Please stand with the Asian diaspora

by evelynciara1 min read20th Mar 202154 comments

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This is a difficult week for many members of the Asian diaspora, which includes me and 9.9% of EAs (according to the 2019 community survey). Anti-Asian hate crimes may be dwarfed morally by many of the problems the EA movement focuses on, but they have had an emotional impact on many people of Asian descent disproportionate to their humanitarian impact. As a community, we should stand against the intolerance and unnecessary suffering caused by these hate crimes, and support our community members who have been upset by this.

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What happened was a terrible tragedy and my heart aches for those involved. That said, I'd prefer if there wasn't much content of this type on the Forum. 8 people died in that horrific shooting. If there was a Forum post about every event that killed 8 people, or even just every time 8 people were killed from acts of violence, that might (unfortunately, because there are ways in which the world is a terrible place) dominate the Forum, and make it harder to find and spend time on content relevant to our collective task of finding the levers that will help us help as many people as possible.

I agree that we should attend especially to members of our community who are in a particularly difficult place at a given time, and extend them support and compassion, but felt uneasy about it in this case because of the above, because of Dale's point that the shooting might not have been racially motivated, because Asian EAs I know don't seem bothered, and I think we should have a high bar for asking everyone in the community to attend to something/asserting that they should (thought, I'm not sure whether you were doing that/intending to do that).

On an analytical level I'm fairly sympathetic to the points the comments here are making, and I think this post could have been clearer about what exactly it did and did not want from the community.

That said, I'm pretty sad that so few people have engaged with this post on an emotional level. An active Forum user has said that they and at least some of their friends are feeling bad and threatened and want support from the community. It would have been pretty easy for people to offer emotional support and community feeling without thereby committing to making bad cause prioritisation decisions.

In general I haven't been super sympathetic to people who complain about the attitude of commenters on the Forum, but reading the bulk of sceptical comments here I do not think it reflects very well on us. (Dicentra's comment being the main counterexample.)

Reason and compassion, always.

I’m so sorry for the pain and fear that many people are experiencing after the Atlanta shootings. And I know this comes on top of subtle disadvantages, misunderstandings, and slights that wear people down even when something like this isn’t in the news.

I can understand the worry about getting sidetracked by current events that are culturally important but not as large-scale/neglected/tractable as other problems EA already focuses on. But I agree with Will’s comment - we can still acknowledge pain that’s happening, especially pain felt by fellow EAs. To me, the reason it's so important to do the math and focus on impact is a sense that the lives involved are precious and irreplaceable. EAs will still be hit hard personally by specific situations, even while knowing other irreplaceable lives are lost all the time.

(I read a good argument that sex workers are another population targeted by the Atlanta attacks, and because of stigma against that work there’s been little acknowledgement that sex workers face a lot of danger in general as well as in this specific case. I also want to acknowledge the unfairness of the stigma and danger that sex workers experience.)

I'm not sure it is clear that the Atlanta shooting was an incidence of anti-asian prejudice. The shooter himself said this was not a significant part of his motivation, and given that he seems willing to confess to killing people for a crazy reason I am inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt:

Long said his actions were not racially motivated, but claims instead to be driven by sex addiction at odds with his religious beliefs.[9][23][24] According to Sheriff Reynolds, Long wanted to "eliminate the temptation" by targeting day spas.[24][25] Long said he wanted to "help" others dealing with sex addictions by targeting the spas.

It is true that many people in the media have suggested this was about the ethnicity of many (but not all) of his victims. But they do not have very strong evidence for this, and I think the lesson from many past tragedies like this is that often people's first impressions are shown to be mistaken as more facts come to light. To the extent that this story causes an emotional toll on readers, we should partly blame the media here for trying to fit a racial narrative to an event where it is not at all clear it fits.

Despite the lack of good data, I suspect that it is indeed the case that anti-asian crimes have risen significantly this year. We known that violent crime in general has increased significantly since the BLM protests/riots of last summer, and that attacks on asians are disproportionately caused by blacks (28% for 2018, the last year we have data, vs just 15% for white and hispanic victims). So my guess is that reductions in policing as a result of the protests have left many asians exposed. Most races are primarily victimised by others of the same race (62% for whites, 70% for blacks), but this is far less true for asians (24%). Presumably it is these inter-racial crimes that asians disproportionately suffer from which either are, or at least are reported as, hate crimes.

However, I'm not sure in practice there is very much we can directly do about the issue. Trying to reduce crime in the US seems like a very difficult task.

However, I'm not sure in practice there is very much we can directly do about the issue.

Maybe it's worth pointing out that the OP doesn't ask us to do anything other than "stand with the Asian diaspora", which doesn't seem very hard. (I'm reminded of that relationship cliche where one partner tells the other partner about a problem they have, and their partner responds by trying to solve the problem, when all that was really desired was a sympathetic ear.)

I stand with the Asian diaspora. Even if the shooting was not motivated by anti-Asian prejudice, it was still wrong. I'm not Asian, but I've had many Asian friends and colleagues over the course of my life, people I respect and care about. I hope they and everyone else in the diaspora are able to pull through this.

I think one concrete action people could take is to try to listen to the experiences of their Asian friends and colleagues. There is a lot of discrimination that isn't violence. Understanding and solidarity can go a long way, and can also prevent reduce discrimination.

For Chinese immigrants in particular there are also a lot of issues related to immigration and to U.S.-China tensions.

Neither of these is directly related to the Atlanta shootings, but I think it can be a good symbolic moment to better understand others, especially since discrimination against Asians is often ignored (indeed, my experience is that even when I bring it up with people it tends to get brushed aside).

Incidentally, I think we obsess too much over the particular question of whether the Atlanta shooting is a hate crime or was racially motivated. My personal views at least do not really hinge on this--I think we have much better evidence both on the increase in crime directed at Asians, and the ongoing discrimination faced by Asians, than this particular instance.

There is a lot of discrimination that isn't violence. 

This is a good point, and definitely true. One example is the massive discrimination that asians face in college admissions. During the Harvard admissions trial, both sides agreed that asian applicants had generally superior academic and extracurricular credentials to white applicants, and much higher than black applicants, and yet were admitted at significantly lower rates. The university's defence was that on average asians had inferior personalities, a finding which to my knowledge not supported by academic research, and seems potentially somewhat offensive to asian people.

The university's defence was that on average asians had inferior personalities

Can you mention the page number(s) and/or quote the relevant sections somewhere? I tried skimming the 130 page pdf and didn't see anything that alluded to this directly.

The document is written in legalese, and by a judge who ultimately decided in Harvard's favor, so you have to piece it together from different sections unfortunately:

The personal rating reflects the admissions officer’s assessment of what kind of contribution the applicant would make to the Harvard community based on their personal qualities. [Oct. 17 Tr. 213:22–216:1; Oct. 18 Tr. 39:1–25]. Although the reading procedures have not historically provided detailed guidance on what qualities should be considered in assigning a personal rating, relevant qualities might include integrity, helpfulness, courage, kindness, fortitude, empathy, self-confidence, leadership ability, maturity, or grit. 

 

Mr. Hansen’s less complete models, which did not include variables for racial identities, projected admitted classes with far more Asian students than Harvard’s actual admitted classes, suggesting either that racial tips resulted in fewer Asian students being admitted or that factors correlated with Asian identity that were not included in Mr. Hansen’s models were significantly affecting which applicants Harvard chose to admit. 

 

These statistics on the use of “standard strong” are consistent with the profile ratings Harvard admissions officers assigned to Asian American applicants and white applicants, which show that Asian American applicants excelled, on average, on academic and extracurricular ratings, but were weaker when evaluated on personal and athletic criteria. 

 

Professor Card [The Harvard defence expert] creates an independent model for each admissions cycle, includes the personal rating because he concludes that it does not reflect race and, in any event, includes information that is important to the admissions process such that omitting it skews the outcome, includes the other variables that Professor Arcidiacono omits, and does not interact variables. Using this approach, he comes out with a very slight, and not statistically significant, negative coefficient for Asian American identity and concludes, based on that data and approach, that Asian Americans are not discriminated against in Harvard’s admissions process. 

 

Asian Americans would likely be admitted at a higher rate than white applicants if admissions decisions were made based solely on the academic and extracurricular ratings. Among Expanded Dataset applicants, more than 60% of Asian American applicants received academic ratings of 1 or 2, compared to 46% of white applicants, 9% of African American applicants, and 17% of Hispanic applicants. [Oct. 25 Tr. 49:17–50:5; PX623]. Overall, strong academic applicants are particularly abundant, with a higher percentage of applicants (42%) scoring a 1 or 2 on the academic rating as compared to the percent that score a 1 or 2 on any other rating. [DD10 at 4].46 Asian American applicants’ stronger academic ratings broadly align with their stronger performance across a range of qualitative indicators of academic strength. [Oct. 25 Tr. 41:18–46:9; PD38 at 4–7]. Asian American applicants also average relatively high extracurricular ratings. More than 28% of Expanded Dataset Asian American applicants receive an extracurricular rating of 1 or 2, compared to 25% of white applicants, 16% of African American applicants, and 17% of Hispanic applicants. [Oct. 25 Tr. 52:12–22; PX623]. Although Harvard admissions officers do not believe that Asian American applicants, as a group, have worse personal qualities than other applicants and Harvard alumni interviewers assign personal ratings of 1 or 2 to Expanded Dataset Asian American and white applicants with a similar frequency, [Oct. 23 Tr. 204:1–9; Oct. 24 Tr. 138:11–16; Oct. 25 Tr. 55:7–12], Harvard admissions officers assign Asian American applicants personal ratings that are, on average, slightly weaker than those assigned to applicants from other racial groups, [PX623]. Among Expanded Dataset applicants, 22.6% of white applicants receive a personal rating of 1 or 2, compared to 18% of Asian Americans, 19.4% of African Americans, and 19.1% of Hispanics. 

 

The model implies that when holding constant nearly all of the available observable variables, Asian American identity is associated with a lower probability of being assigned a strong personal Case 1:14-cv-14176-ADB Document 672 Filed 09/30/19 Page 68 of 130 69 rating by an admission officer. More precisely, his model suggests that an average Baseline Dataset Asian American applicant has a 17.8% probability of receiving a 2 or higher on the personal rating, which is lower than the 21.6% chance that the model suggests the applicant would have in the absence of any racial preference. [Oct. 25 Tr. 96:24–97:24; PD38 at 31]. Harvard did not offer a competing regression model to show that no statistically significant relationship between Asian American identity and the personal rating exists, and the Court therefore concludes that the data demonstrates a statistically significant and negative relationship between Asian American identity and the personal rating assigned by Harvard admissions officers, holding constant any reasonable set of observable characteristics.

 

Third, as discussed supra at Section V.C, E, teacher and guidance counselor recommendations seemingly presented Asian Americans as having less favorable personal characteristics than similarly situated non-Asian American applicants, and the school support ratings do not fully reflect more subtle racial disparities. As the experts’ analyses demonstrate, some race-correlated variation in teacher and guidance counselor recommendations is likely a cause of at least part of the disparity in the personal ratings. See supra at Sections V.C, E. Professor Card’s analysis shows that the school support ratings for Asian American applicants are generally weaker than the ratings for white students when comparing white and Asian American students who receive the same academic rating.

 

Overall, the disparity between white and Asian American applicants’ personal ratings has not been fully and satisfactorily explained. Because some of the disparity in personal ratings is due to teacher and guidance counselor recommendations, the issue becomes whether the remaining disparity reflects discrimination. The disparity in personal ratings between Asian American and other minority groups is considerably larger than between Asian American and white applicants and suggests that at least some admissions officers might have subconsciously provided tips in the personal rating, particularly to African American and Hispanic applicants, to create an alignment between the profile ratings and the race-conscious overall ratings that they were assigning.

I don't see much in that paper, but it's been written about elsewhere, e.g. Harvard's Impossible Personality Test

Despite the lack of good data, I suspect that it is indeed the case that anti-asian crimes have risen significantly this year. We known that violent crime in general has increased significantly since the BLM protests/riots of last summer, and that attacks on asians are disproportionately caused by blacks (28% for 2018, the last year we have data, vs just 15% for white and hispanic victims). So my guess is that reductions in policing as a result of the protests have left many asians exposed. Most races are primarily victimised by others of the same race (62% for whites, 70% for blacks), but this is far less true for asians (24%). Presumably it is these inter-racial crimes that asians disproportionately suffer from which either are, or at least are reported as, hate crimes.

Given the one source you give, I am wondering whether you are talking about the US only? If so, this is something you should clarify in this paragraph, as I would not necessarily expect patterns like this to generalize to other countries.

I am wondering whether you are talking about the US only?

Yes - the US is the country whose data I am most familiar with, and the article is written by someone at Cornell (in America) about an event that took place in America and contains a link to a list of resources by Americans providing advice for Americans. The US also has an unusually high asian population for a non asian majority country, which makes this issue more significant than in e.g. Switzerland  or Japan.

It's possible that this is also happening in other countries. Certainly Americans often wrongly ignore the rest of the world so I may be guilty of this!  If you have data that there has been a similar surge in anti-asian violence in other countries that would be valuable to know and somewhat contradict my hypothesis, as BLM is obviously a primarily US phenomena.

To the extent that this story causes an emotional toll on readers, we should partly blame the media here for trying to fit a racial narrative to an event where it is not at all clear it fits.

I just came across a great article by Andrew Sullivan about this. His conclusions:

And so it seems to me that the media’s primary role in cases like these is providing some data and perspective on what’s actually happening, to allay irrational fear. Instead they contribute to the distortion by breathlessly hyping one incident without a single provable link to any go this — and scare the bejeezus out of people unnecessarily.

The media is supposed to subject easy, convenient rush-to-judgment narratives to ruthless empirical testing. Now, for purely ideological reasons, they are rushing to promote ready-made narratives, which actually point away from the empirical facts. To run sixteen separate pieces on anti-Asian white supremacist misogynist hate based on one possibly completely unrelated incident is not journalism. It’s fanning irrational fear in the cause of ideological indoctrination. And it appears to be where all elite media is headed.

Explanatory note: I gave this a mild downvote because thesis of the OP was "this has been a difficult week for Asian Americans" and I think an appropriate response would acknowledge that. I felt this response was unsympathetic.

I upvoted Dale's comment instead, because if one reason "this has been a difficult week for Asian Americans" is a wrong or overly-confident belief that the Atlanta shooting was mainly motivated by anti-Asian bias or hatred, then pointing that out can be better than merely expressing sympathy (which others have already done), and certainly doesn't constitute an "unsympathetic" response. Of course doing this may not be a good idea in all circumstances and for all audiences, but if bringing up alternative hypotheses and evidence to support them can't even be done on EAF without risking social disapproval, I think something has gone seriously wrong.

"bringing up alternative hypotheses and evidence to support them can't even be done on EAF without risking social disapproval"

That's not a charitable reading of my comment. Alternative hypotheses can be raised sympathetically; in this case I unfortunately didn't see that. I know there are different views on how people want posts to look on the Forum, but it's important for people to know why their posts get downvoted, so I wanted to make sure I was clear.

Thanks for clarifying your position. I think in that case, my remaining disagreement with you is that I think stating an alternative hypothesis (along with supporting evidence) is a good thing in and of itself and should not be discouraged or met with social disapproval just because its writer did not do so with sufficient sympathy. Different people have different levels of skill and/or motivation for expressing sympathy, and should all be encouraged to participate on EAF as long as their comments have sufficient merit along other dimensions.

I think it's good for people to point out ways that criticism can be phrased more sympathetically, and even aligned with your goal of encouraging more critical discussion (which I am also in favor of). As someone who often gives criticism, sometimes unpopular criticism, I both appreciate when people point out ways I could phrase it better but also strongly desire people to be forgiving when I fail to do so. If no one took the time to point these out to me, I would be less capable of offering effective criticism.

Along these lines, my guess is that you and Khorton are interpreting downvotes differently? I didn't take Khorton's downvote to be claiming "You should not be posting this on the forum" but instead "Next time you post something like this I wish you'd spend a bit more effort exercising empathy". And if Dale totally ignores this advice, the penalty is... mild social disapproval from Khorton and lots of upvotes from other people, as far as I can tell.

As someone who often gives criticism, sometimes unpopular criticism, I both appreciate when people point out ways I could phrase it better

Neither you nor Khorton appear to have done this for Dale, at least not very clearly.

I didn't downvote Dale, nor do I wish to express social disapproval of his post (I worry that the length of this thread might lead Dale to feel otherwise, so I want to be explicit that I don't feel that way).

To your question, if I were writing a post similar to Dale, what I would do differently is be more careful to make sure I was responding to the actual content of the post. The OP asked people to support Asian community members who were upset, while at least the last paragraph of Dale's post seemed to assume that OP was arguing that we should be searching for ways to reduce violence against Asians. Whenever I engage on an emotionally charged topic I re-read the original post and my draft response to make sure that I actually understood the original post's argument, and I think this is good practice.

Another mistake I think Dale's post makes is assuming that whether the Atlanta attacks are racially motivated is a crux for most people's emotional response. I think Dale's claim may well be correct (I could see both arguments), but the larger context is a significant increase in violent incidents against Asians, at least some of which seem obviously racially motivated (the increase is also larger than other races). These have taken a constant emotional toll on Asians for a while now, and the particular Atlanta shootings are simply the first instance where it actually penetrated the broader public consciousness.

I can't think of an easy-to-implement rule that would avoid this mistake. The best would be "try harder to think from the perspective of the listener", but this is of course very difficult especially when there is a large gap in experience between the speaker and the listener. If I were trying super-hard I would run the post by an Asian friend to see if they felt like it engaged with the key arguments, but I think it would be unreasonable to expect, or expend, that level of effort for forum comments.

Again, I think people make communication mistakes like this all the time and do not find them particularly blameworthy and would normally not bother to comment on them. I am only pointing them out in detail because you asked me to.

The OP asked people to support Asian community members who were upset, while at least the last paragraph of Dale’s post seemed to assume that OP was arguing that we should be searching for ways to reduce violence against Asians.

It seems totally reasonable to interpret the OP as arguing for the latter as well as the former:

  1. The title of the post references "the Asian diaspora" instead of just "Asian community members"
  2. The OP also wrote "As a community, we should stand against the intolerance and unnecessary suffering caused by these hate crimes" and a reasonable interpretation of this is to oppose the intolerance and suffering in concrete ways, not just performatively in front of other community members. For example, when someone writes "Biden and Harris visit Atlanta after shooting rampage, vowing to stand against racism and xenophobia" is the reader not supposed to infer that Biden and Harris will try to do some concrete things against racism and xenophobia?
  3. If Dale was trying to interpret the OP as charitably as possible, is it really more charitable to interpret it as not arguing that we should be searching for ways to reduce violence against Asians? It seems like you yourself interpret it that way, otherwise why did you respond by asking for recommendations for organizations to support?

but the larger context is a significant increase in violent incidents against Asians

Dale actually did also address the larger context/trend, in the paragraph starting with "Despite the lack of good data, I suspect that it is indeed the case that anti-asian crimes have risen significantly this year."

The best would be “try harder to think from the perspective of the listener”, but this is of course very difficult especially when there is a large gap in experience between the speaker and the listener. If I were trying super-hard I would run the post by an Asian friend to see if they felt like it engaged with the key arguments, but I think it would be unreasonable to expect, or expend, that level of effort for forum comments.

This paragraph seems to have worse "communication mistakes" than anything I can see in Dale's comment, at least if the listener is someone like myself. (I'll avoid explaining more explicitly unless you want me to, for the same reason you mentioned.)

On further reflection, I think ultimately all this back and forth is dancing around the question of whether, if some group of people think they're being victimized or being deliberately targeted for hatred, is it ok to say that maybe they're not being targeted as much as they think they are. I could be wrong, but my guess is that given today's overall political environment, your social-emotional intelligence is telling you that it's not ok to say that, and making you feel an aversion to a comment like Dale's which does in effect say that. But consciously or unconsciously you feel like you can't say this explicitly either (it's a norm that loses much of its power if stated explicitly, and also contrary to the spirit of EA) so you and others in a similar position end up rationalizing various "sayable" criticisms of Dale's comment that (since they're just rationalizations and not the real underlying reasons) don't really stand up on examination.

I think your characterization of my thought process is completely false for what it's worth. I went out of my way multiple times to say that I was not expressing disapproval of Dale's comment.

Edit: Maybe it's helpful for me to clarify that I think it's both good for Dale to write his comment, and for Khorton to write hers.

I think your characterization of my thought process is completely false for what it’s worth. I went out of my way multiple times to say that I was not expressing disapproval of Dale’s comment.

That's certainly better news than the alternative, but I hope you find it understandable that I don't update to 100% believing your claim, given that you may not have full introspective access to all of your own cognitive processes, and what appears to me to be a series of anomalies that is otherwise hard to explain. But I'm certainly willing to grant this for the purposes of further discussion.

Edit: Maybe it’s helpful for me to clarify that I think it’s both good for Dale to write his comment, and for Khorton to write hers.

It's helpful and confusing at the same time. If you think it was good for Dale to write his comment, the existence of Khorton's downvote and highly upvoted (at the time) comment giving a very short explanation of the downvote serves as a clear discouragement for Dale or others against writing a similar comment in the future (given what a downvote means to most EAF participants and what Khorton usually means to convey by a downvote according to her own words). Perhaps you actually mean something like either of the following?

  1. It would have been good if Khorton just suggested that Dale be more sympathetic without the downvoting.
  2. It would have been good for Khorton to write her comment if Dale and others interpreted Khorton's downvote and comment the way you interpreted it (i.e., as merely a suggestion to do better next time, as opposed to a judgment that the overall merit of the comment isn't high enough to belong to the forum).

I think we just disagree about what a downvote means, but I'm not really that excited to argue about something that meta :).

As another data point, I appreciated Dicentra's comment elsewhere in the thread. I haven't decided whether I agree with it, but I thought it demonstrated empathy for all sides of a difficult issue even while disagreeing with the OP, and articulated an important perspective.

what appears to me to be a series of anomalies that is otherwise hard to explain

What do you believe needs explaining? 

What do you believe needs explaining?

The series of seemingly elementary errors in Jacob's recent comments, which were puzzling to me given his obviously high level of reasoning abilities. I tried to point them out in my earlier comments and don't want to repeat them all again, but for example, his insistent defense/support of Khorton's downvote based on his own very mild interpretation of what a downvote means, when it seems clear that what's more important in judging the consequences and appropriateness of the downvote is how Khorton, Dale, and most other EAF participants are likely to understand it, and then ignoring my arguments and evidence around this after I pointed them out to him.

Thanks for explaining. I don't wish to engage further here [feel free to reply though of course], but FWIW I don't agree that there are any reasoning errors in Jacob's post or any anomalies to explain. I think you are strongly focused on a part of the conversation that is of particular importance to you (something along the lines of whether people who are not motivated or skilled at expressing sympathy will be welcome here), while Jacob is mostly focused on other aspects. 

I think you are strongly focused on a part of the conversation that is of particular importance to you (something along the lines of whether people who are not motivated or skilled at expressing sympathy will be welcome here), while Jacob is mostly focused on other aspects.

This seems clearly true to me, but I don't see how it explains the things that I'm puzzled by. I will stop here as well, as my previous comment answering your question was downvoted to negative karma, perhaps indicating that such discussion (or my specific way of discussing it) is not appropriate for this forum.

I guess I can't resist one last comment - please feel free to not reply any further. 

This seems clearly true to me, but I don't see how it explains the things that I'm puzzled by. 

To put it in rough Bayesian terms - I think your priors on what other people are saying and why are firing too strongly. This is making it hard to understand other people who are coming from a different place, and throwing up the elementary reasoning errors and anomalies you see. I wonder if you've previously encountered EAs or similar types of people saying the kinds of things jsteinhardt is saying here and meaning them sincerely, not performatively. I think some people, especially more online people, haven't. 

Thanks for this jsteinhardt, I agree with the above.

Thanks for this I think that all makes a lot of sense. 

FWIW I wasn't necessarily asking you to provide this feedback to Dale. I was just noting that such feedback hadn't yet been provided. I interpreted your earlier comment as implying that it had.

I have been assuming that EAF follows the same norm as LW with regard to downvotes, namely that it means "I’d like to see fewer comments like this one." Just in case EAF follows a different norm, I did a quick search and happened across a comment by Khorton herself (which was highly upvoted, so I think is likely representative of typical understanding of downvotes on EAF):

In order of frequency:

-I strong downvote spam (weekly)

-I downvote people for antisocial behaviour, like name calling (monthly)

-I sometimes downvote comments that are obviously unhelpful or wrong (I’ll usually explain why, if no one else has) (every couple of months)

-I occasionally downvote posts if I don’t think they’re the type of thing that should be on the Forum (for example, they’re very poorly written, very incorrect, or offensive) (a couple times a year)

So it seems basically the same, i.e., a downvote means that on net the voter would prefer not to see a comment like it on the forum. Given that some people may not be very good at or very motivated to express sympathy in connection with stating an alternative hypothesis, this seems equivalent to saying that she would prefer such people not post such alternative hypotheses on the forum.

And if Dale totally ignores this advice, the penalty is… mild social disapproval from Khorton and lots of upvotes from other people, as far as I can tell.

Sure, this seems to be the current norm, but as Khorton's comment had garnered substantial upvotes before I disagreed with it (I don't remember exactly but I think it was comparable to Dale's initial comment at that point), I was worried about her convincing others to her position and thereby moving the forum towards a new norm.

Anyway, I do agree with "I think it’s good for people to point out ways that criticism can be phrased more sympathetically" and would have no objections to any comments along those lines. I note however that is not what Khorton did and her comment in fact did not point out any specific ways that Dale's comment could have been phrased more sympathetically.

I'm curious how xccf's comment elsewhere on this thread fits in with your position as expressed here. 

I think my position is compatible with xccf's. Some people (like xccf) may choose to try to alleviate negative feelings by expressing sympathy, "standing with", or otherwise providing social/emotional support, while others (like Dale) may choose to do so by pointing out why some of the feelings may be excessive given the actual facts. Both of these seem reasonable strategies to me. IRL perhaps you could decide to deploy one or the other (or both) based in part on which is likely to work better on the particular person you're talking to, but that's not possible in a public forum, in which case it seems reasonable to welcome/encourage both types of commenters.

In theory at least, pointing out that someone may be mistaken about something that has been troubling them can be comforting.

Whether or not this works in practice I'm less sure about.

Totally agree, that just wasn't my view of this situation.

Fair enough. I agree that Dale perhaps could have included words along the lines of "I understand the hurt the Asian community must be feeling but...".

This might be a minor point, but personally I think it's better to avoid making generalizations of how an entire community must be feeling. Some members of the Asian community are unaware of recent events, while others may not be particularly affected by them. Perhaps something more along the lines of "I understand many people in the Asian community are feeling hurt right now" would be generally better. 

  1. I agree with your point that the shooter's motives are uncertain, that there isn't a lot of evidence that it was motivated by racial bias, and that our first impressions tend to be wrong. But it seems plausible to believe that Long was motivated by racial bias. Otherwise, why target Asian dayspas and not, say, strip clubs? " '"Long told investigators that he blames the massage parlors for providing an outlet for his addiction to sex' " (ABC). It seems plausible to me that the fact that Long's sex drive was linked to these spas could have been motivated by the fetishization of Asian people. One of the places Long frequented was named Young's Asian Massage. Also, my impression is that most instances where a white man kills majority non-white people turn out to be racially motivated.

    Certainly this is by no means a silver bullets, and I agree that many people speak as if it's certain that Long was racially motivated.
  2. I disagree with your comment about the media. This is anecdotal, but I've seen many people on social media blast the NYtimes' initial report ("8 people Killed in Atlanta-Area Massage Parlor Shootings") for not asserting racial motivations. Regardless of whether the media emphasized the racial component, I'm quite confident that many people would have seen "white man kills 8 people, 6 of whom are asian women" and associated that with racism.
  3. I agree with jsteinhardt's comment.

Thanks for this. I have been trying to think about what organizations I can support that would be most effective here. I'm still thinking though it myself but if you have particular thoughts, let me know.

What's the argument for supporting organizations in this cause area? If you're just trying to purchase fuzzies for yourself or other community members, that seems fine, but it's hard for me to see it making sense to prioritize anti-Asian violence as a cause area by the usual EA metrics.

But maybe there are other related causes that are more promising from an EA perspective, like lowering US-China tensions, or otherwise reducing the risks of a US-China war...

For me personally, it's symbolically important to make some sort of donation as a form of solidarity. It's not coming out of my EA budget, but I'd still rather spend the money as effectively as possible. It seems to me that practicing the virtue of effective spending in one domain will only help in other domains.

JPAL had some links to some orgs here:

Asian Americans Advancing Justice--Atlanta   
stopAAPIhate.org
hateisavirus.org
laaunch.org 

Edit: I also found Asian Americans Advancing Justice - this seems to be one of the biggest civil rights charities focusing on low income Asian Americans. They seem to have a good track record.  One can donate without paying any fees via PayPal Giving Fund here. 

Might also be worth to ask @chloecockburn who had some BLM recommendations.

Thanks. I'm currently planning to donate to Laaunch as they seem the most disciplined and organized of the groups. I couldn't actually tell what Hate is a Virus wants to do from their website--for instance a lot of it seems to be about getting Asians to advocate for other racial minorities, but I'm specifically looking for something that will help Asians. Laaunch seems more focused on this while still trying to build alliances with other racial advocacy groups.

They (EDIT: Laaunch) seem to be doing a lot of different things and I'm confused as to what their theory of change is. 

(Tbc I only had a cursory look at their website so it's possible I missed it).

They being Laaunch? I agree they do a lot of different things. Hate is a Virus seemed to be doing even more scattered things, some of which didn't make sense to me. Everything Laaunch was doing seemed at least plausibly reasonable to me, and some, like the studies and movement-building, seemed pretty exciting.

 

My guess is that even within Asian advocacy, Laaunch is not going to look as mission-focused and impact-driven as say AMF. But my guess is no such organization exists--it's a niche cause compared to global poverty, so there's less professionalization--though I wouldn't be surprised if I found a better organization with more searching. I'm definitely in the market for that if you have ideas.

Though I wouldn't be surprised if I found a better organization with more searching.. I'm definitely in the market for that if you have ideas.

I don't have direct ideas for the stated goal, but some brainstorming on the purpose of why you are interested in Asian advocacy might be fruitful? If you are interested in things that help Asian diaspora have better lives, have a wildly flourishing future, etc, I'd bet that the same general (human-focused) cause areas that EAs are interested in (scientific advancement, reducing existential synthetic biology and AI risk, etc) are in expectation better for Asian people than Laaunch or the other orgs above. 

If you want things that disproportionately benefit Asians (eg, because "I want to show support for Asians so I want to do basically the same thing I was planning to do anyway" is a bad look/ serve poorly as an honest loyalty signal), I'd probably look into ways to improve health and other outcomes in countries with a lot of Asians, or affect a lot of Asians. Plausible targets include  outdoor pollution, smoking cessation, deworming, and lead poisoning. I'd also more speculatively suggest donating to reduce nuclear risk, since I think the majority of potential flashpoints for nuclear risk is in Asia. 

If you want to donate to organizations that disproportionately benefit upper-middle class Asians in Western countries (because this is the relevant group of friends/collaborators/students/etc that you wish to express solidarity to), I'm pretty stuck on ideas, yeah. I think there's a fairly high difficulty in finding charities in this space with any nontrivial and positive tangible outcome (even more so than normal for charity selection). 

Speaking personally, I do think the impact of racism on me is nonzero and negative. But almost all of the experiences of racism in my adult life looks less like explicit and obvious racial prejudice and more like statistical disparate impact, in both my corporate and social life. In no individual case would there be obvious racism, but collectively a (murky) picture is painted. Eg, I have to apply to X jobs to get offers I'm happy with, whereas I suspect my demographic twin of a different race only have to apply to ~Y jobs to get the same number of offers, visa approvals to the US are harder for Asians than for Europeans*, stuff like that. This is only my own anecdotal experience, but I suspect it generalizes well to East Asian people** who are likely to be your friends/coworkers/etc. 

It seems pretty hard to meaningfully improve on the disparate impact stuff without a clear theory of change, and I don't think there are obvious quick fixes (eg, I sure don't want to work in any job that I have to  sue to get!). I'd maybe weakly endorse a variation of Dale's comment here and suggest organizations that lobby for greater standardization/legibility in admittance to universities and prestige jobs (under the assumption that illegibility and informal systems almost always disproportionately benefit people with power, and harms minorities). But I'm hesitant to recommend donating to any specific group that works on this without at least doing some due diligence on their theory of change.

Thinking farther afield, I'd also be interested in great power stuff and other things that mitigate potential future ethnic tensions.

* And people who are ethnically Asian are more likely to be from Asian countries than from European countries.

** I'm less sure about generalization to eg, West Asians because I can imagine a lot of anti-Arab and Anti-Israeli sentiment that's more direct. 

I just wanted to say that I really appreciated this comment. In particular, I think the first part is an excellent and well-phrased example of the "universal solvent" property of EA thinking that I think is both hugely valuable and quite emotionally challenging to many people in cases like this.

Thanks, and sorry for not responding to this earlier (was on vacation at the time). I really appreciated this and agree with willbradshaw's comment below :).

I agree that LAAUNCH seems quite high upside because they do research which I feel is often more neglected and can be quite high impact (e.g. they conduct "A comprehensive, national assessment of attitudes and stereotypes towards Asian Americans in the US – one of the few such studies in the last 20 years").

PBS Newshour created this list of ways people in the US can fight racism and violence against Asian Americans. (I'll add it to the post.)

I also think that solidarity with Asians around the world includes opposing the human rights violations occurring in Asian countries, such as Myanmar, China, and India.