Asian-Americans Are Not Only Not White, They Are Not Really "Asian"

"Asian" is a made-up construct that obscures more than it illuminates.

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I agree with the general thrust of Eugene's post yesterday, in which he describes the phenomenon in which "white" has come to mean "relatively successful as a group," with "Asians" often being described, implicitly or explicitly, as white because they are deemed a socioeconomic success.

But I would like to add a more radical critique, which is that lumping together people whose recent origins range geographically from India to the Philippines is itself not very useful, and that if we need to gather statistics about, or discuss, "Asians," at most we should be discussing the attributes of various national (and better yet subnational, though getting such statistics is difficult) groups, rather than "Asians."

As I point out in my forthcoming Southern California Law Review article, The Modern American Law of Race:

The Asian American category includes people descended from wildly disparate national groups, who do not have similar physical features, practice different religions, speak different languages, vary dramatically in culture, and belong to groups that sometimes have long histories of conflict with one another. Various subgroups of Asian Americans have differing levels of average socioeconomic success in the United States —Indian-Americans, for example, on average have significantly higher-than-average incomes and levels of education, while on average the incomes of Hmong and Burmese Americans are well-below the American mean. Korean-Americans have the highest rate of business formation for any ethnic group in the United States, while Laotians have the lowest. The Asian category meanwhile excludes people from the Western part of Asia, such as Muslim Americans of Yemeni origin, who may face discrimination based on skin color (often dark), religion, and Arab ethnicity. Only a minority of people in the Asian category identify with the "Asian" or "Asian American" labels.

When we talk about "Asian Americans" being "overrepresented" (ughh…) in American higher education, we are referring primarily to Indian-Americans (who are by far the most "overrepresented" "Asian" group) and Chinese Americans. By contrast, Filipinos (the largest Asian-American minority), Vietnamese, and other Asian groups are not especially prominent at elite schools.

Eugene writes that "white" has stopped meaning "Caucasian," and thus Asians are sometimes depicted as white, but note that Indian-Americans are primarily "Caucasian" even though they tend to have dark skin, and therefore were almost classified by the U.S. government back in the 70s as white.

And while we're on the general subject, lumping together the groups we call "Hispanic" or "Latino" also makes little sense:

The Hispanic category generally includes everyone from Spanish immigrants (including people whose first language is Basque or Catalan, but not Spanish) to Cuban Americans of mixed European extraction to Puerto Ricans of mixed African, European, and indigenous heritage to individuals fully descended from indigenous Mexicans. Members of the disparate groups that fall into the "Hispanic" or "Latino" category often self-identify as white, feel more connected to the general white population than to other Spanish-language national-origin groups, and sometimes diverge from members of other Hispanic demographic groups in political outlook as much or more than from the general white population. Moreover, "census data show substantial differences in levels of income and educational attainment among the national origin groups in which data about 'Hispanics' are usually classified." Not all Hispanics, meanwhile, consider themselves to be part of a minority group, and "some who claim minority status for themselves would reject that status for others" (for example, they might reject it for well-educated professionals who immigrate from South American countries and are considered white in their home countries). People of Portuguese or Brazilian ancestry, who are not of Spanish culture or origin, are nevertheless sometimes defined as Hispanic by legislative or administrative fiat.

I've delved a bit into the "intersectional" literature, to try to understand how scholars who believe that success in American life is primarily about the "privilege" of one's group explain the relative success and failure of groups like "Asian" writ large, but also the obvious difference in subgroups. It's a huge, risible mess. For example, one scholar posits that whites "let" Chinese and Japanese immigrants succeed because, unlike Vietnamese and Cambodian immigrants, they are relatively light-skinned. Putting aside whether the skin color thing is even true, one wonders how and when whites got together to decide this, how they enforce it, and how it explains why the most "successful" of all immigrant groups are Indian-Americans, who are relatively dark-skinned. But to an ideological hammer, everything looks like a nail.

NEXT: Another week, another warhead

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  1. “The Asian American category includes people descended from wildly disparate national groups, who do not have similar physical features, practice different religions, speak different languages, vary dramatically in culture, and belong to groups that sometimes have long histories of conflict with one another.”

    This is certainly true of Whites as well. And pretty much every other group. In fact, when people say, “Group X is not a monolith”, I’m wondering what group is.

    1. My forthcoming article:
      Most Americans take the categories of “African American,” “Native American,” “Asian American,” and “Hispanic” for granted. And yet there is no inherent logic to using these categories, nor to their precise scope, and the same, for that matter, is true of the category “white.”

      1. It seems to me that one of the unique problems caused by the African slavery business is the loss of ancestry; all other immigrants can trace their ancestors to specific countries and regions, such as having Swedish-Irish-Lebanese parents. Even if the government lumps all the disparate “Asian” groups into one category, they still can trace their ancestry back to individual countries and specific regions.

        Have the 23andMe, FamilyTree, and other genetic testing companies been able to narrow down African ancestry enough to provide anything similar? Not for the purposes of government categorization, but for the descendants of slaves who are curious.

        1. 23andMe does have multiple groups for Africans:
          Sub-Saharan African
          -West African
          –Senegambian & Guinean
          –Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean
          –Nigerian
          -Northern East African
          –Sudanese
          –Ethiopian & Eritrean
          –Somali
          -Congolese & Southern East African
          –Angolan & Congolese
          –Southern East African
          -African Hunter-Gatherer

          1. Thanks. I wonder how that compares to African tribes, and whether African tribes are as flexible as I believe North American tribes were, or any others around the world; how many were self-isolated enough to be genetically distinct?

            Still, it doesn’t remedy the unique problem of not being able to trace specific ancestry back a few hundred years. I wonder if, say, Chinese immigrants in the 1800s left enough ancestral records for their current descendants to trace it backwards.

            I don’t know much about my own ancestry; never cared that much. But there’s a good chance I could find who immigrated and where from if I wanted, and that is impossible for the descendants of slaves.

            1. I’ve been able to trace a couple lines that immigrated from Europe pre-Revolution. Most lines can only be traced back to the early 1800s. Centralized records weren’t common. Local records were often family bibles.

            2. “Thanks. I wonder how that compares to African tribes”

              Part of the problem is a lack of precision in the tests themselves. Certain specific individual tribes might stand out, like the pygmies, others are inter-bred enough that current genetic testing can’t identify specific tribes.

      2. Please link when it’s available. Highly interested.

        1. Nevermind, you meant this article, and the pre-print is linked. Thanks!

    2. In fact, when people say, “Group X is not a monolith”, I’m wondering what group is.

      Yankees fans. They are 100% pure satanic spawn.

      1. Nickelback fans, as well.

      2. The remaining population of Easter Islanders, for one.

        1. Are there any of the original native population left, or are you referring to the actual stone monoliths?

          1. They ARE the only remaining native population.

      3. Now, now….Let’s not trash talk Yankees fans.

        1. What race is A-Rod??

      4. Yankees fans. They are 100% pure satanic spawn.

        We also have long memories.

  2. Filipinos (the largest Asian-American minority)
    Filipinos are more accurately part of the Pacific Islander category. They are an Austronesian people, a group that includes the Polynesians.

    1. Perhaps more accurately, but statistically the U.S. government has decided they are “Asian Americans,” and that is reflected in American culture.

    2. My personal acquaintance with a lot of Filipinos suggests that they’re more of an mixture of everything in the area. A lot of Thai, some Spanish, you name it.

      1. My experience with my Filipino wife and her family is the opposite. When I visited the Philippines I didn’t see it either. They borrowed some vocabulary and cuisine, but that is about it.

        1. Very heterogeneous island chain. You’ll find everything there if you look around. My wife is originally from Ilo Ilo.

          1. Let’s get to the nitty gritty—who gets to use racial epithets with no repercussions??

    3. Technically, it would be that the Pacific Islander category is part of the Filipino people. The latest research indicates that the larger part of the south sea inhabitants passed thru the Philippines from Taiwan on their long journey to south of the equator.

      When my Filipina wife and I first met in Okinawa in the early 70s she could easily pass for native Okinawan. The Ryukans are quite different in appearance from their Japanese overlords, and belong to a different genetic pot of peoples.

  3. I prefer the old word “Oriental”. Whoever replaced it with “Asian” had a poor grasp of geography.

    1. Well, sure, but “oriental” and “occidental” really depend on where you’re looking from, don’t they? The Philippines are hardly oriental if you’re in California. It’s a very eurocentric terminology.

      Mind, pretending that Europe is a separate continent from Asia is a joke, too.

      1. We all agreed on the Prime Meridian. There was like a vote or something. If California wants to change that, they will have to take it up with the proper authority.

        1. Yes, they took a vote of everybody at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, and it was darned near unanimous.

      2. People with epicanthic folds on their eyes. This is not complicated, folks. If “Occidental” is used for those of us without them that would be fine.

    2. That is now disfavored by some Asians for reasons I can’t fathom.

    3. “Oriental” used to mean (and demeaned) most of the world east of western Europe. The imperialist Brits invented the term “Wog” to refer to Asians — it was supposedly an acronymn for “Worthy Oriental Gentleman”. But the Brits also said, “Wogs start at Calais”, which shows what they thought of western Europeans.

  4. Next: Very dark skinned African immigrants are not really black. They come from intact patriarchal families. They speak the King’s English. They love America. They outperformed whites in the 2010 Census.

    1. Many black Africans, such as those from Sudan and Mauritania, are indeed classified as White, apparently.

      1. That is because they identify as Arab. Arabs are classified as white by the US government.

        1. Yes, but many Arabs are not white. That’s the issue.

          1. Correct. And even many lighter-skinned Arabs don’t like being classified as white. To many, many Arabs, white is equated with the places where their colonizers came from.

    2. Wait, there was a competitive aspect to the census?

  5. ‘It’s a huge, risible mess.’ This doesn’t begin to touch on the ignorance inherent to the viewpoints, nor, for that matter, all modern social ‘justice’ beliefs.

  6. Since homo sapiens evolved in Africa, can we just agree that we are all African Americans?

    1. Even the ones living in Europe or Asia or anywhere other than Africa or the Americas? What about northern and southern Africa?

    2. It’s not a proven fact that homo sapiens evolved in Africa. The ancestor species to homo sapiens provably did though.

      1. The Recent African Origin model says that homo sapiens evolved in southern Africa.

  7. Here’s a crazy idea; the government could just stop being racist.
    Someone once had a dream – – – – – – – – – –

    1. John Roberts?

      1. Yes, Roberts did say that the way to stop discriminating on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race. If he ever leads the Court to rule that way it will make up for a lot.

  8. We are stuck with this rediculous effort to try and evaluate people and judge them based on racial, ethnic and religious characteristics primarily because of the ugly and bitter prejudice and racial hatred that remains in American society against Black people.

    All of us who want America to move to a nation that looks at each of us as individual and not members of a special group need to work to rid America of its anti-Black racist tendencies, actions and efforts to keep looking at people based on the color of their skin. Conservatives, who like myself want to examine each person as an individual instead of as a member of a race should be in the forefront of demanding equality before the law and equality in institutions.

    1. If you capitalize “black”, you are the root of the problem. Stop signalling virtue and start walking the walk instead, by ignoring race instead of emphasizing it.

      1. Pointers on inclusiveness and modernity from conservatives (who are or appease race-targeting vote suppressors, White supremacists, xenophobes, White nationalists, and the like) are always a treat . . . .

        1. So you are identifying me as conservative? You are denying me the privilege of self-identification?

          Sucks to be wrong so much. Sucks to be you.

        2. So, Rev., who is it you and your fellow-travelers are trying to appease? Marxists and quasi-Marxists love using all the divisive “identity” rhetoric.

    2. Rid America of it’s anti-black racism? That’s a joke right? Blacks are the central organizing principle of this country. No policy comes into force without lawyers, journos, politicians, judges and bureaucrats asking “But how does this affect the blacks?” We can’t have voter ID in many places because “how does this affect the blacks?”, we can’t have advanced placement math courses in many schools because “why aren’t the blacks in these programs in greater numbers?”. Retail store owners aren’t even allowed to have bullet proof glass in some high crime areas because “how does this affect the blacks?”

      They’re put on a pedestal so high that a police officer can’t even shoot a black in self-defense without a riot breaking out and 24/7 news coverage about it. In reality, that particular group of individuals commit a grossly disproportionate amount of violent crime and they’re the most likely of any racial group to seek out and commit these crimes against members other races. They are easily the most “racist” group of people in the country. Insofar as there is “anti-black racism” in this country, it’s because they’re impossible to deal with or to live around without having to endure their crime and race hustling.

      America’s racist tendencies are clearly targeting white people, the only group for whom black letter law allows racial discrimination against. The only group for whom the mainstream press and media is constantly agitating against in the most malicious terms.

      1. “America’s racist tendencies are clearly targeting white people”

        Blacks “are easily the most “racist” group of people in the country.”

        “Insofar as there is “anti-black racism” in this country, it’s because they’re impossible to deal with or to live around without having to endure their crime and race hustling.”

        A White, male, movement conservative blog attracts (or cultivates) such an interesting collection of fans.

    3. A new racism has emerged, Sid. If you see a super dark skinned person, you chase after him waving cash and admissions. You are trying to get him to work for you, and not the other guy waving cash. African immigrants are the new Koreans. You will be getting a top performer.

      All -isms are folk statistics, mostly true, most of the time. The above is an example of the accuracy of such evolving -isms. Women soldiers can fly drones from Colorado. They cannot do hand to hand combat. They are not built for it. If you have a black man handle your finances, and hire a Jewish guy for your professional basketball team, you deserve the consequences. Libs may start listing the great examples of these, but will not run out of fingers. The obverse lists will have thousands in them.

  9. It’s almost like putting people in big groups instead of looking at individual characteristics is misleading…

  10. Most Americans take the concept of justice for granted. And yet there is no inherent logic to using this concept, nor to its precise scope.

    1. Most Americans never bother to explain what they mean by justice. It’s not like philosophers haven’t debated it for ages.

      There’s basically two concepts of justice – (1) individuals should get what they deserve (ie, giving each their due, see Aristotle), or (2) Equity (Marx, Rawls’s justice as ‘fairness’, etc…). Most people who know anything about the philosophical debate have a pretty strong opinion on which one it is, and the two positions are fundamentally incompatible. Examples which highlight that incompatibility are prone to cause cognitive dissonance in all but the most committed adherents to their view.

      There’s definitely an inherent logic to both those positions. One of them just happens to be wrong. 😉

      1. The inherent dislogic to equal outcome is that the enforcers of said equal outcome must be more equal than the others in order to enforce it.

      2. If you’ve heard any modern philosophical debate, you’ll see that just deserts and fairness are not always in the tension you think they are.

        And Marx doesn’t discuss fairness much at all, that I’ve seen.

    2. You’re half right. Most Americans at one time had a shared cultural understanding of “justice”. That doesn’t exist anymore, so therefore, we can’t take for granted what “justice” generally means.

      1. But that doesn’t mean laws should not treat with justice.

        1. Well, how are laws created? They are created by the political process, which is downstream of culture. If a country, like the U.S. has a crazy mixed up notion of racial justice, this is the result.

          Justice, which is commonly defined as “to each his due” is therefore in the eye of the beholder.

          But Squirrelloid is right. The smartest minds that humanity has ever produced never could settle on what “justice” actually is in practice. “The Republic” is a giant allegory on justice! So why would you expect average Americans to ponder deeply on it and come to a conclusions? Not to mention, “justice” varies by topic. Naw, you want people to have *your* concept of racial justice.

          1. So, now lets apply that functional definition to this argument:

            Most Americans take the categories of “African American,” “Native American,” “Asian American,” and “Hispanic” for granted. And yet there is no inherent logic to using these categories, nor to their precise scope, and the same, for that matter, is true of the category “white.”

            1. So we should judge everyone as individuals?

              1. On the contrary, it seems to me that by your logic regarding the law and justice, the law should acknowledge race as well.

  11. It was common in the 19th Century, and up to the 1960s or so, for people to label the Japanese as “honorary whites” out of respect for them and their culture. This was, of course, before we started en masse to denigrate whites and white culture, and to fetishize non-western cultures.

    1. What the hell is white culture?

      That’s like saying Native American culture.

      Or, for that matter, Asian culture.

      1. Cultures whose origin point is in Europe and European descended people. You know that, everyone knows that. Pretending not to know what is meant by “white” singles you out as a dishonest person.

        1. That’s nothing like a single culture, as your very post admits.

          1. Yes, but just because there are multiple shades of blue that blend into various purples in our globalist world doesn’t mean “blue” doesn’t exist.

          2. So you think you’ve made some kind of point here? By that standard there is no such thing as German culture because of variations that exist between Bavaria and Brandenburg. You could deconstruct a little more and say there’s no such thing as Bavarian culture because of the the variation between Munich and it’s suburbs. Hell, why don’t you just skip all the bullshit and leap straight towards the premise that there is no such thing as “culture” at all because of lifestyle differences between individuals within any purported culture.

            1. So there is a line where a culture becomes distinct from another. And it maps along racial lines?

              1. It’s a continuum and you know this but you’re clearly incapable of being honest. So there’s not really much point in engaging with you beyond demonstrating to others that you’re full of shit, which has now been thoroughly demonstrated.

                1. He’s being very dishonest. Dare I say, he’s being a postmodernist about this whole issue of “culture”. But oh, “black culture” exists. We can’t deny that to them. Rap music, rampant bastardy, fatherlessness, Negro spirituals, and Jazz music are “black culture” as much as Mozart, Notre Dame, and warfare predominately by projectiles being thrown by various means is “white culture.”

                  1. No, I’m not being dishonest. Just because you disagree with me doesn’t mean I’m lying. Shabby, dude.

                    I’m not being postmodernist either – I’m saying that his choice of where to draw cultural lines seems arbitrary.

                  2. You’re absolutely right, he’s the quintessential postmodernist. Selectively deconstructing any concept that runs counter to the anti-white narrative he is tasked with advancing. People like this should be given all the rope they need to hang themselves with and nothing more.

                    1. Thanks for telling me what I think.

                      I’m trained as a physicist. I’m pretty aggressively modernist.

                      Disagreeing with you doesn’t mean I’m discarding the concept of objective truth.

                    2. Oh, but you *are* telling us what you think. That’s what writing is, after all, your *thoughts* expressed in letters of a language to be transmitted to others.

                      So, yes, based on what you think, you are indeed (at least here) engaging in postmoderist deconstruction of “culture” as it suits you particular ideological goal. Not sure 100% what the goal is, you’ve not told us that yet, but I can guess.

                    3. I have not denied culture is a thing.
                      Rather, I have noted that your understanding about cultural distinctions are neither externally supported nor internally consistent.

                      I would argue that culture doesn’t have bright lines. But that’s hardly postmodernist either.

                      Go ahead and speculate about my sinister goals.
                      I don’t have much of an agenda on this one other than noting that 1) you’re essentializing race in ways that don’t make sense, and 2) when pushed on it, you’re all over the map on your definitions.

              2. No, silly, culture overlaps, even if borders are definite lines. But when, say, one race is the dominant demographic majority in a geographic location, and borders are usually defined by language changes, it’s possible to say that “France” has a culture even if Alsace-lorraine is more German-like than Normandy, while Normandy is more English-like than Burgandy.

                1. Right – so even if there are no bright lines, from this comment, giving culture to a skin color seems like you’re choosing way to wide a set.

                  1. If one are is dominated by people of a skin color, and they have defined political borders and unique languages, by virtue that skin color or by default that they happen to share that characteristic, their culture can be defined as that which emanates from their dominant demographic. You’re trying very, very hard to pretend that white (i.e. European, or Western) culture doesn’t exist. Why?

                    1. Don’t grant him the premise of skin color=race. Sardinians are more darkly complected than many Japanese, that doesn’t make Japanese whites or make Sardinians non-whites. It’s a deliberate obfuscation of the literal color “white” and the racial demographic category of “white”.

                    2. Which group is “white” has changed over the centuries. Even more, groups who wanted to be “white” in the past for the “cache” of it are now trying to be non-white for the diversity points. It still stands, though, that Africa is mostly black and Europe is mostly white and Asia is mostly Asian. Therefore, you can say “white” or “black” or “Asian” when speaking about the culture of those geographic areas.

                      My own sister, Italian/Sicilian with a smattering of French, calls herself “Mediterranean/Middle Eastern” on her social media. We share the same parents, but I’ve yet to call her on it.

                    3. Your first two sentences contradict your third. “It still stands, though” doesn’t change that fact.

                      It also still stands that there is no single culture by any internally consistent metric of the huge continental groups you describe, whether black, white or Asian.

                    4. Your sister is white. If she doesn’t believe me, she can go ask the racial bean counters at her nearest corporate HR department, university admissions office, crime-beat journalist, or social justice activist. None of them are confused about who is white. White people on the other hand, are increasingly keen on identifying themselves with non-white groups so that maybe they’ll be able to get that target off their back.

                  2. I recently read JD Vance’s book. According to government statistics, he and I are both “white,” and it’s certainly true that we share some phenotypical similarities. But the “hillbilly” culture he grew up in and described in that book is entirely foreign to me and how I grew up. We each might get the same reaction from a police officer in a traffic stop, but to generalize and say that we are both “white people,” and that means we are part of the same culture would be wildly mistaken.

      2. I’m not sure you’re asking silly questions on purpose or on accident.

        Culture is admittedly like an impressionist painting; you get a clear picture from afar but the closer you go in scope the more it breaks down. Still, it has a social science definition of the mores and values (which result in institutions) of a particular people. These, you must recognize, exist as independent things.

        Please tell me, that you understand that Western Civilization, even now, is primarily demographically “white” thus things like Enlightenment values and Mozart concerts are, “white culture”.

        1. The point is that whites are not a ‘particular people.’

          Western Civilization is cherry picking. People with white skin occur in a lot more than the thread people call ‘Western Civilization.’

          And it’s also underinclusive plenty of nonwhites were pretty tied up in the workings of the subset of countries that Mozart and the Enlightenment occurred in.

          And that’s not even counting the actual skin color of the Ancient Greeks or Byzantines or those Hebrew tribes.

          Dealing with this kind of false commonality based on skin color is why we won’t be able to stop making racial classifications in our policies anytime soon.

          1. Ah, so you asked a silly question on purpose as bait. I gotcha. I have to stop taking you seriously as a person who wants to actually engage in a dialectic.

            You’re way out there in left field talking about Ancient Greeks…that has very little to do with whether “white culture” based on the values and institutions of the homelands of white people (Europe and some her colonies) actually exists. The ancients who lived in the same areas as Europe today surely influenced said culture, but that has nothing to do with whether “white culture” exists or not.

            Let me reverse things on you. There are ex pats and others that live in majority black and asian counties. Because some whites from elsewhere live in Ghana, does Ghana not have its own culture? Because that’s what you’re saying whether you realize it or not.

            1. No, it wasn’t bait – white culture is not a thing, anymore than the other cultural essentialisms I posted.

              Interesting that whites inherited white culture from nonwhites. That seem quite a trick given how tied race and culture appear in your paradigm.

              Your ‘reverse’ is quite telling. You switch from race to nationality without a motivation I can see. Why do you think that is? (BTW, Ghana doesn’t really have it’s own culture since those national lines are quite recent and arbitrary)

              And I’m making a connection to Prof. Bernstein’s point that racial distinctions are fuzzy. Sure they are, but people are and have made these distinctions, silly as they may be, and we should not legally ignore that fact.

              1. If I were handling, say, the Harvard litigation, the first questions I’d have asked in deposition is how it promotes “diversity” for Harvard admissions to consider Chinese, Mongolians, Indians, Filipinos, Hmong, Laotions, Japanese, and so on and so forth to be part of the same category, and why Harvard believes it promotes “diversity” more to admit the 60th Mexican-American than the first Cambodian-American. Part of the problem with the affirmative action litigation is that it has accepted the relevant categories as if they are somehow logical.

                1. Yeah, that’s a good question. It is absolutely lazy to just use race in seeking diversity.

                  But it’d also be lazy to ignore race in that effort as well.

                  1. The “original” affirmative action case, Bakke, involved quotas for minority groups. Most of the quota slots went to Asians (who already were “overrepresented” at UC Davis Med School) and Mexicans/Hispanics. Yet the case has gone down in history as about social justice for African Americans. Go figure.

                    1. Diverse points of view are good for both for learning and for decision-making, but race is nowhere near the end of that.

                      I don’t know many who buy the current legal rationale of diversity and only diversity as the reasoning behind AA policies. But fractured decisions often make bad law (probably a good article in there for someone).

                      I argue for racial/gender distinctions in arenas where due to network effects or other systemic issues the meritocracy is distorted along group lines, or for capacity building to address the above in a longer term manner (but only where the meritocracy becomes effectively arbitrary.)

            2. Would you quit with the “xyz is ‘telling'” because not only is it stupid, but it gets nowhere, and it so overused it’s as cliche as a Hallmark movie. Saying something is “telling” is presuming the other person is being dishonest, and further, presumes bad faith. You wouldn’t want that, would you?

              I’m not switching from race to nationality, you’re attempting to deconstruct culture, so I used nationality (which has a border and usually a language) as example of specific line drawing. France is “France” as it’s a language and a specific people in a nation, same as Japan.

              It’s difficult to believe (not really) that someone “trained in physics” cannot understand that you’re goalpost moving results in someone clarifying their argument by analogy.

              1. I use it because it communicates how your comment is revealing things.
                In this case, that you yourself don’t have a good handle on your cultural distinctions.

                You’ve been talking about race this whole time as though it has a distinct culture. Then you switch to nationality. Your justification that the line drawing is arbitrary is halfway to proving my point about the white race.

                It’s not moving goalposts to point out how you are shifting your distinctions about what external indicia define a culture.

                You don’t appear to have a very good handle on this concept of culture that you’re discussing.

          2. “actual skin color of the Ancient Greeks or Byzantines or those Hebrew tribes’

            Basically the same as today. We have Roman and Greek paintings and descriptions that tell us that.

            Dark hair, “olive” skin [often very tanned] but distinctly “white” coloring and features.

  12. “But I would like to add a more radical critique, which is that lumping together people . . . is itself not very useful.” FTFY.

    1. So when presented with the option to send your kid to a predominantly black school or a predominantly white school, you flip a coin?

      1. Just guessing here… but one could… maybe? just maybe? consider other factors other than race. I mean… if one were so inclined. Things like post school attainment, fights, etc. And while there may be a correlation between race and those things… there certainly are enough schools of a predominant race of one type that does not fit the “mold”, so to speak… enough that one ought to actually look at those data points and not simply rely on race.

        1. Maybe, just maybe but the odds are overwhelmingly against it. Race is a startlingly accurate heuristic. There are exceptions though, exceptions so rare that they prove the rule.

  13. The Asian category meanwhile excludes people from the Western part of Asia, such as Muslim Americans of Yemeni origin, who may face discrimination based on skin color (often dark), religion, and Arab ethnicity

    While I agree with Prof. Bernstein’s thesis in general, this is a weird example, and I want to explain why.

    (Weird in that possibly literally nobody thinks Yemenis are “Asian”, not that they might not face various discrimination for various reasons.)

    Because in practice, “Asian” in American (and AFAIK Anglosphere) usage in general has never meant “people from any part of the continent of Asia as defined back through the ages”; it has always meant people from the Eastern end of the Continent, to the best of my knowledge and observation of usage.

    Someone from Yekaterinburg was born on the continent of Asia, but is not Asian, even if their family has lived there since time immemorial, by common usage. Ditto for the Middle East; nobody thinks Arabs are “Asian”.

    (“Oriental” has been applied to the Turks and Persians, via the Ottomans, much more recently, but more as a cultural “not-the-West” thing, in my experience, than an ethnic claim.)

    The term as used simply does not refer to the landmass as a whole.

    Central Asians get called … Central Asians, because usage realizes that no-modifier Asian means someone from the Eastern part.

    “Peoples related to, neighboring, or strongly influenced by China and/or India” is probably the shortest definition of “Asian” as it is used that I can think of; that includes all the example groups in the article except the Yemenis, and I can think of no obvious exceptions to it.

    IOW, “but Asian should mean From Anywhere In Asia” doesn’t matter and doesn’t work, because that’s not how people use language.)

    1. That’s not quite true. There was extensive litigation in the early 20th century as to whether Lebanese, Armenians, Indians, and more counted as “Asians” for the purpose of laws excluding Asians from naturalization. And in fact, there is a district court case from 1942 or so denying naturalization to a Muslim immigrant from Yemen on the grounds of Asian-ness.

      1. The language of litigation is hardly influential upon the language of everyday speech. The US government could legislate tomorrow that “white” includes Orcs and Klingons and microbial lifeforms on Europa, and the courts could agree, but that would not change how the term “white” is commonly interpreted. Outside the realm of law and policy, it really doesn’t matter how courts or government agencies define the term. People know what the category includes and what it doesn’t.

        1. I’m pretty confident that if the US government has defined people from the Indian subcontinent as white, Americans would not consider them to be white, especially if, like Nikki Haley, they are relatively fair-skinned. Of course the law affects ordinary language, especially when the legal classifications show up on mortgage applications, employment applications, the census, college applications, etc.

          1. >Of course the law affects ordinary language, especially when the legal classifications show up on mortgage applications, employment applications, the census, college applications, etc.

            You’re describing the law’s affect on legal classifications as seen on mortgage applications, employment applications, the census, college applications, etc. You’re not describing it’s affect on popular understanding or identity. Your first sentence doesn’t comport with your second sentence.

            1. Why do we think of Filipinos as Asians rather than Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, or something else? Why is Nikki Haley “Asian” instead of white? Why are Greeks, Armenians, and Turks considered white, but Mexicans of Spanish origin are considered “people of color?” It’s not because American culture decided these things independent of law.

              1. >Why do we think of Filipinos as Asians rather than Pacific Islanders

                In no small part due to the fact that “pacific islanders” is a non-descriptive category like “Hispanic” has become. Austronesians in general are genotypically and phenotypically closer to East Asian populations than they are to any other broad racial group. The “pacific islander” category includes groups like Papuans, who while having some limited Austronesian admixture and many speak Austronesian languages, are racially more akin to Australian Aborigines than East Asian groups like Koreans, Japanese or Han Chinese etc.

                >Why is Nikki Haley “Asian” instead of white?

                Nimrata Haley is Indian. Dot not feather.

                >Why are Greeks, Armenians, and Turks considered white

                Because they are. So are many Afghan groups for that matter.

                >but Mexicans of Spanish origin are considered “people of color?”

                They’re not considered that outside of courtrooms and legal documents. I’m sure you don’t want to get into the nuts and bolts of the Mexican racial caste system, but they’re considered white there too by regular people. I grew up with Spaniard descended Mexican immigrants in a small midwest town and everyone considered them white. And we most certainly did decide that independent of law.

              2. “Why do we think of Filipinos as Asians rather than Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, or something else?”

                Do we, actually? My sense is that to average Joe the generic term “Asian” refers to those with the epicanthic fold. Filipinos would be grouped with other SE Asians. The term South Asian is a relatively new term, prior to say the year 2000** anyone from the sub-continent would be “Indian.”

                **That’s when I remember hearing the term, YMMV.

              3. >Why do we think of Filipinos as Asians rather than Pacific Islanders

                I think it is mostly who is north and who is south of the Equator.

          2. I’m not sure whether Americans consider subcontinental Indians to be white or not, and if not white, then what? There is the new category “brown,” I guess.

            I agree with those who have said the American conception of “Asian” refers to East Asians, or in older racial terminology “Mongoloids” or “the yellow race.”

            The 1923 decision in U.S. v. Singh established that, although Indians may be Aryan, this does not make them white, because ordinary Americans didn’t consider them to be Caucasian. But then what are they?

            Of course an individual of Indian descent may “look” white/Caucasian/European.

      2. That is true, but it’s also true that the U.S. Census definition of “white” includes the Middle East and North Africa, and has included Lebanese, Arab, and Moroccan as examples of white people. I believe this goes back a little after that case you cited, which I don’t know. Was the issue that the person was Yemeni or that he was Muslim? If Arab Christians ever had trouble naturalizing because they were “Asian,” I have not heard about it.

        1. IIRC, the Yemeni case was a “we know it when we see it” kind of case. The status of Lebanese (and Armenians) was controversial for a time in early 20th century, eventually resolved as them being white. Historians say they emphasized that they were Christians, and that helped prove their whiteness. I’m not sure. Tens of thousands of Jews emigrated to the US from the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century, I have seen claims that their whiteness was questioned, but I have yet to see a footnote providing an actual example of litigation over, say, a Beirut-born Jew’s eligibility for naturalization.

          1. I am of Lebanese descent myself. Certainly there was some discrimination in the early 20th century but I’d consider it more akin to what Slavs, Sicilians, and other “ethnic” Europeans were going through.

            It is always ironic when Armenians are not considered white since they are literally Caucasian.

            Before I was a lawyer, I was a title examiner, and I used to jot down examples of deed restrictions targeting nationalities other than “black” or “African.” In southeastern Virginia/eastern North Carolina, I ran across restrictions targeting Syrians.

    2. Even this definition is absurd. What sane metric groups Indians and Chinese together? Hell, due to the caste system its often insane to group Indians together.

      1. “What sane metric groups Indians and Chinese together? ”

        Nothing “sane” about US racial classifications.

        There were huge, frigid mountains and dense jungles between China and India. So, little connections.

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