Thursday, March 09, 2017

Twice-born, triple-selected

I am always excited about the classmates of mine who have become famous in ways that I am not capable of.  There is Srikumar (Kumar) who is now a go-to-expert on all things Roma in Europe; so much so that a few days ago, a student rushed in to my office to show me a book that he was reading for a class in which Kumar was quoted!  There is Vijay, who has been recognized for his contributions as a journalist and a poet; there is even a Wikipedia page on him!

This post is not about those two who are from the old days in the old country.  It is about another guy, though I did not know him all that well.  Sanjoy was also a doctoral student at USC.  We did not even have a single class together though--he was two years ahead of me.  Our paths have not crossed since he graduated and moved on to the east coast for a faculty position.

One of the tweets in my feed (see, Twitter is an awesome information portal) was from Foreign Policy.  It was about "Indian immigrants in the time of Trump."  The tweet referred to the authors of The other one percent.  I am familiar with  that book, and with one of those authors--Sanjoy.  So, of course, I had to read that piece.
They use data and research to show how the Indians who come to America are “triple selected” through India’s socioeconomic hierarchy, highly competitive education system, and the U.S. immigration system. If the one percent of the U.S. population that is Indian has done particularly well, the authors argue, it is perhaps because selection factors were such that the Indian-born population is over three times more educated than the population of the United States.
The book was published shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump’s election, and written before changes to the visa system and increased violence against Indians in America. 
 Yes, triple-selected.  The first of which was not our own doing though--the accident of birth into a favorable socioeconomic condition.  If my parents were from a lower caste, then chances are pretty darn good that I would not be doing what I am now doing.  That favorable condition also made possible the education that I received.  After that, the third piece--immigration to the US--was not a big deal.

Sanjoy also talks about it in that interview:
We really wrote the book for an Indian audience, because there are many myths in Indians about themselves, and we needed to address that. The way we put it, we call it triple selection. Indians call it hierarchy. The caste system, the complete inequality with access to education formed over the past 150 years, and in that group you have this ultra-competitive exam system — and most people coming over here have come through that ultra-competitive system. And then the U.S. lets in certain people. The people who are here are extremely fortunate not to be here — they’ve been fortunate their entire lives. Of course they’re going to do well. America is really getting a lot of talent for relatively little money. This group is pretty innovative, all of them are rising to the tops of their professions. There’s a lot of talent here. And that talent is in service of America. But these people were bloody lucky. They’re lucky there, and they’re lucky here. And for us it was important to say that.
Yes, I have been bloody lucky throughout my life.  Which is also one of the sources of my guilt--the lucky accident of birth into a upper-caste affluent family versus the ill-luck that doomed many other babies that were born the very day that I was born, but to lower-caste, poor families.

But, this asshole president has made sure that Indians of all castes and religions will think twice or thrice before applying for that visa. A great equalizer he has become.  Even his buddy, the proto-trump, is now worried and keeps his mouth shut!

PS: What is the deal with the "twice-born" in the title?  Click here.


Ramesh said...

" Twitter is an awesome information portal " . I am staring open mouthed at that statement. Your doctorate is immediately stripped from you and you are required to do a thousand pushups in atonement for the outrageous statement !!

Your post was all right , and I kept nodding, until I came to the last link. I've never read greater rubbish than that uttered by Pankaj Mishra - garbage that deserves to be called just that. I have no problem with an informed criticism of anybody. But that - ?? Seriously ?

Sriram Khé said...

Note to self:
Keep track of what angers Ramesh. And avoid all those in future posts. After all, he is the only one who remains. Other than the troll who pops in to call me an asshole.

Muahahahahaha ;)

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