HBD: Yellow Pearl


You cannot travel far into the world of HBD thinking without seeing the moniker NAM. This is a shorthand way of saying non-Asian Minority. What makes Asians so special that they need their own description?

Even though there are no Asians in my library, this non-Asian non-Minority blogger investigates.

This is one of a series (well maybe) where I discuss issues and elements of what is referred to as HBD. Similar to my Random Thoughts series these posts will be more personal and less scholarly. If you want deeply footnoted reference work, please look elsewhere. Disclaimer aside, I do hope to give a passable overview of the subject.

The reason to separate out Asians from other minority groups is that their performance tends to be so different. While Blacks and Hispanics tend to fall behind Whites in education and employment, Asians tend to equal or surpass them. Whereas Blacks and Hispanics tend to partake in more crime and delinquency than Whites, Asians tend to be more law abiding. In short, they cast doubt on the minority-status causes bad outcomes.

Unlike Jews, Asians are a visible minority. There is no guessing (“hmmm, is that name Polish or Jewish?”) whether they are non-majority or not. Their visible outsider, not-one-of-us, difference should make them easy targets for the discrimination that holds other outsider groups back. The only problem is, that there is no problem; Asians perform well at school and college, tend to find employment, have higher than average incomes, and have fewer problems with law enforcement. It seems that, in the United States at least, minority status itself does not necessarily lead to bad outcomes.

While most “polite” discourse tends to lump all non-White groups into the catch-all “minority” classification, HBD discussions recognize the mirror-image outcomes between Asian and non-Asian, and thus the “non-Asian” prefix to mark out this atypical minority group.

Of course, Asian is a broad, and imprecise, category but is generally assumed to include: Chinese. Japanese, Korean, and some (less than intuitively, perhaps) Indians. I am not sure if that list is correct or complete, I know that NAM might not include all of those who might qualify as Asian (i.e., from the Orient) and may include some that do not.
[I am sure readers will correct me]

Academic Yellow Peril

An interesting related issue is, complaints of Asian students crowding out White ones because Asians score higher on tests such as SAT or ACT. The result is that Asians receive college places above their proportional share of the population. Such complaints bring forth cries of a double standard. After all, the complaints go, Whites rail against affirmative action, so why should they complain when the system promotes better students.

While mostly a who-whom question (college places are a zero sum game), there is a reasonable and logical answer too. Success at college (and many other endeavors) requires some minimum talent or intelligence, after this there are returns to talent or brains. However, those above-threshold gains are much lower than the return to meeting the baseline. Higher test scores do not guarantee better college performance; they merely describe the likelihood of a student completing the course.

Many White students who lose out to Asians are probably fully capable of completing the course. The argument against affirmative action is, that by lowering admission requirements for certain groups, they admit those who have little chance of completing the course in reasonable time or without unreasonable assistance. The slightly higher (I do not believe Asians out score Whites by huge margins) Asian scores do not necessarily mean better graduates, but affirmative action does exclude many capable students so as to admit those with a lower chance of graduating (I believe affirmative action scores are considerably lower).

In any case, the who-whom version is perfectly sensible and does not need the bulwark of a logical explanation; college places are a limited and valuable resource, so “irrational” arguments make sense – it is always better to be the who not the whom.


6 Responses to “HBD: Yellow Pearl”

  1. Hope Says:

    Asians are not necessarily smarter, but they do tend to place a huge emphasis on academics, work ethic and rule-following. Since school is all about those things, and less about originality and creativity, Asians have a slight advantage. After graduation, it’s a different story.
    [DU: It seems to me that Asians continue to do well after college. I think the “lack of creativity” thing may be over stated. While such difference in creativity may exist, they may not be hugely detrimental, as most endeavors do not rely on huge amounts of creativity. Perhaps deference and politeness – are these any different in second generation? – may hold them back in a worlds where a certain aggression and charisma is needed (some management, sales, some entrepreneurial activities).]

  2. dream puppy Says:

    “Unlike Jews, Asians are a visible minority”

    I could argue otherwise.
    [DU: Is suspect that you can make a good guess as to Jewish ethnicity (name, features, etc.) but that is an order of magnitude different than figuring out Asian ethnicity.]

    Anyway, Asian makes up the A in NAM because they are able to function in our society. That’s it. They are non violent and not net drain. They don’t cause too many problems. The M’s are highly dysfunctional and traumatic to live around, especially because we are not supposed to talk about how disharmonious they are to our society.

    This can be qualified though – not all Asians are created equal. If you replaced all the Koreans, Chinese, and Japanese in America with Filipinos I care to wager that the A in NAM would quickly disappear.

  3. Hope Says:

    Asians do alright when they’re a tiny minority, say, 1-4%. If they pass 10% though, like in parts of California, people get a bit resentful. Their culture becomes too dominant and begins to replace the native culture. There are lots of complaints that Asians are crowding out other people in the CA university system, due to their extreme emphasis on academics. More racism there against Asians than in states where Asians are a much smaller minority.
    [DU:This is the problem with a meritocracy in a diverse society. We can acknowledge its fairness but remain unhappy with the result. If along with very uneven rewards, those rewards go to distinct groups who are recognizably not of the majority tensions will rise. The fact that returns to certain skills (abstract cognitive) are increasingly disproportionate is bad enough, but having those returns accrue to a small and distinct minority makes it all the worse (e.g., Jews and Asians). The result is fair, but not necessarily desired.]

  4. dream puppy Says:

    Asians are also more collectivist and less universalist than Westeners so there is sometimes the feeling that nepotism and filial piety play a slight role in commercial success. Not in the exaggerated levels as some of our other ..ahem…very successful minorities, but still a valid cause for resentment.

    I think part of it is that fact that Asians are a functional successful group (like whites) that is not penalized for having an in-group strategy (unlike whites). Frankly, I get a little jealous sometimes.

    The best lesson Caucasians can learn from Asians is that being successful and advocating for what is best for your race should not be mutually exclusive.
    [DU: Exactly.
    In Poorly Made in China the writer, a negotiator/fixer/representative acting for US importers of China made goods, tells how after a brief trip to the US he was heading back to China. A fellow passenger, who was Chinese, asked him why he was traveling. When the writer replied that he was returning home (he had lived there for over a decade, spoke the language, and was likely well assimilated), his fellow passenger sternly told him he was not going “home,” only visiting. No explanation would convince the man that the writer could call China home. I sometimes feel that White Western countries could stand to express a little of that attitude (or at least not the fawning obsequiousness that is current).]

  5. Lily Says:

    Finns have the education but without the lack of creativity (though could still do with some work on charisma)
    Shame that there are so few of them.
    [DU: And we could do the same. . .if we could just find enough Finns to fill the school places]

  6. dream puppy Says:

    (or at least not the fawning obsequiousness that is current).]


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