I will leave this one for you all to discuss.
Apparently, insert gasp and shock, some relatively smart folk (Question: Is being book smart the same as being intelligent?) think that black people are genetically inferior to white people. And guess what? Said person--Miss Stephanie Grace--is at Harvard Law and they communicate said message via a mass email. Like a rock in a pond there are now so many ripples. The Dean gets involved, apologies are issued for hurt feelings, and an obligatory "conversation" about race must ensue.
Maybe I just have tough skin, but when I see these types of stories I do have to shake my head and leave my racism chasing shoes in the closet. Why? Primarily because I am always astounded by how Americans believe themselves to be experts on race by virtue of it being our national obsession. Second, I love it when ostensibly smart people say stupid things and operate outside of their area of expertise. Miss Grace may have conducted some preliminary research on racial attitudes among college students, but that does not make her an expert on biology, genetics, or the science of race--to the degree it is science--more generally. Likewise, I may know a whole lot about one little slice of Black cultural politics, but that does not make me an expert on 18th century slave systems in the Chesapeake Bay area.
First question: When did black folk get so weak and thin skinned? Why doesn't the Harvard Black Law Students Association (assuming they have not) offer up a proper response? One grounded in the decades of research that refutes Miss Grace's assertion? Moreover, that IQ tests themselves do not measure "intelligence" per se, and that Miss Grace was operating from a set of fallacy laden assumptions. To paraphrase one of my favorite bloggers, by pursuing the hurt feelings angle "this is how we lost to the White people."
Second question: What of freedom of speech? Being provocative, isn't the freedom to say what one will, also a license to be stupid? Finally, I am not a fan of apologies. Sometimes folks should stand their ground and own the consequences of their words. Am I unreasonable in that I would have found it refreshing if Stephanie Grace said, "yes, I believe that Black people are genetically prone to be less intelligent than white people. I will own that statement...and the consequences professionally and personally." Am I doubly more unreasonable to have hoped that someone would have then proceeded to open a can of intellectual, empirically driven whoop ass on her metaphorical behind?
An e-mail sent by a Harvard Law student that questioned the intelligence of blacks caused outrage when it was leaked and spread on the Internet this week. Here is the full text of the original e-mail message written by Harvard Law student Stephanie Grace to her two friends, followed by a letter from Harvard Law dean Martha Minow, and Grace's apology.
".. . .. I just hate leaving things where I feel I misstated my position.
I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent. I could also obviously be convinced that by controlling for the right variables, we would see that they are, in fact, as intelligent as white people under the same circumstances. The fact is, some things are genetic. African Americans tend to have darker skin. Irish people are more likely to have red hair. (Now on to the more controversial:) Women tend to perform less well in math due at least in part to prenatal levels of testosterone, which also account for variations in mathematics performance within genders. This suggests to me that some part of intelligence is genetic, just like identical twins raised apart tend to have very similar IQs and just like I think my babies will be geniuses and beautiful individuals whether I raise them or give them to an orphanage in Nigeria. I don't think it is that controversial of an opinion to say I think it is at least possible that African Americans are less intelligent on a genetic level, and I didn't mean to shy away from that opinion at dinner.
I also don't think that there are no cultural differences or that cultural differences are not likely the most important sources of disparate test scores (statistically, the measurable ones like income do account for some raw differences). I would just like some scientific data to disprove the genetic position, and it is often hard given difficult to quantify cultural aspects. One example (courtesy of Randall Kennedy) is that some people, based on crime statistics, might think African Americans are genetically more likely to be violent, since income and other statistics cannot close the racial gap. In the slavery era, however, the stereotype was of a docile, childlike, African American, and they were, in fact, responsible for very little violence (which was why the handful of rebellions seriously shook white people up). Obviously group wide rates of violence could not fluctuate so dramatically in ten generations if the cause was genetic, and so although there are no quantifiable data currently available to "explain" away the racial discrepancy in violent crimes, it must be some nongenetic cultural shift. Of course, there are pro-genetic counterarguments, but if we assume we can control for all variables in the given time periods, the form of the argument is compelling.
In conclusion, I think it is bad science to disagree with a conclusion in your heart, and then try (unsuccessfully, so far at least) to find data that will confirm what you want to be true. Everyone wants someone to take 100 white infants and 100 African American ones and raise them in Disney utopia and prove once and for all that we are all equal on every dimension, or at least the really important ones like intelligence. I am merely not 100% convinced that this is the case.
Please don't pull a Larry Summers on me.''
"Dear members of the Harvard Law School community:
I am writing this morning to address an email message in which one of our students suggested that black people are genetically inferior to white people.
This sad and unfortunate incident prompts both reflection and reassertion of important community principles and ideals. We seek to encourage freedom of expression, but freedom of speech should be accompanied by responsibility. This is a community dedicated to intellectual pursuit and social justice. The circulation of one student's comment does not reflect the views of the school or the overwhelming majority of the members of this community.
As news of the email emerged yesterday, I met with leaders of our Black Law Students Association to discuss how to address the hurt that this has brought to this community. For BLSA, repercussions of the email have been compounded by false reports that BLSA made the email public and pressed the student's future employer to rescind a job offer. A troubling event and its reverberations can offer an opportunity to increase awareness, and to foster dialogue and understanding. The BLSA leadership brought this view to our meeting yesterday, and I share their wish to turn this moment into one that helps us make progress in a community dedicated to fairness and justice.
Here at Harvard Law School, we are committed to preventing degradation of any individual or group, including race-based insensitivity or hostility. The particular comment in question unfortunately resonates with old and hurtful misconceptions. As an educational institution, we are especially dedicated to exposing to the light of inquiry false views about individuals or groups.
I am heartened to see the apology written by the student who authored the email, and to see her acknowledgement of the offense and hurt that the comment engendered.
I would like to thank the faculty, administrators, and students who have already undertaken serious efforts to increase our chances for mutual understanding, confrontation of falsehoods, and deliberative engagement with difficult issues, and making this an ever better community.
The text of the apology that Stephanie Grace sent to the leadership of Harvard's Black Law Students Association:
"I am deeply sorry for the pain caused by my email. I never intended to cause any harm, and I am heartbroken and devastated by the harm that has ensued. I would give anything to take it back.
I emphatically do not believe that African Americans are genetically inferior in any way. I understand why my words expressing even a doubt in that regard were and are offensive.
I would be grateful to have an opportunity to share my thoughts and to apologize to you in person.
Even beforehand, I want to extend an apology to you and to anyone else who has been hurt by my actions."