Alone in a Room Full of Science Writers:
You can never overestimate how empowering it is to see someone who looks like you—only older and more successful. That, much more than well-meaning advice and encouragement, tells you that you can make it.
This sort of sentiment is commonly heard. Though I disagree with the sentiment personally, I don’t think it is an illegitimate perspective. But it’s a widely disseminated perspective. Those who feel alienated by their experience as a minority (or any sort) are vocal, and for various social-cultural reasons are given a platform to air their views. And these feelings are clearly within the natural range of human personality types. I have had white friends of broadly liberal social and political views admit discomfort when they are the ethnic minority.
But there are others who are less shaped by our self-perception as different. Some of this is probably heritable personality. All my siblings are as sanguine as I am about feelings of racial alienation, more or less (we don’t really have them), despite growing up in white areas of the United States where we were a minority. In my case I grew up a rural region of the Inter-Montane West which would definitely count as part of “Amurika.”
Mind you, I was subject to racism. And I’m sure many people were racist toward me in subtle ways which I was not aware of. The feelings of alienation due to minority status, and the need for “role models,” probably is conditional on a particular personality type. I don’t deny the legitimacy of these genuine feelings. Some of my friends share them. But, I think it is important not to erase people like me out of the picture. We may be less vocal (on this issue) or less common (I think this is so), but our existence should at least be acknowledged.
To illustrate my own perspective, I feel much more comfortable in a room of evolutionary geneticists than in a room filled with people who “look like me,” because the former are much more likely to share my passions and defining life experiences. Because of the nature of this world evolutionary geneticists tend to be persons of pallor (though not all). That doesn’t bother me, I can see myself reflected in their faces even if the pigment and mien are greatly disparate.
This post is mostly for Google, and for my own future reference to put up as a link. Razib Khan refers here to the blogger for the Gene Expression website (his Twitter). I am sometimes referred to as an ‘atheist/and or/cultural Muslim’ on the internet. I don’t take offense to such a term being applied to me, but I generally attempt to correct the impression, and am of the opinion that it misleads people. The reasons are mostly personal, and since I do not share personal details of my life much on the internet it is a defensible prior to assume that I am a “cultural Muslim” (at least if you haven’t followed me for 10 years, and so could not have gleaned aspects of my personal disposition and history from chance references).
Because of registration spam being a persistent problem on this weblog I have moved comments to a Disqus system. In the future I will allow WordPress comments to be displayed for archives, though they are gone for now….
Miss America 2013 is an Indian American woman, Nina Davuluri. This has predictably ushered in lots of sad and sometimes so-sad-it’s-funny (frankly) racism on Twitter. But there’s another interesting angle: a friend pointed out that Nina Davuluri is probably too dark skinned to win a beauty pageant in India!
Don’t believe me? To the left is Miss India 2013. You think that’s an aberration? First runner up is a young lady with blue green eyes, and unlike the winner does not even seem to exhibit a brownish hue. Second runner up has green eyes, and also not brownish. Google images Miss India to get a better cross section. Or better yet, look at the Femina Miss India photostream (this is the organization which produces international beauty queens who represent India).
See my post and Zack Ajmal’s. Also, in case I didn’t make it clear enough in the post: I think that post-Indo-Aryan incursions were probably non-trivial. I now lean toward the proposition that the Jat populations of northwest India and Pakistan do derive in part from a late migratory event.
Like father like daughter
At the super market my wife pointed out an article in the parenting section which she stumbled upon while waiting for me to finish at the checkout line, Is She Yours?
In a stray moment I decided to see if the article was online, and it was
. There are peculiar parallels to my own life to that of the author. We are both of the same age, and grew up in the United States as brown Americans who regularly had to deal with the “Where are you from?” question. And, both of our spouses are white Americans. Finally, we both have daughters who do not look distinctively South Asian.
To summarize the thrust of the author’s piece, because she is a dark skinned woman with a very light skinned baby random strangers often presume she is a nanny, or seem to behave rudely. You may infer from this that she must live in a benighted and backward sector of “Red America,” but in fact she resides in Palo Alto, California! Frankly I’m more confused than anything else in this day and age, because interracial couples and interracial children are so common in the United States. But there is one thing that I can add to this discussion, and that’s my own experience. Like the author I’ve had a fair number of people who have obviously expressed a little surprise at seeing me with my daughter, as to all outward appearances she is a small white girl (no one has ever questioned her mother’s biological maternity). But they have never been rude, and obviously no one can mistake me for a nanny. And yet I have seen multiple pieces such as Is She Yours? written by non-white women who have mixed-race children who implicitly “pass” as white due to their physical appearance.
I am on the record as thinking that modern feminism is by and large a destructive cultural force when judged by human contentment. But it is good to reminded some days that it is good to be born a man.
Turns out my webhost installed a robots.txt file that disallowed crawling at some point when servers were being moved. I have changed that.
I have no idea who reads this blog anymore. Who are you?
At The American Conservative Rod Dreher posts an email from an Indian American correspondent. It’s thoughtful, as befits an individual who is a medical professional. That being said my initial sentiment is in line with the first comment. That being said, balance between individual and collective identities and loyalties is important. And my own personal aversion to South Asian collective identities is probably due in part to their nearly obligate identification and reverence for barbaric primitive superstitions (Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, and Christianity). People from the subcontinent who are not particularly pious themselves still often give the nod to the wisdom of superstition, so it is almost impossible not to alienate yourself from kith and kin when you sever the bonds of said superstition (this is one reason why conversion across religions is also problematic in South Asian society).
Speaking of collective identity my friend Reihan Salam has a post up which reports on research that indicates rapid erosion of ethnic-racial identity for many Asian and Latino groups. The crux is that when individuals outmarry identification in subsequent generations is very weak to nil. Though Reihan’s focus is on Latinos within the research it is reported that 37 percent of second generation Indian Americans no longer identify with their parental ethnic identifications. I suspect this erosion is in part due to the diversity of Indian Americans and their liminality within the American racial framework (though officially “Asian,” South Asians are always marginal in the US context to this identity, and though not “Middle Eastern” are often confused with this class, which is officially white).
I’ve been busy with things besides blogging (in any case, this is not my primary blog; I have one I actually get paid to write for another one). But when I read the comments I’m a little surprised at how dull and/or unhinged many of you have are. So I’m going to start browsing a little more to get a sense of who to cull. In case you don’t know I actually host this domain, so I think I have final say on that, though I leave day-to-day management of this weblog to others.
Feel free to leave a stupid comment on this post so I can ban you.