Internment is Assimilation and Other Absurdities

Have you seen the video shared below yet? If not, check it out (see link below). It was a group discussion about assimilation and diversity organized by Vice. The participants were from different Asian ethnicities. However, the range of viewpoints was rather less diverse. There is so much wrong with this discussion it’ll keep you entertained all the way though. Or maybe it will put you off. There are some real cringe moments for sure.

For what inspires this particular blog, check out the section from 8:46 to around 15:35, where the host asks if assimilation is a good thing or a bad thing. The second speaker in this round, Vince Dao, stuns the group by providing sociological insights into why some groups do better than other groups—reasons that do not depend on the woke progressive narrative of group oppression. Somebody asks who gets to decide to which culture immigrants should assimilate. The majority, Dao says. Those with power, he clarifies. Who has power? A woman with purple hair says it’s white people. of course she does. Dao pushes back. Check it out:

The argument that white people have the power and it is therefore their culture to which immigrants must assimilate is wrong for several reasons. Dao makes a good case (Dao has his own YouTube channel, which can be found here). I want to make some points of my own.

On September 8, 2020, I posted to Freedom and Reason a FAR Podcast episode and the script The Myth of White Culture. You can read there all of the supposed traits of white culture, traits that comprise a system that must be rejected because it was built by white people and therefore projects their whiteness, which is a bad thing.

The suggestion that white people collectively comprise the ruling class and, therefore, the dominant culture associated with a white-majority society represents an ideology of oppression is designed (quite literally, as I document in the podcast cited above) to obscure the fact that the dominant culture is Western culture, born in Enlightenment, and has nothing to do with race. The Enlightenment occurred in Europe not because of white people, but because complex cultural, religious, and social forces and trends converged in that region to create a system emphasizes reason, limited government, and the primacy of the individual, a system marked by humanism, liberalism, and secularism.

Perhaps the most significant characteristic of Western culture is that it liberates the individual from the tribe and reintegrates that individual into a culture where his individuality is prized more than his group membership. A black man, emancipated from the legacy institution of slavery, his liberation thanks to the Enlightenment, now has a chance to become a fully actualized human being. A woman, emancipated from the suffocating strictures of Islam, an option in the West, throwing off the limitations placed on her by a patriarchal ideology that systematically privileges men, now has a chance to determine her own live on her own terms. A gay man is free of the doctrines of the religions that loathe him and marry his lover.

However, for the racist and antiracist alike, culture is a projection of racial type—it must be for the claim that Western culture is white supremacist because it occurs in the context of the trans-Atlantic system that is distinguished in part as having a white majority. It is the equivalent of saying that Japanese culture is racist because that country’s majority is Japanese in the ethnic sense of nation. Japanese culture may be racist, but it is not because Japan is full of Japanese or that Japanese people expect immigrants to abide by the national culture in the broader sense of nationalism.

The culture to which immigrants are expected to assimilate in the United States has nothing intrinsically to do with race or race oppression. It has to do with integrating with the most free and open society yet produced by humankind. The regressive force weakening the West is the extremist form of multiculturalism pushed by progressives (see The Democratic Party and the Doctrine of Multiculturalism). Cultural pluralism undermines national integrity and weakens the rule of law. Indeed, this is the point of cultural pluralism (see An Architect of Transnationalism: Horace Kallen and the Fetish for Diversity and Inclusion. See also The Democratic Party and the Doctrine of Multiculturalism).

Assimilation is emancipation

I find it fascinating that the argument advanced by the progressives in the Vice debate isn’t immediately understood as racist itself, specifically an expression of anti-white bigotry, which is rampant in the West today, especially in America. White people are the only racial group about which anything can be said with impunity—even celebrated (see Is There Systemic Anti-White Racism?). It is not merely acceptable to say that whites today are responsibility for things done in the past by people who look like them; condemning whites with the ancient and backwards doctrine of blood guilt is encouraged (Disney Says, “Slaves Built This Country.” Did They?) and even required (The Bureaucratic Tyranny of DEI). There is even allowed—in the face of the Fourteenth Amendment—a program called affirmative action that discriminates against whites in college admissions and employment. In fact, you risk being called a racist for opposing it.

Saying white people are in power because the average white person has a higher income and is wealthier than, say, the average black, is like saying that Chinese people are in power because they, too, on average, have higher incomes and are wealthier than black people. Rationalizing the fact that Chinese people on average do better than whites by defining Chinese people as “white adjacent” is obnoxious. (For the record, Dao is also right about the racial character of anti-Asian hate and violence. See The Rise in Anti-Asian Hate Crimes. Trump-inspired? Not Quite. That whites as a group are blamed for crimes disproportionately committed by black people is a useful illustration of the anti-white bigotry that has become reflexive in today’s America.)

The same thing happens when ethnicity becomes the alleged source of power. The claim that Jews are controlling the West’s dominant institutions is well-understood to be an anti-Semitic trope. What you can say is that Jews on average do better than non-Jews. Treat them as possessing some collective power based on their Jewishness suggests to other than you may be a neo-Nazi (or an Islamist, however that brand of anti-Jewish sentiment tends to be ignored by progressives). But it’s okay to say that whites control the West’s dominant institutions. Whites run society. This has caused some Jews to deny they’re white, often explicitly to get out of being accused of enjoying white privilege (see Race, Ethnicity, Religion, and the Problem of Conceptual Conflation and Inflation). But the premise is wrong, not because Jews aren’t white (most are in fact white, as are other Semitic peoples), but because whites are not in power. Whites have enjoyed no systemic power in America since the 1960s.

Conceptualizing power in racial or ethnic terms misidentifies the actual source of power in a capitalist society: class power rooted in economic inequality. Power in a capitalist society emerges from the differential possession of the means of generating income and wealth. The greater one’s possession of these means (land and capital), the greater power one possesses. Put another way, the availability of power depends on one’s position in the class structure not on the color of their skin. The majority of whites possess very little in material resources and thus have very little power. They don’t determine how life happens in America. They have no control over academic institutions, corporate boardrooms, the culture industry, mass media, the legal and political apparatus. They are not in a position to impose white culture on anybody—even if we supposed there were such a thing.

We hear the blood guilt argument in the claim that all whites enjoyed skin-color privilege. But in the United States, individuals regardless of skin color are equal under the law (excepting affirmative action). As noted, there are no laws or institutions in place that systemically privilege white people. These were dismantled decades ago in a series of legal decisions and legislative actions. This means that the argument that whites are in power must depends on fallacious reasoning. The claim is simply asserted as doctrine and everybody is expected to believe or risk being treated as a heretic and called a bigot or a racist.

This is why Dao leaves those around him stunned. They can’t believe somebody is actually saying the things Dao is saying. But reality has its own integrity and truth and honesty require us to speak against the myth that’s being disseminated to justify the managed decline of the America republic (cultural pluralism and anti-white bigotry are tactics used by transnationalists to dismantle the nation-states of the West). And, so, the woman with the purple hair dismisses Dao as a Republican, as a right-winger, as if this invalidates his argument. Indeed, the populist-nationalist style of republicanism Dao advocates owns the progressive left on this issue.

To get technical for a moment, the fallacy that’s being committed by members of the Vice panel is what we call “reification” or the “fallacy of misplaced concreteness.” This a type of error in reasoning that occurs when an abstract idea or concept is treated as if it were a concrete, physical entity. This error can take several forms, but it essentially involves taking a conceptual, statistical, symbolic, or theoretical representation of a thing and treating it as if it were the real thing. When someone refers to “whites” and “blacks” as if these groups were biological distinct or homogeneous or that each concrete person so identified carries the average of the category, they’re committing the fallacy of reification.

The reality is that there is tremendous variation within racial groups. Moreover, much if not most of the differences between groups is the result of cultural, historical, and environmental factors, not biology or ongoing oppression. Thus when people use race to explain differences in income, education, or other socio-economic outcomes, they’re committing the fallacy of reification. Actual things, such as class, sex, and geographic location, play a much larger role in determining socio-economic outcomes. To the extent that subcultural differences shape the thought and behavior of individuals, which is a piece of Dao’s argument, this is an argument against cultural pluralism and for assimilation.

The demand is not that individuals assimilate to so-called white culture for racist reasons. Indeed, a feature of racist systems is to not promote assimilation, but to compel apartness—the opposite of assimilation. Jim Crow segregation in America and the apartheid system of South Africa did not operate on assimilationist desire but the desire to keep blacks away from and subordinated to whites. Immigrants are encouraged to assimilate because there was a desire to integrate individuals into the national cultural order. Historically, most immigrants to America didn’t have to be convinced to assimilate. When the purple-haired lady asserts that President Roosevelt’s executive order interning Japanese-Americans during WWII is an example of assimilation, and the others around her bobble heads, we are witnessing an Orwellian moment where a thing has becomes its anthesis.

“White” is a demographic category that is based on a racialize construct. It is not analogous to a person’s position in the class structure, which involves an objective association between the individual and his position with respect to the means of production. One’s location in the class structure is an actual thing. Those who claim white people are in power because of their racial identity assume that each person who is identified as white is a concrete personification of the category of “whiteness,” which is an abstraction. This leads people to confuse the average white person, a statistical invention, with actual white persons who could be anything (except not white by definition). People believe whites comprise a group with common cultural, economic, and political commitments. I don’t capitalize the word “white” and “black” because these are not proper names.

Vince Dao interviewed at CPAC 2021, Orlando, Florida

A moment Ago I noted that to the extent that subcultural differences shape the thought and behavior of individuals this is an argument against cultural pluralism and for assimilation. This is another flaw of the argument—that cultural attitudes and values associated with particular ethnic groups do not explain group averages. Culture plays a significant role in shaping group differences because the beliefs, norms, and values of people within a cultural group determines and shapes the conduct of the individuals socialized in those beliefs, norms, and values.

Cultural beliefs and practices influence the way people interact with each other, the way they view themselves and others, and their attitudes towards various social, political, and economic issues. Certain cultural values place a high emphasis on individualism, stress the importance of community and personal responsibility. Other cultures submerge the individual in group identity and socialize them in belief, norms, and values that sabotage their ability to be successful and fully actualized as human beings.

Differing cultural values can lead to differences in how individuals within a group approach decision-making, relationships, and other aspects of life. Cultural beliefs shape the opportunities and resources that are available to different groups. As noted, certain cultural beliefs about gender roles limit the educational and professional opportunities available to women, e.g., as we see in Islam. this is what Dao was saying And he’s correct.

Finally, Dao suggests that, if the United States were truly a white supremacist country, a Vice panel where anti-white bigotry went unchecked would be highly unlikely. He points out that across America, in all the dominant institutions, it’s not white people who are being privileged and promoted, but nonwhites. How does it happen in a white supremacist nation that anti-white bigotry goes unpunished, even celebrated, while non-whites are preferred and advanced? Why would institutions rooted in white supremacy eliminate the allegedly racist qualifications and tests that discriminate against nonwhites?

If a space alien were to visit earth, and if he paid attention to such things, he would wonder why it was that those with darker skin were more likely to be selected for positions over those with lighter skin even when the lighter-skinned applicants were more qualified for the position than the darker-skinned persons. If he was told that this is because the lighter-skinned applicants are the oppressors, he would surely be curious to learn why an oppressive system privileges the oppressed. The answer to that question explains why so many people today are stepping into it.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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