weighing down the whole community.
For people with mental health needs, health care providers conduct background screenings, and always ask for a detailed family history and personal history. If someone is a refugee or child of a refugee either from mainland China, Cambodia, or Rwanda, health care providers will know. People tell their needs and personal stories to their healthcare providers because there is always a basic level of trust between doctor and patient.
Many advocates may overlook the fact that immigrants do not trust the government as much as native-born citizens. A national origin data collection program can cause a psychological burden. Government data collection is abusive and coercive because of the huge power the state wields over individuals. Many refugees fled home because of government oppression. Communities that have experienced brutality at the hands of their own country can feel betrayed if doctors are asking for private information on the government’s behalf. When feeling threatened, patients either skip the question if they can, or opt to skip the treatment appointment entirely.
More importantly, dividing disease burden by national origin can cause grave long-term consequences, such as immigration restriction. When talking about public health, people tend to think it from a domestic policy perspective and overlook immigration policy. The mission of departments of public health on both the federal and state level is to reduce the medical burden on U.S. soil. Scholars and advocates focus on treatment for the sick and epidemic prevention by monitoring international travelers. The Department of Homeland Security also has an , which they have the sole right to enforce. They could determine “if a foreign national meets the health-related standards for admissibility.”
Every immigrant who wants to obtain the status of permanent resident will have to go through a complex immigration physical exam, and many health conditions are render one “inadmissible.” For people with mental illnesses and trauma experience, their immigration physical exam can be very tough. Histories of self-harm or suicide attempts are considered a red flag for immigration. Additionally, having a history of substance use disorders is a deal breaker. If a person is taking any antidepressants or mood stabilizers, the doctor will immediately start to grill the person. I know this first-handed because I am a peer counselor for immigrants. I advised many people about their exams and visa interviews. During my own exam, I barely managed to defend myself. The assistants asked loaded questions about my health history and I summoned all my nerve to demand to know the legal ground of asking me, “Did you ever hurt anybody?” Even though I am a human rights activist, this question scared me. If I failed to convince them that I had no intention to hurt myself despite having a mood disorder, then I would have been rejected for a legal residency application.
Immigration systems have the ability to strike down many people with various illnesses. I understand that the American immigration system prefers healthy individuals. However, this government-mandated data collection was not designed as a representative sample, and will not be carried out by professionals or community members. Therefore, the program will produce poor quality data that will not yield reliable results about disease burden.
With these flawed “disease burden by national origin” data, immigrants can be easily “ranked,” and some immigrants are bound to fall into the bottom category. The federal government can implement a stricter screening targeted at applicants from certain countries for public health concerns. It is entirely legal and not considered anti-immigration. Currently, the U.S. is having an immigration crisis, with President Donald Trump saying he welcomes immigrants from certain countries, like Norway, but not from some others. He made a hugely offensive statement about Haitians, that they “all have AIDS,” according to . The President’s comments are especially risky because people with certain illnesses, such as AIDS, are indeed inadmissible to U.S. soil.
The third Connecticut bill was introduced in the Judiciary Committee on March 20 to restrict ethnic data collection. The bill’s sponsor advocated on our behalf; however, the final legislative language was considered to legitimize the practice of dividing immigrants by place of birth. Hearing our concerns, the bill was withdrawn a day later. Most likely, none of the three bills will be made into law, and Chinese immigrants are considering this a victory. Finally, our voices were heard. Instead of being treated as data points to be studied, all we want is to be respected.
(This article was originally published on the Justice, Brandeis University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1949, Waltham, MA)
For the first time in US history, white Americans are faced with the prospect of becoming a minority in their “own country.” While many in our multicultural cities may well celebrate the “browning of America” as a welcome step away from “white supremacy”, it’s safe to say that large numbers of American whites are more anxious about this phenomenon, whether they admit it or not. Tellingly, a 2012 study showed that more than half of white Americans believe that “whites have replaced blacks as the ‘primary victims of discrimination’.”
Meanwhile, the coming demographic shift has done little to allay minority concerns about discrimination. A recent survey found that 43% of black Americans do not believe America will ever make the changes necessary to give blacks equal rights. Most disconcertingly, hate crimes have increased 20% in the wake of the 2016 election.
When groups feel threatened, they retreat into tribalism. When groups feel mistreated and disrespected, they close ranks and become more insular, more defensive, more punitive, more us-versus-them.
In America today, every group feels this way to some extent. Whites and blacks, Latinos and Asians, men and women, Christians, Jews, and Muslims, straight people and gay people, liberals and conservatives – all feel their groups are being attacked, bullied, persecuted, discriminated against.
Of course, one group’s claims to feeling threatened and voiceless are often met by another group’s derision because it discounts their own feelings of persecution – but such is political tribalism.
This – combined with record levels of inequality – is why we now see identity politics on both sides of the political spectrum. And it leaves the United States in a perilous new situation: almost no one is standing up for an America without identity politics, for an American identity that transcends and unites all the country’s many subgroups.
This is certainly true of the American left today.
Fifty years ago, the rhetoric of pro–civil rights, Great Society liberals was, in its dominant voices, expressly group transcending, framed in the language of national unity and equal opportunity.
In his most famous speech, Dr Martin Luther King Jr proclaimed: “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men – yes, black men as well as white men – would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
King’s ideals – the ideals of the American Left that captured the imagination and hearts of the public and led to real change – transcended group divides and called for an America in which skin color didn’t matter.
Leading liberal philosophical movements of that era were similarly group blind and universalist in character. John Rawls’s enormously influential A Theory of Justice, published in 1971, called on people to imagine themselves in an “original position”, behind a “veil of ignorance”, in which they could decide on their society’s basic principles without regard to “race, gender, religious affiliation, [or] wealth”.
At roughly the same time, the idea of universal human rights proliferated, advancing the dignity of every individual as the foundation of a just international order.
Thus, although the Left was always concerned with the oppression of minorities and the rights of disadvantaged groups, the dominant ideals in this period tended to be group blind, often cosmopolitan, with many calling for transcending not just ethnic, racial, and gender barriers but national boundaries as well.
Perhaps in reaction to Reaganism, and a growing awareness that “colorblindness” was being used by conservatives to oppose policies intended to redress racial inequities, a new movement began to unfold on the left in the 1980s and 1990s – a movement emphasizing group consciousness, group identity, and group claims.
Many on the left had become acutely aware that color blindness was being used by conservatives to oppose policies intended to redress historical wrongs and persisting racial inequities.
Many also began to notice that the leading liberal figures in America, whether in law, government, or academia, were predominantly white men and that the neutral “group-blind” invisible hand of the market wasn’t doing much to correct long-standing imbalances.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the anti-capitalist economic preoccupations of the old Left began to take a backseat to a new way of understanding oppression: the politics of redistribution was replaced by a “politics of recognition”. Modern identity politics was born.
As Oberlin professor Sonia Kruks writes, “What makes identity politics a significant departure from earlier [movements] is its demand for recognition on the basis of the very grounds on which recognition has previously been denied: it is qua women, qua blacks, qua lesbians that groups demand recognition … The demand is not for inclusion within the fold of ‘universal humankind’ … nor is it for respect ‘in spite of’ one’s differences. Rather, what is demanded is respect for oneself as different.”
But identity politics, with its group-based rhetoric, did not initially become the mainstream position of the Democratic Party.
At the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, Barack Obama famously declared, “There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.”
A decade and a half later, we are very far from Obama’s America.
For today’s Left, blindness to group identity is the ultimate sin, because it masks the reality of group hierarchies and oppression in America.
It’s just a fact that whites, and specifically white male Protestants, dominated America for most of its history, often violently, and that this legacy persists. The stubborn persistence of racial inequality in the wake of Barack Obama’s supposedly “post-racial” presidency has left many young progressives disillusioned with the narratives of racial progress that were popular among liberals just a few years ago.
When a grand jury failed to indict a white cop who was videotaped choking a black man to death, black writer Brit Bennett captured this growing mistrust in an essay entitled, “I Don’t Know What to Do with Good White People”:
We all want to believe in progress, in history that marches forward in a neat line, in transcended differences and growing acceptance, in how good the good white people have become … I don’t think Darren Wilson or Daniel Pantaleo set out to kill black men. I’m sure the cops who arrested my father meant well. But what good are your good intentions if they kill us?
For the Left, identity politics has long been a means to “confront rather than obscure the uglier aspects of American history and society”.
But in recent years, whether because of growing strength or growing frustration with the lack of progress, the Left has upped the ante. A shift in tone, rhetoric, and logic has moved identity politics away from inclusion – which had always been the Left’s watchword – toward exclusion and division. As a result, many on the left have turned against universalist rhetoric (for example, All Lives Matter), viewing it as an attempt to erase the specificity of the experience and oppression of historically marginalized minorities.
The new exclusivity is partly epistemological, claiming that out-group members cannot share in the knowledge possessed by in-group members (“You can’t understand X because you are white”; “You can’t understand Y because you’re not a woman”; “You can’t speak about Z because you’re not queer”). The idea of “cultural appropriation” insists, among other things, “These are our group’s symbols, traditions, patrimony, and out-group members have no right to them.”
For much of the Left today, anyone who speaks in favor of group blindness is on the other side, indifferent to or even guilty of oppression. For some, especially on college campuses, anyone who doesn’t swallow the anti-oppression orthodoxy hook, line, and sinker – anyone who doesn’t acknowledge “white supremacy” in America – is a racist.
When liberal icon Bernie Sanders told supporters, “It’s not good enough for somebody to say, ‘Hey, I’m a Latina, vote for me,’ ” Quentin James, a leader of Hillary Clinton’s outreach efforts to people of color, retorted that Sanders’s “comments regarding identity politics suggest he may be a white supremacist, too”.
Once identity politics gains momentum, it inevitably subdivides, giving rise to ever-proliferating group identities demanding recognition.
Today, there is an ever-expanding vocabulary of identity on the left. Facebook now lists more than fifty gender designations from which users can choose, from genderqueer to intersex to pangender.
Or take the acronym LGBTQ. Originally LGB, variants over the years have ranged from GLBT to LGBTI to LGBTQQIAAP as preferred terminology shifted and identity groups quarreled about who should be included and who come first.
Because the Left is always trying to outleft the last Left, the result can be a zero-sum competition over which group is the least privileged, an “Oppression Olympics” often fragmenting progressives and setting them against each other.
Although inclusivity is presumably still the ultimate goal, the contemporary Left is pointedly exclusionary.
During a Black Lives Matter protest at the DNC held in Philadelphia in July 2016, a protest leader announced that “this is a black and brown resistance march”, asking white allies to “appropriately take [their] place in the back of this march”.
The war on “cultural appropriation” is rooted in the belief that groups have exclusive rights to their own histories, symbols, and traditions. Thus, many on the left today would consider it an offensive act of privilege for, say, a straight white man to write a novel featuring a gay Latina as the main character.
Transgressions are called out daily on social media; no one is immune. Beyoncé was criticized for wearing what looked like a traditional Indian bridal outfit; Amy Schumer, in turn, was criticized for making a parody of Beyoncé’s Formation, a song about the black female experience. Students at Oberlin complained of a vendor’s “history of blurring the line between culinary diversity and cultural appropriation by modifying the recipes without respect for certain Asian countries’ cuisines”. And a student op-ed at Louisiana State University claimed that white women styling their eyebrows to look thicker – like “a lot of ethnic women” –was “a prime example of the cultural appropriation in this country”.
Not everyone on the Left is happy with the direction that identity politics has taken. Many are dismayed by the focus on cultural appropriation. As a progressive Mexican American law student put it, “If we allowed ourselves to be hurt by a costume, how could we manage the trauma of an eviction notice?”
He added: “Liberals have cried wolf too many times. If everything is racist and sexist, nothing is. When Trump, the real wolf, came along, no one listened.”
As a candidate, Donald Trump famously called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”, described illegal Mexican immigrants as “rapists”, and referred disparagingly to an Indiana-born federal judge as “Mexican”, accusing the judge of having “an inherent conflict of interest” rendering him unfit to preside over a suit against Trump.
Making the argument that Trump used identity politics to win the White House is like shooting fish in a barrel. But us-versus-them, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant sentiments were bread and butter for most conservatives on the 2016 campaign trail. Senator Marco Rubio compared the war with Islam to America’s “war with Nazis”, and even moderate Republicans like Jeb Bush advocated for a religious test to allow Christian refugees to enter the country preferentially.
We are also seeing on the right – particularly the alt-right – political tribalism directed against minorities perceived as “too successful”. For example, Steve Bannon, Trump’s former White House chief strategist, has complained that America’s “engineering schools are all full of people from South Asia and East Asia … They’ve come in here to take these jobs” while Americans “can’t get engineering degrees … [and] can’t get a job”.
This brings us to the most striking feature of today’s right-wing political tribalism: the white identity politics that has mobilized around the idea of whites as an endangered, discriminated-against group.
In part this development carries forward a long tradition of white tribalism in America. But white identity politics has also gotten a tremendous recent boost from the Left, whose relentless berating, shaming, and bullying might have done more damage than good.
One Trump voter claimed that “maybe I’m just so sick of being called a bigot that my anger at the authoritarian left has pushed me to support this seriously flawed man.” “The Democratic party,” said Bill Maher, “made the white working man feel like your problems aren’t real because you’re ‘mansplaining’ and check your privilege. You know, if your life sucks, your problems are real.” When blacks blame today’s whites for slavery or ask for reparations, many white Americans feel as though they are being attacked for the sins of other generations.
Or consider this blog post in the American Conservative, worth quoting at length because of the light it sheds:
I’m a white guy. I’m a well-educated intellectual who enjoys small arthouse movies, coffeehouses and classic blues. If you didn’t know any better, you’d probably mistake me for a lefty urban hipster.
And yet. I find some of the alt-right stuff exerts a pull even on me. Even though I’m smart and informed enough to see through it. It’s seductive because I am not a person with any power or privilege, and yet I am constantly bombarded with messages telling me that I’m a cancer, I’m a problem, everything is my fault.
I am very lower middle class. I’ve never owned a new car, and do my own home repairs as much as I can to save money. I cut my own grass, wash my own dishes, buy my clothes from Walmart. I have no clue how I will ever be able to retire. But oh, brother, to hear the media tell it, I am just drowning in unearned power and privilege, and America will be a much brighter, more loving, more peaceful nation when I finally just keel over and die.
Trust me: After all that, some of the alt-right stuff feels like a warm, soothing bath. A “safe space,” if you will. I recoil from the uglier stuff, but some of it— the “hey, white guys are actually okay, you know! Be proud of yourself, white man!” stuff is really VERY seductive, and it is only with some intellectual effort that I can resist the pull … If it’s a struggle for someone like me to resist the pull, I imagine it’s probably impossible for someone with less education or cultural exposure.
Just as the Left’s exclusionary identity politics is ironic in light of the Left’s ostensible demands for inclusivity, so too is the emergence of a “white” identity politics on the right.
For decades, the Right has claimed to be a bastion of individualism, a place where those who rejected the divisive identity politics of the Left found a home.
For this reason, conservatives typically paint the emergence of white identity as having been forced on them by the tactics of the Left. As one political commentator puts it, “feeling as though they are under perpetual attack for the color of their skin, many on the right have become defiant of their whiteness, allowing it into their individual politics in ways they have not for generations”.
At its core, the problem is simple but fundamental. While black Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, Jewish Americans, and many others are allowed – indeed, encouraged – to feel solidarity and take pride in their racial or ethnic identity, white Americans have for the last several decades been told they must never, ever do so.
People want to see their own tribe as exceptional, as something to be deeply proud of; that’s what the tribal instinct is all about. For decades now, nonwhites in the United States have been encouraged to indulge their tribal instincts in just this way, but, at least publicly, American whites have not.
On the contrary, if anything, they have been told that their white identity is something no one should take pride in. “I get it,” says Christian Lander, creator of the popular satirical blog Stuff White People Like, “as a straight white male, I’m the worst thing on Earth.”
But the tribal instinct is not so easy to suppress. As Vassar professor Hua Hsu put it in an Atlantic essay called “The End of White America?” the “result is a racial pride that dares not speak its name, and that defines itself through cultural cues instead.”
In combination with the profound demographic transformation now taking place in America, this suppressed urge on the part of many white Americans – to feel solidarity and pride in their group identity, as others are allowed to do – has created an especially fraught set of tribal dynamics in the United States today.
Just after the 2016 election, a former Never Trumper explained his change of heart in the Atlantic: “My college-age daughter constantly hears talk of white privilege and racial identity, of separate dorms for separate races (somewhere in heaven Martin Luther King Jr is hanging his head and crying) … I hate identity politics, [but] when everything is about identity politics, is the left really surprised that on Tuesday millions of white Americans … voted as ‘white’? If you want identity politics, identity politics is what you will get.”
A controversial Massachusetts bill, the Asian Data Disaggregation Act (H.3361), is under consideration by the state legislature. If enacted, it would require “all state agencies, quasi-state agencies, entities created by state statute and sub-divisions of state agencies” to identify Asian American, and only Asian American, people based on their country of origin or ancestry.
The bill is a senseless approach to a sensitive issue. In fact, it will essentially create an Asian Registry and has many unintended consequences.
H.3361 is a form of racial profiling because it singles out Asian Americans, down to their nationality even if they are born in the United States. Disaggregation means separating something into its component parts. No matter the intent, the outcome is obvious. Not only the first generation of immigrants, born in a foreign country, need to identify themselves by their country of origin, but also their children who were born in the U.S. and their children’s children by the country of origin of their ancestors. Theoretically, there’s no end to the generations this could affect.
First, let’s look no further than America’s own history. The hyphenated American was a commonly used term from 1890 to 1920 to disparage Americans of foreign heritage. President Theodore Roosevelt was an outspoken anti-hyphenate. And he said “There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all.” And he continued, “The one absolute certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities.” Under the proposed bill, there will be many hyphenated Americans with Asian heritage, boxes for Chinese-Americans, Vietnamese-Americans, Indian-Americans, Cambodian-Americans and Korean-Americans, etc.
Second, to be perfectly clear, H.3361 is not a form of census because the U.S. Census requires all races and ethnicities to be classified and surveyed, not just Asian American. Moreover, the U.S. census is granted by Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution and administered by the U.S. Census Bureau, under very strict data collection, data security and privacy rules and regulations. More important, H.3361 is not a scientific method of collecting data. Census data is gathered by one federal agency at one given time through a single standard census form. It’s a snapshot of the entire population at a point in time. But under H.3361, the racial, ethnic or ancestry data would be collected by many different agencies at many times using many different data entry points, which will result in redundant effort, data overlap, double counting, as well as vast data tabulation, normalization, correlation, reconciliation, consolidation and cleansing issues. It is an unscientific as well as imprudent way of collecting sensitive personal data.
Potentially, the disparate datasets from different agencies could be unreliable, inaccurate and unusable for policymaking due to its flawed data collection method. It is a waste of taxpayers’ money, and a waste of the state funding and resources.
Third, the mental and psychological impact on hundreds of thousands of Asian immigrants and their children can’t be underestimated. Many Asian Americans are keenly aware of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, the long suspected hidden Asian quota in many top American colleges and universities which echoes the Jewish quota of 1920s, not to mention the Nazi concentration camps as well as the Jewish Registry created by Nazi Germany from 1939 ethnic data collection and which led to the identification, prosecution and ethnic cleansing of Jews. Since H.3361 was introduced, racial tensions, angers, resentments, anxieties, and fears among Asian communities have been running high. There were half a dozen protests and demonstrations held in the last 6 months by various Asian organizations and groups.
The bill also reinforces a perpetual foreigner mindset and stereotype. It would alienate many patriotic Asian Americans by reminding them of an Asian Registry. It would solidify discrimination and racism against Asian Americans, many of whom were born in this country. It’s a wrong approach. If we disaggregate Asian Americans, by the same logic, should we disaggregate European Americans into German American, Irish American, Italian American, Jewish American, or Scandinavian American, for instance? Should we disaggregate African Americans into Somalian American, Ethiopian American, Egyptian American, or Ghanaian American?
And what about people with parents from different countries, different racial or ethnic lines? How many boxes do they have to check? This is dividing, not uniting, our country.
The U.S. has racially and culturally progressed faster than some of our lawmakers’ abilities to comprehend. Interracial marriages and multiracial kids are quite common nowadays even if some lawmakers are still stuck in last century.
Ironically, the bill is sponsored by State Rep. Tackey Chan, D-Quincy. He and his supporters argue that having disaggregated data on Asian Americans could improve awareness of the needs of the different Asian populations, help target local and state funding and resources for underserved Asian minority subgroups. Some also claim that data collected on specific Asian American subgroups means distinctive medical and disease conditions can be identified, leading to appropriate and better diagnoses and treatments.
But H.3361 isn’t the solution. The better alternative is to provide social, financial, or language education assistance to anyone, especially the first generation of immigrants, based on an individual’s economic or linguistic needs regardless of one’s race or country of origin. There are socioeconomically disadvantaged families and kids across racial and ethnic lines from any country, all of whom need help. Fundamentally, such assistance should be need-based according to income level and language proficiency, not race or ethnicity.
As to the demographic data for research and diagnosis, many medical experts dismiss the notion that the differences between Asian subgroups are more statistically significant than the differences between European or African subgroups on a biological or genetic basis. The decennial U.S. Census data and estimates in-between provide better datasets for research and analysis. And there will be a fresh U.S. Census dataset in 2020, including statistics on all racial and ethnic groups.
Finally, the cost of H.3361 clearly outweighs any potential benefit. Selectively collecting data on racial and ethnic minority groups is culturally insensitive, morally objectionable and legally contentious. It’s unconstitutional. Why single out Asians? Can we do this to the Jews or Arabs? Where does this end? This kind of legislation continues the unfortunate path of identity politics, a losing cause for any individual or any group, and especially for this great state and our nation. Racial profiling or any form of identity politics does a disservice to our humanity. H.3361 needs to be stopped.
George Shen, of Newton, was born in China and is a naturalized citizen of the United States who has lived in Massachusetts more than 20 years. He is an associate partner at IBM, Cambridge, specializing in data analytics & Watson solutions. His technical papers on data management include “Big Data, Analytics and Elections” in Analytics Magazine, and the cover story,“Unplugged – The Disconnect of Intelligence and Analytics,” in Information Management Magazine.