First, your comparison downplays the unique history of discrimination against Black people in…
Alfred Yun
2

In contrast to you, I don’t believe your race is your destiny. I don’t even believe it’s important.

You write: “First, your comparison downplays the unique history of discrimination against Black people in America. Over the past four centuries, Black history has included nearly 250 years of slavery, 100 years of legalized discrimination, and only 50 years of anything else. Jews and Asians, on the other hand, are populations that immigrated to North America and included doctors, lawyers, professors, and entrepreneurs among their ranks. Moreover, European Jews are able to function as part of the White majority. To expect Blacks to show the same upward mobility as Jews and Asians is to deny the historical and social reality that Black people face.”

I guess you weren’t reading my words carefully, huh? I’ll quote what I’d written in the post of mine that you responded to:

There is no question in my mind that black Americans have had it worse than everyone else because of the particular history America has with slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination, etc. I don’t doubt for a second that all of this has greatly contributed to poverty, broken families, low education levels, high crime and the rest.

First, how exactly is that “downplay[ing] the unique history of discrimination against Black people in America”? It actually specifically stresses that African-Americans have had it worse than everyone else, and it specifically acknowledges the results of that. So it seems you’re trying really hard to intentionally misinterpret or ignore what I wrote.

Second, the vast majority of Asians and Jews and Italians and Irish and Greeks and Eastern Europeans and pretty much everyone else who came to this country were not “doctors, lawyers, professors, and entrepreneurs.” (If they were successful professionals back home, they would’ve never left to come here, in most cases.) They were uneducated poor people looking for better economic opportunities. They moved into urban ghettos, faced discrimination, including “official” discrimination in the form of things like the Chinese Exclusion Act or the kind of affirmative action that kept Jews out of elite universities, and “unofficial” discrimination in the form of attitudes that kept all these people out of white-shoe offices, country clubs and other places where WASP professionals worked and mingled. And yet these groups disproportionately succeeded. They didn’t do it by blaming everyone else for their sad lot and complaining about discrimination. They did it by working hard, getting educated, getting jobs and proving to the WASP majority that they belonged, that all the negative stereotypes about their inferior intellectual abilities were unjustified. Despite the greater obstacles they face, this same path is the ONLY path that’s going to work for blacks as well. The blame game is a game no one can win. It’s just creating bad feelings all around, inciting new rounds of anti-white racism and anti-black racism and leading to a general downward spiral in race relations without actually achieving anything of value for black communities. Again, that’s what I discuss, with lots of statistics included, in this article, so I won’t repeat all the points I make in great detail there.

You write: “Second, not all Asians are successful. Pacific Islanders and Southeast Asians are examples. Not all immigrants other than Black people are successful. It’s quite funny that you, who decries Black-White dichotomies, just declared that it’s a struggle between Blacks and everyone else.”

Yes, that’s correct, and you can add to that list Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and various others. Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld’s book The Triple Package offers an excellent rubric through which to understand why people from some cultures disproportionately succeed while others disproportionately fail, and it’s all based on culture, not race, because the successful groups span every race and continent, as do the unsuccessful ones. But my point is that the groups you’re talking about, even if they aren’t super-successful, aren’t generally going around whining and blaming everyone else for their problems. Black Americans are the only ones coming out in large numbers and whining about discrimination keeping them down and asking everyone else (most of whom had absolutely nothing to do with the history of such discrimination) to give them a handout in the form of (more) affirmative action, (more) reparations (beyond the many decades of government subsidies they’ve already disproportionately received), (more) representation (beyond the extent to which this 13% of the population is already way over-represented in nearly every aspect of popular culture), etc. That’s why I’m saying this is really about African-Americans vs. everyone else. These people (the vocal whiners, not all African-Americans, obviously) are dragging down American society, undermining Western culture, including high culture, hurting our collective morale, hurting race relations and ultimately hurting their own cause. Everyone else needs to band together and say, “Time to shut your mouth and start working hard like the rest of us!” and yeah, I get that people who have been down for a long time have many more obstacles to overcome and have to work that much harder than everyone else to get to the same point, but that’s been true for most poor communities in the world for the entire history of the world. You can’t rifle through history trying to figure out which group was historically most oppressed and start equalizing outcomes in the present based on that. As @dmikov said in response to your post, a case can be made that the Jews faced far more historical persecution than anyone else, for example. Russians like myself came from the historical background of centuries of serfdom (that got abolished around the same time as slavery was ended in the U.S.), brutal 20th century totalitarianism under Stalin, mass suffering and loss of life during the world wars, especially during World War II, when they lost more lives than anyone else (my grandmother’s entire family —parents and siblings — starved to death during the Siege of Leningrad, for example), etc. So do we also need a leg up to get ahead? I mean, this is just stupid. As I argue here, we need to stop trying to correct for real and perceived historical injustices, stop playing this game of “who had it worse?” and start dealing with the world we live in today. No handouts for anyone. I’m just as much against corporate cronyism and legacy admissions as I am against affirmative action, and I’m all for maximizing equality of opportunity. I’d even ban all private schools so that no one gets a leg up that way, and so that you don’t have a system like we have in N.Y.C., where all the rich white kids’ parents take them out of the public school system, leaving impoverished, underfunded, race-segregated public schools that are largely black and Hispanic. I hate stuff like that. But I’m not about to fix one injustice by condoning another. Two wrongs don’t make a right, as they say.

You write: “Third, you seem to credit the lower admission of Asians almost squarely on affirmative action. Legacy clauses and other factors like stereotypes that Asian students were not ‘well-rounded’ candidates and rarely participate in extracurricular activities helped lower the admission of Asian students according to many Asian American researchers.”

As the article on affirmative action that I linked to earlier explains, the whole “well-roundedness” thing is just another strategy that was used, historically, to keep the number of Jews down and is now being used to keep the number of Asians down. It’s just another form of affirmative action, in other words. African-Americans are supposed to be more “well-rounded” despite having lower test scores and grades. There’s even a new initiative afoot now at elite universities to revise admissions standards even further in this direction. I’ve recently discussed those new standards and the harm they’re going to do (not from a racial standpoint but from an academic standpoint) in an article in Times Higher Education here.

You write: “It is essential for a democracy to educate the demos at the highest level and for the different tribes in a society to engage each other in a shared space. Excluding Blacks and Latinos is not conducive to democratic values.”

No one is talking about excluding blacks and Latinos. That’s a misleading presentation of the issue. If a university actually tried to exclude them, that would be clear discrimination on the basis of race. The issue is whether African-Americans should get the benefit of a racially biased admissions process that favors them over higher achievers based solely on the color of their skin, regardless, even, of any individual’s specific history of economic hardship or encounters with racial discrimination. In terms of what “is not conducive to democratic values,” I’d say that judging people on the basis of their race is not conducive to democratic values. It’s immoral, and it’s downright disgusting. Students should be admitted on the basis of their qualifications; race is and should not be a qualification for anything. That’s precisely the kind of tarnished history we’re trying to get away from; we can’t be saying, “don’t judge me on the basis of my race, but give me a race-preference so I can get into a better college, while disadvantaging someone else on the basis of their race to keep them out.”

You write: “Fourth, you keep throwing around 23% as if it is a significant number. It is the difference between 9% and 11%. That’s not a big difference.”

Maybe you don’t understand how the math here works, but that little difference makes (almost) all the difference in terms of the disparity you later see in drug arrests and incarceration. Imagine that there is a society composed of 200 people, 100 blacks and 100 whites (we’ll keep it simple for this thought experiment), and of the 100 blacks, 11 use/sell drugs, and of the 100 whites, 9 use/sell drugs. Imagine all 11 blacks and all 9 whites are caught and arrested. Elementary math question: by what percentage does the number of blacks arrested for drugs exceed the number of whites arrested for drugs? Answer: 22.2%. So, you see, that little difference between 11 and 9 is sufficient to account for a big percentage disparity later on. When you add, on top of that, the fact that cops are more likely to be policing the crime-ridden urban neighborhoods where blacks are disproportionately likely to live and the fact that black drug use is more likely to happen outdoors where it is visible to cops, you account for the rest of the percentage disparity.

You then write that, regardless of the reasons for the disparity, “[t]he results are horrendous: they destroy communities (with a racial disparity), and the War on Drugs, in general, fosters an unhealthy relationship with drugs.” I disagree. The reason for the disparity matters. The point is that it’s not due to racism; it’s due to real-world differences that make sense. But I do completely agree with you about the need to change drug laws, especially as concerns marijuana use, which should totally be legal (though I don’t use it and have never used it myself, for the record). I am also for legalization of other drugs (people should be permitted to do stupid things when they’re the only victims of their own stupidity, and then those drugs would be regulated and taxed instead of being illegally trafficked and resulting in all the violence and other crime that comes along with that package). But currently, the drug laws are what they are, and blacks tend to violate those laws at a higher rate and in a different way from the manner in which whites violate those laws. The penal system simply reflects that fact.

Finally, you write: “Lastly, stop bringing up my people as some token example for your argument. It’s funny that you keep race-baiting me by bringing up Asians, especially implying that I’m Chinese. I am not Chinese and I do not need you to remind me of the Asian experience in the US. Asians are a large group of people and the reasons for their relative success are complicated — and not always triumphant.”

My main response to this is huh? When did I say or even imply in any way that you’re Chinese (or even any sort of Asian)? I have no idea what you are. I don’t care what you are. I’m using the example of Asians because they are the main victims of affirmative action at this point in time. You were the one who initially brought up affirmative action, not me. In response, I cited to you an article that discusses the history and current impact of affirmative action and which happens to talk a lot about its horrific impact on Asians. The article is one I’ve discussed previously a few times on Medium, and it had nothing to do with whether or not my interlocutors were or weren’t Asian. My point about Asians with regard to affirmative action is that Asians had absolutely nothing to do with slavery or anti-black discrimination in America, and yet they’re the ones who have to bear most of the burden of unjust policies such as affirmative action. I don’t think I should be in any stifled from making that point just because you may or may not be some sort of Asian. Consistent with my remarks, your race isn’t important to me or a salient factor in my discussions with you. I care about your ideas, not your appearance. I wish everyone had that approach.

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