The Racist Harvard Law Student and Naming Names.

Stephanie Grace. (via Gawker.)


Jill FIlipovic
has a fantastic post up about the blogosphere kerfuffle over a third-year Harvard Law student’s decision to show her ass and air some racist views in an e-mail to some of her peers. Apparently the student said similar things in an offline conversation, but decided to send out an e-mail to make sure no one missed her point.

… 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,
CRIMSON DNA

“CRIMSON DNA” has since been revealed to be Stephanie Grace, who works on the Harvard Law Review, and who has lined up a cushy gig as a clerk for a judge on the Ninth Circuit. The Above the Law blog and many of its commenters seemed chagrined that Grace’s name was made public, possibly jeopardizing her job, and that the story has become so controversial. (Grace has since taken to scrubbing herself from the Internet. Or tried to, anyway.)

Here at ATL, we’re actually very pleased by the fantastic traffic frank and robust discussion that this email controversy has sparked. But we — okay, I’m shifting to “I,” since your three ATL editors have rather divergent views on this episode — actually wish that DNA’s email wasn’t so controversial.

In an academic setting, it should be possible to put any proposition on the table for debate. No position should lie beyond the pale. Some — in fact, many — such positions will be stupid or wrong. But we should be able to debate all issues rationally, vigorously and openly, without having to worry about offending anyone.

Let’s look back on Kash’s original post, which was entitled Harvard Law School 3L’s Racist Email Goes National. I wanted to put the word “racist” in the headline in quotation marks — but since it was Kash’s post, I deferred to her. (In the post you’re now reading, which has my byline, you’ll notice that I’ve placed “racist” in quotes.)

Why did I want to put “racist” in scare-quotes? First, I wasn’t sure the email was actually “racist.” …

Second, in an academic environment, it’s not helpful to respond to ideas — even bad ones — by throwing around “-ist” labels: e.g., racist, sexist, Fascist. Instead of calling your opponents names, like “racist” or “sexist” or “homophobe,” you should respond to arguments you don’t like with better arguments, accompanied by evidence.

Rational debate. Isn’t that what free speech and academic discourse — and, incidentally, the practice of law — are all about?

This is frustratingly stupid. Saying black people are genetically predisposed to be of lesser intelligence than white people is quite literally the definition of racist.  (Let’s point out that this idea isn’t held by many mainstream scientists; it is however, held by and trumpeted by…racists.)  And as Jill says, Grace’s right to free speech doesn’t mean there are no consequences from the things she says, nor should “rational debate” mean protection from calling bigoted things bigoted.

Above the Law refers to Stephanie Grace as “CRIMSON DNA” rather than naming her. I got her name from Jezebel, and from a variety of non-blogger contacts. Above the Law seems primarily concerned with the repercussions for Stephanie — that she could lose her prestigious clerkship in the Ninth Circuit, or that, I don’t know, it might make her sad that her racist remarks are coming back to bite her. They refer to the use of her real name as “troubling.” They say that what set this all off wasn’t a racist email but a “catfight.”

I do not share their concerns. I thought about whether to use her name, but after Gawker and Jezebel made it public it was less of an issue — they do have several times the traffic that we have, after all, and it just seems pointless to maintain her anonymity when her name is already on those sites and others, including, now, Above the Law.

But also, 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.

Stephanie Grace sent out an email suggesting that black people are genetically intellectually inferior to white people. That is not a new point; it is not a point that should have to be rationally debated anymore, any more than we would rationally debate whether or not the Earth is flat. If a PhD candidate in a science program suggested that the sun revolved around the Earth, I can just about guarantee that there would be no calls for rational debate on the issue — whoever she said it to would roll their eyes and label her a complete jackass. If she sent out an email screed about it, it would probably be forwarded for laughs and for shared outrage at how a person this ridiculous could have gotten into this academic program and institution. It would not be defended under the pretense of free speech or academic freedom or “Isn’t this program all about rational scientific discourse, you guys?”

We’ve gotten to the point in our racial discourse where indisputably racist shit can no longer be called racist because it may offend or have other negative repercussions for some person in a position of privilege. You won’t hear any of Stephanie Grace’s army of defenders — many of whom, of course, share her privilege and are invested in perpetuating it — calling out actual racism. They will, however, stomp and moan if someone suggests that they might have done something racist or that they’re apologizing for racism.

This also isn’t how it works. Not being racist is not some default starting position. You don’t simply get to say you’re not a racist; not being racist — or a sexist or a homophobe — is a constant, arduous process of unlearning, of being uncomfortable, of eating crow and being humbled and re-evaluating. It’s probably hard to start that process if you’ve been told that every thought you have is golden and should be given voice, and that people who are offended by what you say are hypersensitive, irrational simpletons.

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Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs about race and ethnicity for National Public Radio. He is a native of South Philly and reads and writes and runs and rants. You can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to him on Facebook.

42 comments to The Racist Harvard Law Student and Naming Names.

  • Lisa

    It pissed me off too that they made such a big deal over at “Above the Law” about the appropriateness of calling her racist and the one author wanting to put it in “scare quotes” (what is up with that term anyway? why and when did it start? Though jack-asses like Beck use the bunny finger quote thing to scare monger, most intelligent people use them to mean so-called or allegedly about whatever word they are using). If what this chick wrote isn’t racist, I don’t know what is? Jeez, I guess they are still in that mentality that anything short of using the n word, burning a cross, or wearing a hooded sheet is racist. It really ticks me off how too many mainstream predominately white institutions and media outlets let racist ish go unchecked and go rampant and always pooh-pooh POC’s when we point out some racism, but love to give credence to those over-privileged idiots who run around talking about reverse racism. Make me wanna holla!!!

  • Silvana

    Not being racist is not some default starting position. You don’t simply get to say you’re not a racist; not being racist — or a sexist or a homophobe — is a constant, arduous process of unlearning, of being uncomfortable, of eating crow and being humbled and re-evaluating. It’s probably hard to start that process if you’ve been told that every thought you have is golden and should be given voice, and that people who are offended by what you say are hypersensitive simpletons.

    Dude. Bravo. Bra. Vo.

    I was thinking about this earlier and felt all jumbled up. You put it so well. I was having a conversation with a colleague, and he said that he thinks that people should air these views, because then he knows who’s racist. I was thinking that yeah, as a white guy, you just assume people aren’t racist unless they say something racist. But that’s your privilege showing. If you’re a person of color, you can’t afford to assume anyone’s an anti-racist unless there’s proof, can’t afford to be trusting. At least I can’t, anyway, don’t want to speak for others. I assume most people are hostile to racial and gender justice until they say or do something that indicates that hey, this might be a person I can trust.

    • right. i never got the “at least then we’d know” shit. Folks “knew” in the 1950s and 1960s, because we lived in a world in which there were no consequences for saying horrible things out loud, as opposed to now, when there are at least some. And a world in which those kinds of sentiments could be voice sans repercussions couldn’t exist without sanctioning other forms of overt oppression.

    • distance88

      Not being racist is not some default starting position. You don’t simply get to say you’re not a racist; not being racist — or a sexist or a homophobe — is a constant, arduous process of unlearning…

      These words are really powerful. Like Silvana alluded to, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it put so uh..poignantly. Thank you, sir.

  • JShmoe

    On one hand, I totally agree that this comment is racist and indefensible. On the other however, I do kind of understand what the author of the post on ATL and some of the commenters were trying to say.

    Is it totally unreasonable to say that people should be able to explore racist arguments without being vilified – particularly in an academic setting?

    Now, in this case, I don’t know how much this woman was trying to explore the topic vs. simply prove a racist point, her email strikes me as the latter, so I don’t feel bad for her.

    That being said, in an academic setting in particular, could there be some value to encouraging people to explore these kinds of ideas for the very purpose of getting them solidly refuted and thus, hopefully, educating the person who considered the original idea?

    I mean, had this women never made these comments, she could have gone on in life happily thinking that black people could very well be not as smart as white people, and as many posts have pointed out, she will more than likely be in a position of power at some point and her views could have serious consequences. However, now that she expressed this thought that was clearly in her head, I’m hoping that she has considered all the outcry and perhaps, and I’m being optimistic here, has reconsidered her previous stance. Or if not, maybe someone else who has been reading all of this, and thinking the same thing that this woman did, has learned from it all. In that sense, this entire thing is a good thing. Much better in fact that discouraging people from ever saying anything racist, and therefore missing out on the opportunity of being proven utterly wrong.

    I for one would much rather be offended by a comment but then have the educate the commenter and everyone who heard it as to why it was so wrong then to avoid being offended in the first place.

    I’m afraid that this entire experience may end up preventing those very opportunities. Now, it’s hard to argue that letting people spew racist ideas is a good thing, but in a university setting, which I do think is different then a workplace or other such environment in that people are actively exploring ideas and shaping their view of the world, the freedom to consider all types of ideas may have some value.

    That of course does not mean that when you express something racist you shouldn’t be informed that your thought was, in fact, racist. But it would be great if that could be done in a way that didn’t blow up into something so big and scare people from entertaining those ideas in the future. In the end, people will still think these racist things, they just won’t say them and so won’t learn from them or change their mind, and then they’ll be a judge somewhere and will do some real damage. I’d at least like to have the chance to persuade them before it gets to that point.

    • ValleyGirl

      Sounds like you are suggesting that we encourage people to discuss racist ideas so we can teach them that they’re being racist. I don’t know how I feel about that. In this case, this girl was not looking to change her mind, in fact, I think she was trying to convince the others they they too should entertain the idea that maybe, black people are in fact genetically less intelligent. If her motivation had been different, if she had been “exploring” the topic, I don’t thin you would have seen this kind of response, and i don’t think she would have been (rightfully, IMHO) vilified. In this case however, she was making an *argument* FOR a racist idea, not putting one up to be shot down, so she comes off as, in fact, someone who holds racist views.

      What I will say is that I’m happy she was exposed, since this will clearly follow her around for quite some time, and she’ll likely be seen as a liability in any context where she is working on something that has to do with race.

      But, I can see what you are saying in that there may be another 10 people who have similar ideas to hers, but now will never say them for risk of the backlash, and so will go right on thinking what they think. I don’t know what the answer is for that, but I’d think it would be more something like a mandatory course on race being added to the curriculum of law schools (and really, elementary, middle, high and undergrad schools too).

      • Agreed, this woman was not looking to find out why she was wrong. She was looking to prove to other people that they were. Why else would she send out an email like that after the dinner when it was so apparent everyone at the dinner disagreed with her? Also, I’m not sure whether this is a learning opportunity for her. If this woman has gone through the best education this country has to offer and still doesn’t get it, she isn’t going to.

    • Mudiwa

      I am vary wary of the idea that we should allow free exploration of racist topics in the hopes of having fruitful academic debates about them. I am wary of that position being brought up in the context of this debate especially, when we are talking about grown-ups at academically elite institutions. If we were talking about kids who didn’t know better, I would say that going hard on them for racism would ultimately be detrimental. But in this case, the racism isn’t grounded in naivete. Many people have pointed out that Ms. Grace’s position wasn’t the product of not having access to materials which challenged her viewpoint (to the contrary, according to Jezebel she seems to have helped conduct research on race). So whatever else people may say, this woman knew that what she was saying was beyond the pale, given that she signed the email,”don’t pull a Larry Summers on me.”

      Which leads me to the whole academic discussion thing. There’s a great post on Feministe right now about this whole controversy written by a black woman who recently graduated from HLS. And she makes the point that this atmosphere ALREADY EXISTS at law schools, that is, people routinely “play around” with all sorts of fascinating legal hypotheticals about the rights of marginalized people. So given that this is the status quo, I don’t really get the claim that encouraging people to do this more often will lead to more enlightened views. To the contrary, the author and commenters at Feministe talk about how it makes minority students at these institutions, people who already think they’re impostors, feel when their classmates sit around and abstractly argue about things that cut to the core of their identity. Given the costs on actual humans who have to deal with this stuff, I really don’t think it’s asking too much of people who are entrusted with as much power as lawyers are to not be racist, and to preclude discussion on the inherent inferiority of black people. We do this all the time as a society, we decide that we’ve advanced so much that certain views (thinking the world is flat for example) just aren’t part of serious academic discussion. I don’t see why this is any different.

  • Biscuit

    I am glad that OUTRAGE outed DNA particularly because of the possibility of her ignorance (could that be biological?) affecting the integrity of the judiciary system vis a vis her coveted clerkship. The display of bad grammar and punctuation makes me wonder if she received this coveted clerkship as a result of affirmative action (don’t misunderstand, I don’t think those who benefit from A.A. are less intelligent, I am being facetious more than anything). I bet that she has very banal views on that topic,as well.

    I wonder shy she adopted such a passive approach to an alleged biological inferiority on the part of A.A., anyway. As a law maker, shouldn’t she have focused on a more proactive or out of the box approach that would benefit society as a whole? Perhaps that would have made her appear more intelligent than she did at the “dinner?” In her email, she failed to reveal useful information worthy of taking up cyberspace.

    Still, I wouldn’t call her a racist because there was something about her email that made me think she didn’t totally believe in the biological argument. Perhaps she just wasn’t articulate enough to present her arguments and questions in a pellucid manner. Perhaps this is an example of the insidious effect of wanting to be a drum major. She needed attention, she needed to be recognized as smart and worthy, so she crafted the email. Like most people who are full of themselves, she insisted on being the drum major without having the right skill set, resulting in her fall.
    Instead of giving the girl a public stoning, perhaps we should reflect on ways in which we insist on being drum majors without the proper skill set and work on strengthening that weak aspect of our character. Another thing we could do is hold our counter parts accountable when they behave in such a manner. Each day we are making sense of life, none of us know everything, we need one another to help craft us into better beings.

    Btw, I agree with JShmoe’s point on the value in exploring topics of all sorts, especially in an academic atmosphere. Thank you for sharing that perspective!

    • Still, I wouldn’t call her a racist because there was something about her email that made me think she didn’t totally believe in the biological argument. Perhaps she just wasn’t articulate enough to present her arguments and questions in a pellucid manner. Perhaps this is an example of the insidious effect of wanting to be a drum major. She needed attention, she needed to be recognized as smart and worthy, so she crafted the email. Like most people who are full of themselves, she insisted on being the drum major without having the right skill set, resulting in her fall.

      Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that you’re right that he’s self-involved and wanted the approval of her peers. I’m not sure why you think any of that means she’s not a racist.

  • Steve

    I doubt she’d lose her clerkship anyways. Do some googling on the Judge Alex Kozinski and you’ll get why.

    He’s a nutjob.

  • Grant Barber

    Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and in the US, to speak that opinion freely. But opinions spoken have consequences in the real world, not just the theoretical one of ideas. This woman now is receiving the consequences of her opinions, which were made public because anything–anything–written out electronically is possibly going to be repeated, investigated, scrutinized. Our electronic world does not have any guarantees to privacy. The person who says that her claims are de facto racist is correct. That racist statements might bring down judgement is actually good news; consequent so many reports in public media about overt and implied racists statements by conservatives I have been alarmed that it has become acceptable ‘white noise.’

  • Russ

    I hate this woman and all people who make these arguments because I am a biologist, specifically a bio-informatician and I hate it when people use Race as an indicator for genotype.

    If you pick random white people and compare them to random people of African decent (pure african like Yoruba) you get less average distance than if you pick two people who have are both from different parts of Africa. Basically this is saying you are more likely to be genetically similar to someone who has black skin than another random person who happens to also have black skin. Sidenote, African American populations have even more diversity than native African populations thanks to European and native American influences making them even more genetically diverse (unless they share relatives.)

    One of the interesting things about humanity and human origins is that there is more genetic diversity in Africa than in any other human population on the planet meaning if there is an allele for something most likely someone in Africa has it.

    The reason for this is that we evolved in Africa. Imagine it like this, Every time humans decide to pass through some difficult bottle neck only some people survive, this is most likely because of luck not genetic advantage, so as humans left Africa only a certain group of genotypes got out. Their descendants will end up being more inbred since they started with a lower pool of genetic diversity. Because of the migration patterns of early humans this ends up with some interesting results.

    Just makes me so angry that people think they are being all scientific but they just make all of their statements off the cuff. Like Crimson DNA makes a statement where she assumes she understands the relationship between skin tone and genetic material when she obviously does not.

    So in conclusion don’t hate scientists who actually do research because we’ve known for a long time that race is a terrible proxy for genetic material (one of the reasons that the development of “racial medicine” is considered a pretty big joke in our field. Not to discount the importance of personal medicine, its just that assuming someone’s genotype given their skin type is a potshot. )

    Actually interested in this sort of stuff? Check out this awesome site!
    Hap Map a giant study done on the genetic differences between people
    http://hapmap.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-perl/gbrowse/hapmap27_B36/#search

  • Carmen Viera

    She is a bad example for Harvard U. She shouldn’t sterotype human beings. Remember it was the Europeans who brought slavery and violently treated most if all of them very inhumanely – She should grow up, study our past and see the world before opening her mouth. If you are good at math it is because you are interested in it or have a good understanding of it and there are those who don’t want to study it and don’t really care but that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t be good at it. Teachers should be great examples to all of their students. But with her attitude – I don’t understand how she even graduated. From the outside she looks like an intelligent women but she still has a lot to learn yet about history and LAW and should stay away from study of Genetics because she doesn’t know CRAP.

  • Sigh… sadly Ms. Grace belongs to the class of people who get to make decisions about the rest of us. Her beleifs are more coomon than we’d like to admit – facts and science be damned. When Birthers and Arizona xenophobes can get major traction on important issues of the day (even when most rational people write both groups off as wack jobs), a Harvard educated bigot will be celebrated as an oppressed victim who was denied her 1st amendment rights. Rush, Hannity, and Fox News will be interviewing her soon – book deal is already in the works I’m sure…

    And the beat goes on.

  • Kanga Roo

    People with racist thoughts are so irksome to my conscience… Let’s invent a machine that can read the minds of every single person to determine whether they have such racist thoughts. When we find the racists folks among our mists, let’s publicly vilify them and take away their livelihoods.
    ——————
    Everyone is so outraged by the racist nature of the email that they forget that the email was sent to a limited group of people who were at a private dinner. If someone trolled through every single email we ever wrote, they are bound to find something which we wouldn’t want spread all over the internet.
    All of you are so quick to put exposing racism ahead of the privacy of thoughts.
    Balancing privacy of one’s thoughts with something as horrid as racism is difficult. It’s like giving free speech rights to Fox News. It’s tough but you have to do it – otherwise you would win the battle only to lose an entire war.
    I, for one, think that using the Internet as “thought police” is far worse than allow a few racist thinkers to live quietly with their private thoughts.

    • distance88

      There’s no such thing as a private email, private text message, private Facebook page, etc. Sender beware.

    • If she didn’t want a message to possibly be spread around the Internet, she shouldn’t have sent it in an email. It’s like the idiots girls who post seductive photos on themselves on Facebook and then wonder how all the little boys in the neighborhood got to see it. Once something is sent electronically, it’s not yours anymore.

      And she’s not living quietly with her private thoughts. She’s clerking for a judge, and possibly (read: is) influencing legal decisions with her racist thinking.

  • Clearly to most of us here this is racism at its most idiotic. But we are a minority in this too. The majority believes as she does; black and brown people are simply the unlucky recipient of inferior genetic material. They are conditioned and trained to believe it. You can see it in her e-mail; she was trying to make people understand that the sky simply is blue. Post backlash I’d be surprised if she believes she said anything wrong at all.

    So we’ll rake her over the coals and in a month or so we’ll move on to the next dumb ass in the news and I’m not against doing either, but what I’d really like to see is less focus on the individual and more emphasis on the institutions that trained her. She did not come up with that on her own and there is a Harvard army of people just like her waiting to attend and graduate. Their ignorant starting point is that they are better/smarter than anyone else because of the institution that educated them. For every Barack Obama or Melissa Harris-Lacewell the Ivy produces, they produce countless people like Stephanie Grace. Until that system is broken down we will be talking about this again real soon.

    • quadmoniker

      If you read most of the commentary on this, including on the Feministe post by Jill G.D. links to, you’ll see that the criticism is really aimed at the academic environment that fosters this kind of thinking.

      • Steve

        See I don’t know if I agree with this, because I’ve certainly never read or encountered anything in law school that ever remotely conveyed the viewpoint of Stephanie Grace. If anything, it usually would run counter to that. I think the root of the problem exists years before a Stephanie Grace applies to law school that shaped her thinking. Moreover, the bigger root of the problem is that the vast majority of potential ivy league law students are educated in a social milieu that fosters this kinda of thinking.

        If someone thinks this, they thought it way before law school. And the vast majority of students at elite law schools are raised in environments that do not foster any race or class consciousness.

        All law school really does is allow you to refine whatever you believed in the first place.

      • I agree with you, but I think places like PB and Feministe are phenomenal outliers in a world of not very good coverage when it comes to this subject. The instinct and the norm is to focus on the person, focus on the Skip Gates or Stephanie Grace or Larry Summers. The masses are tricked into thinking they actually discussed something or did something and the media moves on patting themselves on the back and nothing changes.

        • Do you think it is really the fault of the institution, though? I think people use what they learn to defend their existing views. As I student I worked towards mastering the process of using reasoning and observation to acquire knowledge.

          For instance: a scientist wants to study the possibility that there are genetic-related differences in people of varying ethnic groups. This, in itself, is not racist. The scientist can observe and conduct experiments to find data that might answer his questions. This process, though, cannot ever occur as a means to discover a very particular answer to the question. Data analysis must be entirely objective.
          I am not a sociologist, I am a mathematician. I do not know the current or past state of research into this field. What I do know, though, is that it is not wrong to ask this question; however, it is very wrong to assume inferiority. So, because of my ignorance, it is only reasonable for me to be open to the possibility that there is some inherent intellectual difference between people of different races. It is reasonable for me to wonder what a study on this would find. It is unreasonable for me to assume that people of differing ethnic groups are less intelligent. It is unreasonable to make any assumptions without *absolutely convincing* non-anecdotal evidence that this difference exists.

          This approach is fundamental to learning and science! It is this approach that I have been taught at school. I think that people commonly twist this argument into saying that their opinions are valid because science does not yield adequate results to dispute their claims (when it is, in fact, wrong to form/act upon such an opinion in the first place.)

          I’m hesitant to blame this sort of behaviour on academia. Fallacious arguments are the fault of people who lack reason and dislike admitting error, in my opinion.

          From my reading of the article, didn’t she merely state that being open to this possibility of intelligence differences was not wrong? I am a bit sleep-deprived, so I may have missed the part where she tried to defend that claim. It is not wrong to entertain an idea, but it can be wrong to subscribe to one.

  • Schwartz

    Princeton Professor Peter Singer has also noted that mental traits may differ on average across groups in ‘A Darwinian Left’. So has David Friedman in ‘Who is Against Evolution’.

    Note that last year University of Chicago geneticist Bruce Lahn & Lanny Ebenstein wrote a piece in Nature entitled ‘Let’s Celebrate Human Genetic Diversity’. They noted that in light of recent findings the idea of biological sameness across groups is becoming untenable. Rather than deny facts people need to adjust their moral framework.

    Steve Hsu has a good suggestion in this respect:

    “it is important to note that group differences are statistical in nature and do not imply anything about particular individuals. Rather than rely on the scientifically unsupported claim that we are all equal, it would be better to emphasize that we all have inalienable human rights regardless of our abilities or genetic makeup.”

    http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2007/01/metric-on-space-of-genomes-and.html

  • Yan Shen

    Can someone explain to me how considering the possibility that the black and white race gap is partly innate is racist? I was under the impression that a persistent gap in test scores had been documented and that no one knew exactly to what extent innate/environmental factors played a role in contributing to that difference. Seems to me like the issue is an open empirical question.

    • S. Grace didn’t say anything about a “test score race gap”, she talked about intelligence, which presupposes that these tests accurately measure intelligence (which study after study shows is false). Plus, she didn’t frame the discussion in terms of a disparity, like you just did; she framed it in terms of a deficiency on the part of Blacks. Just because I’m better than you at fill-in-the-blank doesn’t make you deficient at fill-in-the-blank, and there’s no reason to attribute that deficiency to a biological characteristic, given the mountain of evidence saying otherwise and the fact that race is a social construct. So yea, she pretty much fails in quite a few areas.

  • Stephanie

    THANK YOU for this post! I hadn’t heard about this incident, but I am so glad there is a smart response to it. It’s infuriating that this even happened–and that her fellow bloggers or whoever would even question if what she said was racist. But I feel much better knowing responses like this one are out there and that people can’t just get away with saying things like this without being challenged and shown for what they really are: racist.

  • ok fam so I was wrong about her outing. It should have been done (and I base this on the knowledge that it was the BSLA that did it, rather than some people on the internet digging around, finding a name, and her happening to be a law clerk which is what I suspected happened). So yeah, sorry for being wrong and dumb.

    As for the other stuff, while I do not necessarily agree with the idea that racism is the default position (I suspect its because I use a different definition :) ) I do think it is better if these ideas are combatted and that we are expected to have our words parsed and analyzed. If they do not hold water, then get some new words. And I say this as someone who is spectacularly dense and insensitive, who generally does not give-an-eff.

    As per the discussion that in an academic setting you should be able to say what you want, I completely agree. You should also be able to debate it when stuff gets hot. Keeping in mind that Ms. Grace’s email was not in an academic setting (it was a follow up to dinner), she is not protected from claims that her participation in academic discourse grants her protection (which is an argument I agree with, by the way, if she said this in class and emailed it to students in class she would still be racist and wrong, but should not be outed and certainly not ganged up by the internetatron). It is not a free speech issue because there is no official consequence to her actions (if you want a free speech issue, let her come to China as an English teacher and tell her students that Taiwan and Tibet must be free…). I still think its a good thing that law schools have this sort of environment where any position can be defended (though I would prefer racist positions not be defended with such joie de vivre, which is the sense i got from reading the various things up on the topic). We should train our lawyers (emphasis on lawyers, not judges) to have no moral center, to defend the interests of their client no matter the client. We need to train devil’s advocates, because if our legal system will not have someone go to bat for the guilty then it ain’t worth a damn. If women and minorities are alienated in the process, then we gotta change some stuff, whether diversity training or whatever (I really have no idea how to do this), but the underlying appreciation for logic has to be kept.

  • Not Surprised

    I am sure that she isn’t alone and it is no one’s duty to “Convert” her from this way of thinking. Based on her “research” she believes that she is right, so it would be a losing battle to get into a debate with someone like that. I also agree, that it is good to identify people like this. PC just means being able to hide how you really feel, while being condescending towards those same people that you really feel are beneath you. To me, that sums up this woman.

  • Ron

    “there are no quantifiable data currently available to ‘explain’ away the racial discrepancy in violent crimes, it must be some nongenetic cultural shift. ” … Actually, there are. Has she ever heard of Sociology?

    Is she really that ignorant of an /entire/ field of study that has been demonstrating this exact thing for decades?

  • Funny how women raised in cultures where they’re not bombarded with the message that women are bad at math…aren’t bad at math.

  • She belittles people of color and her own gender. I thought Harvard was discerning in its student body selection? Hopefully all her future professors will be black. :-)

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  • [...] / Gene ”G.D.” Demby http://www.postbourgie.com/2010/04/30/the-racist-harvard-law-student-and-naming-names  [...]

  • [...] a handful of Twitter followers. I think this also holds true for why the outing of Stephanie Grace, the Harvard Law School student who argued that black people were natively intellectually inferior to…, was justifiable. At the time, Grace had just landed a prestigious clerkship on an appellate court, [...]

  • [...] this, I am reminded of a great quote I read in a blog entry about common rationalizations in defending oneself from being labeled by the taboo term [...]

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