How the Asians Became White:

I've discussed this phenomenon — of Asians not only being classified together with whites for various race preference programs (and calls for such programs), but of actually being called white — in the past. Razib Khan at Gene Expression points to this San Francisco Chronicle story that exhibits something quite like this:

A new study on physicians in California shows a glaring gap between the number of doctors of color compared with the state's ethnically diverse population, especially among African Americans and Latinos.

At the same time, the state has a disproportionate number of Asian and white doctors, according to the UCSF study, which focuses on doctor ethnicity and language fluency.

It found that out of nearly 62,000 practicing doctors in California, only 5 percent are Latino even though Latinos comprise a third of the state's total population. Only 3 percent of doctors in California are black, compared with 7 percent of the state's overall black population. While Latinos and African Americans make up about 40 percent of the state's residents, fewer than 10 percent of California's doctors are black or Latino.

So I guess that Asians aren't "of color" any more — they're colorless like me. At least it's better than their being "lily white," in the words of the late California Chief Justice Rose Bird.

Or maybe I'm missing something subtle here. After all, there is a glaring gap between the number of doctors of color and the state's ethnically diverse population, even among Asians — it's just that the gap there is the other way. Well, I guess that explains it. Or is it that they're indeed counting all nonwhites, and are just pointing to the "glaring gap" between the 52% nonwhite population and 39% nonwhite doctor share? That doesn't strike me as much of a glaring gap, and it's hard to reconcile with the distinction between the "doctors of color" in the first paragraph and the "Asian and white" in the second; it's odd that the categories in the first paragraph and the "At the same time" paragraph would deliberately overlap. (Plus note that the total nonwhite 52-39 gap appears in paragraph 9, while the "glaring gap" language is in paragraph 1 and the Hispanic-plus-black 40-10 gap is in paragraph 3.)

Oh, and check this out: "Yet within the Asian-doctor category, there is a troubling shortage of Samoan, Cambodian and Hmong doctors, the report found, decrying the overall pool of doctors statewide as inadequate." I guess I didn't realize that Samoans really need Samoan doctors, and Cambodians Cambodian doctors — but if they do, then why not worry about whether there's a disproportionately low number of, say, Serb immigrant doctors, or, if you prefer, doctors of Serb extraction? Why are all whites matched with all white doctors, but Asian ethnic groups seen as needing special help from members of that particular ethnic group?

Finally, the study and the story reason that "minority physicians are far more likely to practice primary care medicine and work with poor or uninsured patients in rural areas, inner cities or other communities with a chronic shortage of physicians." But that's a bit odd — I take it many physicians of all races prefer to make lots of money from rich patients, and quite a few physicians of all races work either full- or part-time with poor patients.

If you want to make sure patients in rural areas and inner cities are served, I would think that the logical answer is to give doctors of all ethnic groups a financial incentive to work there (perhaps as a condition of some scholarship or loan forgiveness program). The answer shouldn't be, it seems to me, finding more doctors of this or that racial group — even if that means relaxing the entry standards for that group, which on average will in some measure work against the interests of the patients that the doctors are likely to treat — and then hoping that they'll serve their own rather than serving the rest of us.

The study itself is available here.