Sunday, October 07, 2012

My "controversial views"

Update: See this video of interview on cognitive genomics and related topics.

This Lansing State Journal article covers my recent appointment as VP of Research and Graduate studies at MSU. It's journalism, so as you can expect they emphasized potentially controversial topics like my work in genomics. (I expend about 10% of my research effort on this work, but it's much more titillating than the quantum mechanics of black holes!)

In order to set the record straight I have excerpted from the article and added my own comments.
... He is working with BGI-Shenzhen, a Chinese company that runs one of the world’s largest gene-sequencing operations, on a project to identify the genetic basis of intelligence.

The company’s leaders “just want to do science,” he said Friday during a lecture on campus. In other forums, he hasn’t shied away from talking about possible practical applications in genetically engineering a smarter population, someday allowing parents to choose the sperm and egg — or fertilized embryo — that would give them the best odds of having a high IQ kid.

“I hope that progressive governments will make this procedure free for everyone,” he wrote in July on his blog, Information Processing.

“The benefits from increased economic output, decreased welfare and criminality rates,” he added, would more than outweigh the costs.
The lecture referred to is listed here, with a link to the slides. The blog comments referred to appear here. The context is possible future technologies (in my rough estimation, genetic prediction for humans is probably 10 years out, zygote selection possibly 20 years out). This kind of discussion is also known as science fiction (we were discussing the movie Gattaca; see also here) and is a common pastime among geeky types. As I emphasized to the reporter, scientists discover new things and invent new technologies, but in a democratic society like ours it's the electorate that sets policies governing those technologies. My personal position is: IF genetic enhancement becomes possible, THEN it is better for governments to make it free rather than let it remain an option only for the rich.
Shortly after the start of classes this fall, Daniel HoSang, a professor of political science and ethnic studies at the University of Oregon, sent an email to a handful of faculty. Hsu, he wrote, “has taken a keen personal and professional interest in projects with strong Eugenicist overtones.” Because of Hsu’s position of authority at MSU, he said, he felt compelled to warn them.

His concerns were equally about positions Hsu had taken in his blog five years ago: that race is “clearly” a valid biological concept, that whether there are more-than-superficial differences between groups (in areas such as cognitive ability, personality and athletic prowess) is an open question.

Those positions aren’t outside the mainstream discourse of geneticists, though they’re not uncontested. They certainly run counter to the long-held conviction in the social sciences that race is more a social category than a biological one, formed around a distorted idea of human difference. If advances in genetic science have changed the terms of that debate, they have not ended it.

In an interview and email, Hsu said his position on the existence of significant group differences is “I don’t know” and that scientists should be incredibly careful about claiming that such differences do exist “because we have a bad history.”

He also said that, with the rapid recent advances in genetic science, he worries about the gap between what geneticists know and what everyone else does. “That is something that has to be really carefully talked about,” he said, “but we can’t talk about it if only the scientists understand the results and the social scientists refuse to actually try to understand the results.”
Then Assistant Professor HoSang once publicly stated (during a social science seminar at Oregon I attended) that he would "do everything in his power" to oppose another (Sociology) faculty member's effort to explain recent genetic results to the broader field. I found this statement so odd that it stuck in my memory. The paper that elicited the threat is published here. The story behind the publication of the paper (which took something like 4 years; I have read the actual referee reports), authored by a faculty member who has held tenured positions at both Oregon and Dartmouth, is shocking and contributed to my comments in the last paragraph above.

Genetic clustering of human populations by ancestry or geographical origin (also referred to as "population structure"; not something I work directly on) is uncontroversial in genomics. It is illustrated, e.g., here (figure from a paper in Science, obtained via a blog at Discover Magazine -- hardly hotbeds of controversy), and explained a bit more mathematically here. See also this Nature article describing Eigenstrat, a standard software tool used to correct for population structure in genetic studies (yes, it's really there -- we can't wish it away).

In response to the reporter's queries about my opinions on group differences, I wrote
As a physicist I am used to a high level of scientific rigor. Statistical certainty of 99.9% is not sufficient, in our field, to claim a discovery (e.g., a new elementary particle). Thus, the correct answer to many questions (e.g., do electrons have substructure?) is "I do not know".

In addition, I feel it is ill-advised to speculate because of our difficult history with race.

47 comments:

Yan Shen said...

"Shortly after the start of classes this fall, Daniel HoSang, a professor
of political science and ethnic studies at the University of Oregon,
sent an email to a handful of faculty. Hsu, he wrote, “has taken a keen
personal and professional interest in projects with strong Eugenicist
overtones.” Because of Hsu’s position of authority at MSU, he said, he
felt compelled to warn them."

Uh oh. Here's hoping that you don't end up suffering the same fate that befell great men like James Watson...

From the first comment in response to the article you linked to...

http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/comments/article/20121007/NEWS06/310070118/michigan-state-stephen-hsu

"Has anyone noticed China is launching their 1st Aircraft Carrier and
they are testing a stealth fighter that looks just like the F-22. They
are stealing our secrets from Colleges like MSU and UofM"

Not only are you an evil eugenicist Steve, but apparently you're also in cahoots with the Chinese government... Isn't it great to be an administrator in a visible position of power? :)

LaurentMelchiorTellier said...

It's not every scientist that could pull off a billowing cloak.


Mr. HoSang likely will never realize how fortuitous it is that the above guy isn't a Magneto in this controversy. But mayhap HoSangs grandkids will be born to a more genteel world, as a more generous kind of people.

Yan Shen said...

"They certainly run counter to the long-held conviction in the social
sciences that race is more a social category than a biological one..."

Isn't the issue essentially philosophical? If you're an anti-realist with respect to the problem of universals/the ontology of abstract entities, then isn't everything a "social construct" in some sense? When most people say that some abstract categorization is "real", I think what they mean is that there's a nice and clean set of rules that the majority of people can agree upon for what constitutes the "essence" of that abstract categorization. Thus, it's "easier" to agree upon what constitutes different species than different races, or so the argument goes. But when you think about it, even abstract categorizations that many of
us take for granted, such as "book" or "cup" probably defy an exhaustive listing of all of their "essential" properties.

I don't believe that most people consider the problem of universals and commit to either a realist or anti-realist position with respect to the ontology of abstract entities when talking about whether or not race is "real".

Richard Seiter said...

Thank you for the glimpse of what you experience espousing these views. I can understand encountering (vehement even) disagreement (we really don't know a lot of things as you emphasize, so there is certainly room for principled disagreement), but I am naive enough sometimes to still be amazed at some of the tactics people take (especially those from the oh so tolerant far left, note that it is the hypocrisy in the assertion of their own tolerance that bugs me. I see a lot of that in Santa Cruz, CA so am highly sensitized to this).


On a related note, did anyone happen to notice the media response to Rushton's passing? A sample: http://www.salon.com/2012/10/06/leading_race_scientist_dies_in_canada/singleton/

James D Miller said...

The forces of political correctness would almost certainly have stopped you from getting an important administrative job at my school, Smith College. (Not that you would want such a post.)

infoproc said...

James, I received a copy of your Singularity book in the mail and have been skimming it. Very nice!

steve hsu said...

James, I received a copy of your Singularity book in the mail and have been skimming it. Very nice!

asdf asdf said...

Steve,


What exactly are you trying to do with all genetics stuff. Do you want this to become general knowledge? Do you want public or private policy changed based on it? Or are you just trying to assuage your own guilt with some wishy washy middle way?


"Statistical certainty of 99.9% is not sufficient, in our field, to claim a discovery (e.g., a new elementary particle). Thus, the correct answer to many questions (e.g., do electrons have substructure?) is "I do not know"."


I've traded on a lot less certainty. Most people act in their own lives, justifiably, on less certainty. Public policy is made on less certainty. This isn't a good reason, this is just an excuse not to take a stand.


"In addition, I feel it is ill-advised to speculate because of our difficult history with race."


Not enough to question why Asians are discriminated against in admissions. Or to question educational policies based on closing "The Gap" or other such things. You've indicated you're not squeamish enough about it to not want some things changed.


So again, I ask what this is all about. You seem to be offended by lying (saying HBD isn't true or endorsing blank slate) enough to have this blog and to take some academic and personal risks. But also not enough so that you back down when someone really comes at you (that 99.9% comment is backing down). So what is it?


I know you've made your sacrifices, but your still a very much living a comfortable life supplied for by institutions opposed to truth. It's a personal choice for you that I don't claim to make in your place. However, I'm not sure we are supposed to be impressed with the fence sitting. Some overactive college professors come after you, there are some bad words in the hallway, maybe some aspect of career development gets held back. But we are hardly talking about going to the gallows in the name of the truth. We see here that, when pushed more then your comfortable with, the truth has to take a back seat.


I'm not trying to give you a hard time. I've been in a similar situation over a non-HBD issue. I know how hard it is. However, I think this kind of passive on-off meek rebellion isn't necessarily going to change things.


If you want real action taken on your ideas somebody needs to scream them from the rooftops. Not say, "I don't know."

MtMoru said...

Is HoSang "the politically correct powers that be"?

"They certainly run counter to the long-held conviction in the social sciences... the terms of that debate, they have not ended it"



Does HoSang have any clue as to how stupid he sounds?



"The benefits from increased economic output, decreased welfare and criminality rates..."



But unfortunately Steve has no clue as to how stupid he can sound. If there's a smarter blog please direct me, but as far as I can tell Steve CANNOT grasp that the traits of individuals, the social outcomes of individuals within a particular group, society, time and place may 1. be different in other circumstances or 2. meaningless in other circumstances.

As Deng said regarding the enormous increase in crime and vice that followed his liberal economic policies --- "It's impossible to open a window without letting in a few flies." But Deng might have said, "It's the flies' fault. Damn low IQ flies."

BTW, as bona fides, I am a participant in the BGI study and made higher high stakes test scores than Steve.

MtMoru said...

Rushton was a poorer rep for race realism than TerreBlanche.

MtMoru said...

Sorry you haven't gotten over metaphysics yet. Analytic philosophy is a word game played by people who think they are trying not to play a word game.

Utilitarianism with a little Heidegger and Marx is the solution to ALL "philosophical problems".

But as long as social "scientists" can go on and on, playing word games, and thinking themsleves very clever for their mastery of such word games, there will be a "debate".

MtMoru said...

Yan

MtMoru said...

Why doesn't Steve come out and say he is a eugenicist? Why is this word pejorative for HoSang?

The answer to these questions demonstrates that whatever one's God given potential he may only grow so tall an environment which isn't best for him. Over the decades Steve has learned to hedge. He has learned to shut up. He has even internalized this. Pity those who haven't, can't, or refuse to.

Alejandro SolĂ  said...

HoSang teaches Ethnic Studies? That's all we need to know.

Yan Shen said...

I agree with you that philosophy is ultimately nothing more than a series of word games, the result of people Platonifying abstract entities and meaninglessly trying to uncover their "essential" properties. I don't think anyone is saying anything "meaningful" when they discuss something like the problem of universals. So perhaps the "solution" to all philosophical problems is to realize that they're not real problems to begin with.

My only point was that when most people debate whether or not race is "real" as opposed to being a social construct, it appears to me that they're confused about what it is that they're actually arguing over. The debate should ultimately be "philosophical" rather than "scientific", in the sense that your position should depend upon whether or not you believe in the existence of abstract entities, rather than upon any empirical facts you can conjure up.

LondonYoung said...

And a "community organizer" too, just like Steve's preferred presidential candidate ... Look at what they did to Larry Summers ...

botti said...

***Assistant Professor HoSang once publicly stated (during a social science seminar at Oregon I attended) that he would "do everything in his power" to oppose another (Sociology) faculty member's effort to explain recent genetic results to the broader field.***
That's appalling, although I suppose it could be worse...
"From 1934 to 1940, under Lysenko's admonitions and with Stalin's approval, many geneticists were executed (including Isaak Agol, Solomon Levit, Grigorii Levitskii, Georgii Karpechenko and Georgii Nadson) or sent to labor camps. The famous Soviet geneticist Nikolai Vavilov was arrested in 1940 and died in prison in 1943.[9]
...
In 1948, genetics was officially declared "a bourgeois pseudoscience";[10] all geneticists were fired from their jobs (some were also arrested), and all genetic research was discontinued. Nikita Khrushchev, who claimed to be an expert in agricultural science, also valued Lysenko as a great scientist, and the taboo on genetics continued (but all geneticists were released or rehabilitated posthumously). The ban was only waived in the mid-1960s."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysenkoism

Bobdisqus said...

SteveHoSang and those with a world view like him play with fire and they do not care who gets hurt in the process. This is religion for them and they hold to the old ways when it comes to heretics. I hope that you have the strength to stand against such. Please be careful in that decision. The life of a heretic is a hard one.

ed said...

Did Professor Hosang open himself up to the possibility of being sued for writing that e-mail?

Christopher Chang said...

In fairness, a presidential candidate should be judged by the entire leadership team you expect him/her to bring. E.g. Romney is obviously more personally competent than Obama, but there are plenty of competent people on Obama's team, some of them in very high places. My concerns about both candidates revolve around whose interests their administrations truly intend to serve, not whether they will serve them effectively.

Christopher Chang said...

I wrote this comment, and then deleted it because I concluded it was off-topic. I'm not sure how it transformed into a state of unlife.

5371 said...

Isn't the singularity also always 20 years away?

dwbudd said...

Yan, despite violating the so-called Godwin Principle here, you'r on the right track.

The reason Professor Hsu and others run onto the rocks in these discussions is that to their opponents, "egalitarianism" is less a scientific construct as a quasi-religious one. As Professor Hsu states, it's entirely possible that there are not innate differences amongst groups of people. It's possible that "race" is a social construct as opposed to a scientific one (although in my opinion, such a Manichean view falls into - forgive me - what philosophers who study predicate logic call the "blue hat" fallacy -i.e., that a thing must be either blue, or a hat, but cannot be both, so how to describe correctly a hat that happens to be blue in colour).

But since they hold it as an article of faith that such differences must not exist, and that "race" must be a social construct, they do not want to hear evidence to the contrary. They don't want a debate. They fundamentally oppose an empiricist approach that they sub-consciously recognise might prove that their god is just a sort of flying spaghetti monster, even if they do not say so.


And hence, rather than open the door, even a tiny crack, to that possibly crushing outcome, they seek to block the heretic from even daring to suggest that maybe, just maybe, all their jealously guarded religious artefacts are really just pasta spoons...

dwbudd said...

Moru - not that Prof. Hsu needs my or anyone else's defence, but your construct presented - that he doesn't understand that social situations for individuals have differing implications for their lives' outcomes is not only flat-out wrong, but at odds with your own, earlier comments. I.e., that he (Professor Hsu) has learnt to "hedge" or to "shut up." Plainly, you grasp that your own argument here is fatuous.


Also, I'd like to point out just how preposterous your statement "a first generation Chinese American" has "ZERO credibility" really is.


I could be wrong, but I believe Professor Hsu is an American, and one born in the US to boot.


I strongly suspect he has read a history book or two. I would go further and say I believe he is smart and perspicacious enough to grasp the implications contained within. Because he is ethnically Chinese, you suggest it's impossible for him to comment with any authenticity on the history and implications of US history with respect to race? Really? Who, exactly then, is entitled to wade into such a discussion - Barack Obama, for example, is the child of an African who spent a tiny fraction of his life in the US (the senior Barack Obama), and thus I am certain studied virtually -no- American history. More to the point, President Obama spent many of his formative years outside the US, was raised by a white mother and white grandparents, attended largely privileged schools, and benefited at virtually every turn from policies designed to elide his path to success.

Does the president have any credibility on this issue?


Sorry, but your comment is so nakedly racist that it deserves to be singled out for ridicule, no matter your self-purported "bona fides" of personal genius.

botti said...

HoSang would presumably not agree with this Oxford chap Professor Julian Savulescu.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/9480372/Genetically-engineering-ethical-babies-is-a-moral-obligation-says-Oxford-professor.html

Richard Seiter said...

@botti, that is a vision that scares me. Who is going to decide what the desirable traits are? And they are going to make that decision for me without my input?! No thanks! The funny thing is I could see some of the hard core "egalitarians" we are discussing buying into that idea (I think it is a logical extension of the "nanny state"). Am I off base in how I interpret the philosophical underpinnings of their beliefs? (disclaimer: obviously there are nuances in people's views, I don't mean to suggest "they" all think alike, just that there is a meaningful subset for which this is true)

Emil Ole William Kirkegaard said...

It won't be necessary for the state to force people to select the right traits. People naturally want the good traits, for evolutionary reasons. No one wants unhealthy children. Liberal eugenics is no danger.

Emil Ole William Kirkegaard said...

That was the dumbest thing I've read in a long time. Never heard of salon.com before, probably not going back there.

Hauser Quaid said...

"In response to the reporter's queries about my opinions on group differences, I wrote

As a physicist I am used to a high level of scientific rigor. Statistical certainty of 99.9% is not sufficient, in our field, to claim a discovery (e.g., a new elementary particle). Thus, the correct answer to many questions (e.g., do electrons have substructure?) is "I do not know"."


With all due respect, I don't believe you, but I understand why you've responded this way. If you require 99.9% statistical certainty in something like social science, then you should stop doing it as with such criteria it would be impossible to make a discovery. I know that you know what would happen if you picked 10000 random Americans, and measure their IQs, I'm sure that you'd have a pretty accurate prediction about IQs of non-random selections from that sample and such accurate prediction for one particular group would cost you your career. But you have to ask your self why do the study if the only answer you can ever give is "I don't know", I hope you don't actually believe we'll ever come to 99.9% or that social scientists would overturn their religion if you ever did.

Richard Seiter said...

I agree that there will be traits almost everyone agrees will be good. I strongly disagree about all people agreeing about the desirability of all traits. In particular deciding which constitute "good" traits. Is a single sickle cell allele a good trait? It might be if you live in a malaria prone area. Is a single Tay-Sachs allele a good trait? It might be if you value IQ over the chance of ending up with homozygous Tay-Sachs.


A more relevant example. Psychopathy in leaders seems to be a popular meme at the moment. If we found a genetic way to eliminate psychopathy would doing so be desirable? I'm not so sure. I could see doing so eliminating much suffering, but I could also see it eliminating much of the drive to achievement of humans. In balance it might be a good thing, but let people make their own decisions.


Another example is schizophrenia (and some other mental illnesses). Would eliminating genes associated with schizophrenia be a good thing? Perhaps, but what if some of those genes are also (perhaps more rarely) associated with exceptional creativity. Would the cost be worth the benefit? Who makes that decision?


I fear liberal eugenics just as I fear the liberal nanny state. I think often times the most harm is done by people who are utterly convinced they are doing good to others If you want to help someone, let them decide if they want your "help." To be fair, I fear the extreme Steve mentions of only the rich having access to genetic engineering as well.

Richard Seiter said...

That was the point. Before making comments about liberal eugenics not being a danger you might want to be aware of some of the more extreme manifestations of the American liberal viewpoint.

John Tollison said...

Which obviously raises a whole lot of other questions. If society as a whole benefits by keeping certain genes in the pool, but sometimes individuals take big personal hits, then should there be some sort of government sponsored health care so that the majority aren't riding free? Should this include immune diversity as a guard against novel diseases? I've always wondered how a sensible lower class person who knew their family had strong resistance to the plague should charge for services during an outbreak (in the middle ages, not the modern world). Also, what does selecting for "good traits" mean, exactly? Are we assuming people want to select for above average genetic outcomes or extreme genetic outcomes? If you're trying to maximize your child's chances, the answer might be the former in a stable society and the later in an extremely unstable society. This time, providing government care could encourage free riders on the other side by reducing the cost of bad outcomes given attempts at extreme genetics. What's that, 2 attempts at creative genius yielded 2 schizophrenic children... don't worry the state will take care of them, ready to roll the dice a third time?

Richard Seiter said...

Good questions. (and I think I'm going to steal your plaque resistance thought experiment for my own use, if you don't mind ;-) I've thought about how societal safety nets influence risk taking in economic terms, but not in this context. What you choose to maximize also depends on what others are choosing to maximize so it becomes a more complicated game theoretic question IMHO. The moral hazard issue does bear on what risks citizens are permitted to assume. I would argue it is reasonable for a government to say: "you can take whatever risks you want, but if the outcome is bad we won't help you. If you want us to help then you have to restrict your choices." (a simple non-genetic example would be choosing to stop benefit payments to someone who refuses to deal with a debilitating drug addiction) I am not sure I like some of the possible extrapolations of this argument, though.

Emil Ole William Kirkegaard said...

I don't see any connection between the two.

Emil Ole William Kirkegaard said...

I did not say that "all people agreeing about the desirability of all traits".

One interesting case is the genes for happiness. Happiness is very heritable, with estimates around 50-80%. It seems to be unrelated to intelligence (cf. the large scottish study). Perhaps we should make our children happier? I wonder if positive psychologists have examined correlations of happiness with other things. I have the hypothesis that less happy people are more likely to work harder to improve stuff in the world. I'm not aware of any evidence for this, or against.

As for those that you mention:

Supposing that heterozygocity for sickle-cell has no other effects. It does put some burden on also doing genetic screening in the future to avoid homozygocity, but otherwise it just results in protection for malaria. Whether it is a good choice or not depends on the future chance of meeting malaria. I think we will cure that disease fairly soon, so perhaps it's unnecessary to get that gene unless one plans to travel to Africa or other malaria-inflicted areas.

Something similar holds for Tay-Sachs. If it really does give more intelligence, and no other effects unless homozygous, then it's a good gene. Intelligence is very important and will be even more so in the future.

Anyway, we still have a decade or so to find out such things before we move on to embryo selection.

As for the liberal nanny state. I live in a such state (Denmark). Note that "liberal" is not a good word to use on the internet, since it means something different in europe than in the US. In europe it really means "concerned with or pertaining to liberty".

John Tollison said...

If I recall, IQ and time horizons are only moderately correlated. I wonder about time horizons and happiness. I've always guessed that anxiety might lengthen time horizons, but I've never tried to verify it.
Also, I suspect the type of IQ booster you pick would color someone's personality. Is a sphingolipid storage disorder (leading to greater dendritic growth) not going to give you a different result than stimulating tradeoff like Torsions Dystonia or a developmental brain size enhancer (possibly like BRCA)?. I suspect the resulting society would vary a lot. Almost nothing has "no other effects", especially when scaled.

John Tollison said...

You're welcome to use the plague resistance thought experiment. I think the question of actively competing over genetics becomes more interesting everyday as growth slows, cooperation falls, and people compete on new axes. I have no idea if government can be used to stabilize things. I think reducing competitive pressures is important. Imo, In the short run, population needs to be stabilized and energy resources developed. In the long run, I think it's probably a good idea to move toward a more genetically homogenous world, but I have no idea how to get there from here.

tractal said...

I agree. The 'race' discussion is actually one of the only areas I can think of where philosophy-like reasoning gives a useful corrective. A good part of the argument is just humanities types attacking 'race' as an 'essentialist' concept, as if 'race realism' is committed to a literal platonic abstraction. This kind of BS is at work almost whenever anyone uses "essentialism" in an argument.

Emil Ole William Kirkegaard said...

The correlations between IQ and five factor model factors are quite small. But there is a negative one between IQ and conscientiousness. Although I think that's not a genetic effect, but an effect of smarter people can be lazier and still do well compared to less smart people. I'm sure I read a study with more specific personality measures (6 facets) and IQ, and they found some other correlations. I recall that IQ correlated positively with intellect (an O facet). I looked around a bit, but didn't find the studies.

mark25 said...

Some great discussion in these comments. I am surprised at Steve's suggestion that genetic enhancement should not only be for the rich. Leaving it to the rich seems like a good deal for the species. The obvious problem you have to worry about with genetic engineering is people collectively trading higher average outcome for greater population tail risk. Drift towards monocultures, reduced diversity, human race ending up in the same place as the banana plant. We've done it in farming and finance, I am sure we will be tempted to do it to ourselves too.

MtMoru said...

Very well put Yan. The reification of abstractions, including g, isn't only a problem of philosophers.

BUT I think that even HoSang could admit, just as that Harvard Black Studies professor Skip Gates does admit, that it IS possible to identify the geographic origin of someone's ancestors by looking at his genome. How could they deny it?

The question is rather do the differences between the races of man amount to the differences between chimps and bonobos or lions and tigers. Are sub-Saharan Africans or Europeans a subspecies and how would that be defined?

MtMoru said...

Your first comment is off the mark. One may learn to hedge and shut up and internalize the public ideology of his society but not know he is doing so and not know that some others can't or wouldn't do it. One may think there is something radical or antisocial about people who willingly identify themselves with "unacceptable" viewpoints.

That Steve has been very successfully socialized does not mean he sees that those who have not are at a disadvantage, even a disadvantage in their cognitive development.

It does follow. It is obvious to you and me. It may not be to other people.

THINK.

It's not that Steve is Chinese, per se. It is that he is first generation (meaning he is the son of immigrants) and that he belongs to a very successful minority group which in my experience has very few HoSang types. That is the Chinese are chauvinists to an even greater extent than whites.

And YES, Obama has ZERO credibility in talking about "our difficult history with race". But at the same time it is my guess that Obama has experienced more "racism" than Steve.

prof2012 said...

In many people's usage naturalized immigrants would be counted as first generation (unless you think those naturalized US citizens are perpetual foreigners). So Steve is in fact a second-generation Chinese American. A more general point is that what Steve is going through right now (your accusations of his "chauvinism" and his lack of historical awareness of racism in America) does smack of racism against Chinese Americans--Steve is not supposed to think independently about the current state of racial politics in America; he is expected to be meek and accept received PC wisdom even if some of those current PC policies obviously disadvantage Chinese/Asian Americans, otherwise there must be something wrong with him.

MtMoru said...

I'm sorry I didn't make myself clear. My point is that Steve may not see himself as he is seen by his opponents fairly or not.

What is true of other first or second generation Chinese may not be true of Steve.

Ask a black guy.

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