ACA-5 is currently on California’s November Ballot, it repeals proposition 290. Proposition 290 was a law enacted in 1996 that invalidated many race-dependent legislation in California state operations. ACA-5 explicitly says that the government should now once again consider gender, race and ethnicity in college admission and State contracting.
My understanding of many Asians objection to this law is that obviously, Californian colleges today admit disproportionately large number of Asians(the percentage of college admissions given to Asians is higher than percentage of Asians in the population), that ACA-5 directly reduces Asian admitted to colleges by giving those slots to less qualified minority students. Even though the legislation directly calls out that Asians have been discriminated against and wants to protect us, the effect will be to reduce number of Asians receiving state benefit due to them based on merit!
My first reaction was: WHAT IN THE FLAMING HELL has gotten into these blacks people? Do they not remember the sacrifices their parents and grand parents and further ancestors made to gain their constitutionally protected civil rights as equals? Do they not know that it took a lot of people dreaming about the American idea to achieve non-discrimination guarantees by the law of our land? Have too much Chinese personal sacrifice mentality gotten into these black minds that they would sacrifice their own persons’ enjoyment of equal rights protection for their children’s education and employment ?! Why would any sane person want to remove law requiring equal treatment ??!!
I read several internet articles about the matter, especially Economist article on affirmative action. Washington Post article on affirmative action. I am surprised to learn that even in recent centuries, the same federal administration that we talk about today, the VA, the FHA, and others, had just a few decades ago systematically enriched large swarth of white families by means of geographic exclusion. The White people built up generational wealth by excluding black and colored from making purchase property in some cities. Descendants of these white people can then use this wealth to buy their children admittance into Harvard. It makes sense. White Americans today are some of the smartest people in the history of humanity, their ability to behave in a very coordinated and sustained way to build up racial wealth is completely logical, this all make a lot of sense. Considering the millenniums of strife Europeans experienced in wars of swords and wars of the minds, this accomplishment seems rather underwhelming in terms of difficulties.
But that life really sucks! Living in a country, watching a lot of happy people get happier and happier, watching their kids get happier and happier. remembering ancestors who were whipped and raped and killed for these happy peoples ancestors enjoyment and enrichment. For the past few days since learning about the passage of ACA-5, I find that I feel for African Americans, I also feel for the Latino community, we are all colored people in the eyes of whites. Thinking back hundreds of years, reviewing all the efforts these ancestors made to improve their own lives, thinking of all the smart or dirty tricks white peoples have, as a united body of people, each concerting to the trickery, have route so much anguish to them. Think of all the suffering. Think of all the blood shed. Think of all the mental torture. Yet, here we are today, white people can and can and may still be doing the same thing again and again to colored people. I wonder if the civil rights leaders, whoever they are, are right in asking for ACA-5. American black and Latino community have dealt with this life far longer than my family experiences. Could their solution be right ? On what rational basis fo I have to challenge their decision to push for this legislation? This may very well be the best path forward for minorities in America.
An article later I also learned is that America is home to a lot of smart people, white or otherwise. The great Martin Luther King Junior advocated for class based affirmative action to improve the lives of blacks and all that needs help. My deepest respect for this great civil rights leader deepens as I learn more about what he brought to bear as he lead the resistance against racism in America. Admittedly, I did grow up partially in Communist China, back in the 1908’s it was struggling to free itself from the strangle hold of an ideology. Giving to the people who actually needs it—helping the poorer class to advance economically and socially using affirmative action—comes almost straight from communist master Marx himself: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.
Even at risk of being classified as a Communist by American Secret police or other vigilantes, class based affirmative action makes sense! Not only does it advance my own race, it advances all poor irregardless of race! It is a race blind policy that I feel is much more in line with America’s founding principles than race based affirmative action.
MLKj was such a great leader!
I wish we had a good leader today for our civil rights movement. When something like ACA-5 gets approved by both houses of California state legislature, one cannot help but begin to yearn for a leader in this space, someone who speaks to all races as MLKj did. Someone who can stand up and speak loudly and justify this legislation. Lacking that, I have only google to resort to, and my conclusion regarding ACA-5 is that we need real civil rights leaders here much much more than we need this legislation that make no sense to me—specifically, I would like the law of all parts of United States to repeatedly affirm that unequal treatment according to race and other protected and immutable attributes is illegal and immoral!
And I should appendix that I do appreciate modern day California minority politicians specifically calling out the suffering of Asian minorities. We have for three centuries had trouble even coming to America, staying here, marrying, working, buying properties, voting. We have everything blacks and Latinos experienced and more. The only way we were treated differently was that we were so disliked that we were not even permitted to come, or even reproduce, much less own property and vote. I mean talk about the worst treat Americans can imagine: no sex, no kids, no vote. (Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882) When Asians do come to America, they are treated with utter distrust!(internment of Japanese-Americans for fear of their sabotage of American society…) for a modern day example check out how many times the New York Times calls out Chinese Hackers on its front page. Seriously, Asians really need to stand up, like the African Americans and fight for our place in society. Have you looked down recently? Look down! You’re here until you die! Look down! You’ll always be a slave! Look down! You’re standing in your graves!
Reading a very interesting disagreement between Yann LeCunn and Timnit Gebru.(article, article, Reddit ) I should preface by saying that LeCunn would be one of my most favorite computer scientist if I understood his papers in the 1980’s. But I didn’t, and I still enjoy reading his tweets until he quit Twitter this week ending a passionate and political exchange with Timnit Gebru.
It’s hard for me to read Timnit’s tweets. I worked for several hours to track down the conversation and honestly, her presentation of her opinions/view/facts does not persuade me to her point. Unlike LeCunn, who for the most part lectured about what an ML system is and some of its properties relevant to racial bias, Gebru linked several authors and conference, and said whatever LeCunn said was simply insufficient or incorrect. It reads like an angry personal attack. It was very difficult for me to read the conversation because the tone used to express rage repels me. 😦
I suppose I should start by criticizing LeCun. He obviously lived in a United States for many years. Been chosen to represent the academic/scientific community at Facebook and professor at NYU does implicitly burden him with higher responsibility to engage serious matters like this. He could have handled it better IMHO, I don’t personally know how that is possible in this situation, but that’s why he gets paid the big bucks and Turing award, right ? Gebru is a much much younger person, recent graduate(recent as compared to LeCun) with an Advisor who is honestly also much much much much much younger and much disadvantaged when compared with Lecun’s Ph.D. advisor. Gebru herself come from disadvantaged race in America. How can LeCunn let this get so out of hand ? Why was that outbreak even possible? I really wish LeCun handles this more effectively. I mean, seriously, I will miss his tweets. And now I’m forced to visit Facebook often to keep up with Deep Learning knowledge. Why can’t Twitter appease LeCun by labeling the whole discussion “controversial” or something more derogatory like “inflammatory speech”?
Now, Gebru has a point. Basically, base on my best ability to read her post despite violent emotional response they provoke in me, she says that no matter what LeCun’s point is about the Data being the cause of ML Bias, because of his esteemed status and ability to influence, he should really be talking about the People that cause the bias. The argument is that the hard work towards racial equality, is the same hard work as before technology: people, culture and subconscious has to change. This is a simple and important thing to understand.
Now, I would NOT be proud to follow Gebru as a civil rights leader today. I would NOT be proud to follow Gebru as a technical leader today. I would not invite such a person to speak to me or my kids. And seriously, as an author and conference presenter, how do you complain about people not hearing what you said? Is it possible to present this material in a way that people like Yann LeCun could hear you? Is there a way for you to publish so that LeCun could cite you? I mean, hopefully not by throwing a sissy fit on Twitter, but by… you know… normal ways.
(And yes, I can imagine everything she said: she did all her research on the matter and published a lot and gave workshops and presentations at major ML conferences over which LeCun presided. Professors at prestigious universities wrote books delivering the same opinion/fact….And LeCun still does not agree with her point about the True Nature of bias is due to the True Nature of people. He does not cite her. I mean, I have experienced white superior at work, white superiors who experienced uncharacteristically rapid ascend in the organization, who then say to my face: “we know you wrote that design document and it was approved, but we don’t care. We don’t care that you already said that.” It really does happen a lot in America, in my case with seemingly vastly superior people. And seriously, this isn’t about my interaction with Tesla support, it is really about real white people who have real power over other people who openly just don’t care.” Oh you think it’s funny I’m trying to explain this? Or do you just not care? Everyday, you just want to scream: “what do I have to do to make this reasonable to you?” Based on the number of people expressing unreasonably anger at Yann LeFun, I would surmise that Gebru and I are not alone in our experience of ignorance. (But I have no evidence that Yann LeCun is such a person, I certainly do not believe he does it deliberately the way I experienced it.)
But, honestly, back to tweet storm, for an academician, this is in the same vein as the CIA publishing news saying “The Chinese lied to us about COVID19.” Like, isn’t that your job to make people notice you and understand your work?! Black or white, part of the job is to discover but equally important is the part where you have to teach it to other people. The same way that the whole mission of the CIA is to collect information from China ? Like they get paid to do that, just like you get paid to do what you do—tell the people what they’re missing about race and bias and make them understand.
Gebru’s advisor didn’t seem to have trouble getting citations from LeCun and his students and collaborators. Why has Gebru not being cited? Please don’t answer the question in the preceding sentence in any respect. It’s really nice to be writing in a blog where inflammatory comments cannot elicit flame wars. Even if discussion of the question have the potential to reveal insight into the subject, the anger and conflict it stirs must be managed or else ask/discuss/answering only serve to distract attention and waste time.
But now that I say that, I have to admit, she did succeed in a small way. I downloaded her papers too and watched her presentation. AFTER her tweets. Well, I watched one second and then started blogging. Sadly this is a contentious issue that everyone is like Gebru and LeCun, we all have an immediate opinion about it and can’t wait to express said opinion. I hope in the years during which my blogging software keeps this entry bottled up, I will have had more time and experience to comprehend the matter better. In the mean time, I must have faith that someday, there can be a more metered discourse by which these painful concerns can be promulgated)
I really wish America produced passionate people like Gebru more like MLKj. Yes, I wish we produce them, definitely do not want to import an immigrant civil rights leader, even if that’s what we desperately need. I guess here I diverge from LeCun’s immigrant ally politics as well. But that’s a conversation for another day.
At the end of the day, I’m glad it happened. It was very painful to work through the threads and follow the discussions. But I’m glad I did it. I feel enriched by this experience. Hopefully it will not be a detriment to development of science or equality and justice.
Happy July 4th, everyone!