Sailer Strategy (contd.): Who Are "Asians" Anyway—And Why Are We Giving Them Affirmative Action Benefits?

I've shown recently that simple arithmetic proves the "Sailer Strategy"—by which the Republican Party would worry less about "outreach" to hostile minorities and more about "inreach" to mobilize its natural white base—will be viable for a surprisingly long time, despite current immigration policy.

But it will obviously help if some minorities can be persuaded to be less enthusiastic about the Democrats. In devising any long-term strategy for preventing one-party Democrat rule in America, the Asian vote, which went for Obama 62-35 over McCain, must be analyzed especially closely.

A generation from now, Hispanics will have an abundance of votes, but Asians will have plenty of money and brainpower. Hispanics will naturally continue to gravitate toward the tax-and-spend party, but Asians are more unpredictable. With their higher earning power, Asians, in theory, might not prove hostile to a party advocating limited government. On the other hand, if Asians continue their current shift to the left, their talents will magnify the impact of their numbers.

I'll discuss the Asian vote in detail in an upcoming column, but today's essay will merely explore the political implications of one basic question:

  • Who are "Asians" anyway?

Asia is an awfully big place. It has four billion people inhabitants. Is everybody from Asia an "Asian" according to U.S. government regulations?

For instance, everybody would agree that, say, Daniel Inouye, the Democratic Senator from Hawaii for the last 46 years, is Asian because his parents were Japanese.

But what about Mitch Daniels, the Republican governor of Indiana and a potential 2012 Presidential candidate? Is the blue-eyed Daniels an Asian? After all, he is of Syrian Christian descent, and Syria is in Asia.

Well, of course not! Everybody knows that West Asians aren't whom we are talking about when we talk about "Asians".

Then, how about Bobby Jindal, the Republican governor of Louisiana? He is of Asian Indian descent. Does that make him an "Asian" Asian?

Funny you should ask. See, Jindal was officially Caucasian for the first decade of his life. But then the Reagan Administration changed him to an Asian. So now he's an Asian.

To begin at the beginning: originally, the concoction of the overall "Asian" category was another folly of the Nixon Administration. Rather than simply continuing to tabulate separately each of the mutually antagonistic East Asian nationalities, with their lurid histories of aggression and atrocity against each other, Nixon's Office of Management and Budget lumped them together into the single racial category of "Oriental Americans", making them a legally-protected class able to sue for disparate impact.

Nixon's creation of an "Oriental" category (later changed to "Asian" to entrap unfashionable people who fail to keep up with the latest PC nomenclature shifts) inevitably called into existence a pan-East Asian class of activists to protect and extend their racial privileges.

As I argued when reviewing Sandra Day O'Connor's disastrous, Bush-backed, majority opinion in the Grutter quota case, if the government announced that people born on Wednesdays were now a legally preferred class, there would soon spring up pressure groups with names like The Children of Woe to lobby for more Wednesdaytarian power. PBS would run Wednesday Pride documentaries during Wednesday History Month about esteem-building people born on Wednesdays, such as Jimmy Carter, Bruce Lee, and Rosie O'Donnell.

Of course, the (relatively) good news about "Asians" is that since they tend toward competence, they benefit from fewer quotas than blacks and Hispanics. Thus the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's notorious Four-Fifths Rule for detecting disparate impact results in de facto quotas for Asians much less often than for Non-Asian Minorities (NAMs).

Still, those Asian activists are in action. Thus, back in the 1970s when Gov. Jindal was a child, Indian and Pakistani immigrants and their offspring were legally considered racially Caucasian, in accordance with the general findings of physical and genetic anthropology.  But then, Indian immigrant businessmen clamored for the Small Business Administration's low-interest minority business development loans. So, in 1982, the Reagan Administration lumped immigrants from the Indian subcontinent in with East Asians, declaring them all to be "socially or economically disadvantaged" Asians.

This is the result: Imagine you are a Taliban terrorist from the mountainous border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. You immigrate to America. If you are from the Pakistan side of the Khyber Pass, you are now officially "Asian", and you qualify for taxpayer-subsidized low-interest loans. But if you are from the Afghanistan side, you are officially white and are out of luck at getting a government loan.

Got it?

Lumping together East Asians and South Asians is transparently bogus. Pyong Gap Min, a professor at Queens College in New York City, pointed out:

"[Asian] is a political term used by Asian-American activists and enhanced by governmental treatment. In terms of culture, physical characteristics, and pre-migrant historical experiences, I have argued, South and East Asians do not have commonalities and as a result, they do not maintain close ties in terms of friendship, intermarriage or sharing neighborhoods."

The Reagan Administration's attempt to bribe a talented pressure group, the Indians, by declaring them legally nonwhite is another example of the shallow short-term thinking about race that has left the Republican Party with its future in doubt.

It's absolutely nuts for Republicans to expand a system under which immigrants can win money and prizes by declaring themselves victims of whites.

You don't make friends that way, you make enemies. It's basic human nature.

Unfortunately, almost everybody thinks about diversity in only the most abstract terms: e.g., If we give Group X the special benefits their leaders demand, they will vote for us more. I mean, their politicians wouldn't have ulterior motives, now would they?

But, in reality, to understand the effects of diversity, you have to think about how individuals actually act, about how they feel when they act. You have to put yourself in their shoes.

Consider this example. In 2005, the Office of the Inspector General sent a report to the SBA: Criteria for Overcoming the Presumption of Social Disadvantage is [sic] Needed. A whistle-blowing citizen had filed a complaint about an Asian businessman in his mid-20s who had qualified for the SBA's 8(a) minority business development programs. The whistle-blower argued  that the entrepreneur was not really disadvantaged.

See, in theory you don't qualify for taxpayer-subsidized loans just by being "Asian". No, you have to be a socially or economically disadvantaged Asian. And how do you demonstrate you are disadvantaged? You fill out a form about how you've suffered under the lash of white bigotry.

Thus this Asian entrepreneur related a tale of woe on his application, including:

"I then watched as young, less experienced white men got the promotions and salary increases that I had been promised."

The Inspector General's office discovered, however, that in the company where the victim toiled, his father was a senior officer and shareholder. In fact, this young martyr to social and economic disadvantage:

1. came from a wealthy family; e.g., according to a newspaper article, since 1996, three companies his parents founded and were affiliated with were sold for approximately $3 billion;

2.  was raised in his parents' home, which had an assessed value of $5.2 million as of January 1, 2005; …

5.  was gainfully employed by the United States Senate, Goldman Sachs International … among others.

As the title of the 2005 report points out, after decades of handing out loans to each and every Asian who submitted a form claiming to be "socially or economically disadvantaged", the federal government still hadn't gotten around to developing criteria for "overcoming the presumption of social disadvantage".

In other words, if you are Asian, the government just takes your word for it.

Consider the psychological effect of the government prodding you to lie about white persecution. Sure, this Asian applicant no doubt knew he was fibbing the first time the government asked him to complain about being discriminated against by whites in order to qualify for quotas. Yet, as the years go by, and he keeps having to fill out these forms to get more advantages over whites, and keeps donating to ethnic lobbies to preserve his privileges, it will only be natural for him to start believing his cover story about how he's the real victim and thus he deserves his loot.

If you pay people to exploit you, they will come to believe you deserve it.

In fact, maybe you do.

The policy implications are twofold.

  • First, the next time the Republicans get any power, they need to abolish all programs that treat "Asians" as victims deserving special treatment.

If Asians are put on a basis of legal equality with whites, they will get along well enough with them—and cease to identify with the people, and the party, benefitting from quotas

Sure, there will be a short-term political price to pay. But if you don't do it now, when will you do it? When Asian voters are more numerous?

  • Second, South Asians must be reclassified back to Caucasian, and the "Asian" category renamed "East Asian" (if not Oriental).

It was particularly shortsighted of the Reagan Administration to declare South Asians officially nonwhite. South Asians tend (especially compared to East Asians) to be extraverted, loquacious in English, interested in politics and argument, and intellectually venturesome. There are already far more South Asian than East Asian pundits in America. Policies that incline these Indians to the left could turn out to be disastrous.

There are some grounds for hope. One of the main reasons for anti-white feelings among East Asian men is that white men are much more likely to marry East Asian women than East Asian men are to marry white women, leaving a lot of cranky East Asian bachelors left over. This is less of a problem for South Asian men, who keep their womenfolk on tighter leashes. Arranged marriages are still common among South Asians in America.

Because the GOP is inevitably destined to be considered the white party, it would be best to have the Indians, as Lyndon Johnson vulgarly but memorably said of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, "inside the tent p-----g  out than outside p-----g in".

And it's not at all too late to rectify the Asian definition to detach Indians. The current categories are hardly set in stone. For example, in 1997, the OMB broke apart the silly "Asian or Pacific Islander" group into "Asian" and "Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander".

Note, however, why this was done. Right now, only minority activists pay attention to the federal definitions of race and ethnicity. Thus the "Asian or Pacific Islander" group was split not because it was plainly stupid to lump massive Samoans in with wiry Vietnamese—and certainly not because it was good for America. Instead, it happened because Native Hawaiian groups felt that being aggregated with Asians was slowing their endless campaign to badger Congress into treating them like American Indians (for instance, let them have casinos to cater to gambling-crazed Chinese tourists).

Asians are richer than Pacific Islanders. So lumping them together statistically diminished the Polynesians' claims of victimization.

Bottom line: American whites have long subcontracted out to minority pressure groups the question of how Washington develops the racial categories used to award legal privileges and perquisites.

When whites made up an overwhelming majority of the U.S. population, as they did during the Nixon Administration, that heedlessness may have seemed trivial.

But as whites lose their numeric dominance because Washington's immigration policy, they will have to learn to play these grubby games, too.

[Steve Sailer (email him) is movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog. His new book, AMERICA'S HALF-BLOOD PRINCE: BARACK OBAMA'S "STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE", is available here.]