Amy Wax on “Asians”

Amy Wax Redux – Another round in the immigration and culture debate. Glenn Loury hosts a debate that has gotten some attention because Amy Wax said something in relation to “Asians.” Her interlocutor is an East Asian American, and Wax’s original comments were particularly targeted at Indian women. So this has spun a bit out of control.

I’ll say some quick things.

In Amy’s favor:

– Many people have noticed the overrepresentation of “market-dominant minorities” in particular activist groups, and the visible presence of South Asian (Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani) women is hard not to notice. Joe Biden’s statement that “Indians taking over” reflect Indian American power in Democratic politics in particular.

– Nations have a right to determine what they want to be. At least in theory. This is most explicit in Israel, founded as a homeland for the Jews. Hindu nationalists want India as a homeland for Hindus. While many Muslims view Muslim-majority nations as societies organized around Islam, and so they believe law and tradition should favor that religion. In the USA this was clear as well, with a 1790 law that allowed only for the naturalization of whites, later expanded to blacks and eventually other non-white races. The National Origins Act of 1924 aimed to keep the US a mostly Northwest European nation. And so forth.

The idea that America, or any nation, exists simply as an institutional transaction device between consenting adults and organizations that are bounded by particular borders is not realistic, though sometimes open and open borders adjacent people talk like that. American is a nation. A people. It will change. But how?

– Americans are going to be uncomfortable when “visible minorities” take all leadership roles due to their educational success. That’s a fact. I think people should get over it though. But that’s my opinion. Most people care a lot more about race and visible phenotype than I do from what I can tell.

– Immigrants bring their culture. Their culture impacts our culture. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. We can make decisions.

Against Amy:

– She talks about it like a Boomer who doesn’t really understand the landscape. She was born in the early 1950s in a black and white America, so when talking about Asians and Latinx she’s encountering new things to her experience.

– She elides in a sloppy way different groups of Asians. Indian Americans are politically very different than Vietnamese Americans. They are socially very different. Arguably Amy should want more Vietnamese Americans, who lean Republican and are educationally more similar to the average American. 30-40% of Vietnamese are also Catholic. Who are these “Asians” she speaks of? Not people she knows personally from what I can tell (I’ve met Amy, she’s charming and blunt at the same time), so she should read more stats.

– She elides the distinctions even among “Indians.” Most of the obnoxious woke Indians are 1.5 and 2nd generation people born and raised in the US. And yet 90% of Indian Americans are foreign-born immigrants, more than 50% arriving after 2000. Perhaps these new immigrants will also have woke children, or perhaps they won’t.

– Amy’s generalizations of Asian, and Indian, cultures is weird, and not too scholarly. If she’s going to offend (I know about this), you need to know your shit.

8 thoughts on “Amy Wax on “Asians””

  1. The idea that America, or any nation, exists simply as an institutional transaction device between consenting adults and organizations that are bounded by particular borders is not realistic, though sometimes open and open borders adjacent people talk like that.

    I think I would characterize myself an an “open borders adjacent person”. That is, I don’t evangelize the cause but would not have a problem should the open borders vision truly materialize, through the consent of sovereign nations and ethnicities.

    I have a question for those who think open borders is unrealistic or somehow goes against the grain of human nature. Aren’t most modern nation states (excepting the tiny ones) results of open border policies adopted (sometimes forced) onto territories that were microcosms of the globe? Those processes would have caused distress to the localists of their day too, no? But subsequent generations came not just to accept the new configurations but to venerate them. Given the enormous advances made in technology to communicate (and thereby integrate) people, goods, and information seamlessly across the globe today, why is a “one-world” country unrealistic, or even a problem? People like Amy Wax (and Hindu nationalists) may be horrified at the prospect but their descendants who will end up adapting a different “globalized” culture may come to appreciate and venerate it.

  2. Razib:

    Another point Amy Wax raised in objection to Asian immigration was their fidelity to the Democratic Party, which she seems to regard as a repository of evil. As you point out, Vietnamese lean Republican, but it is true that Asian, if amalgamated into a single group, do lean Democratic by a big margin.

    But one big reason for this is can simply be that the Republican Party is seen as unfriendly to their very presence in the country. Prof. Wax does not seem to understand that these identifications are somewhat fluid, and change continuously with feedback. If Republicans are identified with the likes of her, then it’s no surprise if Asian immigrants vote Democrat even at the cost of their other interests. Isn’t this what the Irish did for all of the 19th and some part of the 20th century? But Irish-Americans aren’t uniformly Democratic anymore, are they?

  3. Some of the comments made by George Lee over at Loury’s substack are a pretty convincing takedown.

    As you pointed out, many Jews in the last century were socialists, Marxists, or anarchists, including Emma Goldman, Herbert Marcuse and other leading members of the Frankfurt School, Saul Alinsky, George Soros, and, yes, Albert Einstein. Even if we could agree to keep them out—we didn’t—what about the other Jews? Again, no one is entitled to immigration. But do we want to do without, to give a dramatic example, key contributors to the Manhattan Project, like Edward Teller and John von Neumann, when, as it turned out, German physicist Werner Heisenberg was just one calculation error away from a Nazi atomic bomb? Amy herself did come from an immigrant Jewish family.

    I am no fan of McCarthy’s activities during the 1950s, but Jews were massively overrepresented among communists in America at that time. That is a historical fact. If we take Amy’s own standards against her community, then most of her kin should have never been let in.

    In addition, I find the idea that someone voting democrat is somehow less “American” to be vomit-inducing. People’s contribution to a society should be measured how kind they are to others, innovation rates and if they try to leave a better future for all our children than the world they inherited. By all measures, Asians do just as well – and often better – than the general population at all of these.

    I am not in favor of censoring her, but her rants are idiotic and self-defeating. Final proof that even highly educated people can say remarkably dumb things.

    1. If we take Amy’s own standards against her community, then most of her kin should have never been let in.

      Standard arguments made on restrictionist and alt-right forums is that the immigration slowdown between 1926 and the 1960s did the trick. The 1924 Act almost entirely stanched the flow of Jewish immigrants (and Italians and Eastern Europeans). They (and probably Wax herself) would say that this forced the existing immigrants in America to assimilate. Doesn’t, of course, answer the question of Jews in the 1950s being overrepresented among the Commies, but…

      Their solution, as a corollary, is to impose a moratorium on Asian immigration now, to promote assimilation and enforce a disconnect with the home countries.

  4. Amy’s generalizations of Asian, and Indian, cultures is weird, and not too scholarly.

    It’s standard stuff you see on alt-right sites. Steve Sailer says everything she says and a lot more, and he produces citations. Which are drawn mostly from British Colonial writings (or writings from that era, like Katherine Mayo’s work.)

  5. “The idea that America, or any nation, exists simply…”

    I’ll respond to this as a supporter of expansive immigration to America (not open borders per se). I’ll accept that “cultural preservation” is a matter of import. The issue is that that preservation occurs by default in America, because American culture is just that powerful on a global scale. My cousins know who Chainsmokers are, who Daenerys was, and speak English fluently. When they come here, they will drive SUVs to and from their suburban homes. Their kids will read “Anti-Racist Baby” and grow up to be software engineers-and sadly, woke commissars because that is the dominant American culture.

    In contrast, nations like Israel, India, Japan, Latvia, etc. do not have globally dominant cultures. In some cases they don’t even have cultures fully dominant within their established borders. Thus, matters of immigration, demographics, religion/ethnicity become much more important to monitor and modify.

    But for America? There’s no serious concern about culture or assimilation here. In fact, I think Wax would be happier if people were NOT assimilating. They might be less woke!

    Here, Wax’s Boomerism reveals itself. She cannot grasp that the ground has shifted, and that her preferred culture is not the “American culture” anymore.

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