Tech Workers Group Takes a Wrong Turn

Many in the world see us Americans as being obsessed about race. Today, for instance, a journalist and book author whom I admire (and have praised here) tweeted that the only reason people, indeed “progressive” ones!, voted for Trump was that they are racist. In certain circles, the “R word” seems to be the default explanation for any problem.

This is not to say that everyone in the US has 100% healthy racial attitudes. Far from it. Today’s testimony in the Harvard admissions lawsuit includes some disturbing stories about the way white students view and treat underrepresented minorities. And need I mention the acts of violence against, blacks, browns and now Jews?

Over the years of my writing on the H-1B work visa, I have explained, with some irritation, to numerous reporters who contact me that H-1B is NOT about race. If one loses a job, directly or indirectly to a foreign worker because the statutes are so lax, one does not care what the race of the foreigner is; losing a job is losing a job. Reporters, coming from their “race is the answer” echo chambers, have a hard time getting this. I’ve been interacting with anti-H-1B activists for nearly 25 years, and I’ve never encountered any with bad attitudes toward people of color; indeed many are POC themselves.

And yet…I was contacted last week by a member of an organization called Protect US Workers (PUW). The member, whom I’ll call Lucinda, asked if I might join in their teleconference. I knew little more about the organization than it was headed by attorney Sara Blackwell. I told Lucinda that I have a profound disagreement with Ms. Blackwell, who I am sure is well-meaning but who is actually harming the cause of H-1B reform by her emphasis on the “Infosyses”; this will result in a LARGER H-1B program, as I’ve explained before.

But Lucinda, in urgent proselytizing mode, repeatedly pressed me to look into PUW’s lobbying against HR 392, a bill being promoted by Immigration Voice, an organization of H-1Bs who are stuck in an interminable wait for green card approval. The cause of their troubles is that current green card law allocates the same yearly number of green cards for each country of origin. Since the tech green card applicants are mainly Indian and Chinese, their wait times are years or even decades. HR 392 would remove the per-country limits while preserving the current overall cap.

I am well aware of the bill (on which I have been neutral), but I wondered why Lucinda was so agitated. If enacted, the bill would not increase the number of jobs available to US citizens and permanent residents. After a few more DM iterations on Twitter, it came out: Lucinda resents the Indians. She’d been mistreated by them, and extrapolates that to all Indians. HR 392 would reduce green cards for “our allies,” in Europe and Israel. She is not bothered by the Chinese H-1Bs, just the Indians. Revenge.

Mind you, I can understand Lucinda’s frustration. I constantly hear from American techies who tell me (and often show me) that Indian recruiters are contacting them for jobs that they (the Americans) will never be actually considered for. And Lucinda’s racial problem appears to be rather mild. But it IS a problem, and apparently is one that is common in PUW, judging from the public tweets.

PUW, “Keep your eyes on the prize.” Don’t get sidetracked.


Book review: All You Can Ever Know, by N. Chung

For a number of reasons, I looked forward to Nicole Chung’s new memoir, All You Can Ever Know, about growing up as a transracial adoptee in an all-white US town. The book did not disappoint, a beautifully written and highly moving account. (Chung does not name the town, just stating it is in southern Oregon, and she has taken on her birth surname, all apparently to keep privacy for her and her family.)

Chung was born to Korean immigrants in Seattle, then adopted by a white couple at two and a half months. Born severely premature, she still weighed less than six pounds at the time. She writes of being raised by loving parents who did not fully realize the taunts, cruel jokes and above all, isolation, that an Asian kid might suffer in an all-white setting. She had no real school friends until high school. Meanwhile, though likewise being devoted to her parents, she developed an intense desire to connect with her birth family, a yearning that she kept largely to herself. Much later, when she is pregnant with her first child, she starts that process of connection, ultimately with mixed results.

Chung’s account, though apparently fully open, brings to mind questions not raised in the book. I have the impression that Chung’s angst was due much more to her semi-pariah status in school than to her being adopted. Suppose her parents had lived in a more cosmopolitan locale, such as Seattle with its large Asian population, so that Chung would have little or no problem “fitting in” at school. I surmise that her interest in connecting with her birth family might then have been only mild. She writes about being shocked whenever other adoptees have expressed to her such moderate views regarding their birth parents.

I can empathize. Growing up as a Jewish kid in East LA and the San Gabriel Valley, there were various anti-Semitic remarks. Kids can be mean. I must say that my wife and I, visiting Eugene, Oregon this past August, were startled by the stark “whiteness” of the city. Presumably Chung’s hometown was smaller than Eugene, and even whiter and less tolerant, back in the 1980s when she was growing up. Maybe her town is less white today, at least due to a Latino presence.

As we all must, Chung eventually learns the validity of the old adage, “The grass is [misleadingly] greener on the other side of the fence.” Though she develops a precious, close relationship with a birth sister, her search for roots also leads to profound disappointment.

In addition to her unhappiness at school, the fact that Chung spent the first months of life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, devoid of parental touch and nurture, must also have taken a heavy toll. Yet in spite of all the angst, she comes across as a very “together” person, very self-confident and upbeat, in fact more so than her birth sister.

Oddly, as a non-adoptee, I have very little interest in my own roots. I met only one of my four grandparents, and know very little about them. Further back than them, I know absolutely nothing. When I mentioned this recently to a friend, he asked in an emphatic tone, “Why?!” I’d never been asked that before, and had no real answer.

Bottom line: Chung’s book is a powerful read, a courageous laying bare of her psyche. Adoptees and adoptive parents should find it especially moving, but it is a compelling work for any reader interested in race, parenting and so on.



No One Asked Me, But…

But what about the Kavanaugh case?

Warning: If you are a Republican, you won’t like my conclusion, and you won’t like my reasons. If you are a Democrat, you’ll like my conclusion, but you won’t like my reasons either.

About 10 days ago, I wrote on Twitter that I believe that both Ford and Kavanaugh are telling the truth as they remember it. And more importantly I said, whether fair or unfair to Kavanaugh, Trump ought to withdraw his nomination of BK for SCOTUS. This remains my position today. Below, I will explain my primary reason for this stance, and also bring up some miscellaneous points about the case that will be new to many of you.

I agree with those who feel that the Kavanaugh situation we are currently facing is more like a job interview than a trial, but my view is slightly different. When an employer is filling an open position, she is NOT out to be “fair.” Aside from legal discrimination issues, the employer is not (and should not be) under any obligation to make sure she is hiring the “best” applicant; she merely wants to hire someone who is well-qualified for the job. My point, then, is that in the process, the employer may pass over some applicants who actually are extremely well qualified but whose good qualities are not fully in evidence. The employer has neither the time nor the obligation to dig up such evidence — nor to dig further to find exculpatory evidence if something negative appears on the surface.

In filling a seat on the Court, we, the “employer,” want to be sure the person chosen is well-qualified, which includes qualification in terms of character. If we are not fully satisfied regarding character, we must err on the side of caution, in this case meaning not selecting BK. We have neither the time nor the ability to dig well enough to truly know what happened in 1982. This may well not be fair to him, but as the employer we have no obligation to be fair. I believe Trump should withdraw the nomination, with apologies to Kavanaugh for possible unfairness.

As noted, I still believe this, 10 days after my tweet. I must say, though, that Ford’s testimony raised some concerns in my mind as to whether her claims are fully accurate.

First, there is Prosecutor Mitchell’s probing of Ford during the hearing regarding Ford’s claimed fear of flying. Ford said the events of 36 years ago made her claustrophobic, causing her to be terrified of flying. Yet Mitchell pointed out that Ford enjoys trips to Hawaii and the South Pacific, flights that take 5 to 15 hours or more.

Second, Mitchell asked whether, in Ford’s July 2018 interview with the Washington Post, Ford had shown the reporter her medical records involving her emotional problems. Ford said she could not recall. This is something that Ford should have remembered, and if not, I really have trouble trusting Ford’s memory of the events of 36 years ago, even accounting for the fact that traumatic events tend to stick in one’s memory.

Ford lives in Palo Alto, a staunchly liberal community. It’s basically a hotbed of anti-Trump feelings. One local resident told me that there is no way he can divulge to his friends and neighbors that he voted for Trump. I can easily envision a situation in which Ford’s friends and neighbors — she said she was influenced by her “beach friends” — egged her on, urging her, “You must speak out! This is your chance to bring down Trump and the right wing currently in power! It’s your responsibility as part of the Resistance!” I don’t mean to say Ford is lying, but I think it is quite possible that these exhortations “clarified” her memories of 1982.

Speaking of memory, I have to likewise point out that if Kavanaugh really is the animal that Ford claims — and yes, there are lots of guys like that out there — Kavanaugh would have thought nothing of the incident at the time, and thus would not remember it today.

By the way, I do not fault Kavanaugh for his emotional testimony last week. How would you be reacting if you felt your entire reputation, to stay with you for a lifetime, was being grossly unfairly attacked? Former California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, a Democrat’s Democrat, said of Kavanaugh’s outburst, “Look, he was just being human. We can’t expect someone to stop being human just because he is a judge.”

Like many people, I am worried about the alarming increase in sensitivity and polarization on many issues. This morning I heard a radio report about an “all-male ballot,” and it took me a few seconds to realize they had said “all-mail.” 🙂 We all need to calm down.