The Corner

An Interesting Silence

In my interview with János Horváth (Part III is posted today), the question of quotas came up. Before World War II, Horváth told me, the Hungarian universities capped Jewish enrollment at 20 percent. That made me laugh a bit — because the ceiling at Yale was 10 percent. Hungary in bad old Europe more generous than America?

In my series, I go on to ask, “And what have been the limits on Asian Americans, in the past 30 or so years? Back in the mid 1980s, a Harvard professor told me that, if things were done fair and square, the incoming freshmen would be in the neighborhood of 80 percent Asian.”

I got to thinking today: Why don’t Asian Americans complain, more than they do? Maybe because they are not (yet) full participants in the grievance culture. If you don’t have a grievance — particularly one based on race or ethnicity — can you possibly be an American?

I remember when the president of the University of California proposed that the system abolish the use of the SAT. Abby Thernstrom — whose presence on this site I sorely miss, by the way — said, “This is a dagger aimed at the heart of Asians.”

WFB’s most famous essay was “Why Don’t We Complain?” It’s unlike me to encourage complaint — usually I’m doing the opposite — but, yeah, why don’t they, or we? (I realize there are issues to grapple with here. There are non-racist arguments for why Berkeley ought not to be 80 percent Asian, 90 percent Asian. But still — we get so wee-weed up about racial discrimination in so many other instances.)

(The phrase “wee-weed up” is one of the few things, I must say, I owe to our president, Barack Obama.)