Packing Asians

This is the third part in a series of posts examining how to create super-packed districts of one race. The other posts in this series pack blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, and whites.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

Packing Asians

The previous post created two extremely Hispanic districts: a 93.2% Hispanic district in the heart of Miami, and a 96.5% Hispanic district in South Texas.

It is nowhere near possible to do anything similar regarding Asians. Asians compose only 4.8% of America’s population, while Hispanics are 16.3%.

The vast majority of Asians live in communities that are majority non-Asian. There do exist areas with high Asian populations; New York City is one example, as is Middlesex County in New Jersey.

Hawaii is the state with the highest percentage of Asians. However, Hawaii only holds enough population for two congressional districts, and the state’s population is too integrated to effectively pack Asians.

The real action is in California. Millions of Asians live in Southern California, especially the San Gabriel Valley.

But the density of Asians is greatest in the San Francisco Bay Area. Indeed, one’s strategy for packing Asians is somewhat similar to one’s strategy for packing blacks. There is only one place in America you look at when trying to create the blackest district possible, and that place is Chicago. The same holds true for Asians. One unquestionably must go to the Bay Area to create the most Asian district possible; there is no alternative.

Here is the district.

This is a 64.6% Asian district. It reaches throughout the San Francisco Bay Area to take in the most Asian areas, disregarding all manner of compactness and communities of interest.

The trick to this district is the way it utilizes the water in the middle of the bay. This effectively enables the district to unite the Asian parts of San Francisco with the Asian parts of the South Bay. These areas are very far apart, but by crossing water one can put them together without taking in any non-Asians.

Obviously, it’s hard to get a clear look at the district from the above image alone. Below are some detailed views.

Here is San Francisco.

The left part is Chinatown. The right part is an Asian region of Oakland.

Here is South San Francisco.

Here is Fremont.

The outer reaches of Fremont are the most Asian; the inner parts of much less so.

Finally, here is San Jose.

Politically speaking, this district is quite liberal, located as it is in the Bay Area. It gave President Barack Obama around 73% of the vote in 2008, and Governor Jerry Brown 66 to 67% of the vote in 2010.

The northern parts – in San Francisco – are most Democratic, voting around 80% for Mr. Obama. Then as the district moves south, it gets steadily less so; the San Jose parts vote around 60 to 75% for Mr. Obama. There might have been five or so precincts in total that actually voted for Senator John McCain.

Packing Whites

The previous post, about packing Hispanics, actually stated that the next post would be about packing whites. As you may have noticed, this post was not about that subject. There are so many extremely white areas in the United States that creating the whitest district possible is a very time-consuming endeavor. Nevertheless, the next post will – hopefully – create the whitest district of them all.



Asians in the Soviet Union?

By: Inoljt,

I recently came upon an interesting Youtube video of the former Soviet Union’s national anthem. The music was set to a clip of Soviet propaganda, which was also interesting to watch. There was a lot of emphasis on heavy industry, for instance, a peculiar obsession of communist countries that still lingers in places such as China.

In the middle of the video, however, something very surprising occurred. Take a look at 0:48, 1:44, and 1:52.

These scenes show what look unmistakably to be individuals whom we in the United States label as “Asian.”

Who are these people?

There are several possibilities. Perhaps they are Chinese, North Korean, or from another East Asian communist country. The video might have been showing Soviet assistance to its allies. This is the less likely explanation, however; why aren’t there Cubans or Africans (from communist nations in Africa) in the video then?

Or perhaps these people are citizens of the Soviet Union.

When most people think of a Soviet Union citizen, they imagine a person with features that Americans associate with “white” people. There is reason for this: people of Russian ethnicity – who fit under the definition of white – composed the majority of the country’s population. They dominated the Soviet Union’s elite; all of its leaders were “white.”

Most of Central Asia, however, also was a part of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union bordered China and Mongolia for thousands of miles.

It is very difficult to classify the “race” of the people in these areas; it is a region most people (including, admittedly, me) do not pay attention to. Yet one imagines that if a place borders Mongolia or China, the people in that place will appear somewhat similar to people living in Mongolia or China.

When looking at the “Asians” in this video, one is strikingly reminded of the way African-Americans are portrayed in American commercials and movies. There is always at least one African-American in a commercial. But they are never the majority. The same phenomenon seems to be happening here, except with Asians instead of blacks.

Perhaps the Soviet Union had token minorities of its own.



The Future of the Asian-American Vote

Asians are one of the most ignored constituencies in American politics. When most politicians think about the Asian vote, they don’t.

Yet the Asian-American population is increasing, both in absolute terms and relative ones. By 2050, the Census estimates that Asians will compose 7.8% of the American population. Although their voting rates will still fall far short of this, the population is becoming more influential. Predicting their future voting path therefore has some utility.

In previous posts, this blogger has argued that the Latino vote will likely trend Republican, as Latinos follow the path of previous immigrants and become more assimilated.

Will the same happen for Asian-Americans?

Probably not:

Link to Graph of Asian Vote Over Time

As the graph above shows, the Asian vote has steadily moved Democratic, in quite a significant manner. In 1992 Republican President George H.W. Bush won 55% of the Asian vote while losing the popular vote. 12 years later, his son won only 41% of Asians, despite winning the popular vote.

The trend also does not look bright for the Republican Party. Asian-Americans who have been born in the United States are, if anything, more Democratic than those who immigrated into the country (to be fair, the latter group dominates the Asian population and will continue to do so unless immigration is drastically curtailed).

Take, for instance, the Vietnamese-American population – strong supporters of the Republican Party. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, after conducting an extensive exit poll of Asians (perhaps the only detailed exit poll of the group in the country), found that:

Vietnamese American voters gave McCain the strongest support of all Asian ethnic groups at 67%. However, further analysis of Vietnamese American voters revealed 69% of those born in the U.S. and 60% of those 18-29 years old voted for Obama. Among Vietnamese American respondents, 15% were born in the U.S. and 25% were between the ages of 18 and 29.

The analysis goes on to conclude that:

AALDEF’s exit poll data shows that younger, U.S.-born, more recently naturalized, and English proficient Asian American citizens voted for Barack Obama for President by wide margins. Older, foreign-born citizens with limited English proficiency and who had been naturalized more than ten years ago voted in greater proportions for McCain.

There are several explanations for why this is happening. One quite plausible argument is that immigration has shifted the Asian-American population from Orange County anti-communists to Silicon Valley liberals.

Another revealing insight can be gained by comparing Asians to another very Democratic group: Jews. In many ways the two have a startling amount in common. Both groups are highly educated; both are primarily located in urban metropolitan areas; both have achieved substantial success in American society; and both have encountered quite similar types of discrimination. Even the stereotypes are similar.

Given these similarities, it is very conceivable that Asians could end up voting like Jews – one of the most liberal-minded groups in the nation.



Examining Turn-Out by Race in California

California constitutes one of the most diverse states in the United States. Here is how the Census estimates its population composition:

California’s Ethnic Composition :

Asian 12.7%

Black 6.6%

Hispanic 37.0%

Mixed 2.6%

Native American 1.2%

Pacific Islander 0.4%

White 41.7%

(Note that the numbers do not add up to 100, due to the way the Census tracks ethnicity.)

The people who actually vote in California, however, do not reflect this composition. California’s electorate in the 2008 presidential election is quite different from its actual ethnic composition:

2008 Electorate: Exit Polls

Asian 6%

Black 10%

Hispanic 18%

Other 3%

White 63%

These numbers were taken from exit polls – and one should be warned that exit polls are very, very inaccurate. The numbers above should not be taken for the truth, but rather as a rough approximation of it.

Nevertheless, one can take something out of the exit polls: blacks and whites punched far above their demographic weight, while Asians and Hispanics punched far below theirs. This pattern isn’t so much a racial one as much as an immigrant versus non-immigrant one.

Since blacks and whites are mainly non-immigrant communities, they vote more often than immigrant communities. Blacks and whites thus are overrepresented in the electorate. There was little racial divide between black and white turn-out, which is quite remarkable, given the lower socioeconomic status of blacks. All in all the percentage of California’s 2008 electorate was about 50% more black and white than California’s overall population.

Hispanics are the ones hurt most by this. The difference between the Hispanic portion of the electorate and the Hispanic portion of the overall population is quite striking: the electorate is just half as Hispanic as the population. Most of this is attributable to the legal status of many Hispanic immigrants, the relative youth of the Hispanic population, the lower socioeconomic status of Hispanics, and the immigrant-heavy nature Hispanic community (this is different from the first factor in that immigrants are inherently less likely to vote even if they are citizens).

It is not Hispanics, however, who are least likely to vote: it is Asians. There are several similarities and differences between the two groups. Unlike Hispanics, the Asian population is not skewed downwards, and Asians generally have a high socioeconomic status. On the other hand, Asians are much more of an immigrant community than Hispanics: a remarkable four out of five adult Asians in California constituted immigrants, according to a 2002 study. Only 59% of adult Asians were citizens (who can vote), according to the study.

The low voting rates of Hispanics and Asians naturally reduce their political power. Hispanics, at around one-fifth of the California electorate, are influential – but imagine how much more influential the Hispanic vote would be if they voted their numbers. As for Asians, their low turn-out makes their community almost a non-factor in California politics.

This will probably change, of course. A century ago one could have written the exact same words about another immigrant-heavy group that did not vote: Irish-Americans.




Analyzing The Last Airbender’s Casting Controversy

Summer is in full swing, which means that Hollywood has come out with the usual set of summer blockbusters. This year’s summer movies – from Inception to Despicable Me – have generally been good quality, well-done things. Indeed, the film Inception may become one of the great classics of movie fame.

Then there was The Last Airbender, by M. Night Shyamalan – a movie which may earn the title as the worst movie this year. From its inception (pardon the pun) to its sorry release, Airbender has been dogged in the wake of controversial casting decisions.

Shyamalan has also been criticized for yellowface – casting white actors to play Asian main characters, although the TV series Avatar, upon which the movie was based off of, puts itself in an East Asian setting. The evidence for the latter claim is fairly strong. Take, for instance, the following six battles: the Siege of Ba Sing Se, the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, the Battle of Han Tui, the Hu Xin Provinces Campaign, the Battle of Jinyang, and the Battle of Kapyong. Some are from Avatar and some constitute real-life events in Asian history.

It’s fairly difficult to tell which is which. As it turns out, the first, third, and fourth events are from Avatar; the rest are actual historical battles (congratulations if you recognized the second name, and even more congratulations if you recognized the last name).

The puzzle, then, is why Hollywood does things like this – why it, for instance, continues the practice of yellow-face more than half-a-century after blackface was rightfully ended.

Simple old-fashioned racism does not fully answer the question. Shyamalan himself is Indian, yet cast an Indian actor as the villain. Most people in entertainment are not racists in disguise, although their pool of friends may lack diversity (in this they are not much different from most people). The vast majority probably voted for President Barack Obama, for instance. Most probably view segregation or Japanese internment as tremendous wrongs in American history. Some even go all the way and marry interracially (often, ironically enough, with an Asian-American women), before casting a white actor to play an Asian lead.

The answer, rather, seems to involve economics and the faceless forces of the market. Take supply and demand. It would not be unreasonable to assume that the vast majority of Hollywood’s available labor pool is white. Becoming a Hollywood superstar is something that appeals to a very specific demographic, and that demographic is probably paler than America itself. There are, moreover, not many Asian-Americans in entertainment. Choosing the white actor to play a non-white role may simply be the easier path.

Hollywood’s writers and producers also have families to feed and ambitions to make it big, ambitions to which some principles can be sacrificed. Shyamalan and others of his industry want to make productions that sell; that constitutes the purpose of their job. And they think that a show without a white male lead would be less popular – which is often true. So they set white male leads because they think only those types of shows will sell. They make what they think the audience will accept.

Ironically, this probably causes the audience to become even less accepting of non-white, non-male leads since they’re so used to the traditional version. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.

Yet for all this, practices like yellow-face do not seem entirely justified from a purely financial perspective. Shaylaman’s movie, after all, turned out into a disaster despite his best efforts to appeal to white America. Americans have proved willing to watch movies with black male leads, despite early fears. Movies such as Despicable Me and District 9 have cast main characters who speak in accented English; those movies also did well.

Finally there is the international market to factor in. Rich Asian countries such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan constitute an increasingly important audience. Then there is the growing market in China. China allows only twenty Hollywood movies a year; because of Shyalaman’s controversial casting, The Last Airbender will almost certainly not make the cut.

If Hollywood and the American entertainment industry wake up to these facts, they might realize that a change in practices such as yellow-face would probably gain them sales – and besides, it’d also be the right thing to do.




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