America has been good to immigrants and we should be honest about who we are

By Razib Khan 119 Comments
Bangladeshi American teens preparing for NYC selective school admissions exam

Since there has been rather persistent confusion about my Unherd piece I will clear up a few things. I am rather tired of talking about it now, as I “said my piece”, but sometimes things need to be done.

First, for many months (years), friends of various backgrounds (brown and non-brown) have been speaking to me of the issue of very self-righteous South Asian American (Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi) “social justice warriors.” There’s nothing wrong as such being a social justice warrior and brown, but, the problem is that these individuals often accrue to themselves the full-weight of colonialism and centuries of oppression to add to their credibility and authority.  The reason I finally punched out the Unherd piece is that an Indian scientist who I am familiar with made a reference to trauma and oppression on Twitter. This resulted in many “likes” and praiseworthy comments. It was a vague and amorphous statement and could mean anything, but the response made it clear that most people took it to be that they were alluding to the weight of colonialism and racism.

The problem I had with this is I know that this individual, a Brahmin raised in India, is from a literally rich family. Rich enough to pay undergraduate American tuition for international students in full. And, rich enough to pay graduate school tuition when otherwise this person would have to take up a teaching assistantship. This is not a person who is well-off in the Indian context. They’re well off in the American context.

This is an extreme case. But it illustrates a more general problem. People who by dint of their brown skin claim to be, or allow people to believe they are, marginalized and oppressed. The vast majority of brown Americans can tell you stories of racial discrimination and prejudice. That is true. But are these experiences determinative in their lives? Does their race define and limit them in a deep and powerful manner?

I would argue not. Today the Americans of brown background are flourishing. Indian Americans in particular are socioeconomically advanced, and now, becoming culturally prominent. Just like their white upper-middle-class peer, Indian Americans are benefiting from the system, and flourishing within it. Their realized outcomes are very different from African and Latino Americans. Some of the same is also applicable to poorer newer ethnic groups, such as Bangladeshis, who begin much lower on the socioeconomic ladder but are placing their children into elite public schools like Stuyvesant.

Second, selective immigration from India has resulted in a very atypical Diaspora. Many who responded to my piece argue that selective immigration is the whole story, so why bring caste into it? Because the criteria used have skewed the India Amerian community in a way where it is not representative of India at all. I am personally not bothered by this. But again, when issues such as caste oppression come up in the USA, non-Indians may not realize when talking to Indian Americans that they will almost never interact with a Dalit, who are 15% of India’s population (one could argue that except for Gujarat the “Cow Belt” is also totally underrepresented due to the way immigration has worked). Many Brahmin Indian Americans I know are vociferously against caste (sincerely, and in their actions!). But to me, this is a laudable idealism, not something that comes out of historical brutality, because their ancestors were willing executors of the system. In this way, they are like upper-class white people who wish for a more egalitarian economic system. Their views are sincere, but it comes from idealism, not trauma.

As a brown person from Bangladesh people who knew where I was from would always make assumptions about my background, as Bangladesh was the byword for incredible poverty for the second half of the 20th century. Those that did not know my family was of professional background would ask naive questions, such as “did you grow up in a hut?” I found it amusing, but I did make it clear that I couldn’t personally speak to the poverty and deprivation which were such serious concerns for everyone about the country of my birth. In Bangladesh, I was a very privileged person. In my day to day life in the USA, this was irrelevant, but I wasn’t going to go around speaking with authority about how horrible grinding Third World poverty was. It was just in many ways just as abstract for me as it was for my white classmates. Honestly, if I did grow up in a hut I’d probably brag about it since it would make my Horatio Alger story so much more inspiring.

Overall, the point of the piece is that when you make identity so important to the content of someone’s arguments and the force of their views, it creates a massive incentive for individuals to cultivate and shade their identity to add credibility. Ergo, a Nigerian American whose family is wealthy from brutal oil extraction which results in human rights violations and crimes in their ancestral homeland will likely not expose this fact when castigating a middle-class white American about their “white skin privilege.”

Brown American should just accept what they are in the main: a relatively privileged people from whom America works, who have to deal with some incidents of racism in their lives.

9+

119 Replies to “America has been good to immigrants and we should be honest about who we are”

  1. I tried to self-understand what in that piece was so disquieting before posting a comment. Not the syllogism or the technicalities or the cloak of words. I mean, I do not carry any brief for Brahmins. Then what was it?

    It was the realisation that Indic origin persons couldn’t comment on American society, it’s divides or give opinions without having to look backwards into questionable inheritances of privilege.

    To put it bluntly, just two blog posts ago, we were discussing “India in the Persianate Age”. Did Eaton check his moral privilege deficit before writing tomes on a land about which he is not a part of? Didn’t his father actively discriminate against coloured persons under Jim Crow laws? And here Eaton is, theorising about an era actively detested by at least 200 million Indians.

    If Eaton can, then Saira can too.

    1. Saira can comment but she is not being honest. That’s the point. Eaton conducted historical research. It’s the difference between opinion and facts but unfortunately the line between the two is increasingly blurred.

          1. So is Eaton’s. His forefathers stole land with genocide, lived off slave labour for two centuries. What agency does Eaton have to comment or write about Hindu Muslim relations in a land 12000 Kms away?

            How bizarre does that sound?

      1. \ Eaton conducted historical research. It’s the difference between opinion and facts\
        Who says History is all facts available only to historians. What ‘facts’ a historian looks at, and what ‘reasons’ he/she gives for those ‘facts’ are ideology dependent.
        David Starkey has been a well known professor of history in Britain , having number of TV programs also. About BLM, he said Slavery was not Genocide. He immediately lost his professoral jobs plus his academic standing. His publishers dropped him. He is unemployed and unempoyable for the foreseeable future
        https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8487043/Dr-David-Starkey-sacked-professor-role-Canterbury-quits-fellowship-Cambridge.html.

        The news as given by The guardian , a known leftist paper
        https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2020/jul/03/david-starkey-dropped-publisher-racist-remarks-harpercollins
        The Guardian has determined his remarks were racist and so he got his just desserts

        Ideological factors work against historians or historian can apply his ideology/prejudices on the ‘facts’ he chooses or what importance/unimportance he attaches to them .

        1. I agree historians can emphasize certain ideas/concepts over others when drawing conclusions but regardless it’s based on research and facts. The basic structure of any research is proposing a thesis, provide evidence, and then drawing conclusions. Scholars and avid readers like ourselves can determine if their conclusions and evidence support their thesis. These days, historians as well as scientists can fall victim to cancel culture for the conclusions they draw. Well actually it seems that many are attacked for the evidence as well but that’s another discussion. That’s what you’re really describing. Saira on the other is just spewing absolute nonsense. Her lectures and discussions are not based on any fact at all. Baseless opinions. It’s all about “feelings”. She is taking the current ‘conflict’ between whites and POCs and exploiting it for her own benefit. How productive is that?

    2. Saira is free to write a book on Native American history or even Black history.

      Would it be absurd if Eaton immigrated to India and became the spokesperson of Bahujan Samaj party?

  2. I love this post Razib! I’m so sick of woke Desis. Growing up this is one of the things that bothered me and explains why I could never relate to them. My parents would explain some of the struggles that my grandfathers had to go through because there were times in their lives that they were poor due to unfortunate circumstances but still had a privileged background and made something of themselves. And the reason we are in our current status today is because of their hard work and relative upper caste status. So I grew up thinking never internalize bullshit that people or life throws at you. Grow up, pick yourself up, work hard, stay healthy, and you’ll do fine. Not sure how others Desis never understood this lesson but they are being rewarded by liberal elites for displaying wokeness and social justice ethos. Honestly I think some Indian Americans want to lecture whites about white privilege because growing up in the 80s and 90s they were the new immigrants and or children of new immigrants so they weren’t the popular kid. They were bullied and weren’t considered attractive in highschool…whatever. I experienced all those things but I got over it. When I read your piece about that woman lecturing white women about white privilege, I kept thinking it’s really her highschool mentality at play and she’s getting her revenge on white girls because she secretly wanted to be them back then but couldn’t. People need to grow out if this childish behavior but I fear there is an entire generation that reflects this behavior and it’s only the beginning. Can you imagine what government will be like when they take the reins of power?

  3. Ok I just googled Saria rao and was scrolling her Twitter feed…


    I took my kids to a pool to swim today, something I was never allowed to do growing up bc my parents were scared I would get “too dark.”
    Whiteness chokes us so early.

    This is some next level stupidity.

    For reasons that should be obvious to any brown person.

    1. You know what she reminds me of? There is a scene in Fight Club where Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) and The Narrator (Ed Norton) are stealing fat from a liposuction center and make soap (basically selling rich women their fat). Anyway Saira is just reprocessing white women privilege and selling it in another form back to them for $2500 because she secretly hates them. She’s jealous that she wasn’t them back in her younger years.

    2. I agree with the privilege stuff. But don’t really see Brahminism as being highly relevant. It is relevant to an extent I suppose.

      Also I don’t know that much about this, but Rao doesn’t strike me as a particularly Brahmin surname. Tbh.

      1. Raos from Telangana are peasants/farmfolk rendered landless by the Shiite Nawabs. They aren’t Brahmins by caste but by title and position. Narasimha Rao was called a Brahmin, but his upbringing and parents were anything but that. No privilege for the last 7 generations!

      2. @Sumit, ‘Rao’ as a surname is used by some brahmins of the andhra region(for eg. niyogi brahmins of that area use tgis surname .
        In north, however, especially in haryana, its used by Ahirs(who these days use yadav)

    3. but not sure why a random Saira justifies Razib’s massively extrapolated hit job on brown Indian immigrants. And its interesting that he chooses to aim at ‘caste’ instead of class. After all, there is a non-trivial percentage of non-hindus making up that massive white collar immigration bulge over the last few decades. But instead of focusing on economic privilege, Razib chose to vent his spleen on ‘caste’. Maybe it was intentional trolling? I don’t know, most of his stuff that I’ve read is nothing like this. Maybe he was just cranky.

  4. Just want to provide another context- I have cousin in US who was one of the initial desis arriving into US in 70’s and 80’s. We came much later. He was not privileged in India. Many relatives paid for 1 way flight ticket for my cousin who came as a doctor to USA. He became a doctor on the basis of various scholarships he won throughout his life. Father was rural unemployed. Same case with many IIT’ians/doctors that you see in USA. Most have grown up in closed, poor, rural, hinterland India. There wasn’t much privilege at that time which might not be true of the current Indians coming in. Unlike Pakistan or Bangladesh, there wasn’t any feudal class in India that sent its kids for undergrad education to USA. It has been mostly post grad scholarships or later the IT workers. Even the IT workers tend to come from rural south India. Again, no hard data but observations generally.

    1. @Rohini

      I noticed that many look at income and assets as a way to determine status. I would refer you to the economist Gregory Clark and his book titled ‘The Son Also Rises’. His research was based on surnames from various cultures and he showed that income is highly variable from generation to generation aka ‘noisy’. Think of the difference between Bill Gates (college dropout, multibillionaire) and his father (law degree, six figure income). However those with elite surnames did better overall in terms of achieving high status in terms of occupation or education etc compared those who low status surnames or even average status surnames. In other words, there is inherent capital being passed down from generation to generation and in India’s case, because of high rates of endogamy caste is a good proxy of how that inherent capital is being passed down. Rural elites do exist and while their relative wealth may have been small and the inequality in comparison to their neighbors was not as apparent, they had generations of inherent capital that allowed them to prosper enormously in a modern economy. The knowledge economy exacerbates the inequalities by orders of magnitude.

      1. Clark’s book is about families and extended families. Not caste! There are a million members in my caste but only about 300 members in my extended family.

        There is a tremendous amount of trivial assumptions and stereotypes bordering plain ignorance regarding castes. A caste group in a village or a town does not confer any wholesale privileges on to the whole caste. It can however preserve the status quo of individuals within a caste.

        Intra-caste competition is higher than inter-caste dynamics in many villages.

        1. Read the chapter about India. Caste represents high marital endogamy which everyone knows. Everyone is basically cousins within the same jati. Many Hindu couples are 3rd cousins. Modern generations are more opened to outsiders when it comes to marriage it seems.

    2. Again correct! A majority of Indian immigrants are from the rural hinterland often rising up from 3 generations of poverty.

      It’s interesting to see people claiming privilege for these guys.

    3. Unlike Pakistan or Bangladesh, there wasn’t any feudal class in India that sent its kids for undergrad education to USA

      feudalism is a pakistani thing. doesn’t exist in bangladesh in that way (though our old hereditary servants and tenant farmers are quite fond of us and visit my family in dhaka all the time, it memories from the before times; i believe were impacted by land redistribution in the pakistan times? we lost some jute farms then).

  5. @AP
    Again this is the point I am trying to make. What you write above seems to be an exception to me. Caste and wealth in India is very relative. My family or my cousin’s family is not high caste, nor landowners or feudal lords or had accumulated wealth. The background was rural poverty and 1 person moved to the city and sent money home from a low paying job. Similar with husband’s family. People who did well are the ones who somehow managed to access and focus on education. If there was 1 bright kid in the family, entire extended family pitched in to help as that person was seen as somebody who will lift the whole clan out of poverty. Again state run primary schools in villages, then onto difficult trek to far away middle and high schools. I see this even now in rural mountain cities in India.. This is the story you will come across of many 1st generation doctors and IITians in US. Talk to them and see how many still send money to families/villages back home. There are many high caste or low caste (UP or Haryana – low caste own land or have wealth, for example) wealthy landowners who did not care about getting the education. Education was the considered key to lifting oneself out of poverty. It still is. Again at that time only boys were educated as money could be expended only on one who could secure maximum family benefit. Ambedkar himself followed the same formula.
    Also check how many low caste could access IIT exams after the exam could be written in local language. Quite a few. How many IT workers are actually brahmins? If there is an actual data collection in US, this would become more transparent.

    1. First, not everyone is Brahmin. Upper castes do exist as well. I acknowledge there are many who come to the US and are from middle caste or possibly low caste as well. But there is still inherent capital being passed down. I said caste is the best proxy but it isn’t everything. Look Gregory Clark wasn’t willing to say it in his book but I will…it’s genetics. If low caste and poor people from India are coming to the US and become successful doctors/IT workers its because they have the genes to do so. That isn’t to diminish there hard work or the sacrifices their families made. After all, when you get up in the morning the bed doesn’t make itself. In fact, part of inherent capital is resiliency. We don’t think of resiliency as a genetic trait but it is. How we deal with stress and elevated cortisol is absolutely genetic. The surname research is not an exception. Similar studies have been replicated in different societies. According to the research, elites and those with poor status regress to the mean roughly between 300-450 years. So while your family may have been low status for generations, it may not be true anymore. More importantly and Clark did discuss this toward the end of his book, you are more likely to find new elites or above average performers among the low status and poor because many experience bad luck in life and thus have a perceived low social phenotype when in fact they have high social genotype. On the flip side, this means that there are many ‘imposters’ among the elite who actually had a lot of good luck in life which confer a high social phenotype but in fact have an average or low social genotype. We focus on caste a lot in this blog but if you take a look at the the mass European migration to the US in the 19th century, most of those immigrants didn’t have a penny to their name either but yet they did fairly well. Why? Well if you look into their family backgrounds many of them were of average status in Europe. They were your shopkeepers, farmers, laborers but lacked opportunity hence why they moved to the US. I know many would say it’s because of their white privilege that allowed them to prosper but if that is the case then why is that Franco-Americans have the lowest status among whites comparable to African Americans. Being white didn’t do anything for them. They were provided basic education just any other white person and still relatively low status. They will regress to the mean eventually. Everyone does with few exceptions.

  6. A straw poll – how many of you think that Sundar Pichai (Google CEO) is from a privileged background? He is a Brahmin.

    I see more and more that a lot of people here are nothing but recycled traditional JNU Marxists in their view of Brahmins.

    1. Sundar Pichai is a Mylapore Brahmin. Mylapore is a Brahmin city in Chennai; many of its neighborhoods are exclusively Brahmin. Pichai attended Vanavani Higher Secondary School’s. The school is largely for and run by Brahmins. If you are a non-Brahmin, admission is difficult. My Chettiar friend married an Iyengar Brahmin. Their son had been repeatedly denied admission to this renowned school. He did finally get in when his influential father pulled some strings. Generally speaking, Brahmins run many of the elite South Indian institutions and they keep it that way: they hold many of the good jobs in advertising,law, academics, MNCs etc . In contrast, America is more egalitarian, and even many of my Latino friends climb at least two economic rungs once they have earned a college degree. America is not racist although its idealism is corrosive and childish.

  7. Also talk to any tambrahm- he will tell you that the reason there are so many that you see out and about is because they had to run out of TN after the periyar movement. Only way they could lift themselves out was by getting an education. I know quite a few whose fathers were poor traditional priests who encouraged their kids to give up ancestral priestly professions and get into western style ed. That, I suspect is the reason you see so many of them here. They were the initial ones who were left with little choice.

    1. Again you are focusing on wealth and income. You just said it: ‘traditional priests’ Not everyone could be priests in ancient and medieval India not just because of caste but because they had the mental acumen to do so. They were the medieval equivalent of scholars and intellectuals. Simply adopting western educations and profession means they redeployed their inherent capital. Tamil Brahmins have won more awards/Nobel prizes than any other caste in mathematics/science. That’s not a coincidence. We focus on Brahmins but other upper castes have successful careers as well but don’t discount the establishment of new elites. In a way, US immigration policy does help do that so we can see people from upper caste background and poor background from India becoming upper middle class in America.

      1. Wtf has Tamil Brahmin to do with this? Why did Gujarati speaking Brahmins not win?

        Tamilians were well entrenched in the colonial structure. The first proper base in India was Madras. That they won Nobel prizes is because they were Tamil not Brahmins

        Do you understand the correlation? Brahmins from 25 other Indian states did not win Nobel prizes. Did their privilege vanish?

        1. Wtf has Tamil Brahmin to do with this? Why did Gujarati speaking Brahmins not win?

          * Tamil or Gujarati is irrelevant. This probably has more to do with the fact that North India was disrupted by Muslim polities. South India was relatively unscathed and they had established ancient/medieval universities so the advancements in certain disciplines continued.

          Tamilians were well entrenched in the colonial structure. The first proper base in India was Madras. That they won Nobel prizes is because they were Tamil not Brahmins

          *The British embedded some of the old elites into the colonial structure. A better term would be South Indian Brahmins. Yes both are important because of history that I mentioned above and their inherent capital as Brahmins not because Brahmins are special but because of high marital endogamy. The same genes are flowing around and they aren’t regressing to the mean.

          Do you understand the correlation? Brahmins from 25 other Indian states did not win Nobel prizes. Did their privilege vanish?
          *See above answers

          1. Look I know this is a tough pill to swallow. History, especially recent history does have some effect. As humans we like to believe we have more control over our life outcomes than we really do but in reality it’s how you play the hand you are given. Caste itself is irrelevant in America as Razib explained. In India it’s a social construct but certain behaviors were tied to it like marital endogamy. Brahmins and upper castes became elites 1500 years ago for good reason and stayed there by marrying within. Of course it helped that many in the upper castes devised societal rules in their favor and the British incorporating them in the colonial structure. Still, caste represents a social phenotype with an underlying social genotype. Eventually with increased mixed marriages and their progeny, that social genotype will regress to the mean. That could take centuries.

          2. The regions where the British were involved for the longest period and the deepest (universities, ports, offices, telegraph, connections to Europe) produced the most number of Indian Nobel laureates. Bengal and Tamil Nadu.

            Everything else is a coincidence! I can easily prove that inhaling sea-breeze daily will bestow a Nobel prize upon you!

          3. That may have something to do with it but it still goes back to the basics. You need the raw goods to produce Nobel laureates. Britain may have established connections to Europe in those areas but that only cultivated and harnessed those with the raw intellectual power to redeploy their talents in those scientific fields. Albert Einstein wasn’t an Einstein solely because he was in Europe and received an education.

          4. There is no tough pill to swallow because assortative mating has shown similar patterns globally. What prevalence of caste highlights though is that India has had longer stability with regards to class divide which gets observed in genotype. Regarding “many in the upper castes devised societal rules in their favor” most of those rules never got implemented on the ground {Archeological & Epigraphical records contradicts them}.

    2. “he will tell you that the reason there are so many that you see out and about is because they had to run out of TN after the periyar movement”

      What;s the tamil term for Stockholm syndrome? I guess “Tam Bram” 😛

  8. A large part of leftist politics in 21st century America is trying to appropriate the moral authority of “Black” Americans* to causes other than relieving the historic burden of slavery.

    The following is directed to groups who define themselves by their sex or their behind closed doors conduct, but its wider application is obvious:

    “Seizing the Crown of Thorns” by Joshua Mitchell | January 2020
    https://www.firstthings.com/article/2020/01/seizing-the-crown-of-thorns

    … Black America, the secret soul of our country, has seen one group after another appropriate its moral authority to become new Democratic party vanguards: first women, then gays and lesbians, and now the transgendered. On what authority would these causes rest if the agonizing struggle to heal the wound of slavery were not their backdrop? None of these claimants wears the crown of thorns as black Americans have.

    * * *

    … The Democratic party does have the back of black America—but only insofar as black America allows ever-new identity groups to wrap themselves in the mantle of its struggle, and only insofar as black America says nothing about the conventional family these new identity groups seek to undermine. If cultural appropriation is the misuse of one group’s identity by another, then surely this is cultural appropriation. If racism is the ability of one group to silence another, then surely this is racism.
    ===============
    *The descendants of persons who were slaves in the US during the 19th Century. A majority of their ancestry was African, but African American also describes Elon Musk and Mrs John F. Kerry, as well as recent immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa whose ancestors may have been the sellers of the slaves of an earlier era. Black of course describes such Africans together with many South Asians and Pacific Islanders, A better terminology is much needed.

    1. This is not leftist politics, this is standard Church technique to spread Christianity in the last two centuries.

      To take the “crown of thorns” from a marginalized group and use it to further their own agenda is exactly what missionaries have been doing in Asia, Africa and South America. Mandela recognised it particularly well.

      Rajiv Malhotra coined the word “atrocity literature” for it.

      1. Though i disagree with Rajeev Malhotra a lot because like most Right wingers he goes to the too extreme while describing & criticizing any phenomenon but i do agree that

        // To take the “crown of thorns” from a marginalized group and use it to further their own agenda is exactly what missionaries have been doing in Asia, Africa and South America. Mandela recognised it particularly well. //

        An example of it is that if similar behavior is exhibited on the local level like donations, infrastructure development etc. & if the initiative is driven by a wealthy local community the scholarly studies will come out highlighting inequality & differencials of power equations between communities or groups, intergenerational gap as oppression etc.

        While to justify conversions using similar tactics {donations, supporting people in need etc.} would be applauded in the same peer reviewed journal as voluntary service {where as local groups were described in terms of power differencials thus increasing local antagonism & decreasing resistance to foreign support} there will be article to justify conversion showing attitude change, lifestyle changes & so on & so forth.

    2. “We focus on caste a lot in this blog but if you take a look at the the mass European migration to the US in the 19th century, most of those immigrants didn’t have a penny to their name either but yet they did fairly well. ”

      “as well as recent immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa whose ancestors may have been the sellers of the slaves of an earlier era.”

      I know this blog post is about brown folks’ pre-immigration privilege but has there been a systematic study of to what extent status comparatively across groups in the US reflects pre-immigration attributes like wealth/status privilege in the old country or lack thereof, vs. experiences in the new country? Both for new/recent groups and really old ones? I recall at least some study claiming that European descendant groups (Italians, Germans etc.) still retain traits of the old country that reflect in their socio-economic status in the US even generations later.

      Though it’s been said that though selective migration is part of it, some groups like Chinese and Japanese were still called “model minority” even in the 60s when they were often still descendants of older immigrant unskilled laborers.

      How quickly can privilege from the “old” country be erased by discrimination/racism in the new? I would imagine something like the transAtlantic slave trade could do it — e.g. a high status chieftain back in west Africa could really have lost a battle and then became a plantation slave in the New World, or conquest could do it (e.g. Native/indigenous people who were high status and low status pre-conquest alike lost to European settlers in the New World). Is there any data on if African Americans may have been descended from those disadvantaged disproportionately to be sold in the slave trade (e.g. those who lost in battle)? It makes sense that selection based on conquest/battle/enslavement is likely far more negative than the postive selection in migration from voluntary immigrant grous (alike, from Europeans, Asians, Africans etc.). So I suppose the difference is between minority groups that came from conquest and are involuntary (e.g. African Americans and Native Americans) vs. those who came voluntarily.

      Likewise, what about the South Asian diaspora that was manual labor in the 19th century? They were not truly chattel slaves but often tricked into servitude, though their families were more intact than those of the African diaspora. Does this kind of set-up “break” old country privilege and set up new orders? Can we see in places like Guyana, Fiji, Mauritius etc., that Brahmins who were indentured servants (there were a small minority, right?) have descendants far better off than those who are descendants of other castes? They were voluntary laborers either way but still disadvantaged compared to modern wealthier immigrants.

      However, I can imagine the closer to the 21st century, the more advantage from the “old country” transfers over (e.g. can bring more wealth, social capital etc.) since we live in a more globalized world (e.g. people in the old country are already more familiar/with well connected, whereas past immigrants often jumped on a ship not knowing what they got into and with less transferable skills besides manual labor). But if the advantages are cultural (social norms about work, family etc.) that lead to success, then perhaps that’s different. Then again there’s always assimilation to host country norms and intermarriage.

      I get a a bigger question, going with the theme of the blog post — is how much of the success of groups in the US reflects advantages/disadvantages from the old country/ancestors going far back generations vs. current or post-immigration or post-migration experience/advantages offered in the US. For some the answer is clear — the highly advantaged upper class Indian-American doctor descended from generations of literate Brahmins or Nigerian kid of oil barons’ success reflects old country privilege, and this overrides the effect of racism by white Americans. But for others — descendants of manual laborers not necessarily advantaged in the old country, but who actually thrived in the US due to more opportunities in the new world despite also being a minority that sticks out (yet still having the “immigrant drive”), be they West Indians, Jamaicans, Bangladeshis in NYC etc. it’s less clear cut.

      Also, Gregory Clark’s name was brought up showing social mobility is weak across generations. But how far does privilege/lack of privilege go — 3 generations, 10? 100? Is it about cultural continuity? It makes sense to say Black Americans’ experiences are shaped more by the centuries of experience in America than the millenia of generations in Africa because the slave trade made a sharp break. But is this true of say, Asian Americans — Indian-Americans’ success reflects whether their ancestors were Brahmins or Shudras 1000 years ago more than the one or two generations they spent as cab drivers in NYC or something? Chinese/Japanese Americans’ success is attributed to “Confucian”culture even if they never read Confucius and if they’re a third generation American that speaks English only. Jewish people will proudly attest to strong cultural continuity for thousands of years despite persecution and they had incredible upward mobility in NYC during the Ellis Island age, despite fleeing pogroms. Maybe strong cultural continuity with upper class norms that are not broken by conquest (e.g. colonialism, slavery etc.) or if conquered collaborated with the upper class conquerers (e.g. upper class Indians and Brits in India) is/or was key in keeping a community successful despite racism?

  9. Why did Tamil Brahmins win Nobel prizes? Why did Gujarati speaking Brahmins not win?

    This is actually a good question that I have wondered about.

    There are previously non-Prominent groups in Gujarat like the Parsis that ended up benefiting from the British colonialism in the same way that I imagine Tamil Brahmins did.

    And yet Parsis are universally well liked, despite being a foreign group. Etc.

    Guj brahmins aren’t that prominent relative to other prosperous groups in the region so perhaps not a fair comparison.

    I find the level of anti-brahmin sentiment in Tamil Nadu to be very strange.

    1. Vanias had pretty good opportunities and even Patels over time hence Gandhi and Sardar Patel being from those groups respectively. Also Ambanis, Amit Shah,Modi, Moraji Desai, Vikram Sarabhai, etc. Gujarati Brahmins aren’t resented because literally everyone shudra caste and up has a reasonably fair shot and had one even going back a bit of time.

      Also Guju culture is anti academia. Viewing it as a waste. They think starting businesses is the best way for a smart person to live their life. At most, they may encourage a kid to go into some professional field like medicine but with intention of private practice.

      S Indian and Bengali Brahmin culture is way more knowledge over money minded.

      Phenotype is also less of a thing. A guju brahmin might be 30% steppe, vania 20%, and Patel 10% but Patel will have more IVC related to make AASI level not too too far off. End result is caste is way tougher to tell of off phenotype in Gujarat than S India. And segregation among castes is less in modern state despite tradition of endogamy. This includes warrior castes like solanki as well of course.

      In the South, the Brahmins look different on average, segregate more, and are more privileged compared to locals until recent Dravidian movement which went overboard the other way.

      1. Interestingly a chunk of modern day Tamil Brahmins are Gujarati Brahmins who migrated to Tamil Nadu several hundred years ago

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saurashtra_people

        Some still preserve a saurashtra dialect of gujarati, written in a different script.

        I am not sure if they are considered a totally different community or something from mainstream Tamils or Tamil Brahmins.

        1. No you are mistaken. Saurastra people came to TN few hundred years ago, after sojourn in Andhra etc. They are found mostly around Madurai, and are also known as Pattunoolkaarar in Tamil as they used to sell or make silk cloths. They are a cohesive community
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saurashtra_people
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saurashtra_language

          Tambrams are different; they have been in Tamil society from earliest historical times, added over centuries by migrations of brahmins from other parts of India and their mother tongue is Tamil. Tambrams attitude to the former’s caste status would ‘Oho’

          I doubt even Saus consider Brahmin status – with Dravdian poliotical movement that would be unwise

          1. Fair enough. I guess Wikipedia made it seem like they are orthodox Brahmins.

            Idk anything about that community.

            Seems they claimed Brahmin Varna at some point, but not accepted,

          2. Saurastrias have their website
            http://www.palkar.org/history.shtml

            Wikipedia is not a reliable source as anyone can write anything , which may or may not be challenged and edited. In many respects I like Wikipedia as the first port of call to know about something, however beware anything can be said there

      2. An unexpected difference I see between GJ Brahmin and regular GJ is that Brahmins sporadically pop up with some Shahr BA1 while regular GJ unanimously have none whatsoever. Also the AASI in regulars is more south AASI and less north AASI than the GJ Brahmins. As you have said, total AASI differences are minor, about 8 percent only.

  10. Also I think a lot of people arguing Brahmins don’t have any privilege don’t understand what privilege is.

    Access to caste based social networks of successful people is a type of privilege.

    Indians literally have caste associations for networking and stuff. How are you going to claim that this doesn’t result in some privilege relative to an Indian tribal person who might be the first person from his tribe to go to college ?

    1. “How are you going to claim that this doesn’t result in some privilege relative to an Indian tribal person who might be the first person from his tribe to go to college ?” — @Sumit, Good point especially in the internet era but this is (kind of) balanced out by the many different government schemes that government has for tribals(including mentorship programmes) and rising number of voluntary “bahujan” organisations which cater to all india level of STs(SCs included) .One such example that comes to my mind is DCCI( Dalit chamber of Commerce) , an initiative by Mr. Milind Kamble for budding SC and STs enterpreneurs.

  11. I had mixed feelings about your initial post on unherd, but this clarified a lot. Well said.

    I guess when racial identity is all that matters, there is a lot of opportunity for sub-elites to score big.

  12. I’ve thought about the oddness of Indian Americans being super SJW and also about how class or other factors are can be way more important than ethnic origin. It rubs me the wrong way, too.

    Just as an example, I remember policies for preferential hiring at a firm I used to work at being justified on the grounds that people of different backgrounds would be able to bring something different to the table when trying to solve problems. But all of them are people that grew up in upper middle class suburbs, went to great universities, etc. The difference is really just skin-deep.

    On the other hand, I’m concerned that it will lead to (which already happens) people simply shutting down Indian Americans expressing any grievances on account of being labeled (rightly or wrongly) Brahmin or upper caste.

    I guess Indian Americans need to preface their SJW activities with the same kind of admission of privilege that White SJWs use.

  13. I guess Indian Americans need to preface their SJW activities with the same kind of admission of privilege that White SJWs use.

    personally, that’s not what i’m looking for. i just want them to focus on their activism without being so racist against white people when they themselves benefit from a lot of the systems of advantage and mechanisms of mobility which were created by and (some extent) for white people. a lot of white ppl privately have told me they feel upper middle class brown professionals are being lejit racist against them sometimes though using the terminology of underrepresented minority activists. this is especially an issue when most white people grew up with less privilege than most indian americans socioeconomically.

    when a black person talks about white people that comes from a particular history. it’s raw. it’s real. i still thing it can be very unproductive (i’m a conservative on race). but when some brown/indian SJWs use the same language it seems much more hateful, especially when these people grew up as ‘quasi-white’ in the burbs

  14. @Razib, I agree. I have seen many Indian-Americans try to paint themselves as a part of some “oppressed” “colored” minority in order to show other people that they have also suffered like African Americans. Its truly laughable to make such comparisons, and yet the South Asian SJW out there that proudly proclaim their membership to the “Brown” community in order to legitimize their victimized and “oppressed” narrative don’t see this. While these Desis were attending private schools or Magnet schools and living in gated or upper-middle class communities, African Americans and Latinos were living in low-income neighborhoods with high rates of crime, and were attending piss-poor public schools with high rates of attrition, barely making it to college in most cases. Therefore, conflating the experience of Darker Desis with other “darker-skinned” folks is just pure idiocy.

    Even the historical comparisons dont hold up. Africans were enslaved, but people often chime in to say that other enslaved people also suffered the same fate. This is wrong. African slavery and the trans-atlantic slave trade was unique in its brutality and vastness. Sure, many other people were also enslaved, like the East Asians, Middle Easterners (by Mongols and Turks) and Slavs and Europeans (by Mongols, Turks and MENA folks), but none suffered like African Americans and Africans. Indentured servitude was performed by Europeans, Chinese, MENA and Indian folks historically, and was nothing like African slavery. So using that to draw parallels to Black folks is just wrong and stupid.

    Desis also have the benefit of a culture of learning and professional/working parents in most cases, and as such are shielded from the vagaries of growing up in a low SES household. To suddenly invite comparisons to Black/African Americans and “colored” people just because we happen to have certain people with pigmentation on the same level of the Fitzpatrick scale as AfAms is pure idiocy and nonsense. Do the Chinese and other East Asians now get to claim White privilege because of sharing the same skin color as many Europeans? The whole thing is a gigantic mess. Conversations around identity should never involve skin color as a defining trait, as the whole paradigm is premised on an illogical and incorrect idea from the outset.

    Western European or European White-ness in general doesn’t need a pigmentation-based framework in order to exist — even the darkest NW or Eastern/Southen European (and I’ve seen many with “Brown” skin, believe it or not) is still “White” and a beneficiary of White privilege in the American and European social context. We need to start talking about things that actually matter, and if race is the topic of conversation, skin color needs to go out the window. The African American experience isn’t predicated on skin color either, otherwise I wouldn’t see people with Beige skin and afro-textured hair and features being considered “Black” in America and elsewhere.

  15. To suddenly invite comparisons to Black/African Americans and “colored” people just because we happen to have certain people with pigmentation on the same level of the Fitzpatrick scale as AfAms is pure idiocy and nonsense.

    it’s not like we invite. some ppl just elide and embrace. everyone else is in the room may think “well, we don’t mean YOU when we say black and brown“, but they’re too polite to say anything, and a dark brown child of MDs starts brandishing being dark brown like that’s the most important thing in the world…

  16. The only area of deficiency S Asians face is one that is rather superficial, “coolness.” Typical S Asian appearance has a lot of baggage of “uncool” streotypes. This can manifest as a disadvantage in high school social standing or the dating market. It won’t be the primary factor for someone’s deficiency in such situations, but it will play a role.

    This is coming from a nerd btw who was bullied through a good part of K-12. But it was because I was short, skinny, nerdy, and looked young for my age. Me being of typical S Asian appearance was just the cherry on top.

    By typical I mean what the average American pictures as classic “brown Indian”

    1. Re: “coolness” and Black Americans despite disadvantage in other ways.

      If you step back and look from a sociological point of view, I do find it fascinating that certain kinds of status are decoupled — and one of the biggest mismatches is the economic disadvantage vs. the social clout Black Americans have.

      Nigerians or Indians in the US may perform socio-economically better than most groups but they assimilate far more into aspects of Black American culture than the reverse (has the average American ever watched a Bollywood or Nollywood movie)?

      Has anyone chronicled the reason why Black Americans rose so prominently, first in American pop culture, then worldwide despite disadvantage in other walks of life (to the extent that “blackness” is associated with coolness the world over, even in places that barely speak English), especially versus other groups that are socioeconomically far more privileged but less likely to be taken as the epitome of coolness?

      In most cases, people always talk about how minority/immigrant groups first make it “big” socio-economically, *then* only later dominate arts/culture/entertainment/sport and perhaps even politics (e.g. many marginalized/immigrant/low income groups are underrepresented in politics but yet not African Americans). People constantly explain why immigrant groups don’t care as much about looking cool versus putting bread on the table and so representation in media/politics lags. For instance, working class Jews in the early 20th century and then into Hollywood. Asian Americans only breaking into mass media and pop culture (Crazy Rich Asians, Mindy etc.) once there was a critical mass of people in entertainment not worried about pragmatic survival like most first-generation immigrants. Maslow’s hierarchy and all that. Worry about being rich first. This even happens at a country-level — Japan became cool with animation, cars, and big city cyberpunk after becoming rich. Same with Korea and K-pop in the west. These places were not cool when they were poor and unwesternized.

      Yet, Black Americans bucked the trend, becoming cool first before becoming rich, unlike Jews, Asians, even European groups like Italian Americans. Their musical art forms like blues (in an area where they were enslaved), jazz (in an area where they were segregated and much poorer than today, the early 20th century) and hip hop (associated with hardship, and in the 1970s) etc. developed often before there was a large black middle class and at times when actual white supremacy not the watered down phrase thrown around today, was still in play.

  17. this is an american issue. less in canada cuz of the jatt and tamil gangs. and in the uk pakistanis etc. have a chavish rep (remember most british pakistanis are native born, many have parents who are also native born).

    east asian men have similar issues.

    i think ppl need to man up and not act like this is a huge problem in your life. as you did warlock, lift, and go through a physical regimine which asian cultures tend to deemphasize.

    not all of us have jatt-big-piglet-dicks 😉

    1. I wish Indian culture promoted athleticism. I got into boxing, capoeira, running, and lifting in my 20s. I’m not chiseled but I did add some muscle. I wish I was encouraged to do this in my teenage years. I enjoy physical challenges which is one of the reasons I joined the military. I miss my gym. It’s still closed and i had a great deal too. I decided to buy a hexbar/trapbar and Olympic weights. I can’t wait for them to open anymore. I miss deadliftIng. Anyway desis need to do more to focus on physique. Too many are either skinny or just getting fat.

  18. it’s a problem with asian culture and asian immigrants in america as a whole. it’s a major deficit we have in terms of socialization because we have to proactively seek it out, instead of it being a coming of age thing as it is for other middle class americans.

    1. I hate saying this and probably get scolded for what about to say but here it goes: one of the reasons I wasn’t particularly attracted to desi women because they are either too soft/weak physically or they are just overweight and it’s something they can absolutely control. Again I’m no Brad Pitt or whatever the present Hollywood/Bollywood hunk is, but at least I try. Is that so much to ask??? Anytime I went to a martial art and boxing class or even the weight room I’m the only Indian American and definitely no Indian American women even though in my neighborhood in Manhattan there are Indians around so it’s not demographics. Meanwhile I see plenty of white upper/middle class women working out with consistency and I gravitate toward them among other reasons. I’m sure I just painted a bullseye on my back.

      1. brown ppl have a problem with ‘skinny fat.’ we’ve podcasted about this. my BMI is 23.6 and i’m trying to slim down, cuz really you should subtract 2 from white person recommendations. anyway, i’ve observed the same thing with fatness. a lot of it is culture + diet (overloading on sweets and carbs etc.).

        this is a problem in brownland too. ppl need to adjust.

        one thing is that outdoor activity is something our parents resisted cuz it makes us black. and sports+modesty is an issue for some re: women. but for america all that’s outmoded.

          1. body types differ.

            i’m always in the 21-25 band. goal is to get closer to 21. i lost 10 lbs in the last 4 months though i gained 5 lbs during first 2 months of covid

        1. I’d like to hear that podcast. When did you post it? BMI can be inaccurate because if you add muscle then obviously it adds pounds which increases your BMI. In the military, a lot of men need to be taped because of this error in order to pass the Body Composition Assessment. Waist to hip ratio is a better measurement but you are correct, generally speaking we need to substract 2 for BMI. I think I’ve read a couple of papers about this topic, one from WHO. I had to bring this to the attention of an attending pediatrician because he was unaware and had many South Asian patients.

          In terms of diet, I could be better but I have cut down on rice drastically compared to how much I ate when I was younger and limit sweets (occasional cookie but haven’t had Indian sweets in long time – 1 year and it was gulab jamun) The most important of all I think that gets Indians is alcohol. I rarely drink. The last drink I had was about 4-5 months ago and just one. Alcohol and particularly mixed drinks will cause significant weight gain. The American drinking culture doesn’t help. Indians eat in excess their cultural diet and adopt the worst of American culture/diet. Double edge sword. I always laugh when I see people post how many calories they burned from a Zumba class or whatever and then post out with the ladies with like 5-6 margaritas which are like 700 calories each which negated their workout. And don’t get me started how brown people cook vegetables. I steam my veggies or eat raw after washing because the Indian way destroys the nutrients which lead to B12 & folate deficiency and elevated levels of homocysteine. But of course one should sequence their genome to make sure they are risk for certain diseases/deficiencies because it’s not the same for all South Asians. Been trying to add more cardio to my routine (interval biking 20 minute intensity and running around Central Park on the weekends ~ 6 miles per week. Hopefully I can get that up to 15-20 miles per week.

    2. Re: Physical ed emphasis in Asian and Asian American culture.

      Does this represent recent/immigrant values — e.g. Maslow’s hierarchy focus on getting rich first and putting education/business first? Or deeper, ancient cultural values in Asia (attitude towards scholars vs. warriors).

      I remember Razib once talking about how the Confucian ideal was an indoors scholar vs. the western suntanned classical Hercules-like figure.

      Does it really go back that many generations?

      1. the gymnasium culture was around for the romans though they got it from the greeks. the medieval warlords were illiterate warriors, so fitness was a matter of course.

        the contrast in china was rule by civilians, and this persisted over thousands of years. there are weird theories about how you shouldn’t exercise or exert yourself physically in Chinese medicine (‘exert chi’ or something). so it has been a big cultural change to adopt norms and values that root back to ancient Greece for the modern Chinese

        i don’t know what the deal with India is, but ppl have complained that indian elites don’t like work with their hands and physical labor is looked down upon. again, with the European elite tradition of sport, and especially hunting, this was not a taboo (the last king of France before the revolution hunted like 75% of his days according to his diaries)

  19. so, looks like i have aggravated razib enuff 🙂 that he had to devote another post just to educate me on american race drama (ongoing for the past 400 years, with no signs of reaching any resolution!).

    just to clarify my position, my comments wasn’t even on racism or social justice or anything like that. it is simply a matter of right to hold and express any opinion on any issue, however removed it might be from one’s own situation.

    i dont know the social background of this latest SJW (saira rao) who invited the wrath of razib, and i dont even want to know any more. it is not relevant. what matters is that she is entitled to express her opinion on any topic, whether national or international or racial or social or whatever.

    modern world is configured this way. this is how democracies work. illiterate peasants and minimum wage earners get to decide on the relative merits of prime ministers and presidents of the nations. rich tycoons like trump champion the causes of poor white working class, and become presidents on their backing. you dont need to belong to a social class to speak on behalf of that class.

    if we will have to constantly check our locus standi before expressing our opinion on any issue, it will be a very weird and unrecognizable world.

    in any case, i hope this concludes the matter. i have no interest in more replies. seriously, america bores me. its social problems bore me. i leave it to rao and razib to sort out the problems of *their* country.

    1. I am usually very ignorant of these things but I agree with you on this.

      Just because people who are speaking about oppression are somewhat privileged (caste-wise or wealth-wise) it doesn’t mean there aren’t low-caste, poor within last couple of generations Indians in the US. Often they are too busy paying-off debts back-home to play oppression olympics, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve representation.

      So, anyway, yes, you don’t have to belong to a class to hold an opinion about it. That’s the way the world works (e.g., all pro-natalist talk of men as if they are child-bearing persons).

      1. neither of you have any idea what i’m even trying to say.

        it’s like i said “X”

        and you say sagely, “we’ll actually people should be allowed to do Y.”

        1. to be fair to you, i do find the idea of charging white women to harangue them about their own racism uproariously funny. her website, something called race2dinner is so comical, at first i actually thought it was a spoof.

          yet, i wont change my opinion about her. your criticism of her would be valid if she were appropriating back victimhood for herself, which she is not. she is simply playing the capitalism game. in this world where everything is a commodity, SJW dinner talks are as good a means of making money as anything else.

          (i am more worried about the white women who are *paying* money to get harangued about their inner racism. do people really have so much surplus income? may be i can take up this profession too. i can’t be as eloquent and articulate as rao (or razib, for that matter), but i will give deep discount..)

        2. I agree. I don’t get it because I read the original piece, your Twitter comment threads, this post and I still don’t get it.

          So, it must need some more background cultural knowledge that is missing from my end.

      2. Just because people who are speaking about oppression are somewhat privileged (caste-wise or wealth-wise) it doesn’t mean there aren’t low-caste, poor within last couple of generations Indians in the US. Often they are too busy paying-off debts back-home to play oppression olympics, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve representation.

        out of a sample size of 2000 there are very few. i have access to the raw data

        1. It is not about sample size but about representation though. Obama wasn’t traditional black and way more privileged than an American Black, but then he still gets to represent them?

          In future, if more low caste people make it to US to achieve capitalist dream, couldn’t people like Rao make it easy for them due to change in discourse?

          Again, like I said, I might be missing something in this whole cultural background even after a good faith effort.

          1. Obama wasn’t traditional black and way more privileged than an American Black, but then he still gets to represent them?

            this was a huge discussion at the time. his name is Barack Hussein Obama and he grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii and raised by white mom with a kenyan Muslim (atheist) dad. there was no illusion as to who he was and what he was trying to be. the general argument for American blacks is he married into the black American community, as his wife is traditionally black.

            but again you don’t get the point of the post as we’re talking about something different

    2. if we will have to constantly check our locus standi before expressing our opinion on any issue, it will be a very weird and unrecognizable world.

      this is exactly what i said. the fact you couldn’t perceive that is either due to not reading it, or lacking the cultural referents to comprehend that. probably the latter

  20. I guess apart from the confusion Razib pointed out, I feel loads of folks don’t appreciate NON MATERIAL PRIVELEGES, whether or not Brahmins had material privileges is complicated especially before Brits. But the Cultural Educational privileges of generations being literate and culture of learning can’t be understanded.
    Yes and that is a type of PRIVELEGE

    1. I completely agree that non-material privilege is a privilege. Many commentators on BP have at least one grand parent with a college degree (or equivalent) or known to read/write English.

      It is unbelievable how much of a greater worldview that offers to be able to read/know such things (e.g, Thoreau, Marx, 50 years ago). It influences many attitudes and choices. I see them disconnected to rest of attitudes of their fellow countrymen.

      However, the question is how portable that privilege is. Children of immigrants get no privileges other than what their parents bring to the new country. There are no connections or soft-privilege (I.e. being respected because so-and-so family in the village) other than attitude of the parents.

      I think about this a lot because my son is dark skinned and have all the privileges two professional parents can bring. But he doesn’t have/experience any privilege that his own dad had despite their family’s crushing material poverty. There is a security in knowing “my dad can fix this with one word” vs. “How come there is no one as dark as me?” My son suffered even as a young child (got chocolate milk dumped on his head in 2nd grade in school bus). This was specifically for his skin colour.

      You can be a low caste person in India with illiterate parents, but you are not “alone”. Even low caste people have caste-pride and community connections and sometimes political power. (there are mutual higher-lower caste beneficiaries, people should read more about factionalism for that).

      So, I don’t know if we could do one-to-one mapping of non-material privileges on immigrants just because of their caste. It is unfair to treat them as such when that privilege is not recognized by the rest of the society.

      1. One more minor note on privilege, you don’t have to be privileged by oppressing others. That is specifically the deal of White western narrative.

        You can be privileged for what you did instead (e.g., Razib’s grandparents being doctor/ulema). So, I wonder how can having upper caste/cultural privilege among Indians imply same oppression as Colonialism.

        1. So, I wonder how can having upper caste/cultural privilege among Indians imply same oppression as Colonialism.

          the colonial system coopted and legitimized aspects of upper caste/elite privilege.

          (i myself think indians etc. make WAY TOO much of colonialism tbh, but since colonialism is something that indians in the west talk about a lot in the general way i find it a bit rich)

          1. Indians in India dont care much about colonialism. Indians in the west and western facing Indians talk a lot about colonialism.

          2. Colonialism did economic damage and broke traditional sustainable ecosystems.

            We can talk about colonialism co-opting elite privilege, but it is obvious even with cursory reading of history that rent-extracted by colonialism didn’t stay in the country for reclamation.

            So, I am not sure what is bit rich about middle class middle-aged Indians complaining about it. The narrative is that they had to emigrate since their riches left their shores.

      2. “You can be a low caste person in India with illiterate parents, but you are not “alone”. Even low caste people have caste-pride and community connections and sometimes political power. (there are mutual higher-lower caste beneficiaries, people should read more about factionalism for that).”

        Yes. working of caste is very complicated in india – it also serves as an easy safety net for many ppl who dont have much else to going on.

        Yes i haven’t been to America so i can’t exactly see – but what u say about privilege mapping seems true to an extent.

  21. In the context of Sri Lanka (and assume South Asia) two kinds of privilege and shades of grey in between.

    a) Absolutely no Privilege, and unlikely for their children
    b) Relative privilege

    a) Absolutely no privilege
    The easy one to define is Absolutely no privilege and very likely for the next generation. In Sri Lanka this is a sliver of society where family/children have one meal day, at best two meals.
    Most often, live in the outer edges of villages and/or live or daily in large (for Sri Lanka 50 acres and below Coconut estates.

    Happens because either bread winner is an alcoholic and or has medical issues.

    Will the children (other than the exceptional) get beyond daily wage unskilled workers.

    Relative Privilege
    The easiest example and comparison is between US and Sri Lanka during late 60’s to 1970’s. So some points

    a) In SL in the 70’s even so called upper middle class had less “things like TV, car” compared to the poor in the US.

    b) In SL because of 70’s oil prices and balance of payments, all specially urbanites had to stand in line starting at 4 am to get moldy bread. Rural people (80%) were better off, better prices for farm produce. If you read the English speaking narrative, it was a disaster, specially Land Reform law limiting land to 50 acres per family.

    c) Even though the Brits were running the country, my Father (born 1917) and his generation would have been shocked at the discrimination faced by African Americans. i.e. Having to get into the back of a bus.

    My father would narrate stories of how some Brits would kick up a fuss, when Ceylonese would get into 1st Class Railway Carriages. The Sri Lankans were upper admin types with free travel in the railway.

    —-
    So now back to myself (and assume for many FOB Sri Lankans). We knew we were poor, but not lacking in ability. I was 28 (1988) when I went to the US. So people make assumptions.

    I came back to SL in 1990 and took photos. One comment, looks so green. Then another time (not a grad school person) when I said I used to go spear fishing, he thought I was sticking fish with a spear. Still dont know if he knew about underwater air gun spears.

  22. One issue none* including Razib have not commented about.

    African Americans in the 60’s with the Civil Rights movement started making inroads in reducing discrimination and getting economic opportunities.

    Then the US changed its policies and allowed immigration from Africa, Asia, including South Asia.

    I guess, most who comment here dont really have totally close African American friends. I am talking about Af Am, Science PhD’s, Lawyers, teachers etc.

    Two issues consistent among whom I know
    a) Immigration (from Asia) was used to break the gains Af Ams made thru the Civil Rights

    b) Black Panthers and other militant groups were broken up. To prevent a resurgence of activism, Af Am neighborhoods were flooded with Crack Cocaine. Discriminatory laws were passed that had severe penalties for Crack Cocaine compared to Cocaine, used by White people.

    I hope you some of you have looked at incarceration rates of Hispanic and Af Ams in for Profit prisons.

    What many South Asians dont think or realize is that there are implicitly part of an extremely racist system pitting one against another.

    So far, money and “things like TV’s” (see previous comment) has papered over the cracks. I doubt that cover up can continue.

        1. I think Louis Farrakhan is a greasy and oppurtunistic guy, who just wants to get away with what the liberal media and establishment would allow and in the long run , he doesn’t matter. He is not even half as troublesome as Malcolm X or even Mohammed Ali in the late 1960s.

          1. I like the way Farrakhan speaks,and that people get annoyed when I say I listen to him.

            He makes some good point, in a way guaranteed to rub people the wrong. Lot of resonance with African Americans.

            He is extremely old, 87. Checked when I saw that his son aged 60 had died in 2018.

    1. I see the “crack cocaine” point brought up a lot by SJWs, but it’s not exactly correct. Freebase cocaine, because of its chemical structure and very reactive amine group, hits a lot harder and faster than does powdered cocaine. It is thus associated with more deleterious drug-seeking behaviors, with people making intemperate decisions as they chase the very potent “hit.” The people using crack are generally low functioning and, honestly, not worth as much to society than the people using powdered cocaine.

      A lot of the differences in sentencing have roots in the chemical differences of the compounds, and the resulting sociological differences. Racism may indeed play a part, but it’s not the heart of the matter.

      1. I see the “crack cocaine” point brought up a lot by SJWs, but it’s not exactly correct

        I was not quoting SJW types, quoting middle class African Americans.

        Brough you say
        The people using crack are generally low functioning and, honestly, not worth as much to society than the people using powdered cocaine.

        Anyway are you justifying the sentencing. Do you realize what you are saying. Basically better us “model South Asians” than poor.

        These kind of thoughts are quite common among South Asians, just very rarely voiced in public.

        Are you not planning to practice medicine in the US ?

        Just so you know the stats
        United States had the highest prison population rate in the world, at 716 per 100,000 people. More than half the 222 countries and territories in the World Prison Population

        Black and Hispanics make 50% of prison population. They also make 50% of the Military. That is a tinderbox read to explode.
        U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in 2018 Black males accounted for 34% of the total male prison population, Hispanic males 24%, and white males 29%.

        1. You did not answer my point.

          Anyways, I am not a philosopher or a jurist. Perhaps powdered and freebase cocaine should warrant the same sentences, perhaps they shouldn’t. I don’t know. I’m simply saying that there are reasons they don’t that are not reducible to crass racism.

          I have worked fairly extensively with Black populations in the past, I am well aware of their distrust of American institutions (including medicine) and how it manifests. But where SJWs reflexively genuflect before any Black claim, I view the matter as more complex.

          1. Brough, you said
            The people using crack are generally low functioning and, honestly, not worth as much to society than the people using powdered cocaine.

            and then went on
            I have worked fairly extensively with Black populations in the past, I am well aware of their distrust of American institutions (including medicine) and how it manifests.

            You are a poster child for whats wrong with South Asian immigrants. Absolutely no idea of the history of African Americans.

            Do you even have a clue as to why African Americans distrust American Institutions. Ever heard of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, probably done by Doctors with your mindset. Come to think of it, you are one step and opportunity away from being a Josef Mengele, with your “not worth as much to society” thinking. Lack of common humanity, and “there but for grace of God (luck) go I. Maybe you have that certain South Asian penchant to shrug it off with, Karama, they are paying for the sins of their past birth.

            Incidentally, Mendele was a brilliant scientist and did some great research work. However, like you he had lack of empathy and commonness of humanity.

            Distrust of African American
            https://www.researchgate.net/publication/23955533_African_Americans_and_their_distrust_of_the_health_care_system_Healthcare_for_diverse_populations

  23. White people are responsible for their predicament. No one else even now has that kind of power . As long as they support this ideology of victimology , they will find themselves down the social pyramid and everything they say and do can and will be used against them , so what are they going to do about this?. They can easily find allies if they want to. I have said already that one can consider some of the voting patterns of whites not as racist but as a group trying to safeguard their self interest( no one likes to be a minority). They can easily find many people who will say that racism against white people is racist too. But it must come from them, because they have the torch for the moment.

    I dont have to give any historian who says a transparent lie that only 80 temples were destroyed any credibility. I dont have to read him, dont have to listen to him, that is my power to inflict a cost to lies from my end. If everyone chose to inflict cost on lies by not giving attention and instead giving attention to those who do speak truth , that would be good and solve the problems. And this means that there should be cost for lies no matter what other valuable work they have written or did. No compromises. Even 100 good works cannot undo the ill of few lies. Because if they succeed, those lies will succeed too and you will end up once again with selective victimology. Hence I want a mathematization of humanities, I hope it can lead to a more abstract, less emotional language where good work can be done without having to worry too much. When i was younger i imagined that if we kept using variables like x for hindus, t for muslims etc, that could remove some of the emotional salience. It was foolish, but it is clear to me that the more abstract our notation , the better we are emotionally at getting to truth. Left taking over academia is the root of the problem to all this. That somehow there can be prominent professors who write transparent lies and can keep their career because they wrote other good works means that their selective lies also have an impact through their credibility and distorts societies. Saira rao is a bullshitter, but the reason why she has gained prominence is because white society has allowed many white people to diss on themselves through transparent lies and still have a career. She is a grifter, not a creator of the problem. The problem is poor standards. For example, one US presidential candidate of democratic party has famously said that she has native Indian ancestry. She had a successful career.

    On the other hand, using this language of victimology to undermine those doing the same only strengthens it further .Left eating itself doesnt necessarily lead to utopia.

  24. What u have written Razib is what i feel every time i open my watsapp. I am added to a SJWs Indian immigrant group and sometimes i wonder who is more SJW-ish , Indian FOBs or Indian americans.

  25. Indians in India dont care much about colonialism. Indians in the west and western facing Indians talk a lot about colonialism.

    ok i hope you are right. but i’m sick of indians going on and on about ‘britishers’

    1. Honestly it’s more of a Lefty thing to care about the colonial period because the Lefty historical narrative is that everything in India was hunky dory until the British arrived and shit it up.

      The Right thinks the shitting up happened long before then, so it doesn’t see the colonial stuff as uniquely horrible.

    2. It is correct that Indians in India stopped caring about British 20-30 years ago. I heard old uncles complain about it but not my generation.

      But why isn’t it relevant though when British policies clearly did damage that’s of a different magnitude than existing social framework. Mostly prevented the system from reforming internally where several discussions of the Hindu society show that it’s prone to such reformation on a periodic basis.

      This is similar to forest fires in the west coast. Preventing occasional small fires turn them into infernos at later times. Should we ignore that effect since it was done with good intentions (or not with malice)?

      1. “But why isn’t it relevant though when British policies clearly did damage that’s of a different magnitude than existing social framework. Mostly prevented the system from reforming internally where several discussions of the Hindu society show that it’s prone to such reformation on a periodic basis.”

        personally i think the greatest damage that the colonial period did to indians was to destroy their self confidence. (though i blame indians more for their predicament than the british).

        if you notice, during the late medieval period indian rulers routinely employed europeans in their armies. even the industrialists of the early british period like dwarkanath tagore (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dwarkanath_Tagore) employed british managers to take care of their business without much fuss. it all changed as the british rule in india matured and took root. now indians stated feeling inferior to white people. they started looking up to white people as natural bosses. they would follow the lead of white people instead of thinking for themsevles.

        this attitude persists to this day. i have even noticed it in the indian IT workers working in US. they will happily report to american managers, but will chafe under a fellow indian manager. somehow having a white boss is more acceptable than a fellow brown guy as a boss.

  26. So what a strange world. Razib concurs with an absurdity Sailer has often pointed out.
    https://www.unz.com/isteve/are-tiger-daughters-taking-over-the-sjw-racket/

    The UnHerd piece reminded me most though of listening to Glenn & John talk.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=So7-_Sq1FP8

    So I know Razib would prefer to disassociate himself from the former, but it is this kind of assessment of the facts of the world that draw me back to read Razib. Such cantankerousness is my tribe even if we are genetically quite separate and he would prefer deplorables like me to stay away.

  27. I agree with the overall point that US has been kind to the ‘selected’ brown immigrants. Upper casts tend to accumulate cultural capital that might be useful in long run. There are some grifters like Rao, who weaponize the woke literature and make money.

    However, there is an important artifact of colonial enterprise which received zero attention in this blog: English language as a form of privilege. Even after living in US for 10 years, and finishing my PhD, I find expression of ideas in English to be a serious mental exercise. I am much much more comfortable with my native language and I realized that I have a translator embedded in my brain that constantly maps English to my native language even while reading scientific papers. It also shows in my writing because I have to put on a new hat and edit whatever I wrote. I am not surprised that Razib ignored language because of his high verbal skills. So I do feel the effects of colonialism even now. Not that I am shouting colonialism from the rooftops everyday, but it has a definite effect on my day-to-day life. Every time I get a peer review with “English needs to be imporved” note, I lament why can’t I just build my scientific career by publishing papers in my native language.

    Most people like me (no parents and no grandparents with college education) would avoid English discussion forums (a lot of my friends avoid it too). My guess is that the silent majority of first gen Indian immigrants working in STEM belong to this category. Most of them are indeed sympathetic to the US and do not agree with the grifters.

    1. Yeah this is a great point about socio-economic and urban privilege.

      Many people in my generation don’t engage in English forums since it’s a struggle to express themselves half decently, and that’s not worth the effort to make off-the-cuff remarks.

      On that basis, all social media and Twitter in English is a biased sample of either people with privilege or people brash enough that their misunderstanding of language doesn’t hold them back.

      One time a guy got upset at me on forums because he misunderstood the expression “flogging a dead horse”. That’s enough to derail a civil conversation.

      1. That’s also a comparison (language privilege) that’s although somewhat discussed (e.g. first generation disadvantage in the US), doesn’t play as much of a central role in western countries’ woke discourse.

        But it also can make for an awkward comparison with for instance, if English-speaking privilege is a thing, what to make of the relative “privilege” status of a poor but entirely monolingual Black American born and raised in the US (to which speaking English is not of their own choosing but due to their ancestors’ oppression yet which grants them access to the world’s dominant language of education/mass media), versus a third world immigrant who is equally poor but who migrated voluntarily, preferring to be lower status in the west than higher status back home, and thus chose to take on English as a second language on their own will as a double burden.

        I realize though that in the non-Anglophone developing world, being English-speaking and close to English-language media is a sign of “privilege” (in Africa, Asia, being adjacent to the Anglophone makes you seem “white”) but this analysis seems to break down when applied to a completely US-centered context and so you rarely see it discussed in privilege talk or at least placed side-by-side because language and race are so apples-to-oranges (Most socio-economically disadvantaged Black and Native Americans are native English speakers not by choice having their ancestral cultures and comunities forcibly assimilated, many non-native English-speakers in the US are Asian immigrants who are richer but never had their family support structure broken apart and migrated with wealth — who’s more privileged?)

    2. white academics from continental europe have brought this up to me. even scandinavians and nordic people who have really high english spoken fluency, talk about the double-burden.

      but yeah i didn’t address it cuz english is my native language so what am i gonna offer insightwise?

  28. We can talk about colonialism co-opting elite privilege, but it is obvious even with cursory reading of history that rent-extracted by colonialism didn’t stay in the country for reclamation.

    yeah. i think this is way more disputed than indians do, but i don’t have strong views. i don’t think colonialism is nearly as a big of a deal as most indians on all ideological spectrums, though i haven’t done the reading on india to have a strong opinion. some day…

    1. I agree that overall a neutral party may come away thinking colonialism may not be a big deal. But within couple of generations of independence people thought about too many second-order effects due to colonialism. There were many first hand experiences of how Indians are treated by Britishers (like that Gandhi story of being thrown out of first class rail car).

      The system will recalibrate to damp down second order effects in long term and then there won’t be much of interest in this discussion.

      1. the hindu right focuses on muslims more than the british. the left fixates on the british.

        both are politics of the past. i hope india will be in a place where it can focus on the future at some point

  29. But why isn’t it relevant though when British policies clearly did damage that’s of a different magnitude than existing social framework. Mostly prevented the system from reforming internally where several discussions of the Hindu society show that it’s prone to such reformation on a periodic basis.

    you take this for granted. i don’t. basically a lot of indians work with a common set of agreed facts which i’m skeptical of, but since i haven’t read enough indian economic history i can’t/won’t reject or argue about. i’m only bringing it up because indians take as priors in any discussion certain facts which i don’t accept as necessarily true, so i figure i’d bring them up.

    (this is not to say the whole indian narrative is false! but the treatment feels suspiciously reductive to me)

    1. “you take this for granted. i don’t. basically a lot of indians work with a common set of agreed facts which i’m skeptical of, but since i haven’t read enough indian economic history i can’t/won’t reject or argue about. i’m only bringing it up because indians take as priors in any discussion certain facts which i don’t accept as necessarily true, so i figure i’d bring them up.”
      Which aspects of the dominant narrative do you disagree with? (the Tharoorian narrative isnt the most dominant narrative i guess)

    2. Razib,

      Fair enough if you don’t take this for granted. But you should consider that Indian basic education would cover this part of Indian history as thoroughly as US education would cover the US history. Since most of your blog readers are nerds/keeners, we read and remember that in enough detail. If there are deficiencies there it’s not because of wilful ignorance of your audience.

      Also, most of us could read in more than one Indian language. We get to compare how authentic English authors are being in comparison to the books in native tongue (native elites vs. Colonial elites).

      So, it should also be fair to expect that our conclusions don’t always match up with those drawn from writings exclusively in English.

      1. economic history is mostly done in english. i haven’t read an economic history of india, but i’ve read a fair amount. what indians seem think (or have learned) simply does not jibe with what i know about broader economic history (generally, or in specific areas).

        for example, on the whole colonialism and conquest does not make nations rich. that it does do is transfer wealth to colonial administrative elites, who are often from the subelites. e.g., the british empire outside of the settler colonies (oz, north america) was probably a net transfer of wealth from the bottom 90% of britons to the top 10%, because the top 10% accrued most of the gains (e.g.., keeping the kenya highlands safe for them, posts in the east india company).

        india of course may have been a net + (i think it was), but it was exceptional. africa was a definite drain.

        there is a theory that bismarck actually goaded the french into starting their west african empire after their defeat because he knew it would be a $ pit (it was), and it maintained german superiority. germany only got an african empire after bismark left and the idiot kaiser called the shots

        1. I think this is where narrative between native elite disadvantage and colonial wealth transfer breaks down.

          We are going from grievances of native subelites for their loss of wealth to the profitability of colonialism enterprise as a whole.

          One economic argument was that cotton mills in Northern England didn’t make much profit out of duty-free exports of raw cotton from India. They made profit because they were legitimately good product. But it did ruin food vs. cash crops for Indians, destroyed a few local textile industries and caused undue burden due to restrictions on exports and imports.

          The narrative is different based on the perspective.

  30. There are some seemingly linguistic examples here as well. Recently, one of frustrated readers with a same sound which Razib identified in OT, in his outburst directed me to take some English lessons because I wrote ‘fobia’ instead of ‘phobia’. He did not complain about the specific phobia I mentioned (probably because it was more than obvious). It does not matter that ‘fobia’ is the original word and accepted in this form in almost all languages except English and couple others. English took many words from different languages and distorted that can’t be recognised. For e.g. they say Philip instead of simple Filip. Btw, It is unexplainable why is PH used instead of F for F, if F already exists in the alphabet.

    But, the point is that it is rarely a linguistic issue alone, the above mentioned ’phobia’ is not about the language, it is exactly what it meant in this specific case.

  31. Colonialism is a serious issue. Both left and right in popular narrative blame the british, this blog is very atypical.PM Modi appreciated tharoor on his criticism of British for example.There was institutional development due to british, which would have had to be created by native powers on their own and one isnt sure about their capability. If we can figure out their capability, then we would have some worthwhile answer. can compare to countries like thailand and ottoman empire for example. If we assume we may have been as capable as thailand at the very least.Their present per capita per gdp is above us(7000$ vs 2000$). .A lot of our leftwing economics comes from LSE, fabian socialism. Without any of that, we would have been fine to do what works. The intentional distrust of capitalism ingrained in us is in part due to experience of East India company. So, I think it would be reasonable to assume that we would have been better on economic front since 1947 to present date merely by not experiencing the second order effects of leftwing economics which was a product of colonialism and British fabian socialist sympathies rubbing off on Indian elites. I am not sure of political front and security abilities of native powers, which makes the whole exercise nonsensical. In my view, the second order effects of colonialism is more damaging than colonialism itself in terms of relative pace of economic development post Independence for India. India is only about 16 yrs away from becoming an aged country and then it would be difficult.

    https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/median-age-of-indias-population-will-rise-to-34-7-from-24-9-in-2011-report/cid/1791498?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=tt_daily_twit

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