Right Data, Wrong Lesson

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Clarence Page pens an interesting column in which he describes the enormous success of America's black immigrants, and yet at the same time, ignores some obvious implications. The interesting question is: Why?

Consider the following data. Each bullet is quoted directly from Page's column.

  • 43.8 percent of African immigrants had earned a college degree, compared with 42.5 of Asian-Americans, 28.9 percent of immigrants from Europe, Russia and Canada, and 23.1 percent of the U.S. population as a whole. [These statistics are from a 2000 study. For comparison, the U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2005 for Americans over the age of 25, 28% overall held at least bachelor's degrees, 49% of Asian-Americans, but only 18% of blacks. Not using the age cutoff, the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reported in 2004 an 11% figure for blacks earning four-year degrees or higher. --ed]
  • About 8 percent, or about 530, of Harvard's undergraduates were black, ..., but somewhere between one-half and two-thirds of the black students were "West Indian and African immigrants or their children, or to a lesser extent, children of biracial couples."
  • Immigrants, who make up 13 percent of the nation's college-age black population, account for more than a fourth of black students at Ivy League and other selective universities, according to the study of 28 colleges and universities published recently in the American Journal of Education. The proportion of immigrants was higher at private institutions, 28.8 percent, than at public colleges, where they made up 23.1 percent of enrollment.
Impressive, no? This is even more so when we compare black immigrants to native-born black Americans.

I am inclined to think that, based on such data, two things stand out. (1) If the America Martin Luther King dreamed of, in which blacks "will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character", is not already here, it is near at hand. (2) American blacks ought to do some serious soul-searching about why they still remain, in so many respects, at the bottom rung of the economic ladder.

But Mr. Page has no such inclinations. Here is what he thinks of all this.
Are elite schools padding their racial diversity numbers with black immigrants who do not have a history of American slavery in their families? This development calls into question whether affirmative action admission policies are fulfilling their original intent. [italics and bold added]
First, if the emphasis on American slavery seemed odd to you, you are not alone. Second, it is unseemly to whine about being "disadvantaged" (as Page later does, in effect) in the presence of people who have had to live in the desperate poverty of the Third World!

Aside from the bizarre xenophobia, is also interesting to note that Page regards the "original intent" of affirmative action as "reparations for slavery". This is a new one to me. I was always under the impression that affirmative action, whatever the flaws in its basic premise, was supposed to mitigate past and present discrimination against certain demographic groups, and not exclusively blacks.

Be that as it may, Page ends by trying to have things both ways.
[W]e need to revisit the question of diversity. Unlike our system of feel-good game-playing, we need to focus on the deeper question of how opportunities can be opened to everyone who was left behind by the civil rights revolution. We tend to look too often at every aspect of diversity except economic class. [bold added]
What constitutes being "left behind by the civil rights revolution"? Obviously, Page doesn't regard the fact that black men are increasingly being judged on merit as meaning that nobody has been left behind who hasn't stranded himself.

No, to Page, the civil rights revolution was not about freeing the black man from the last vestiges of slavery, but of making countless Americans who never owned slaves forfeit "reparations" to the free descendants of slaves. In other words, Page advocates a kind of slavery, or at least a new kind of Jim Crow, himself. Mighty white of you, Clarence.

With Page, the moral inversion of the Civil Rights Movement has reached its logical conclusion. Instead of seeking the same recognition of the rights of black men as of everyone else, he seeks favors for the descendants of American slaves at everyone else's expense, including that of black immigrants! Instead of looking at the evidence that blacks need no special consideration to gain entry into college, Page complains that black immigrants are muscling native-born blacks out of admission slots they are entitled to, presumably because they are black, and were slaves in America, and, perhaps, poor. Instead of urging black youths to get to work, he panders to the cult of victim-hood.

When a black man fails to celebrate a clear victory for his own race, it is a sure sign that he is not sincerely interested in advancing the welfare of his race, which is to say, ensuring that the rights of all men are protected equally.

-- CAV


Galileo Blogs said...

Whose ancestors were victimized the worst? Whose harm-to-ones'-ancestors was so great that it gives that person the right today to employ the greatest amount of coercion against their fellow men to extract the maximum booty possible?

Is it American blacks, whose ancestors were slaves (and sometimes slave-owners)?

Is it African blacks, whose ancestors were enslaved (and sometimes did the enslaving)?

Is it Shiite Muslims, whose ancestors were massacred by Sunni Muslims? Is it the reverse?

Is it the Irish, whose ancestors starved in the potato famine of the 1840s, and whose ancestors were betrayed by Englishmen (and fellow Irishmen)?

Is it today's English, whose Celtish ancestors were victimized by Romans and Angles & Saxons, or whose Anglo-Saxon ancestors were victimized by Normans?

Is it the French, who were victimized by Germans?

Or is it the Germans, who were victimized by Romans?

Is it the Europeans, whose Germanic ancestors were victimized by the Huns?

Is it the Koreans, who were victimized by the Japanese?

Is it the Japanese, who were conquered by Americans?

Is it the Philippinos, who were conquered by the Spanish and the Americans?

Is it the American Indians, who were victimized by Americans, Mexicans and British?

Is it today's descendants of the Maya, Aztecs and Incans, who were victimized by the Spanish?

Is it the Greeks, who were enslaved by the Romans?

Is it the Romans, whose treasured cities were Vandalized?

Is it the Slavs, victimized by the Russians and the Germans?

Is it the Poles, victimized by the Russians and Germans?

Is it the American blacks, whose ancestors were enslaved by whites, Arabs and African blacks?

Yes, our identities are racial, and we are all victims. Let the fighting begin.


Or, recognizing man's individual identity, let's live as free men and women in a society where the initiation of force is forbidden.

Those African blacks do so well because they are focused on their individual achievement, leaving the racist moaning to those American blacks who would rather steal booty using the power of the state than produce the goods they want through their own effort.

Gus Van Horn said...

Your comment on the irish reminds me of a fact I learned from Andrew Bernstein's The Capitalist Manifesto: That, except for the condition of slavery, slaves in the Americas enjoyed vastly better living conditions than did many (most, if I recall correctly) of the Irish in Ireland who lived at around the same time.

Galileo Blogs said...

I always thought the Irish had the greatest claim to victimhood of any racial group. At least I felt that way last time I was in a pub in Dublin, having had a few too many Guinness beers, and listening to Irish singers sing ballads of the days of the potato famine.

I felt that Irish feeling in my bones, until I woke up the next morning and realized that I have no Irish ancestors!! Still, that feeling of group solidarity and victimhood was just so real. :-)

In all seriousness, there are many ironies in racial histories, such as the one you point out, or your original post that shows how well African blacks do in this country versus American blacks and whites.

The message American blacks (and whites) should get from that fact is that there is no group identity and no racial predestination. As individuals, any one of us is capable of achieving to our own potentials. Individual human potential is not bound up in any racial identity. One's race does not impose any inherent limit on one's potential.

The only activator of one's potential comes from, to use Martin Luther King's words, "the content of our character", i.e., our values. What individual values explain the success of so many African blacks in America? What values explain the failures of so many American blacks?

softwareNerd said...

Hey GB, You forgot me,... lol!

The Brits conquered India and ruled it for years, treating Indians as second class citizens... and that explains why Indians are so under-represented when it comes to college admissions and so on... oh wait... maybe I have some facts mixed up :) .

Whatever the past injustices, this particular generation of African-Americans has no excuse except their own cultural (aka philosophical) approach.

If one were to compare the schools where most IIT engineers studied and then went on to MIT and so on, one would find that students who want to study (in those Indian schools) can do so and excel. In this, they would be the polar opposite of an inner-city school in the US. On the other hand, if one were to look at the resources they have, in purely physical terms: buildngs, computers, books, and so on... the vast majority have less resources than the inner-city schools. My point is, that the critical difference is not resources, but educational philosophy. The Indian school do not even have great teachers, the real difference is that even the below-average teachers think kids ought to be in school to learn.

To be clear, India (and every other country) has a poorer class who are where they are because of some historical reason, but also largely stay where they are because of their culture / philosophy. (India even has more affirmitave action for "backward classes" than the US.)

I think one thing that is unique to the US situation is that the common physical characteristic (skin color) make it a bit like carrying a badge saying "possible member of poor class, with poor class philosophy". However, while this is an added hindrance, the main problem is poor philosophy.

There are signs that some blacks are unhappy about this. There are rumblings of protests from within the black community, against the philosophy of victimhood. Every passing generation has less excuse to blame others, so I think it's bound to change... sooner or later.

Galileo Blogs said...

Sorry, SoftwareNerd, I forgot a lot from my list. I offer my sincere apologies to the Indians, who were victimized by the British, and also to the Chinese. Those poor chums in Hong Kong are such victims, having been ruled for so many years by the British. As they sip their cocktails in their skyscrapers, peering out over arguably the most capitalist land on earth, they can compare stories of ancestral depredations. I am sure they shiver with their thoughts, or maybe it is just that the thermostats on their central air conditioning units are set a fraction of a degree too low.