Posts Tagged ‘whites’

Whenever the law school has an event explaining to us how to “get ahead” in the corporate or legal fields, the speaker always makes steam come out of my ears. For Asian-Americans, the problem at law firms is increasingly obvious, as Asian-American associates bill more hours and earn more money for the firm, only to be passed up when bonus and promotion time comes around. (For more see here.) To combat this, the speaker will often say that Asian-Americans need to develop their “people skills” or need to step away from cultural norms of deference to authority by speaking up more, etc. This strikes me as fundamentally wrong-headed and moronic; why should a disadvantaged group conform to views of privileged white leadership, instead of pointing out the dangers of implicit bias and fundamentally changing the way we view leadership?

The cult of “leadership” has largely grown up around features already viewed as “leaderly” in the dominant society — features that tend to be prevalent among patrician white men. Yet, when these features are exhibited by other groups, they are still perceived as un-leaderly. Consider the first identified “glass ceiling” group, women. When women exhibit stereotypically “female” characteristics and gender roles, they are viewed as unsuitable for leadership. Yet, when women exhibit stereotypically “male” leadership characteristics, they are rated poorly for their incongruity with the traditional gender role! (See Eagly and Karau for more: http://web.pdx.edu/~mev/pdf/PS471_Readings_2012/Eagley_Karau.pdf). Women are caught in a Catch-22: Behave in a “female gender role” and get passed over, or behave in a “male gender role” and get slammed for being a “bitch” or “difficult to work with.”

Perhaps we need to fundamentally reconsider what good leadership looks like. Stereotypically white male leadership skills often lead people astray; for example, leaders who merely talk first and talk often are more convincing, even when they have the wrong answer. Maybe we should stop listening to these guys, particularly if they’re incompetent! This is one of those problems with the Presidency — you only get to be President if you want to be President, and frankly, wanting to be President requires a lot of ego and dangerous amounts of self-confidence. Rather than getting competent leaders, we get persuasive ones, even if they persuade us to do things fundamentally against our self-interest.

Instead of conforming to the view of leadership as defined by a white male hierarchy, we should be moving people towards a different view of what a good leader entails. Good leaders can be focused on competency rather than politicking, listen to others’ ideas before speaking, build consensus, hear out minority opinions, and be willing to change their minds. A leadership cadre of blowhards, regardless of their race or gender, does not particularly appeal to me.


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In a new paper (PDF here, press release here), Michael I. Norton and Samuel R. Sommers find that whites now believe themselves to be more the victim of racism than blacks. For whites, anti-white bias now appears to be more widespread and damaging than anti-black bias.

It is easy to scoff at notions of a zero-sum game in racism, but the reasons for this perception derive from basic human misunderstandings of absolute levels vs. rates of change.

For example, despite the fact that America’s economy is 2.5 times larger than China’s, more than half of Americans believe the Chinese economy is larger. There are probably many reasons for this (media coverage and general xenophobia among them), but because China’s growth rate has been astonishing, we more readily perceive that it must also be absolutely larger relative to the American economy.

Similarly here, despite the fact that blacks probably face more institutional racism (and despite lower graduation rates, income for similar jobs, lack of political clout, etc.), many whites mistakenly see the derivative of anti-black bias (a negative rate of change) rather than the absolute anti-black bias that exists. In their minds, because blacks face less bias than they did previously while whites face more bias (a dubious assumption to be sure), blacks must face less bias overall than whites.

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We still runnin' this

What with my previous eye-rolling at Charles Murray’s “New Elite,” it’s worth noting that there is actually a class of elites in the country — the same class of elites that we’ve always had: old, rich white men.

For example, the U.S. Senate is fairly “elite.” Yet, despite the fact that I bet not many of them have watched “The Wire” or mountain biked or live in a community surrounded by non-college degree holders, there are 54 of them out of 100 who are worth more than $1 million. That means the median Senator is a millionaire. (I can hear the cries now of “but a million dollars isn’t what it used to be!”) (For comparison, the median U.S. household has ~$120,000 of net worth.) The median age in the Senate is 63. Furthermore, the youngest current members of the Senate (Goodwin, Lemieux) are both being replaced by old guys.

There are 17 women in the Senate, and 83 men. There is 1 black Senator, 1 Hispanic senator, 2 Asian/Pacific Islander Senators (not counting John Ensign) and 96 white Senators.

The House of Representatives is slightly more stratified, but not much. The median net worth in the House is $366,000. The median age is 58.

There are 76 women in the House of Representatives, and 357 men. (Oh, and that gender disparity ain’t gonna get much better, Mama Grizzlies notwithstanding.)

There are 42 black Reps, 25 Hispanic Reps, 5 Asian/Pacific Islander Reps, and 1 Native American Rep. This means, of course, that we have 360 white Reps.

Barack Obama’s net worth is around $1.3M. John McCain’s net worth is around $40M. Hillary Clinton’s is around $34M. Mitt Romney’s is around $200M. (see here)

The average age of S&P 500 CEOs is 54. Median compensation is around $9M.

There are 16 female CEOs of S&P 500 companies, and the rest are men. (The worst part of that Bloomberg article — implying that the glass ceiling is broken, when 3.2% of S&P 500 CEOs are women.)

The 2010 election will also be driven by the Tea Party — people who are generally richer, whiter, older, and maler than the general population.

Those in power tend to be rich, old, white and male, just like they used to be.

Why define a “New Elite” when the old one is still doing just fine?

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A new Pew study finds that the gender gap in Asian-American interracial marriages is growing. (It is also growing in black relationships in the other direction. There’s plenty of commentary on that subject, but you can start here.) Asian-American females marry men of another race at almost double the rate (~40%) as Asian-American men. This trend has actually increased in past years, despite increased immigration, which lowers overall intermarriage rates (since many immigrants are already married, and 0-generation immigrants are much more likely to remain within an immigrant community).

Interracial marriage rates by ethnicity and gender (Pew Research Center, 2010)

These statistics do have particular relevance for me, an Asian-American man in a relationship with a white woman. (Potato, this is your shout-out!) Sometimes when we’re out, we like to play a game, in which we count the number of Asian-male/white-female couples, and compare it to the number of Asian-female/white-male couples we see. The ratio is usually even more lopsided than the Pew study indicates. (We also play a game where we wonder why attractiveness in Asian-female/white-male couples disproportionately favors the Asian female, but that game is only tangential to the question at hand.)

Why is this? I have a few theories, based on nothing except my own hunches, and it’s worth noting that “Asian-American” covers a wide variety of ethnic groups including Indian, Pakistani, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Indonesian, Iranian, Iraqi, Arab, etc. Thus, any generalizations will be just that — generalized. My theories after the break! (more…)

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