As one of the earliest Indian American M.D.-Ph.D. graduates from the Perelman School of Medicine, I intently watched Tucker Carlson’s recent interview with professor Amy Wax, the Robert Mundheim Professor of Law at Penn Law School. Her verbal vitriol singled out Asian Indian physicians. The first amendment and university tenure, however, protect this Ivy League elite who is an anathema to the Quaker mores upon which Penn was founded. She is not alone as a tenured university professor to have shamed faculty, students, and administrators, having joined the ignominious ranks of those like Rutgers University's Brittney Cooper for racist anti-white rants or Eric Rasmusen of Indiana University for sexist posts.
Wax has an impressive academic pedigree, having graduated from Yale University summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry, then becoming a Marshall Scholar in Philosophy, Physiology, and Psychology at Oxford University, followed by her medical degree from Harvard Medical School, and finally her J.D. from Columbia Law School. Aside from not pursuing a law degree, I relate to Wax since our early academic journeys were remarkably similar.
With the influx of Asian immigrants to the United States in the 1970s and 1980s, cloaked racist comments feigning as compliments became more prevalent — such as “you are just an Asian overachiever” or “my, all Indians are so smart.” A fact conveniently overlooked in such statements is that nearly 80% of immigrants from India had a college degree, and over 50% with a college degree had an advanced degree; therefore, they do not statistically represent the average academic ability of the people in their homeland. Such cloaked comments, however, would not be directed towards white or Jewish immigrants, many of whom excelled because their parents instilled the same respect for hard work and education as mine did; however, their outward appearance and pattern of speech prevented them from standing out.
In an interview with Glenn Loury of Brown University, Wax said, “Maybe it’s just that Democrats love open borders, and Asians want more Asians here. Perhaps they are just mesmerized by the feel-good cult of diversity … but as long as most Asians support Democrats and help to advance their positions, I think the United States is better off with fewer Asians and less Asian immigration.” By her own logic, Wax should be critical of other American subgroups as well — such as Jewish Americans, for example, a group that Wax herself is a part of, and of whom over 70% choose Democratic candidates.
Her attack on “Brahmin women'' being taught that they are superior is not only unsubstantiated and sexist, but also stokes anti-Hindu bias. The disparaging use of the term “Brahmin” to insinuate systemic religious elitism in Hinduism has become fashionable in the United States media. The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece by Zaid Jilani entitled “Canceling Student Debt Would Be a 'Brahmin Bailout.'” Terms like “Boston Brahmins” in our lexicon are associated with privilege and elitism, despite the fact that the Brahmins were traditionally respected for renouncing materialism to pursue spiritual and scholarly activity according to J. Patrick Olivelle, noted indologist who received his Ph.D. from Penn in History of Indian Religions.
Wax is also disingenuous in assailing only the “brown faces” and Asian Indian physicians who participate in diversity, inclusion, and racism programs. Ironically, Asian American immigrants are labeled “white adjacent” by critical race theory proponents. She ignores that out of the 20 senior administrators at Penn who set the tone, culture, and direction of the institution, there is only one Asian Indian American, two Black Americans, and one Latinx American. The remaining 16 are white, 12 of whom are men. Perhaps Wax should direct her grievances towards this majority-white group instead of singling out the token minority.
I do agree with Wax on one front, however, that those immigrants who vilify our country as being the world’s exclusive bastion of racism ignore the fact that the United States allowed them to achieve greater success than they might have in their native land. They are guilty of hypocrisy and opportunism. This applies to any immigrant, regardless of continental origin. Wax fails to acknowledge, however, that many immigrants schooled in a “shithole” like India have made major innovative and academic contributions in the United States, proving that the education received in these “outclassed” countries more than prepared them for the rigors of our “wonderful and developed scientific and medical establishment.”
Professor Wax, brilliance is not the exclusive purview of the Western whites, but of all humanity. Names like Satyendra Nath Bose, Albert Einstein, Emmett Chapelle, Musa al-Khwarizmi, Hideki Yukawa, and Zhang Heng prove you wrong. Perhaps removing Wax from the Penn faculty for her epithets may deny her right to free speech. Her real offense, however, is that as an educator, she has betrayed academic integrity and encourages pejorative racist stereotypes. Fostering on-campus public debates between faculty like Wax and those who can effectively dismantle such bigoted hyperbole may be a better way to neutralize racism than simply removing them from the faculty. Benjamin Franklin said “freedom of speech is a principal pillar of free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins.” He would have likely encouraged such debates.
RAMAN MITRA M.D., Ph.D. is the director of electrophysiology at North Shore University Hospital and assistant professor of cardiology at Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra-Northwell in Manhasset, N.Y. His email is email@example.com.