No? Well, it's certainly worth reading about. And I think no one captures the angles of this issue better than Jill at Feministe:
Stephanie Grace, racist Harvard emailer.
Stephanie Grace, a 3L at Harvard Law School, apparently had a conversation about race during a dinner with other law students. Her comments, she believed, were perceived wrongly, and so she sent out an email to a few students in an effort to correct the record. That email was forwarded around, and eventually made its way to several Black Law Students Associations (BLSAs). Here’s what Stephanie Grace wrote to some of her fellow HLS students:… I just hate leaving things where I feel I misstated my position.You know you’re an extra-special racist when you send out an email clarifying that your views are actually more racist than those that pissed people off at dinner.
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,
Jill's article is long but tremendously well written: she adeptly discusses the academic and cultural forces that led Ms. Grace to believe her arguments were valid and pristine; the divided reaction to the widespread dissemination of the above-referenced email and the ethics of publicly naming and shaming Ms. Grace for her racist views; and, most importantly, "why this matters."
One particularly pithy excerpt:
... free speech is not a shield from criticism and consequence. Yes, it is a shield against government persecution for your speech, but it does not mean that other people are not permitted to speak out against you; it doesn’t mean that other people should have to accept what you say without attaching words like “racist” or “sexist” or “bigoted” to what you say. The right to speak and to control how other people feel and respond to your speech is not a right that any of us hold. And it is not a sign of irrationality to point out that some arguments are, yes, racist, any more than it’s a sign of irrationality to point out that some arguments are ad hominem or illogical or red herrings or anecdotal.
... law clerks, lawyers, and judges all have real power. As a clerk, Stephanie Grace is going to be interpreting the law and helping to craft decisions that impact not only the individuals involved in the case, but wide swaths of the population. She will, most likely, at some point have to write about civil rights and race issues. Her judge absolutely should know that she believes black people are genetically inferior before he relies on her to interpret and apply the law.
... Harvard Law School grads are partners at law firms. They hold political offices. They are judges. They are in positions of real power. At some point, Stephanie Grace is going to be in a position of real power. Before those positions are offered, the people who are elevating her deserve to know how she will wield that power -- and the fact that she believes that segments of the population are simply not as intellectually adept based on their skin color.
In fact, I found the article so well written, that I have very little left to contribute to the discussion. Except possibly this:
Would folks be less willing to jump to her defense (specifically, with respect to the richly deserved and vastly appropriate naming and shaming) if Stephanie Grace were a professional? If she were a practicing attorney -- or, heaven help us, a partner at a law firm, or a congresswoman, or a judge -- rather than a 3L gearing up for the bar? Should she be shielded from criticism and consequence because she happens to be 30 days from graduation?
I do not think that she should.
Words are profound currency in the legal profession; we are schooled from the outset in their importance and power. Being a law student shouldn’t provide one with a protected status in the free market of ideas. That makes for neither good lawyers nor good members of society.
I also wonder if this will reach the Board of Bar Overseers, and to what effect. Ms. Grace’s words and actions quite seriously call into question both her judgment and her character. The argument in favor of disseminating her email and naming her publicly is apt -- and it is not so great a stretch to suggest that she is unfit for the practice of law.