Saturday, March 01, 2003

Asian College Students Arguing for Affirmative Action Reform

I was thinking of calling this one "Asian Americans Argue Against Affirmative Action" but I thought the alliteration was a bit over the top. Anyway, Samuel Kang and David Yau of Stanford University write an opinion piece on affirmative action in the Stanford Daily. Though I agree with many of the points made in the article, it represents one of the more blatant expressions of racial self-interest I've seen lately in a college newspaper: taking away spots from white guys (though apparently not white women) is fine and dandy, but don't mess with Asians.

In our nation's history, blacks, Native Americans and women have suffered particularly extreme cases of oppression ... However, the group that should be held accountable for undoing this legacy is the group that was historically responsible for, and also most benefited by, that oppression. Thus if a university decides preferentially to accept applicants of the above-mentioned groups, then the only people who should have to forfeit admissions spots are white males ... [currently, however] affirmative action at many colleges hurts Asian-American applicants even though they played no role in oppressing the aforementioned groups.

Well, it's something short of a clarion call for justice and equality among the American people, but it's good to see Asian-Americans speaking out against affirmative action anyway.

Finally, aside from issues of social equity, many people justify race considerations as a means of increasing campus diversity. While this reasoning may sound nice, it rests on a flawed assumption. Being in a place of higher learning, we want a diversity of ideas rather than of physical appearances. Most students would probably agree that while race is a decent indicator of physical appearance, it is at best a very loose indicator of a person's ideas. Why, then, do proponents insist that a racially diverse university is an intellectually diverse community?
Suppose a university¡¦s motive is to diversify the ideas of the student body through varied cultural backgrounds. Then the application process should directly assess an applicant's relationship with his or her culture through essays or surveys. Otherwise, admissions personnel are effectively assuming that students of one ethnicity will have a cultural background different from students of other ethnicities. Are we to believe that third- or fourth-generation immigrant children who have lived in the United States since birth, and who have almost no connection to their cultural heritage, somehow add diversity to a school just because they are of a certain race?

I personally agree quite strongly with Steve Sailer when he argued that colleges really concerned with preparing their students for an outside world in which cross-cultural interaction skills are at a premium should simply admit more international students; admitting assimilated minority kids who have basically the same life experience and cultural referents as any other kid from their high school and neighborhood doesn't provide much benefit to the rest of the student body to offset the cost of their having to deal with less-qualified classmates. Ironically, since most colleges tend to admit international applicants at a lower rate than domestic applicants, the international applicants who actually get in are on the whole harder-working and better-prepared than the average domestic applicant, which from the average students' point of view has managed to promote the misconception that pretty much everyone in the rest of the world is smarter than us lazy Americans. (I wonder if this isn't a contributing factor to anti-American attitudes among college students.)

On the other hand, however, I'm living, breathing proof that having more international students around may reverse the cultural assimilation and social integration of minority ethnic-group students. Although, if it leads them to adopt a less confrontational attitude towards the mainstream, it could be worth it.

Asian-Americans and Military Service

New California Media reports briefly on Asian-Americans in the US military. I'll quote the entire excerpt, because it's short:

Koreans Outnumber Other Asians in U.S. Military Service
Koreans lead other Asian Americans in the U.S. armed forces, according to numbers released by the Pentagon in the Korea Times.
As of last October, Asian American service men and women -- active and reserve -- numbered 16,740. Koreans made up more than one third of this number, with 6,367 serving in the army, the Pentagon statistics showed. Koreans were followed by Japanese Americans with 3,794, Chinese (3,616), and Vietnamese (2,963).

That is to say, on a per-capita basis, Koreans are 1.24 times as likely as Japanese (who are 74% as numerous in the general population), 2.24 times as likely as Vietnamese (who are equally numerous), and 3.25 times as likely as Chinese (who are 2.15 times as numerous) to volunteer for US military service. Those statistics consider the population counts only for those who marked a single ethnicity on the census; if mixed-race individuals are included, only the ratio between Koreans and Japanese shows any significant change; Koreans are 1.66 times as likely as people claiming any Japanese ethnicity to enter military service. It's unclear whether the Pentagon statistics included individuals of mixed race in their counts of Asian-Americans.

The most obvious fact influencing this disparity is that Korea is the only Asian country mentioned with mandatory military service. Immigrants to America from Korea have thus grown up with the expectation that they'd have to go into the military at some point in their lives anyway, so they're more open to the idea of joining up even when they come to the States. They may have also passed this attitude on to their children; it's also unclear how many of the Koreans in the US military are immigrants and how many are US-born.

Compared with other Asians, Koreans have more readily accepted military service as a way of settling their immigrant lives, said Sgt. Kenny Ahn, a Korean-American official at the Hollywood U.S. Army Recruit Station, which covers Los Angeles Koreatown.
"Young immigrants easily accept the idea that Army service is the best opportunity to learn English, get free college education and enjoy overseas life experience," said Ahn, who reported he recruited more than 40 Koreans for active duty during his two-year assignment at the station. Ahn, 31, described himself as a typical example. He joined the army 10 years ago, went to college in Texas and served in Hawaii before being transferred to his present duty.

See also this St. Louis Post-Dispatch article from a few weeks ago about immigrants in the Marines (link courtesy of Chuck Simmins). In general, as Israel has already found, the military can act as a powerful engine for the integration of immigrants, giving them the opportunity to improve their command of English and to gain the social skills necessary for interacting with mainstream Americans. Hopefully the modern craze for multilingualism in government won't extend to this institution.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Yellow/Brown Conflict and Self-Segregation

Thanks to YW for the link. Daily Princetonian reports:

An organizer of the search engine gank.princeton.edu --- which operates off of the University network --- posted a message Tuesday drawing attention to possible self-segregation among Asian students and questioning the University's diversification efforts. The message included the last names of 21 Asian students from the Spelman room draw list and three rhetorical questions which offended many: "aZn self-segregation? Spelman internment camp? Why do we bother with diversity?"
Many of the individual words in those questions were linked to other articles expanding on diversity and segregation issues. Niraj Bhatt '03, the site's operator and a Butler College Minority Affairs Adviser, would not comment specifically on the message but said he is now working to organize a debate about self-segregation through Whig-Clio. Yesterday, Bhatt posted an apology in place of the list of names.

The Daily Princetonian also published a follow-up article as well as an opinion piece on this topic. gank.princeton.edu appears to be either offline, or merely inaccessible to off-campus users, though I'm a bit curious as to why I can't even find anyone who links to it.

Interestingly enough, we can see that the poster of the message in question was not white, but South Asian. Not just any kind of South Asian either, but apparently an engineering major, who, if he continues in his present career path, will find himself working with many East Asians in the future. Anyway, to those who think that East and South Asians naturally share any community of interests besides having been lumped together in the federal census, we yellow fellows aren't usually referring to our brown brothers when we say "we Asians," and most of the people I know would classify a Bangladeshi guy dating a Korean girl as an interracial relationship (and some of them would describe it in just as vulgar terms as they would a white male-Asian female relationship).

As the token Chinese guy in an apartment of Indians (and a Tibetan who grew up in India and speaks Hindi), I've noticed that South Asians tend to more segregated in the realm of dating and relationships, but less segregated in their daily social life (e.g. white people actually come eat lunch with us and show up to parties at our place). It seems to lead to a reduced level of racial tension with whites, at least judging from my surface impressions. On the whole, South Asians seem better integrated than East Asians.

In any case, I've said it in the past, and (with modifications reflecting the fact that my view has changed somewhat since I started writing this blog) I'll say it again: social integration and cultural assimilation are only vaguely related, especially among American-born Asians. Don't mistake a large proportion of professionals, strong family values, high educational achievement, or even a complete loss of original ancestral culture and language, for the kind of personal assimilation into the mainstream which European immigrants underwent last century. The "model minority" myth, which blamed black failure on lack of assimilation to white values and presumed Asian success came from assimilation to those same white values rather than genes, culture, or plain old parental pressure arising from vestiges of the old culture or a response to past discrimination, completely blindsided mainstream commentators - they never saw Asian-American segregation coming when they started praising the community in the 60s and 70s for impressive work ethic and university advancement rates.

Young Asian-Americans, especially males, are adopting an increasingly antagonistic posture towards the mainstream, and seeking to segregate themselves from it --- with Americanization serving to increase rather than mitigate that antagonism (FOBs also tend to segregate themselves from the mainstream, but 1.5 generation kids don't, at least to the same extent as either the American-born or the later immigrants). Notice that all of the affected individuals interviewed in connection with the article were Chinese-American males (though this article, just posted, interviewed a Korean or Korean-American female also affected). I'm willing to speculate that the full list of 21 names included far more males than females --- anyone have more information?

One last piece of advice: Google sees all. It gets harder and harder to retract your statements these days.

Update: More on the idea that South Asians are simultaneously more socially integrated and less culturally assimilated with Americans than East Asians. First, this student Niraj Bhatt who made the comments complaining about is himself a minority affairs advisor and a member of the Hindu Student Council at his university, has been featured on rediff.com's news section, and had some harsh words about Christian missionary activity in Asia and blasted his university for providing funds to a student group travelling to India to perform charitable work with a Roman Catholic organization. Yet even this guy finds the extent of East Asian-American cliquishness on campus disturbing. (Yes, it may seem like I'm stalking this guy. As I said, Google sees all. You can find out a lot about a person, especially a student --- a few quotes in the school newspaper, membership in student organizations, field of study, etc. Actually, it kinda scares me - what have my internet stalkers, presuming I have any, been able to find out about me?)

Also, Razib reminds me duende (also over at GNXP) pointed to this WaPo article about arranged marriages among US-born Indians. Apparently there's enough of them doing it that specifying in one's personal ad that one is ISO a US-born Indian actually produces responses from other interested families. Unusual contrast to E. Asian Americans, who have almost entirely adopted the American attitude towards dating, but remain within the ethnic group --- we often hear of an all-Asian group of guys getting together and complaining about their dating prospects to each other, but they wouldn't really consider white girls, only Asians, and never in even the most desperate of circumstances would they imagine asking their parents for help.

Asian Students React Favorably to Affirmative Action Bake Sale

Or, at least that's what it looks like to me:

University of California students, from left, Lee Kwon, Tammy Chang and Judy Li react while reading a bake sale sign that includes prices based on the ethnicity of the buyer, on the university's campus in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2003. Conservative students at the University of California cooked up an unusual protest Wednesday, holding an 'affirmative action bake sale' --- treats priced according to the buyer's ethnicity, gender and social status. The student protestors were attempting to illustrate the unfairness they see in affirmative action policy. (AP Photo/ Marcio Jose Sanchez)

From Yahoo! News. Thanks to YW for the link.

Links, Archives, and Other Details

After all these months of assiduous blogging on issues of immigrant integration and interracial interaction throughout the world, I'm seeing my efforts and first-hand knowledge of the subject matter paying off --- my previous all-time most-accessed post, concerning Asian massage parlors in Tennesee, has now been surpassed by my biting commentary on computerized toothbrushes. Thanks to Gizmodo for all the publicity.

In addition, I'd like to take the time to introduce you to some recently added links: Chi-Chu Tschang, a journalist in Beijing, and Simone Koo, a fellow undergraduate blogger and neural networks researcher. Also, does anyone know what happened to Suara Anum? I seem to be the last one to learn of their sudden demise or vacation, and I miss them, even though their presence served as a constant reminder that my reading skills in Bahasa Melayu mysteriously absconded during the decade in which I neglected them.

Finally, I've fixed the problem with the archives, so the menu of past posts sorted either by topic or by date now once again reflect all material posted up until now. Furthermore, a few highlighted posts from the past can be found linked to in the sidebar, at right.

Irrelevent Addendum to Previous Post

A language question. From the article mentioned in the post below:

Japan's written language includes traditional Chinese characters. The Japanese word for bankruptcy spells out "born again" in Chinese.

As far as I've seen, Japanese usually uses the word hasan to refer to bankruptcy, written in the same way as Chinese po chan - though san could refer to birth, I'm not quite sure where the writer is getting the "again" part from, since ha just means broken. Maybe he's referring to shindai kagiri, or another term I just don't know about?

Or maybe the author just made this part up. It's a nice myth. I wouldn't be surprised if it became an incredibly wide-spread piece of trivia and even began to appear on inspirational posters, only to be fruitlessly debunked by snopes.com. I bet Professor Miyake would know, though I'm not sure if he reads this page. If this is for real, I could probably find mention of it in Mr. Mo's book Japanese (Words) Which Seem Strange to Chinese People.

Chinese-Japanese and Chinese FDI in Japan

Sorry for the meta-blogging as of late ... my senior project continues to take up much of my time, and friends visiting from Japan took up the rest. About two weeks ago, I read a Washington Times article about the increasing number of Chinese companies who are swooping into the depressed Japanese market to acquire assets and advanced technology at bargain-basement prices in order to further their own ambitions of breaking into high-end markets, archived here:

Yasutaka Kojima, president of the Akiyama Machinery Manufacturing Corp., a fallen champion in once-mighty Japan, began negotiations to hand over his business to a state-owned company from the People's Republic of China. He would seek salvation -- cash, and expertise in the art of capitalism -- from Shanghai Electric Co., a conglomerate still controlled by the Communist government ... In the past two years, at least seven Chinese companies have purchased majority stakes in such diverse Japanese ventures as metal processing and textile operations, according to Recof Corp., a leading Japanese mergers-and-acquisitions research firm

Managers from the officially Communist country have been finding they could teach Japan a few things about the art of commercial management and negotiation. However, their methods are likely to result in a great deal of temporary dislocation of workers, and the precise kind of "creative destruction" which the Japanese government has been unwilling to permit.

"China is more capitalist than Japan in terms of labor issues," said Akira Kan, president of the home-appliance division of the Japanese giant Sanyo Electric Co., which sold its microwave-oven division to Guangdong Midea Holding Co. in October 2001.

It seems likely to me that Mr. Kan is actually of Chinese descent - judging from his Japanese given name, probably second or third generation. He seems to have done quite well for himself in Japanese society, as have other later 2nd generation Chinese and even immigrants such as Mo Bangfu, author of The New Overseas Chinese and many other books on modern Sino-Japanese cultural relations, who immigrated to Japan in 1985 for further studies.

So far, Chinese immigrants, unlike their Korean counterparts, have been well-received. What happens, however, when Chinese companies are swooping in to buy up assets in a depressed economy at the same time as Chinese laborers, many illegal, are flowing into the country? They're causing tension not just because of Japan's infamous ethnocentrism and bias against foreigners, but also because of their own criminal behavior. Even students have been implicated in heinous crimes.[1].

Though seven companies may seem like too small number to have any significant effect on the attitude of the man on the street, recall that Detroit autoworkers murdered a man they believed to be Japanese while pundits wrote books declaring the unassailable superiority of the Japanese business model, in an era during which Japanese FDI in America and Japanese manufactured imports, despite their high profile, were dwarfed by European investment. And there is no shortage of negative media attention for Chinese in Japan.[2]

Right now, Chinese in Japan don't seem to be subject to the same kind of social discrimination as zainichi Koreans --- for example, many Chinese-Japanese retain and publically use Chinese surnames, unlike Korean-Japanese, virtually all of whom use a Japanese pass-name. However, they're likely to be a more unified community - there's no parallel among modern Chinese immigrants to the North-South divisions and hardline Communist affiliations among the Korean community in the post-war era. Furthermore, for the moment, they're poor, and not likely to try to create their own school system (especially given their lack of ideological or religious, rather than merely cultural, motivation to do so) preferring instead to send their children to Japanese public schools, where, as numbers of Chinese increase, incidents of bullying may as well.

Finally, even among the youngest generation of Chinese who have been watching Japanese television shows and listening to Japanese pop stars all their lives, there remains an extreme resentment towards Japan as a whole for the atrocities of WWII, which has absolutely no parallel among Chinese immigrants anywhere else.[3] Such an attitude will likely be passed on by adult immigrants to their children any time they have to explain the reasons behind some incident of discrimination to them.[4] So on the whole, it's likely that the children of these immigrants will grow up with a strong sense of identity as Chinese due to the numbers of their own community and discrimination they face from the mainstream, but at the same time, on a cultural and linguistic level, mostly assimilated to Japanese society and taking influence from no other popular culture besides that of Japan, and having no other culture to fall back on for acceptance or support if they find themselves rejected by Japanese people for whatever reason. Sound like any other overseas Chinese community you know?

Minority resentment against the mainstream leading the minority to adopt a confrontational stance, a large second-generation population insistent on reforming Japanese society to accept them because they have nowhere else to go, and an increasingly unemployed Japanese population watching foreigners buying up Japanese assets and transferring manufacturing to China, doesn't sound like such a favorable combination to me for Chinese people in Japan.[5]

[1] This is something of an embarassment, considering that the popular image among Chinese of our own immigrants to Japan, to the extent that it exists at all, is not really that of the laborer off to strike it rich and give his kids a good life, like the image of immigrants to the West, but remains that of the young scholar nobly pursuing learning and coming back to help the nation, because of Lu Xun, Sun Yat-sen, and Lee Teng-hui, to name a few of the more famous ones.

[2] Granted, some of this attention may be overexaggerated. Ryogo Mabuchi of Nara University has statistically demonstrated the bias of Japanese newspapers against foreigners, by comparing the crime rates for Japanese and foreigners to their appearance in 2,579 articles about crime in the Asahi Shinbun for six months of 1998, and found that the arrest of aa foreigner was almost five times as likely to be mentioned in print as the arrest of a Japanese.

[3] It's difficult to get Chinese people to say they actually "hate" America or Britain, as opposed to simply hating some particular Western government policy or military action, but now I've had three graduates of top universities in China confide to me that they hate Japanese people, upon finding out that I have studied Japanese.

[4] Despite the famed Japanese politeness, incidents of everyday discrimination are hardly absent - Mo Bangfu, in an interview with a mainland magazine, cited an incident in the 1980s which he was thrown out of a shop and told to go back to China for complaining about the condition of an item he had just purchased.

[5] Worse yet, the mainland Chinese government might decide to involve itself in the matter, turning a domestic problem into an international diplomatic crisis, as Gordon Chang (author of The Coming Collapse of China), who penned this pro-illegal-immigrant article supporting the legalization of the estimated 100,000 illegal Chinese laborers in Japan, suggests.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Japan: Technology and Society

Despited a rather lower adoption rate of computers for business purposes (for example, customers at Japan Railways' ticket offices still have to look up prices in a hundreds-of-pages-long book or ask the clerks to do it for them), Japan has long been famous for creative applications of technology in the sphere of everyday life. Here's one more, for which I can see absolutely no possible present use. (Link in Japanese, but click it if you want photos). English translation mine:

Novel and Strange USB-Connective Product On Sale
This Time It's an Electric Toothbrush
Another novel and different kind of USB device has entered the market. This time, it's nothing other than an electric toothbrush which connects to a PC's USB port. It is being offered for sale at ComSatellite's #3 shop at the price of 1280 yen [about US$10.50] (for details see New Product Find of the Week [translated below].) However, they've only stocked one for now.
That is, because this product was created from an presently-marketed AAA-battery electric toothbrush (on sale for 480 yen [about US$4.00]) according to ComSatellite's own USB specification [???], this time is only a "test sale," as it were. If it receives good reviews, the manufacturer plans to increase production. The battery terminal inside the toothbrush is connected directly to a USB cable, and so the toothbrush can't be used with batteries.
Also, the product comes with a two week original warranty from the shop. Rest assured you'll probably soon be able to purchase an updated version.
Because there's only one in stock, it will be difficult to obtain, but collectors of strange USB devices are going to be waiting for the company to increase production.
New Product Find of the Week
An electric toothbrush which operates on USB power. There are all different kind of USB-powered products being sold, but this is the first toothbrush. A normal, reasonable priced electric toothbrush created at ComSatellite's #3 shop, it's sold with their special warranty (2 weeks). They say it is "convenient for things like cleaning PC parts."
The original electric toothbrush (480 yen) was powered by 2 AAA batteries, but because this toothbrush was created specifically for use with a USB port, it doesn't accept batteries.
As of the present (22nd February, Saturday) it's sold out, but is expected to be restocked on or after the 24th (Monday).

Talk about taking the human-computer interface to a ... well ... different level. Despite the statement of the manufacturer about its uses for cleaning PCs, they're still advertising it as a "toothbrush" rather than a general electrically-powered cleaning device. For now, it only uses the USB port to draw power, but if people get used to the idea of turning on the computer to brush their teeth, or bringing their laptop to the bathroom, with computer-guided brushing and inspection Japan's national dental hygiene could be greatly improved.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Incomprehensible searches of the week

Can tell me about test IQ thought a Japan? If not, maybe you're interested in buying elderly Asian Americans?

More metablogging

MSNBC reports on a potential aids vaccine which, despite appearing no more effective than a placebo on average, had some efficacy in protecting blacks and Asians, but not whites nor Hispanics:

An experimental AIDS vaccine does not appear to protect most whites and Hispanics from the disease but may show promise in protecting blacks and Asians, said VaxGen Inc., the company that makes the vaccine. NBC¡¦s Robert Bazell cautioned that the results showing possible protection among some racial groups were highly inconclusive and represented ¡§a very small part of a study that was essentially negative.¡¨ ... The expected infection rate for the 314 black volunteers who received the vaccine was reduced by 78 percent ¡X a result the researchers said was unexpected. The rate was reduced by 67 percent for all non-white volunteers other than Hispanics.

Update: bloggers with rather more experience than I in discussing matters of human biodiversity have picked this one up.

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