The racial category Asian lumps together widely diverse groups with no common language, phenotype, or culture who come to the U.S. under vastly different circumstances…

How do you mash together Laotian war refugees and Japanese business investors and come up with an average or mean experience?…

So let’s get it straight. The term “Asian” in the U.S. was chosen by Asian American activists as an alternative to the pejorative “Oriental.” The Oriental is the creation of Europeans for whom the Orient was an object of curiosity and a source of riches to be studied and exploited. In modern times, the study of the Orient, especially in contrast with the civilized world of the Occident (aka Europe), solidified an idea of Orientals as exotic, potentially dangerous Others.

Activists back in the 1960s decided they wanted to reject the label Oriental and call themselves Asian American instead. Subsequent generations of Asian Americans have gathered as a coalition under the Asian American banner in order to resist being treated like Orientals. But don’t get it twisted, the idea of an Asian or Oriental race is a creation of white people, not of Asians.

Scot Nakagawa (via untilasinglesolitonsurvives)


Just like Thomas Sowell said:

an amalgamation of widely varying subgroups

I recently saw some solid predictions in a real estate projection, but they were solid because the subgroups were actually fairly similar. It was like a rational middle ground between everyone being a special individual snowflake with no similarities to anyone else, and stereotypes that ignore the variation within subgroups. If you can find a subgroup that actually is fairly homogeneous, and you can predict that subgroup, then you can multiply your predictions out and get somewhere helpful with the arithmetic.

Of course, defining realistic subgroups occupies a lot of minds in marketing, because if you can find a mass of similar people you can market to all of them at once, and that’s a business opportunity. In the case I’m thinking of, though, it was like tying changes in a metro area to demographic shifts. But rather than imply “All old people are the same” by just saying “the population is aging”, it talked about a specific kind of older person with less variable wants and means.

Here’s a pretty good example:

Messrs Kharas and Rogerson calculate that the number of poor in “non-fragile” states has fallen from almost 2 billion in 1990 to around 500m now; they think it will go on declining to around 200m by 2025. But the number of poor in fragile states is not falling—a testament both to the growing number of poor, unstable places and to their fast population growth. This total has stayed flat at about 500m since 1990 and, the authors think, will barely shift until 2025.

Lesson being, if you consider a couple different sorts of people living under $2/day—refugees, slum-dwellers, rural people in large medium-income countries, poor in poor countries (eg Papua)—then you’re at least looking at more homogeneous components, whereas lumping together refugees with an American businessman who made negative income this year is just way too amalgamated.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s