»  National Review Online

March 4th, 2004

  Calling Down Fire On Your Own Position

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Here is a storm in a teacup for you, reported at great length on page 1 of the New York Times Business section, February 7. The actual teacup is Dewey Ballantine, a law firm of the kind known around New York as "white shoe," which is to say, old (founded 1909), very expensive, and very respectable. Don't even think of taking that dispute with your auto mechanic to Dewey Ballantine. That's not the kind of law they do. To quote from their web site: "Dewey Ballantine's New York client base includes such companies as The Walt Disney Company, General Electric Company, Credit Suisse First Boston, UBS Warburg, Sony Corporation, Novartis AG, Citigroup and Travelers Property Casualty Corp." These guys' shoes are so white you use them as night lights.

Not so Dewey Ballantine's workforce, which is of course "diverse." Firms like this — firms, that is, who strive to maintain the highest standards of respectability — go to infinite pains to prove their "commitment to diversity." Not only infinite pains, but a great deal of expense, too, like those Wall Street trading firms I have written about in this space. Dewey Ballantine, according to the New York Times story, puts all employees through twice-yearly firm-wide sensitivity training. After all that sensitivity training, you would think that Dewey Ballantine's employees must be as sensitive as mimosas. You would be right, as we shall see.

Dewey Ballantine is especially desperate to recruit non-white people into the firm's senior ranks. Their efforts in this regard seem to have been quite successful, at least in regard to Asian-Americans. The Times piece informs us that: "Of 572 lawyers at Dewey Ballantine, 41 are Asian-Americans." That is 7.2 percent. By way of comparison, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's "Current Population Survey" for March 2002, only 12.5 million of our country's 282.1 million inhabitants declared themselves to be "Asian or Pacific Islander." That's 4.4 percent. You might want to keep those two percentages in mind while reading what follows.

A few weeks ago there was a general-circulation message on the company's e-mail system seeking someone willing to adopt a puppy. One of Dewey Ballantine's partners in the London office sent back an e-mail suggesting that whoever did adopt the puppy in question would be wise to stay away from Chinese restaurants.

Shock! Horror! There is a common impression among us knuckle-dragging racist white bigots, you see, that Chinese people have a fondness for dog meat.*  Asian-American employees of Dewey Ballantine rose up in protest at this outrage to their nursed and petted "sensitivity." There followed one of those unpleasant spectacles — all right, I'm going to come right out and say what I think here: one of those disgusting spectacles — in which guilty white liberals retreat in gibbering terror before the righteous hosts of racial self-consciousness. Just listen. (All these extracts are taken from the New York Times report.)

"Somebody made a mistake, and they've apologized," said Morton A. Pierce, a cochairman at the firm, who added that the partner would be disciplined. "And we keep apologizing."

Apologized? Disciplined? You think that will suffice, Mr. Pierce? These folk don't want any of your measly apologies. They want that partner gibbeted outside your corporate headquarters, and his head stuck on a pike.

[A] group of Asian-American bar associations and 36 Asian-American law student organizations … sent a letter to the firm asking "what proactive steps you intend to take to prevent the occurrence of such a racial incident at your firm."

May I make a suggestion? Since twice-yearly "sensitivity training" seminars are obviously not getting the job done, why not increase the frequency to monthly? Or how about weekly? Come to think of it, is it really not possible to find a couple of spare hours in the ordinary working day at Dewey Ballantine for some intensive "sensitivity training"?

It is not clear, Mr. Pierce said, what the firm should do other than keep apologizing.

See above, Mr. Pierce. Though so far as apologizing goes, your implication is correct: you will be apologizing about this for ever. No quantity of apologizing will ever expunge this stain. Your opponents in this matter are unappeasable.

"What scares the rest of us is, is it pervasive at law firms generally or corporations generally that Asians can be mocked with impunity?" said Andrew Thomas Hahn … president of the Asian American Bar Association of New York.

"What scares us"? I wonder if this person has ever been really scared? Ever been rock-climbing? Jumped out of a plane ? Fought in combat? Faced a criminal with a loaded gun? What scares me is the stranglehold that moronic race-ideologues like Mr. Hahn increasingly have on what we Americans may say and do, and on whom we may freely associate with, and on how business corporations should allocate their employees' time, and on what proportion of our fast-shrinking liberties we may preserve from their assaults.

The key thing to note is that this indignant, self-righteous, humorless blather is coming not from downtrodden coolies, not from minimum-wage sweatshop workers, not from fruit-pickers or meat-packers, but from cum-laude graduates of elite universities earning six-figure salaries at tony law firms. Ah, but that only makes it worse, you see.

"People say, 'Oh, you're just being oversensitive,' but I think it's a symptom of something underlying," said Karen Y. Tu, a second-year law student at Columbia who is co-chairwoman of the Asian-Pacific American law Students Association. She later said: "What is going to change this environment? What is going to make it easier? What is going to make Asian-Americans comfortable about going back to Dewey?"

Permit me to hazard a guess. What is going to make them more "comfortable" is for Mr. Pierce and his non-Asian colleagues to rend their garments, lacerate their flesh, smear ashes on their faces, and crawl on their hands and knees down Fifth Avenue flagellating themselves and wailing: "We are guilty! Guilty of insensitivity! We are nothing but worthless racist scum! We are garbage! A disgrace to humanity! And guilty, guilty, GUILTY!"

A friend (middle-aged white American) with whom I discussed this issue had the following thing to say:

"Do any staff at a white shoe law firm ever serve in the military these days? Or do a laboring job after college? I worked on a snow plow crew for four years after I got my degree. The crew was rough, a lot of swearing, and sometimes you'd get some prejudice. Most served during WWII. They were also generous and quick reacting too … Is it possible that the law crowd is PC'd to the gills and cannot cope with anything outside of the purdah imposed on them? It is, after all, an imperfect world out there. Too bad they show no sense of proportion in dealing with it."

I think he's right. If you tracked back through the life history of the average young white-shoe lawyer, you would not find military or national-guard or police service; you would not find stints of work in a logging camp, or on snow-plow crews, or on construction sites or Atlantic fishing vessels. These are the pampered darlings of our educational meritocracy. George Orwell described the English boys' boarding-school education of his time as "five years in a lukewarm bath of snobbery." Here, in the sputterings of these whining brats, you see the end result of twenty years' immersion in a lukewarm bath of political correctness — a process that leaves one so exquisitely sensitive, one's skin bruises at a touch. Possibly this effect is magnified among Americans whose family roots are in China's Mandarin culture, where the horror of manual work runs strong and deep.

Such a sheltered, pampered background, as well as rendering the skin as thin and tender as a new-born babe's, causes the human personality to lose touch with reality. I refer you back to those percentage figures for (a) Asian-Americans in the general population, versus (b) Asian-Americans at Dewey Ballantine. This is "discrimination"? Well, perhaps it is, but not in exactly the way these activists are talking about.

An even weirder specimen of this same separation from reality, unrelated to the Dewey Ballantine flap in particulars but betraying the same unhinged mentality, appeared in the February 14 Seattle Times. In a box titled "Opinion from the next generation," the heading of the piece is: "Acting affirmatively: Legislature must follow through on bill supporting academic diversity." The article begins:

A state Senate bill would allow race to be considered as a factor in admissions again in Washington's public universities. It's about time …

A little background here: Back in November 1998, the voters of Washington State passed, by a majority of nearly 60 percent, Initiative 200, which declares that: "The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting." It is not very surprising that Washington State voters passed the initiative: Modern Americans dislike state-sponsored racial discrimination, and vote it down every chance they get. This, however, is very distressing to the "diversity" ideologues, who derive psychic satisfaction — not to mention, in many cases, their actual living — from picking away at minuscule racial grievances.

Well, Washington State Governor Gary Locke, who is one of those ideologues (and of Chinese ancestry himself), sought to get a bill through his state legislature, permitting overt racial discrimination in college admissions. The effort seems to have failed, but Anne Kim, in that Seattle Times article, is arguing in favor of the bill. Extrudes Ms. Kim: "Through this direct mechanism of affirmative action, our racially unequal social structure can begin to be deconstructed."

So far, so boilerplate "diversity" cant. But then Ms. Kim wanders off into a statistical breakdown of enrolled freshmen at the University of Washington last fall. You can read her numbers in the link I gave a couple of paragraphs ago. I am going to reproduce them below, but with the corresponding proportions of each racial group in Washington state set alongside, by way of comparison. (And with "Pacific Islanders" lumped in with "Asians" to conform to U.S. census categories.)

Race       UW %         State %  
African Americans 2.85 3.20
American Indians 0.92 1.60
Hispanics/Latinos 4.34 7.50
Asians & Pacific Islanders     30.24 6.00
Caucasians 54.01 78.90
(Unclassified) 7.64 2.80

Notice anything? What comes to mind here is a term from the military arts: "Calling down fire on your own position."

But there, perhaps, you have the roots of this bizarre phenomenon. A group that, for whatever reasons, attains disproportionate success, will build up a lot of guilt about that success. And as anyone who has lived much in the U.S.A. this past 40 years can tell you, there is nothing so destructive of tolerance and humanity, nothing more corrosive to honesty, humor and good sense, no bigger threat to the ideals of fairness, equality and justice on which this great Republic was founded, than guilt.

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* This impression is, as it happens, correct. I have eaten dog meat all over China. In the Manchurian country town where I lived 1982-3 there was a restaurant advertising xiang gou rou — "fragrant dog meat." Before that, at the other end of the country, in British-ruled Hong Kong, my Chinese friends insisted on taking me for some dog meat stew one cold winter. Eating dog was actually illegal under British rule, but any Chinese Hong Konger could tell you where to go. (And you better listen to them. Since eating this meat was illegal, there were no official quality inspections, so you wanted to go to a place that used healthy dogs. Word of mouth was the only guide.)

Dog meat is, in the Chinese culinary scheme, a "warm" food, good for safeguarding your health in cold weather. That restaurant advertisement notwithstanding, it is not particularly fragrant, and in fact has no strong taste at all. Such taste as it has is rather sweet, like lamb. The texture is smooth and pleasant, like rabbit. Please do not tell any of this to Boris. By the way, there was a warlord in the 1920s called the Dogmeat General. His real name was Zhang Zongchang, and he is best remembered for allocating numbers to his concubines — he had so many, he couldn't remember their names.