Frank Wu, the first Asian law professor at Howard University (Howard is an "historically black" college, de facto exempt from Justice Department diversity scrutiny) recently published an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education called The Invisibility of Asian-American Scholars (link requires subscription). In it, Wu claimed that "There are no Asian-American public intellectuals." and lamented that Asian-Americans have yet to develop a Commentary magazine, or produce a Norman Podhoretz.
Hmmm. What about Francis Fukuyama, [Click here for his review of Alien Nation] who has been enormously influential? Or Dinesh D'Souza - given that India is part of Asia? [Click here for Peter Brimelow's review of D'Souza's The End Of Racism.]
Wu knew you'd say that. He insists they don't count:
Two exceptions worth noting are Francis Fukuyama and Dinesh D'Souza. The former is of Japanese heritage; the latter, Indian origins. While both have to their credit best sellers that require serious attention, neither dissents from prevailing norms and, thus, fulfills the critical function of the public intellectual. To the contrary, Fukuyama celebrates the triumph of Western liberal democracy, and D'Souza is known for his attacks on academic culture and black culture. It would be wrong to impose any ideological test on who constitutes a public intellectual, for members of the species populate the liberal-conservative spectrum and defy the idea of such classification. Still, Fukuyama and D'Souza are unlike their African-American and Jewish counterparts. Even the formerly progressive and now reactionary African-American and Jewish theorists who have mass appeal, no different from those who remained radicals, articulate or at least allude occasionally to their status or others' stereotypes of them. In contrast, it is unclear whether either Fukuyama or D'Souza would consent to being called "Asian-American." They exemplify what they seem to foresee Asian-Americans essentially vanishing into honorary whiteness.
This "honorary whiteness" that Wu refers to is, of course, what others would call "becoming an American."
Curiously, Wu's insistence that a "public intellectual" should dissent from prevailing norms apparently doesn't apply to everyone. Peter Brimelow's dissent on immigration comes in for a shellacking in Wu's book Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White, which argues for affirmative action, against racial profiling, and against any form of immigration restriction whatsoever, especially if it favors WASPs.
Wu understands that Brimelow's insistence that "the American nation has always had a specific ethnic core [and] that core is white" is not new. Madison Grant made effectively the same point (about "Nordics," "Alpines" and "Mediterraneans") in his 1921 book The Passing of the Great Race, which went on to influence Nazi thinking. Wu understands that this appeal to the American nation's fixed Caucasian "core" is both historically incorrect and culturally pernicious. America began not with Europeans and an empty continent but rather with the meeting and mingling of Europeans, Africans and native people.
Brimelow's point may be pernicious, but it is nevertheless historically correct, as he recently demonstrated in exposing Jonah Goldberg's characteristic acceptance of this characteristic liberal myth. America began with "meeting and mingling" only in the sense that the "meeting and mingling" of one horse and one chicken can be said to result in a half-horse, half-chicken stew.
VDARE.COM's readers will notice that Wu gets everything exactly backward. His perspective lets him see things that others don't. (Did you know that when Gore Vidal attacked Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter, he also attacked Asians?) But it also lets him see things that aren't there at all. In '96, he was arguing that aliens at the border should have the same constitutional rights as Americans. He seems astonished that Brimelow thinks that Englishmen, Australians, and Canadians would assimilate better than Asians or Pat Buchanan's famous "million Zulus," although the evidence is very clear in the welfare participation rates of different immigrant groups. In a way, Wu's obsession with racial grievances is a symbol of his assimilation to modern American culture. Most actual Asians don't seem to care.
Equally all-American is Wu's idea that the U.S. should have open immigration with no national origin restrictions. No country in Asia allows it. In Alien Nation, Peter Brimelow reported the responses of the Chinese, Taiwanese, Indian, and Filipino embassies, when asked if an American could immigrate to their country:
China: "China does not accept any immigrants. We have a large enough population."
Taiwan: You need Taiwanese relatives by blood or marriage.
India: "Are you of Indian origin?"
By Indian origin, the Indians mean Indian descent—an outright racial classification.
Every country in Asia has policies like that. If America were to adopt Asian-style immigration policies, perhaps as a result of the influence of Asian-American public intellectuals, I don't think the Americanized Professor Wu would appreciate it.
June 12, 2002