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Why Is This Happening? Understanding 'The Loneliest Americans' with Jay Caspian Kang 


Chris Hayes speaks with New York Times opinion writer Jay Caspian Kang about his book "The Loneliest Americans" and the Asian experience in the U.S.

The Hart-Celler Immigration Act of 1965 lifted a century of restrictions against Asian immigration to the United States. And while not necessarily appreciated at the time, it inaugurated a sea change in American society, setting the nation on the course towards multicultural democracy. Asian Americans now represent the fastest growing demographic group in the country, and yet the category itself feels insufficient for the sheer scope of experiences, backgrounds and cultures it encompasses.

What exactly does it mean to be Asian American at this moment? What does it mean for an America whose central axis of political conflict seems to hover over the color line? New York Times opinion writer Jay Caspian Kang probes these questions in his new book, “The Loneliest Americans.” The podcaster and son of Korean immigrants joins to talk about assimilation amidst a wave anti-Asian violence, increasing wealth gaps, limited representation and the need for more solidarity in pursuit of upward mobility.

Note: This is a rough transcript — please excuse any typos.

Jay Caspian Kang: Asians, you know, they have the largest income gap between the top and the bottom of any group in America. And I think that most people can probably see this anecdotally, right? Like, they can drive around Scarsdale, New York. You'll see a lotta Asian people there, right? Like, a very wealthy suburb like that. And then if you go down to Sunset Park in Brooklyn, are those rich people that (LAUGH) you're seeing around there? Absolutely not. (MUSIC)

Chris Hayes: Hello, and welcome to Why Is This Happening? with me, your host, Chris Hayes. This week that I'm recording this, which is in September, late September, I learned the news, we all learned the news, of the death of a philosopher who I really loved named Charles Mills.

He was born in England but the son of Jamaican parents. And he had an incredible career over a huge variety of philosophy. Probably the most famous book was called The Racial Contract, which is sort of about how race and racial hierarchy is embedded in a lot of the what we think of as kind of like rational Enlightenment thought of the Anglo-Saxon tradition, that race wasn't some other thing out there but was sort of shot through in the way that sort of liberalism was born as a philosophical tradition.

And I saw this great clip that was floating around that was just like a three- or four-minute clip of him explaining basically the social construction of race. In the clip he's describing the fact that what we mean by race, what we answer when someone says, "What your race is?" is an answer not about human biology. It's not about the human genetic code. It's an answer about society and it's an answer about where you are in a certain social system.

And this is, you know, a fairly clear and obvious point, one that we return to time and time again. But it's worth taking a second think about particularly in the runup to today's conversation when we think about the census and the racial categories in the census or the racial categories that we see in polling.

You know, in the runup to the California recall or afterwards when you go through polling results, you got this category called "white/Caucasian," which of course is, like, as we know, incredibly constructed. You know, there's the famous book about how the Irish became white. They were viewed not as white, and then they sort of worked their way into whiteness.

It's a category that can include, like, fair-skinned Lebanese people, and Armenians, and Albanians, and French, and people from Argentina, depending on their skin tone, who may be Hispanic also, which is a category that fuses both a sort of group of people that are from a certain part of the world that was settled by Spanish imperialism and thus spoke Spanish but also a part of the world that had a set of Indigenous populations and civilizations that were subjugated and colonized. And that category is incredibly amorphous.

"African American" is very amorphous, although it specifically grows out of a very specific historical fact, of the, you know, forced enslavement of a population of people from sub-Saharan Africa, and their descendants here in the United States, and then immigrants from those same countries from which they had been stolen.

But the least sensible or coherent category, I would submit, is Asian American. I mean, Latino or Hispanic is a crazy category, too. It's obviously constructed. But at least there is this linguistic, you know, boundary, right? Like, when we're talking about people from Latin America, that was a place that was colonized by two countries, Portuguese and the Spanish, on the Iberian Peninsula, and ergo there is a common cultural thread through that entire region of the world due to that colonization, which is the Spanish language and in the case of Brazil the Portuguese language.

So, you know, that is an actual through-line. Like, there is a common culture. Like, there'll be pop songs from Chile, or Colombia, or Peru, or El Salvador, and they might get popular in other parts of Latin America partly due to that common linguistic bond.

When you're talking about "Asian American," I mean, there's no actual coherent anything, through-line that runs through the societies of what we call Asia. You know, that includes the largest Muslim country on Earth in Indonesia. It includes the Philippines. It includes India and Pakistan, which of course both grow out of the ancient culture of the subcontinent but are very different places in terms of their religious affiliation and their political orientation today.

It includes Japan, Korea, and China. Again, all places that have a long shared history with each other both as sort of colonizers and colonized and a variety of wars that have fought between them, and shared religious traditions, linguistic affiliations. But, again, very distinct cultures, languages, traditions.

All of this is, like, billions of people. I mean, the two largest countries in the world, right, each with more than a billion people, China and India. Like, the people from those two places all get subsumed into this category that when you take a step back and think about it is just a really nonsensical category.

Now, it makes sense in certain ways because of the culture of America, because of the construction of race here. But this is just to say that, like, you can never lose sight of in these conversations the artificialness of the boundaries of these categories.

And I think this category in particular because it is in some ways I think the largest category in raw numerical terms about the parts of the world that it throws a lasso around, is also to me one of the most fascinating in the role that it plays in American society because it's the fastest-growing demographic group in America, Asian Americans.

And whether that means anything is kind of a really fascinating question. Like, what actually do we mean when we use that term that you can find anywhere? Like, open a newspaper. Open a study. Like, it's just thrown out there like, "Oh yeah. Asian Americans. Like, that group of people."

Like, you know, the Philippines, Pakistan, China, India. The world's (LAUGH) oldest and most enduring civilizations. Like, yeah, Asian Americans. And no one I think has been as sort of sharp an interrogator of that category than today's guest, Jay Caspian Kang, who was writing for a very literate and bespoke basketball blog called Free Darko.

He also wrote an essay about his gambling addiction that I remember reading and really bringing me up short. He is now a writer for the New York Times Opinion section. He is a writer-at-large for New York Times Magazine. You may have seen he's written some great pieces. He wrote a fantastic piece for the magazine about the affirmative action case against Harvard, the lawsuit against Harvard.

And he's out with a new book called The Loneliest Americans, which is sort of part memoir/first-person exploration and part a kind of interrogation of precisely this phenomenon I was describing in the intro. So, Jay, great to have you on the program.

Jay Caspian Kang: Thanks, Chris.

Chris Hayes: Is that an okay intro? I want to start out by saying: Does that roughly align with a conceptualization you're comfortable with?

Jay Caspian Kang: Yeah, I think so. I mean, the book definitely has a lot of first-person-type memoir stuff, and a lot of it is about my family's journey to the United States and, you know, why they came to the United States. You know, there's some history in there as well, like why Flushing was built and stuff like that. But, no, I think you're, like, 98% of the way there, which is (LAUGHTER) fine with me.

Chris Hayes: So let's talk about your family's history, where you're from, where you grew up, and where your family's from.

Jay Caspian Kang: I think part of the reason why I was interested in writing the book was just because I was trying to think about, like, immigrant stories in general and how to tell them. And so I was trying to think about that, you know, from a meta type of way. I was like, "Well, where do I actually start with this story?" Right?

Like, do I start when my grandparents were in North Korea during a war, you know, slated to be executed, and then had to escape to South Korea, and then eventually did not find that much opportunity in South Korea, and then came to the United States? Like, that's one way to tell it, you know?

Or should I start in the United States, where we were growin' up in Cambridge, Massachusetts for half my life and then we moved down to North Carolina? Just, you know, that's sort of more of like a typical, you know, you start out in, like, a pretty small apartment without much money. And then suddenly at some point you're 16 years old and parents are doing much better, you know? (LAUGH) Like, that type of thing--

Chris Hayes: Yeah, you talk about it--

Jay Caspian Kang: Like, yeah.

Chris Hayes: --like the rental to home owner, like, the rental apartment, like, that sort of first-generation immigrant urban rental apartment to the kind of more suburbanized, leafy home ownership (LAUGH) of the comfortable 16-year-old Jay Caspian Kang in Chapel Hill.

Jay Caspian Kang: You know, I lived through all of that. I didn't really think about it much at the time. And so, like, that's sort of the way I think in which things are-- I don't know. The story itself I don't think is particularly remarkable or interesting. I guess (LAUGHTER) my interest in it was more just, like, "Well, why do we tell stories in certain ways if you're an immigrant?" Right?

Like, you either do, like, this sort of Horatio Alger, you know, like, "We pull theirselves up because we worked together, we had a community around us, and, like, we all believed in the American dream." I guess that type of story is a little bit more déclassé at this point, right? Like, it's not something that a lot of people (LAUGH) are comin' out and just being like, "This was great," although I imagine there are still some people saying that--

Chris Hayes: Well, yeah. I wouldn't overstate that. Like, never lose sight of how powerful, like, the dominant ethos of, like, hegemonic American dream--

Jay Caspian Kang: That's true. Okay. Not many people around where I live, I would say, here in Berkeley, California, are telling that story. I'll put it that way--

Chris Hayes: Right.

Jay Caspian Kang: But the other part, you know, the other side of the story, I think, is also somewhat unsatisfying to me, which is, like, you know, something about generational trauma, you know, and poverty, and difficulties. And, you know, I think that there needs to be some sort of acknowledgment that, you know, like, at least in terms of my story that we did end up in the place that a lot of people would expect you to end up, right, which is sort of a middle class life and children are well educated, go to good schools. They have good careers.

And so, you know, the book's main interrogation point is just sort of like, "Well, how do we tell this story in a way that is both honest to that point but also doesn't really discount the fact that, you know, parents grew up in a war-torn country, extremely poor country at the time?

Now, South Korea's obviously much richer. But, you know, when my parents were growing up, it (LAUGH) certainly was not, you know? Like, when they'd show me photos at some point of, like, where they had grown up, what the Han River (which is now, you know, just like a gleaming modern city) looked like when they were growing up, and it's shocking, you know?

And that's also part of what the book is sort of about, which is just, like, we don't really understand what our parents went through, you know? And then we sort of were dropped here in the United States. We were asked to assume this identity. And the identity doesn't really mean that much when you have no idea what comes before it.

Chris Hayes: It's funny you say that because I'll never forget this moment. It was at my college graduation. It was commencement weekend, and I was at a party where, like, you know, all the parents are in town. So, like, everyone was hanging out with each other. We were at a brunch.

And a friend of mine was talking about the fact that his father was there. And he was Chinese. So my friend was first-generation American. And we were talking. He's like, "Yeah." He's like, "It's kinda weird. 'Cause when my dad was this age, he was literally swimming to Hong Kong." (LAUGHTER) It's like, "Here I am." And it's like, "You're graduating from Brown." (CLAPS) (LAUGHTER) It's like, "Yeah, it was, like, a tougher road." (LAUGH)

But then I feel like you're also wary. Like, the whole sort of meditation in the book is about why these stories get built the way they do and what work they do, right? That, like, it's impossible to sort of separate the story of, quote, "where we come from" from whatever narrative role it's filling in a sorta larger conception of what being American is.

Jay Caspian Kang: Right, right. Or even if those narratives are really that accurate, right? So I do think that for certain East Asian Americans who maybe like your friend or like my parents come to the United States and they have, like, a certain path where, you know, even if they're poor, right, that they sort of invest in the educational system and their kids generally do much better.

There a lotta Asian Americans or people who are called "Asian Americans," you know, like, the book's basic argument is like this term is, you know, meaningless. But, like, a lot of people who are called Asian Americans who don't have that pathway, you know?

And so then why is one narrative so dominant over the other one, you know? Like, why is the narrative Asian America so caught up in sort of, like, East Asian, Koreans and Chinese people generally, some Japanese people? But Japanese immigration has not been that high. I don't know. Like, why is it that story and why is it those people who are always speaking for the entire group?

Chris Hayes: What's the answer to that? I mean, you talk about that in the book.

Jay Caspian Kang: Well, I think it's because a lot of these people end up in the upper middle class, you know?

Chris Hayes: Right. (LAUGHTER)

Jay Caspian Kang: They end up--

Chris Hayes: They end up being interviewed on podcasts, which is like--

Jay Caspian Kang: Right. They end up with jobs like me, (LAUGH) you know? But I think it happens a lot for kids in college, you know? Like, I think your sort of typical Asian American kid, like, let's say they grew up in Flushing or they grew up like me around a lot of white kids, right?

Like, it's a little bit different. But, you know, like, you sort of learn to talk to white people and the upper middle class white people. That's sort of your education. You know, that's your cultural education growing up, right? It's like how do you deal with this world.

And there is a lot of pressure to assimilate and to be able to have those types of conversations. And so when people go out looking for people to be representatives of that group, right, like the people who are making those decisions are generally people who went to Ivy League schools who are upper middle class or, you know, wealthy.

And then they want to find somebody who looks like me who can talk to (LAUGH) average white people, I guess. I think that's basically it, you know? I don't think it's particularly complicated outside of that. And in college, I do think that because colleges are so exclusive now and because the kids who are generally going to be filling these roles are going to various colleges, right, the education that they receive is also sort of geared towards helping them navigate this.

Now, the topic matter might be totally radical, right? But in the end, the sort of end lesson that they have is, like, how to use these lessons to navigate the corporate workplace, for example. And that's sort of the messaging around Asian America right now. It's a lot of, like, how do you deal with being microaggressed upon in the corporate workplace and stuff like that. And I think that's sort of the byproduct of that.

Chris Hayes: Yeah. I mean, one of the central themes, I think, in your work in the book is kind of this question of racial categories and class and the fact that one of the arguments you're making—and correct me if I'm wrong—is that because of the sort of, to your words, "meaninglessness" and capaciousness of this category of Asian American, the differences inside that category, particularly around class, dwarf anything, you know, outside the category.

Jay Caspian Kang: Right. Yeah. Asians, you know, they have the largest income gap between the top and the bottom of any group in America. And I don't know. I think that most people can probably see this anecdotally, right? Like, they can--

Chris Hayes: Totally.

Jay Caspian Kang: --drive around Scarsdale, New York. You'll see a lotta Asian people there, right? Like, a very wealthy suburb like that. And then if you go down to Sunset Park in Brooklyn, are those rich people that you're seeing around there? Absolutely not, you know? And so, like, I think that the obviousness of that, I guess, like, you know, I do have some idea why.

But one of the things that has always confounded me is why that's not sort of the central talking point about a lot of Asian America, right? Like, why is it not about class within groups? Why is it about sort of, you know, trying to create a coherent group and in the effort to try and create a coherent group you end up sort of excising, like, everything that actually might, you know, need to be discussed?

Chris Hayes: Like what?

Jay Caspian Kang: Yeah. Just problems poor people have. You know, like, that's a thing that I think-- I feel almost old when I say stuff like this. But, like, I'm 41 years old, and I don't know. I think that maybe I was raised in an environment where you were just like, "Well, you should always just think about, like, who is less fortunate and try and help those people." (LAUGH) And I don't know. There's something about Asian American politics that I'm not sure is so centered around that anymore, you know? And that sort of was the frustration points that I have.

Chris Hayes: Yeah, your critique, I think, is that to the extent that, like, Asian American politics as a coherent entity exists, that it's dominated by folks who are relatively elite, that are the products of the kind of institutions of elite formation of American life, and that orient the whatever there's like a coherent Asian American politics around that perspective essentially. That's the critique.

Jay Caspian Kang: Right, right. So, like, an example would be like Hollywood representation, right? It's getting a little bit better. But for many years, this only sort of widely broadcast Asian American politics was about representation in Hollywood. See this with people like getting mad at Scarlett Johansson all the time and saying, like, "Oh, Scarlett Johansson is taking this role in this movie."

And then you also saw, like, sort of a celebration of it when Crazy Rich Asians came out. And I guess, like, for me, I was always deeply unsatisfied with that as being, like, a political stance, right? Like, I guess I think that representation in media matters. You know, I generally think it probably doesn't matter as much as people say.

But I, like everybody else, was very excited when Jeremy Lin was, like, (LAUGH) playing for the Knicks, you know? Like, I'm not immune to this sort of stuff. But at the same time, like, it became such a dominant thing. And if you really think about it, she's like, "Okay, well, what are we talking about here? You know, like are we really talking about young kids who need to see themselves in the American space and broadcast across American media to have some sort of psychological, you know, betterment, right?"

Like, I'm not sure if that's really true because, like, I think that what it was was that, like, you know, you hit a ceiling at some point, right, and you try and fight that ceiling. And I think that for people who sort of went to Ivy League schools, people who went to UCLA, Cal Berkeley, whatever, like, you know, the whole world was not actually open to them, right? Like, the--

Chris Hayes: Right. (LAUGH)

Jay Caspian Kang: --one thing that they couldn't do is they couldn't go be actors in Hollywood, right? Or maybe they felt like they couldn't be directors or they couldn't be pop stars or whatever. And so then that is a real concern for those people. But, man, that is, like, a really elite group of people, right?

And so for that to become the only politics that you ever hear about, right? Like, so, for example, 2008 Asian Americans were destroyed by the housing crisis, right? The subprime mortgage. Like, tons and tons of houses that end up, people being evicted from their homes, people losing their homes, right? Never hear a word about that, right?

What you hear about is Hollywood representation. Why is that? Because I think that there's only a small number of people who actually get to broadcast out the message for millions and millions of Asian Americans. And that's a thing that they care about, right? And, you know, I've always felt like that was misaligned.

Chris Hayes: What you're diagnosing is part of a larger whole, which is just the fact that, like, the discourse is run by a small group that is much larger than the very small group that used to run it. There's been a great progress made in who's in the discourse, and yet it's still a discourse that is dominated by people that are the products of precisely institutions you're describing. And I think that's true broadly of, like, again, the conversations we have. Again, that is a kind of, like, tongue-in-cheek term.

Jay Caspian Kang: Right, right. Like, so, maybe this will seem familiar to you. But, like, you know, the conversation around education, for example, right, like in New York City, why is it so dominated by talk of Hunter and Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech, the specialized high schools, right?

The vast, vast, vast majority of students do not go (LAUGH) to those schools, right? The vast, vast majority of those students have either no chance or no interest in going to those schools. But why is all the talk about racial equity in the city's education system so dominated by that, right? Like, I think if you think about it, that sort of gives you the broader answer to the type of stuff that I'm looking into.

Chris Hayes: Right. And also in colleges, which you've written about, right? Like--

Jay Caspian Kang: Right.

Chris Hayes: --your point is that colleges, that what we end up having a discussion about is meritocracy entails exclusivity, right, because there's gotta be some, you know, thing at the top of the pyramid. And then we have a discussion about how diverse or representative the top of the pyramid is.

Jay Caspian Kang: Right, (LAUGH) right.

Chris Hayes: And the question is, like, "What is actually happening at the base of the pyramid?" which is, like, what most people are experiencing. And that's true. You know, and you're right. Like, here in New York City, as people may or may not know, I went to a high school called Hunter High School, which you take a test to get into in sixth grade.

It's, you know, very competitive. It's gotten even more insanely competitive as time has gone on, which is true of all these places. I wrote my first book, a whole chapter about this. It, you know, now admits like six or seven or eight or ten Black students a year, which to me is like a totally untenable situation.

But at the same time, it's like 50% Asian. And so there ends up being this sort of zero-sum fight that gets set up. It's the same zero-sum fight we see in the Harvard case that you wrote about, where, you know, Asian Americans brought a lawsuit basically saying that affirmative action was hurting them. You know, amounted to the sort of Jewish quota system of old.

And to me what both these have in common, right, have to do with the role that, quote, "Asian Americans" play in, like, American meritocracy, right? Because that's what's the crux of this whole fight, is, like, "Oh, look. Here are some people who came from nothing. And now they're at the top. And that means anyone can do it." And, "Ergo, America is a meritocracy. Just look (LAUGHTER) at the Asians," is basically, like, the argument.

Jay Caspian Kang: Yeah, Yeah, no, that is (LAUGH) the argument. I think it's a much more popular argument, even among people who I think would label themselves as progressives. Perhaps they wouldn't say it out loud. But I do think that it's something that they do think about quite a bit.

Chris Hayes: Particularly because those people are exposed to it in proximity if they're white affluent people going through the upper middle class.

Jay Caspian Kang: Right, right.

Chris Hayes: 'Cause, like, you're gonna rub up against. It's like, "Man, those kids from Flushing, you know, mom came over and they're runnin' a bodega, and she studies 40 hours a week."

Jay Caspian Kang: Right, right-- (LAUGHTER)

Chris Hayes: I mean, like, that's like a real thing. That isn't--

Jay Caspian Kang: Right. Or they save all their money and they send--

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Jay Caspian Kang: --their kids to these cram schools. And then they get a 1560 on the SAT.

Chris Hayes: That's right.

Jay Caspian Kang: And, like, you know, I think that because of the proximity, you know, there is some reality to it, where you just say, "Well, I know these people. You know, like, I've--"

Chris Hayes: Totally.

Jay Caspian Kang: "Like, they're not rich," right? And so I don't know. That's sort of like an interesting pain point I think in the way that people think, right? Because I think that there are a lot of progressives who I think would want you to believe that all those people are rich, right?

They would want you to believe that they sort of benefit from white supremacy in the same way that, like, a kid from the Upper West Side who goes to Collegiate or something does. That's just not true. And I think most people know that's not true. But at the same time, that doesn't mean--

Chris Hayes: That's a tough one.

Jay Caspian Kang: --that, like, the full thing is, like, a meritocracy, right--

Chris Hayes: That's the problem--

Jay Caspian Kang: Yeah, yeah.

Chris Hayes: --that you're identifying, right? That's the double bind. Because at one level it's like there's one narrative that says, "Those people are absorbed into and then sort of initiated into white supremacy and are the products of a certain kind of privilege," which seems, like, off, and coarse, and not quite right, and doesn't acknowledge the fact that, like, there are these immigrant communities that really are struggling.

And then at the other end, like, the really gross reactionaries to, like, use the Korean, you know, cram school, try-hard students (LAUGHTER) from Flushing as essentially a cudgel for the Black students of East New York, which is basically like, "Well, look at them. They're doing--" I mean, you know, this has been used time and time again, I mean, as a very gross method of anti-Black racism, is just to say, "These people are doing it, so why can't you?"

Jay Caspian Kang: Yeah. And, look, I'm not being "both sides" here at all, you know? But I think what I'm saying is that both narratives are extremely unsatisfying, right? And that they--

Chris Hayes: Yes, right. And I'm agreeing.

Jay Caspian Kang: --do lead to, like, a certain type of, like, reactionary politics, I think. And so when I was researching that affirmative action case, I came across a story of this woman who had a Chinese adopted daughter. She was a white woman. And I don't know the same of the school (UNINTEL) the Upper West Side, but the one that had all the sort of integration fights and, you know, they had, like, meetings that were caught on video and spread all over social media.

But at some point, she went to this talk, and it was, like, a consulting firm that the city had hired. It was a diversity consulting firm. And they put out, like, sort of a racial hierarchy of oppression, right? And there are no Asian people on it. Now, Asian people, I think they make up about 20% of New York City schools or something like that. Like, it's not like there aren't Asian people in New York City.

And this woman asked the person, like, you know, "Why are there no Asian people there?" And he said, "Well, you know, Asian people are adjacent to white people." And it was just like, "Okay, like, that just doesn't make any sense," you know? And I don't even think that this person believes that, right?

Like, if you, like, again, drive to Sunset Park in Brooklyn and see very, very poor people, many of them are undocumented, working in kitchens, they don't speak any English, and tell me that they're, like, basically white. You know, it doesn't make any sense. And so that's very unsatisfying.

Now, the other part which we were talking about is, like, you know, that's just basic model minority (LAUGH) nonsense, you know? That, like, because these people can do well on the SAT that that means racism doesn't exist, right? Like, it's the bootstrapping--

Chris Hayes: Yes. I mean, that's the argument. (LAUGHTER) Yeah.

Jay Caspian Kang: Bootstrapping argument being like, "Well, you know, like, there's no other inputs except for how hard you work and how much your parents care about education." Now, that's been disproven, you know, time and time and time and time again. It's like, you know, you look at the narrative that, like, Black families don't care about their children's education.

I mean, first of all, you know, every single poll shows that they care actually about it more than any other group. And secondly, you know, like, I don't know. I can't think of anything more racist to say about a person than that they don't care about, like, your child's welfare. (LAUGH) Like, it's the most racist (LAUGHTER) thing that you can say, you know?

Jay Caspian Kang: So, yeah, I don't think that finding the middle between those two is the right answer. I think that trying to figure out what it is is the right answer.

Chris Hayes: Yeah, I totally agree with that. And I think, like, that's why I like your work so much, 'cause I think I share your frustration with the sort of flattening nature of conversations about race even when they're flattening in a way that I find, like, understandably well intentioned I guess I would say but are still flattening.

And I think that one of the things you're trying to do is sort of ground this historically. And I think maybe we can talk about that a little bit. Because I think your focus on the 1965 Hart-Celler Act is really important. This is something that, like, if you live in the right-wing world, this piece of legislation is talked about all the time.

And in fact, 1965 is talked about kind of the beginning of the end of the America we knew and loved. This is canon on the right and I think not actually properly understood on the left (LAUGH) or even in the sort of non-right mainstream. So I want to talk a little bit about what happened in 1965, how it changed American society, and in some ways created this category that we're talking about, quote, "Asian Americans," right after we take this quick break.

Chris Hayes: 1965, immigration reform passes. I mean, let's start before 1965 just as a quick thing. I mean, Asian folks had been comin' to the U.S. for a very long time. And (LAUGH) it's an amazing fact. Literally the first piece of immigration legislation in the country's history. I mean, until this piece of legislation, the country had open borders.

People don't understand this. You just came. Like, there was (LAUGH) literally not federal immigration regulation. We had literal open borders until a piece of legislation called the Chinese Exclusion Act, which basically changed American immigration to say, "Everyone can come but Chinese people."

Jay Caspian Kang: Right, right. And, you know, a lot of that was spurred on by, like, labor concerns. A lot of it was just, like, flat-out racism. But, you know, like, that basically ended Asian immigration for, you know, a hundred years more or less, right? So I don't have to go into the whole thing about it, but there are a lot of amendments to that and a lot of different acts that pass and changes to immigration law. But basically the first time the flood gates are opened. Actually, that's how the right wing would talk about 1965, right--

Chris Hayes: Yeah, exactly. (LAUGHTER) The hordes.

Jay Caspian Kang: Yeah. When I was writing the book, I looked for the word "flood," you know? And I was like, "I can't use that term." But when--

Chris Hayes: "Invasion." I go with "invasion."

Jay Caspian Kang: Yeah. (LAUGH) When the invasion took place in 1965, you know, it was the product of a lot of different forces in history. Now, one of them I think that was written about is that basically Lyndon Johnson, and, you know, RFK, some people were saying, "Look, we just passed this big civil rights act and we need the nation's immigration laws to also reflect that." So that's one reason.

I think that that actually is a quite small reason though. You know, the much larger reason is because basically what had happened was that throughout the hundred or so years that this was in place, different countries, China, Japan, you know, powers in Asia were using this law as proof that, you know, people in other countries should not be amenable to American imperialism or even American intervention or American cooperation at all. It was a massive propaganda tool.

Chris Hayes: Like, just to be clear what this law is you have the Chinese Exclusion Act, and then after that you get a set of immigration laws that basically are explicitly and definitionally white supremacist in the sense that they say, "We want people we think of as white, and you can't come if you are not white." That is essentially the immigration policy of the country from the teens to '65 as a written matter. (LAUGH)

Jay Caspian Kang: Yeah, yeah. There are, like, quotas from each country, right? And so--

Chris Hayes: Right.

Jay Caspian Kang: --if you were Asian-- there are not that many people like this. But, like, they do exist. But, like, if you're, say, Chinese and you were living in Mexico, right, and you're like, "Hey, can I come in through Mexico as a quota?" they'd be like, "No." (LAUGH)

Chris Hayes: "No, dude"--

Jay Caspian Kang: "Not you."

Chris Hayes: "No, you count (LAUGH) in the Chinese category."

Jay Caspian Kang: Right, right. "You're still Chinese, and I don't care how long you've been there," you know? So, yeah it was explicitly, you know, a racialized type of thing. 1965, a lot of this is the work of Emanuel Celler, right, who Hart-Celler is named half after Emanuel Celler.

And he had been working for decades to try and change immigration laws. And, you know, there were also quotas on people from Eastern and Southern Europe, right, which basically just meant Jews, right? And so he had been working to try and fix that.

And then they passed the law. And, you know, like, there is a lot of talk about what was going to happen when they open up immigration to Asia and to different countries. And most people at the time were just, like, "Nothing's gonna change. You know, they're not really gonna come." I think RFK at some point says, like, "Yeah, you know, they might come for a few years, but then they're not gonna come, you know? And so don't worry about it."

Like, that was sort of the message from the government, which was like, "Well, don't worry about this too much. You know, like, we're only basically doing it as a symbolic thing," and, "You know, like, why would they come over here? They're not gonna come here."

But, you know, they were wrong, (LAUGH) you know? People did come over. And so, you know, for me that is the beginning of, like, a second Asian America, right? Like, that group who came over after 1965, which include my parents, which seem to include your friend's parents from Brown--

Chris Hayes: Yep.

Jay Caspian Kang: --you know, which probably include the parents of almost every single Asian person that people who are listening--

Chris Hayes: That I'm friends with. Yep.

Jay Caspian Kang: --to this podcast, yeah, they're either from that group or the people that they know who are Asian American are from that group, almost certainly. That is the majority of Asian America right now, which comes post-1965.

Chris Hayes: So the quota system, we get rid of the quota system. Or we change the quota system, right? There are still, like, numbers. It's just, like, not a explicit racial ranking. (LAUGHTER)

Jay Caspian Kang: Yeah. And it's not, like, 100, right? So before, it was like 100, right? So it's much higher than 100--

Chris Hayes: Like, 100 people.

Jay Caspian Kang: Yeah. Yeah, 100 people each year, yeah. Of which, like, in some eras, like, none would be approved.

Chris Hayes: Right. And then we do see this huge growth. So there's a few different things that change American demographics, right? So, you know, for a long time, you have a huge wave of immigration in the 1890s. '80s, '90s, turn of the century. There's a sort of consolidation of whiteness in the period after that during this period in which there's a huge immigration restriction, right?

We kinda really clamp down. And the racial lines in the country, you know, form around these sort of, like, ethnic shtick about, like, "The Greeks are this," and, like, Polish jokes, and, (LAUGH) like, all this sort of inter-white ethnic. You know, and that's the way people describe neighborhoods in the city at the time.

And, of course, there's like the main color line of black and white, which is the dominant one not just in the South but throughout. The Great Migration happens. '65, like, I think you're pretty convincing and others, is that, like, the birth of kind of a new dawn of America. And a new just a set of, like, what race in America means really does change when folks start coming, you know, from all over the world with all kinds of languages, religious traditions, culinary traditions, and, you know, racial composition, whatever the hell that means.

Jay Caspian Kang: Right, right. And that, it starts in the '70s really in earnest, you know? And then I guess what's interesting to me is that, like, you have, you know, rapidly changing areas that are still changing. Like, you know, we haven't shaken out everything that's happening.

So, like, for example, like, the American suburb has changed so much over the past 20 years. And, you know, it's because of massive, massive migration of Latino people to the suburbs, right? And so the idea that even the suburbs are white, I think, like, Tucker Carlson, first of all, talks a lot about the 1965 immigration act at a rate that I wish that, you know, some people (LAUGH) on the left would talk about 1965.

But, like, you know, when he talks about the sort of threat to the suburbs, you know, I think that he's responding to those types of demographic changes. And so, yeah, like, for the past 40 years, the entire demographics of every city, of every suburb in the United States, even rural areas have changed significantly because of this immigration act.

And the discourse about race in this country has not even begun to catch up to it, right? Like, we still think about race in terms of black/white binary I think in a lot of ways and that things are processed through that. And I think that that's, you know, in part because it hasn't really been that long since 1965. But I also think that we just don't know what to make of it in a lot of ways as well.

Chris Hayes: Yeah. So I think there's two things I want to say about that, right? Like, one is I am a believer in the contention that anti-Blackness is the foundational constitutive feature of American racial hierarchy. I mean, we should say that, you know, the conquest and ethnic cleansing of Indigenous people is of course the literal foundational part of the American racial hierarchy.

But it's the most sort of persistently ordering feature of American politics. In society, when you look at, like, you know, our politics, and how they are formed, and what our social welfare network looks like, social welfare arrangement looks like, like, I am a believer that that is sort of in its own category. But also your point is that it misses a lot to view that as the only axis.

Jay Caspian Kang: I think it also makes it difficult for us to have, like, actual pragmatic policy conversations, right? So, for example, like I was saying, the suburbs, education policy is almost entirely based around the idea that there is the white suburbs and there is the Black urban areas, right? Or the sort of--

Chris Hayes: Yep.

Jay Caspian Kang: --multicultural urban areas and that one is chaotic and one is, like, good schools, right?

Chris Hayes: Orderly.

Jay Caspian Kang: Right. (LAUGH) Or well-behaved kids. Whatever sort of tropes you want to put in there. That's just not true anymore, right, in the vast majority of suburbs. And, again, this is something that people can think of very anecdotally in their own lives, right?

Like, you know, it used to be that you go get Chinese food in Chinatown. Now, you get it in Flushing, right? If you live in L.A., it used to be you get Chinese food in Chinatown. Now, you go to San Gabriel Valley. You look at Latino migration in all these big cities, the same is true, and Black migration as well, into the suburbs.

And so if you think about things only in terms of sort of set boundaries that were relevant a long time ago, you know, you've missed a very obvious point. And I think that we're sort of stuck in that in a lot of ways. And I'm not saying that, like, in any sort of that we need to think about it in any, like, a reordering of oppression in this country, okay? Like you, I find that question to be both obvious in its answer, right?

Like, anti-Blackness is the organizing principle of the way in which race works in this country. But I do think that, like, at some point we need to have a more honest assessment about what these different groups are doing, right? And I'm not saying that the people who are making these claims are being dishonest in some sort of way, but I do think that they're being inaccurate in a lot of ways.

Chris Hayes: Well, and I think that, you know, that relates to something interesting about their political activity. Like, I think there's a real question, and one of the questions that you explicitly call forth in the book is basically, "Will Asians be white?" Right?

Jay Caspian Kang: Right.

Chris Hayes: "Will Asians be assimilated to whiteness?" And I remember I did a whole thing after the 2012 election. One of the most interesting things to me was that Obama had won Asian Americans by this, like, crazy margin. And that hadn't been the case before. Like, I mean, again, (LAUGH) and just anecdotally, like, the parents of my friends in the Bronx in the 1980s who were first-generation Asian immigrants were real reactionary. (LAUGH) Like--

Jay Caspian Kang: Right, right.

Chris Hayes: --their politics were not liberal. Like, you would not characterize them as liberals. I doubt they even voted Democrat. Like, they were pretty right-wing. Now, sometimes that was, like, born of the specific experience of anti-communism, you know, in certain examples.

Sometimes it was, you know, born of their own just personal disposition. Sometimes it was, like, ardent Christian faith of, you know, Korean immigrants. There's a million different recipes that went into that. But I remember it being really striking after 2012 that Democrats had opened up this huge lead with this category that, again, had no binding constitutive features (LAUGH) but for the sense that the other political coalition didn't really want you.

I mean, that's the only thing binding together these interests, you know, in these numbers. And I think, like, that to me is the really interesting question about the political nature of this group, is, like, to what extent the kind of, like, furnace of white nationalist exclusion ends up kind of kilning (LAUGH) a political identity.

Jay Caspian Kang: Right. It's so different within different groups, right? So, for example, Vietnamese immigrants in the United States are majority Trump voters, or they were in 2020 and 2016. Indian Americans are overwhelmingly Democrat, and they're also not maybe by far but by a significant margin the wealthiest group of all Asian American groups that are classified as such.

And you're right. Like, in the '80s basically the idea was that the typical Asian American voter was a Raegan Republican, right? They believed in the bootstrapping ideal. They believed in, you know, the possibility of the American dream. They believed that--

Chris Hayes: And, like, crime, law and order stuff, particularly--

Jay Caspian Kang: Right, right.

Chris Hayes: --folks that were living in cities that had very high crime rates.

Jay Caspian Kang: Right. And that they shouldn't be taxed in a certain type of way and that this is what America was about. Now, it's hard to track a lot of this data because, like, actually before, like, 1992 I think nobody tracked Asian voting patterns at all. You know, like--

Chris Hayes: Right. Yep. That's true. (LAUGH)

Jay Caspian Kang: And so, you know, a lot of the data is pretty incomplete. And, you know, a lot of statements that people make have to endlessly caveated. And so it's difficult to have an actual type of conversation. But you're right. I think that what has happened is that the children of the people who immigrated post-1965, you know, like, I don't know. Like, your friend goes to Brown, right? Like, what are the chances that your friend goes to Brown and ends up, you know, like--

Chris Hayes: A right-winger.

Jay Caspian Kang: A right-winger. Like, maybe. Like, maybe some chance he ends up, like, as a neoconservative intellectual type, right? But most likely, he's gonna sort of conform to the surroundings that are presented in front of him, which for a lot of Asian Americans is like going to pretty good colleges, right?

Chris Hayes: Yep.

Jay Caspian Kang: People at pretty good colleges tend to be pretty liberal. I think that when those children become voting age, they also vote in much higher numbers, right? Recent immigrants don't vote all that much.

Chris Hayes: Yep.

Jay Caspian Kang: And I think that's sort of what swings it.

Chris Hayes: Right. So your point is that there's a huge, like, in some ways, arguably the most defining feature of our place is this educational divide which shows up, you know--

Jay Caspian Kang: Right. Right, right.

Chris Hayes: --across all races and across all places in a fascinating way and that, like, when you're talking about a cohort that is over time achieving higher levels of educational attainment you would predict precisely the movement that we're seeing.

Jay Caspian Kang: Right, right. Right. And that their parents might still, you know, have the same politics that you're talking about, but their parents probably don't vote, right? And so that is changing quite a bit now though because I think that, you know, it's not like immigration started in 1965 and ended in 1980, right?

Jay Caspian Kang: There are more and more waves of Asian Americans or people from Asia who are coming. And a lot of them are much more right leaning, I think, than that first generation and their children. And, you know, a lot of the ways in which they get activated are around educational issues, and crime, and stuff that we talked about earlier.

And the part of the politics that's the most interesting to me is, you know, what happens to that group of people. Like, I'm pretty sure that, like, people like myself or, like, the people that I grew up with are probably gonna, you know, have the politics that we have right now and our children will probably have the politics that we have, right? But--

Chris Hayes: Oh, the daughter you're raising in Berkeley you think? Huh? (LAUGHTER) Think so?

Jay Caspian Kang: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it could be that she rebels, you know--

Chris Hayes: You don't know, dude. You don't know. (LAUGHTER) You know?

Jay Caspian Kang: But the new immigrants, man, they are, like, ping-ponging all over the place, right? So, like, I was pretty sure that that group was gonna be pretty solidly conservative. But then in the recent California recall election, it turns out that Westminster, which is a sort of heavily Vietnamese region of Orange County, swung 20% from voting for Trump to saying no to the recall.

Chris Hayes: I saw exactly--

Jay Caspian Kang: And I was like, "What's going on?" (LAUGH)

Chris Hayes: I saw exactly that map, too, and I was also really fascinated by that.

Jay Caspian Kang: Yeah. Like, this is just me speculating. But I would say that that one is probably informed by COVID type of stuff. You know, like, I think that population might be conservative but, you know, they are also very vaccinated. They also--

Chris Hayes: And they're not super pro-COVID.

Jay Caspian Kang: Right. (LAUGHTER) Yeah, they adhere to mask mandates and stuff like that. It's difficult when, like, you do that and then the people who you supposedly support are out there screaming, you know, that masks are oppressive in some sort of way.

Chris Hayes: Yeah, that's a good point. Yeah, no, I thought that was pretty interesting. And, again, like, your point there about these different subgroups, and this is true of Latinos obviously. Like, two areas in the map that had the biggest swing, you know, was Miami-Dade and then the Rio Grande Valley, which are both Latino, both intensely Latino, both swung to Trump the most, and are also both extremely distinct (LAUGH) subcultures that have their own, like, histories and stories to tell that aren't necessarily, like, the Latino experience, et cetera.

Jay Caspian Kang: Right, yeah. I think that the more we can figure out how to disaggregate those types of stories, you know, the better it is. I guess it's hard when everything has to be, like, in a chart or something like that. But, you know, I don't know. I find it much more interesting.

Chris Hayes: Well, what do you think about this question of whiteness and assimilation into whiteness? And what does that mean to you when you think about it as sort of one of the questions that looms over the sort of next version of America, you know, the America that we're in the process of becoming?

Because obviously Stephen Miller was successful on some fronts. And, you know, we take a lot fewer refugees. The Biden administration has extended Title 42, the public health edict through Department of Homeland Security that basically denies everyone asylum.

There has not been comprehensive immigration reform, and I feel skeptical about it happening. But it is also the case that, like, the channels established in 1965 continue and we do have a lot of immigrants every year. I think there should be more, frankly. I think it should be much easier to move to this country than it is. But it will continue to be the case that that trajectory will continue. And so the question then becomes, like, what does that mean for Asians to become white.

Jay Caspian Kang: Right, yeah. You know, Noel Ignatiev, who wrote the book that you referenced, How the Irish Became White was my freshman year history professor. And I had, you know, a very close relationship with him at the time. And I had read that book. He's very influential in my thinking. And I remember, you know, the thing I would think about is, "Well, am I gonna become white?" You know? (LAUGH)

Chris Hayes: Yeah, right. (LAUGHTER)

Jay Caspian Kang: Like, I don't feel white right now. You know, but--

Chris Hayes: "Is it happening?" (LAUGHTER)

Jay Caspian Kang: Yeah. And just, like, check and be like, "Well, I don't know." You know? I'm at this, like, pretty-hard-to-get-into school. And, you know, like, most of my friends went to, like, Deerfield or something like that. (LAUGH) You know, like, it's a pretty weird place to find myself in after one generation of immigration.

And so, you know, I've been thinking about that quite a bit because, you know, there are certain people who would say that that has already happened. Like, for example, the educational consultants who said that Asians don't have to be listed because they're white adjacent, right?

And so I think that that is sort of more interesting even. And, you know, I go into the book quite a bit about this, is that because Asians have such a high intermarriage rate, right, and that, you know, there's this whole population of half-Asian kids, of which my child is also half-Asian. And--

Chris Hayes: Yeah, you talk about, like, ballet class. Like. (LAUGH)

Jay Caspian Kang: Right, right. Right? Like, you know, when I used to live in New York, we would, like, walk around Park Slope and go to, like, two-year-old soccer practice, and half the kids there would be half-Asian. (LAUGH) And I would be like, "What is going on here?" You know? (LAUGH)

And so during that time period, I was like, "Well, what will happen?" Because the demographics of these kids are very similar, like, to mine, right? They have two very well-educated parents. The parents probably make a lot of money. You know, probably more than I make, you know?

And so you have this population of half-Asian, half-white kids who are gonna be very wealthy, very well educated. How will they be thought of, right, you know, in these large cities? Los Angeles, let's say, Chicago, you know, Houston, New York City, Boston. Whatever. Bay Area, Seattle, whatever, right?

Like, will they be generally just thought of as white? And then what does that mean about race in general? Like, it's been two generations. And then the other thought I have is just that, you know, when my parents came to the United States, is this what they wanted for their granddaughter?

Like, you know, I think that they probably were very well aware that I would struggle, you know, with race and identity, especially since they raised me in North Carolina, right? But, you know, I think their hope was that their grandchildren would not, you know, at all and that they would just be thought of as white, or American, or whatever.

And, you know, like, I think that that's an open question, right? And the book goes into it quite a bit. I don't think that there is a definitive answer that you can give to that just because I think, you know, some points, you know, like, during, like, the sort of wave of attacks or whatever against Asian people or when Trump is saying "China virus," it doesn't really feel like you're very white at that point, you know?

But at the same time, you know, like, you think about materials things. You think about, like, accumulating wealth. You think about sort of comfort of life. And, yeah, you know, like, there is arguments to be made on that side that a certain amount of elite Asians might end up just being sort of assimilating into whiteness.

Chris Hayes: You know, I want to talk about the "China virus" a bit because I had Spencer Ackerman on the podcast. And, you know, one of the things that happened, one of the predictable things that happened, right, was after 9/11 we, you know, launched the war on terror and whatever George W. Bush said when he went to the mosque and said, you know, "Islam's a religion of peace," and, "This is not a war on Islam or Muslims. It's a war on terrorists," it was the case that, you know, both the government and society became more bigoted against people from the Middle East and for Muslims.

This was reflected in attacks. It was reflected in pop culture, my god. I mean, just insane when you look at the pop culture production of, you know, that period. It was extremely othering, both at a psychological level and also had, like, huge tangible effects in terms of people that were surveilled or were prosecuted, you know, on ridiculous charges. I think there's a real fear right now, I mean, that the "China virus" was a opening salvo in what's gonna be a kind of extended Cold War with a rising China, you know, and what effects that will have here in the U.S.

Jay Caspian Kang: Yeah. I think that the Cold War aspect of it is a much bigger concern. And I agree with your mechanism that you laid out there, which is that that's the opening of it, right. But what it's really about is sort of the Cold War that is coming afterwards.

And, yeah, I certainly am concerned about it. Now, I think that it is slightly different in the sense that I think that as opposed to 9/11, right, where you have an attack, right, carried out by people and then this sort of false idea that anybody who believes in this religion or anyone who has brown skin, right, also believes in this, right, like, I think that that's slightly different than, like, a virus that, you know, comes over and sort of spread.

But at the same time, yeah, I think that the next 30 years is gonna be a whole lot of anti-China stuff. That's gonna be the norm, right? And it could be longer than 30 years, or maybe 20 years, whatever. But, like, it's going to be a persistent narrative.

And the way that Asian Americans I think fit into that is going to be quite fascinating. Now, I'm a little bit more optimistic about that than I think a lot of other people are. Like, I think that the idea that this would turn into a type of, like, "Well, we don't want you here anymore," type of thing, "because you look Chinese," I find that a little bit harder to believe would be a mainstream type of thing.

And I think that that is in a lot of ways because there are better safeguards now against that type of message going out there than there were around 9/11, although, you know, I guess, like, the Trump presidency might disprove that. (LAUGHTER) But, yeah, I don't know. It's definitely something I worry about though.

Chris Hayes: Yeah. Well, to me, I had a long conversation with Asian American people whose parents, you know, were immigrants or descendants from East Asian folks. And, like, the "China virus" stuff, like, it showed up in their lives, you know?

Jay Caspian Kang: Yeah. Yeah--

Chris Hayes: Like, it was not an abstraction, that sense of suspicion.

Jay Caspian Kang: Yeah. I don't know many Asian people who did not think at least fleetingly about, like, leaving the country, you know, during that period of time.

Chris Hayes: Really--

Jay Caspian Kang: It was, like, a terrible, terrible time. And--

Chris Hayes: Meaning the period of time when he was talking about the "China virus" and the "Wuhan flu"--

Jay Caspian Kang: Right. At the beginning of the pandemic, right, where you have this sort of horrible thing that's happened that's unprecedentedly horrible for, you know, at least people my age. And then you think the whole world has this. You know, "So where am I even gonna go?" You know? (LAUGH) It's like, "Well, I can't go to Italy." (LAUGH)

Chris Hayes: You literally can't go anywhere. Like.

Jay Caspian Kang: Right, yeah. Yeah. And so, yeah, I think a lot of people had a lot of really sort of intense thoughts during that period of time. And I think that a lot of those people have sort of-- I don't know. I think it's sort of hardened into something that is a little bit more close to, like, suspicion about the future or sort of, you know, how secure we are in our future.

And now, look, there's two ways to think about it. The first is that that's bad because people are suffering. And the other way to think about it is that maybe there is some opportunity that can come out of that. You know, that perhaps there can be less focus on sort of assimilating and doing well, accumulating money, and, like, you know, not really caring about others and that perhaps there can be, like, a formation of a different type of identity that comes out of that that is not so rooted in, like, the upper middle class.

Because, like, you know, between the "China virus" stuff and between, like, the sort of very, you know, viral attacks, I'll just say, right, the stuff that sort of pings around social media and you see all these attacks, you know, that is sort of deeply traumatic to people. It changes the way that they think about their place in this country.

And, you know, in those times, like, some new identity is gonna be formed, right? And so, like, what that is is still up in the air, right? And people don't quite know. But, you know, I think that it is certainly going to change the way that things happen.

Now, is it going to be that people become law and order Reagan Republicans again? Like, maybe, you know? (LAUGH) Like, it could be. Like, that could be a byproduct of it. Or is it gonna be that, like, people actually identify as being, you know, part of a minority oppressed group and start to organize around that? Like, that could also be a outcome of it. But I think that things will definitely change within the identity group for the next ten years or so.

Chris Hayes: Jay Caspian Kang is a writer for the New York Times Opinion section and writer-at-large for New York Times Magazine. His new book, which is excellent—Jay is a really, really, really phenomenal writer, and I really recommend it—it's called The Loneliest Americans. It is out now. He's also co-host of Time to Say Goodbye podcast, which is about Asia and Asia American--

Jay Caspian Kang: Thanks for plugging that. (LAUGHTER)

Chris Hayes: --and life during the pandemic. It's okay. You can listen to another podcast. Just download every one of these podcasts here on Why Is This Happening? But you're allowed to listen to other podcasts. Jay, thanks so much, man.

Jay Caspian Kang: Hey, thank you.

Chris Hayes: Once again, my great thanks to Jay Caspian Kang. We should note, again, that this conversation was recorded in September, but his book is out wherever you get your books. And I would recommend it. Why Is This Happening? is presented by MSNBC and NBC News, produced by the All In team, and features music by Eddie Cooper. You can see more of our work, including links to things we mentioned here, by going to NBCNews.com/WhyIsThisHappening.

Tweet us with the hashtag #WITHpod, email WITHpod@gmail.com. “Why Is This Happening?” is presented by MSNBC and NBC News, produced by the “All In” team and features music by Eddie Cooper. You can see more of our work, including links to things we mentioned here, by going to nbcnews.com/whyisthishappening.