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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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224 Responses

  1. Thomas
    Thomas April 29, 2010 at 3:59 pm |

    Excellent, Jill. An aside on Lat: I detest him. He previously wrote a blog under a pseud, in which he adopted the persona of a woman, and she was a(n imaginary) stereotype of a bitter career woman.

    (Call me judgemental (true) but I write under a pseud, and I don’t do it so I can bullshit people about who I am. I do it so I can tell the truth without hurting people I care about.)

  2. Emily
    Emily April 29, 2010 at 4:10 pm |

    Here here. I hate ATL and never ever go there. For precisely this reason. My boycott of ATL causes me to be “out of the loop” on prestige-whore law school/lawyer society, but it keeps me sane. I am glad to have landed in a corner of the legal profession where that culture is by and large foreign to my colleagues and associates and I only have to read about it on blogs. I find it particularly rich that ATL, which I thought was a legal gossip blog, thinks anonymity is oh so important. Their whole schtick is outing SC clerks, holding hottie contests without people’s permission, and all sorts of named ridiculousness.

  3. Jessy
    Jessy April 29, 2010 at 4:11 pm |

    Well said.

  4. Sailorman
    Sailorman April 29, 2010 at 4:12 pm |

    She’s now “apologized” and has refused a gawker interview, see here:
    http://abovethelaw.com/2010/04/crimson-dna-apologizes-but-gawker-outs-her/

  5. The Chemist
    The Chemist April 29, 2010 at 4:12 pm |

    I’ve often wondered what kind of graduates my own university is churning out. There was a blackface incident not too long ago and gratuitous swastika scribbling in one of the buildings at a certain point. My university is incredibly diverse, with a substantial portion of the student population being people of color. Yet, flipping through the school newspaper and overhearing some students talk in racially homogeneous groups- it’s abundantly clear that we have some real bigotry flowing strong in the school’s veins.

    There’s a lot to unpack here, and it’s too long a post for me to read in one sitting, but it seems very interesting and I really want to know about the Harvard specific issues. I don’t want to side-track the discussion because you want to focus on the Harvard connection, and I respect that. Still I’m an irredeemable pedant and find that even progressive people who “get it” get the science slightly wrong even as they arrive at the right conclusions. So I offer this as a great primer on the science and leave it at that. Sorry.

  6. Ama
    Ama April 29, 2010 at 4:26 pm |

    I’m somewhat disturbed that AtL wants to paint the picture that the only reason this came to light was because “So what set this all off? A cat fight, apparently…”

    Not because the e-mail was racist or anything: it was just two girls having a tiff. Nothing to see here, go about your business, these aren’t the ‘droids you’re looking for…

  7. Bushfire
    Bushfire April 29, 2010 at 4:29 pm |

    Thanks for writing this, Jill. You explained it so well. If anyone ever tries the “rational debate” bullshit on me, I’ll just start making random stupid suggestions and demand that everyone debate them seriously.

  8. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 29, 2010 at 4:32 pm |

    “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.” DUDE. Right??

    What kills me is that this topic comes up a lot – this idea of genetic intellectual inferiority, and somehow every person who comments on it cites vague studies that have been proven time and again were full of disgusting racial biases. Once these biases are controlled for, all of the statistical disparities they’re so keen to cite are completely erased. For more information, read The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould.

    And as a grad student at a decent university, it makes my stomach hurt sometimes to be a member of the graduate population. We’ve had some extremely xenophobic things put in print that make me want to drop out – and I would if I knew this weren’t the case at all schools. This by far takes the cake though. I hate people that try to hide their racism behind pseudo-intellectual bullshit.

  9. preying mantis
    preying mantis April 29, 2010 at 4:34 pm |

    *jaw-drop*

    What part of any of that popped up and said “It would be an excellent idea to commit me to a permanent and easily-disseminated form of communication” to this woman?

  10. Alison
    Alison April 29, 2010 at 4:34 pm |

    Fantastic post, Jill. You broke this all down so well…I have a feeling I’ll be linking a few people back to this…

  11. Molly
    Molly April 29, 2010 at 4:38 pm |

    I really enjoyed reading this, particularly after going through all the posts on ATL.

    I just wanted to point out that not all law schools strictly conform with the “Law School Problem” you outlined above. The law school I attended put a particularly strong emphasis on social justice which was further fortified by extensive community outreach clinics. I feel that this commitment to humanizing the whole law school experience in no way detracted from my competency as an attorney.

    Thanks for writing this. I just can’t get over the fact that over at ATL they are whining about Gawker “outing” Ms. Grace (ironic name, no?).

  12. matlun
    matlun April 29, 2010 at 4:39 pm |

    Perhaps it is just me, but I do actually not understand why this is racist.

    As I understand her argument it is basically just that not all racial differences are explainable by culture. Which is not very strange position. She even gives an argument why she thinks that a higher tendency for violence is not a genetic predisposition. So she recognizes the importance of culture and environmental factors in group behaviors. So far I would agree with her.

    She also seems to imply that “black people are probably less intelligent on average than white” which is highly debatable (to start with – what do you mean with “intelligent” and how do you measure it? IQ is a somewhat limited measure). But taken at face value I would not call it racist. (This type of argument is often put forward by people that are actually racist, but let’s avoid guilt by association here)

    Why is a statistical difference in IQ between groups that much more hard to believe than a statistical difference in length? If all genetic group differences canceled out to exactly zero, that would be a much more remarkable situation.

    I think it is better to focus on the fact that statistical differences in for example IQ averages should matter very little for any policy decisions. All individuals should be given equal opportunities regardless of gender, race, or other group identity. Classifying people as groups instead of judging them individually is always very dangerous and should be avoided (that way lies true racism).

  13. Jess
    Jess April 29, 2010 at 4:43 pm |

    I second Alison. Awesome awesome post. Thank you.

  14. BethB
    BethB April 29, 2010 at 4:45 pm |

    Agreed whole-heartedly on every point (especially the code language white folks use… which then creates really awkward moments where you have to explain to someone how what they just said to you was totally inappropriate and fucked up and they can’t get away with that just because it’s “Between us White Folk”).

    But most critically, when you send something in an email or put something online (or text message or any sort of manner that can be stored and copied and forwarded electronically) you have to sort of assume it’s public domain, or could become such (this is why many lawyers and consultants attach riders to their emails about confidentiality, and businesses add clauses about internal information being shared electronically into their staff policies, etc.). If she actually typed out this ridiculous crap, and then sent it out into the world via email, while she can be upset at the consequences, she shouldn’t be protected from them. These things happen all the time these days, so she really shoulda left the racist talk for the dinner table (or maybe they don’t teach students that at Harvard Law?).

  15. Your Old College Roommate
    Your Old College Roommate April 29, 2010 at 4:46 pm |

    Spot on, Jill. I’ve been following this on ATL and the comments section has me more upset than this student’s initial email. Well-put.

    -MB

  16. Pidgey
    Pidgey April 29, 2010 at 4:46 pm |

    Excellent post. It always strikes me as strange how squeamish our society is when it comes to using words like racist or bigot. It’s as if the mainstream is more interested in avoiding these labels than they are in fighting racism and bigotry.

  17. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 29, 2010 at 4:46 pm |

    You don’t understand why “black people are probably less intelligent on average than white people” is racist? …Really?

    I can’t respond to this right now without strangling a small animal so I’m gonna walk away. Here’s a beer to whoever has the patience to explain.

  18. Geek
    Geek April 29, 2010 at 4:48 pm |

    I’m actually pretty sure there’s a study somewhere that says white people perform less well in really important areas, similar to intelligence, and it’s probably genetic.
    Like some fucking common sense.

    Any statistical difference in IQ between races as things stand right now is probably due to things like:
    white people test bias
    income level (nutrition, parental attention, etc)
    country of birth ( nutrition, etc again)

  19. Jeff Fecke
    Jeff Fecke April 29, 2010 at 4:50 pm |

    I continue to be amazed at the argument that you not only have the right to say whatever you want, but that you have the right to say what you want without consequence.

    Also, I find it interesting how the “there’s nothing wrong with discussing whether black people are inferior” argument parallels the “teach the controversy” argument of anti-evolution folks.

  20. matlun
    matlun April 29, 2010 at 5:00 pm |

    Since my original post may have been a bit unclear and provocative, I should perhaps try to clarify a bit my own position on this.

    First off, for example regarding how the situation is in the US (huge economic, cultural, and other environmental differences between white and African-American groups) it would be very hard to measure genetic mental differences, since the environmental differences are so large. So I am very dubious about the results in for example The Bell Curve actually correctly measuring the genetic differences. But I still believe that we should expect there to be some differences (perhaps African-Americans are on average more intelligent, but this is compensated by environment? I do not know…). Since we know that there are fairly consistent group differences otherwise anything else would be very surprising.

    Again, one of the main reason I do not have a strong opinion on which group is on average more intelligent is that I have not studied this in depth, since I do not care. For any policy decisions it should not be of interest. People should be judged as individuals.

  21. Liser
    Liser April 29, 2010 at 5:12 pm |

    Thanks, Jill.

    You hit the nail on the head here. Free speech, or at least the concept of free speech that I understand, allows Ms. Grace to say what she wants despite the consequences. But, it also allows you or I to tag her as “wrong,” “disgusting,” or even (gasp!) “racist.” In the marketplace of ideas, much like the marketplace itself, we don’t have to buy every product if it looks like it’s shoddily made. We can criticize her product, and we are free to put out our own product and have it scrutinized in the same way. I have every right to call something offensive when it offends me. Free speech can be ugly.

    As far as her identity goes, if I were a judge, I would like to know that my newly hired clerk sends e-mails, or posts status messages, etc., that indicate an extreme position or bias that may indicate an inability to properly analyze particular issues such as civil rights or affirmative action. Aren’t we supposed to learn that whatever we say on the internet gets around and to be very careful? Falling back on Free Speech does not always sway employers from hiring the person who didn’t come across as a racist nitwit. Why should her e-mail be thought of by an employer as any more thought provoking than a Facebook picture of her doing bong rips?

    Going through law school myself, I learned very quickly (my school was split at an almost 70/30 male to female ratio) that I represented more than just myself when I spoke, and that in a school with a history of this male/female ratio, people jumped very easily to affirmative action conclusions about female students in general. Law school is not a welcoming atmosphere; the do-anything-to-win mentality oftentimes includes complexes such as “I have to beat that girl because she’s a girl!” and “I got here on my merits, SHE got here because she has a vagina.”

    Ms. Grace displeases me for a multitude of reasons, but your article pleases me.

  22. james
    james April 29, 2010 at 5:19 pm |

    Her judge absolutely should know that she believes black people are genetically inferior before he relies on her to interpret and apply the law.

    Really? With all the outrage about this I’m shocked by how mild her comments were. ‘I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent.’ ‘I think it is at least possible that African Americans are less intelligent on a genetic level’. She’s basically saying that a situation isn’t impossible: that’s not a comment made by someone convinced of the truth of a proposition.

    I appreciate we need to do everything to make sure non-whites can thrive in institutions like these. But there’s a huge gulf between the very strong statements you’re attributing to her, and the very mild statements she actually said.

  23. gomi
    gomi April 29, 2010 at 5:27 pm |

    To a certain degree, I can’t help but agree with ATL about outing this woman. Yes, she said something racist and incredibly stupid (especially for a law student supposedly trained in argument). Yes, she committed it to an easily spread and identifiable format.

    But consider the repercussions for her for a second. “In the olden days,” before things like email and blogging, this would have made the rounds of the school, and maybe a few associated groupings (maybe a few local law firms, a few other law schools, etc). Now, however, this is permanently tied to her name, worldwide.

    She did something particularly stupid once, and now, every law firm that will ever hire her, will search her, online. It’s becoming more and more common, as a practice. So, for the rest of her professional life, this single email will forever be tacked at the bottom of her resume.

    And you think her apology will ever really get spread around the way this has? I’ve seen this email discussed on half a dozen blogs already, and only one or two mentions of her supposed apology, no matter how sincere or not.

    It’s not about speech without consequences, and it’s not about excusing a racist idiot. It’s about a person who made a mistake being globally outted to never live it down again.

    Taken against the massive racism and pseudo-genetic excuses for such over history, this isn’t much. But for that individual, she’s screwed.

  24. This
    This April 29, 2010 at 5:28 pm |

    Interesting perspective. I would have liked you to not presuppose the falsity of her claims and instead explain why they are erroneous

  25. Gayle Force
    Gayle Force April 29, 2010 at 5:28 pm |

    Ok, my law school HAS opportunities to take Race & Law, Feminist Legal Theory, public service clinics, etc. but most students don’t take those.

    Law school is an incredibly privileged place. Applying is outrageously expensive; going is outrageously expensive. Everything about it is expensive. It is VERY hard to go if you are a person of limited means. And once you get to law school, nothing about race or gender is discussed in your required classes. We went the entire semester in criminal law not ONCE mentioning race, gender, or class, unless you count my professor (who is ALSO the dean of my law school, and I go to a highly ranked school) telling me, in discussing rape, that “sometimes, no means yes.” FOR REAL.

    It’s really shocking to me that folks get so upset about being called a racist. If you don’t want to be called a racist, don’t act like a horrible bigot. It’s really simple. And people are all upset that she could be labeled a racist, but those same people are not overly upset that she just called black people genetically inferior. And that’s because they are trying to protect their privilege. They are trying to maintain the system where they have the power to designate Truth and define the bounds of “rational thought”, where they can claim who is deserving and who is not, and they don’t want to be called out on it. They want the same ability to designate and label like the Nazis (sorry, proving Godwin’s law) and the white slave-owners and the Europeans about “Orientals” did, even if they are now just too darned good-natured or polite to actually suggest we should return to slavery or genocide. They still want to claim the power granted by those oppressive systems.

    It’s kinda appalling Stephanie Grace was going to clerk on the 9th Circuit. What a bad fit for the most liberal circuit in the country.

  26. mo
    mo April 29, 2010 at 5:28 pm |

    How ironic that she apparently has red hair, yet is WRONG about the statistics of red hair in Ireland. Although about %46 of Irish people have the gene for red hair, only approximately 8-10% of them actually have red hair. The US has a rate of 2-6% of people with red hair, but having a much larger population means we actually have more people with red hair than Ireland does. Gee, I wonder what other statistics she’s wrong on? It highly disturbs me that someone so ignorant and racist will be a lawyer someday. God forbid, maybe even a judge.

  27. A.Y. Siu
    A.Y. Siu April 29, 2010 at 5:31 pm |

    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.

    I don’t get it. Isn’t the conclusion that Black people are genetically less intelligent than White people a conclusion she has in her heart that she is looking for data to back up? I don’t see where this irrefutable data of a biological basis of different intelligence is.

    And what does it matter? Really? Seriously. If this bell curve overlaps almost entirely with that bell curve, is there really anything meaningful to draw out of that. Some White people will be smarter than some Black people and some Black people will be smarter than some White people. There isn’t any meaningful generalization or policy change you can make based on mostly overlapping bell curves. There just isn’t.

    If someone applies for a job that requires intelligence and the only thing I know about her is that she’s Black, I have no idea at all whether she is qualified, overqualified, or underqualified for the job. Likewise, if someone tells me “So-and-so is White” I have no idea whether that so-and-so is intelligent. No idea at all. Race does not indicate to me whether someone is intelligent or not, even if averages may be higher or lower for certain racial groups. And there is still no evidence she has brought up that those averages are primarily from a biological basis.

    In fact, even arguing nature v. nurture is stupid already. I was born right-handed. I managed to switch to left-handed because I wanted to be ambidextrous. I thought by adding my left-hand I would be ambidextrous because my right-handedness was biologically determined. Guess what. Because I didn’t keep practicing writing with my right hand, I lost the ability to keep my right-handedness. So did I have a biological propensity to be right-handed? I believe so. Was it etched in stone by my genes? No. I am genetically predisposed to being diabetic. Does that mean I should stop exercising and eat unhealthily because my body will stop processing insulin anyway? Might as well speed up the process?

    Ridiculous.

    Hey, people are genetically predisposed to hump anything out there. Should we just have rampant unprotected sex? Condoms aren’t natural, after all.

    Genetics are not an autopilot on some airplane we have no idea how to steer ourselves. I can’t believe she’s a lawyer. Seriously. She needs to look at her own things she believes in her heart and stop pretending she’s an intellectual. She’s clear evidence that there is a lower-end to the White part of the bell curve, just as there is a middle bulge and a small upper-end.

  28. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub April 29, 2010 at 5:33 pm |

    I just. . .I just. . .ugh. I don’t know what’s worse, her vile email, or the supportive reaction to it. I seriously want to smack the people defending it and whining about FREE! SPEECH! since apparently, free speech means saying whatever you want and only getting nods of agreement in response. And don’t get me started on the “rationality” of this supposed “debate” that privileged White people can have without letting irrational things like emotion get in the way. Even though Whites get plenty emotional about this (and don’t recognize it) in their knee-jerk defense of this supposed “logical” and “rational” exercise in “debate.” They’d be the first ones to aspirate on their own spittle if a Black person said something similar about Whites.

    It’s like trolling gone viral or something.

  29. Hot Tramp
    Hot Tramp April 29, 2010 at 5:36 pm |

    Whether or not the supposed genetic basis for intelligence, and the supposed inheritance of intelligence along racial lines, SHOULD be a part of serious intellectual discussion, it clearly IS. So I’m just going to drop this link for those who want scientific debunking of the Bell Curve crowd’s crap: Race & IQ, by Ashley Montagu.

  30. preying mantis
    preying mantis April 29, 2010 at 5:37 pm |

    “Taken against the massive racism and pseudo-genetic excuses for such over history, this isn’t much. But for that individual, she’s screwed.”

    Well, she’s screwed if she hoped to work for people who aren’t racist any time soon. She’s screwed if she ever hoped to run for office or lobby for high appointment as a Democrat or liberal. Aside from that, I think you may be underestimating the extent to which society seems comfortable with nominally-disguised racism.

  31. malta
    malta April 29, 2010 at 5:38 pm |

    I’m glad she got called out on it and I’ve been severely disappointed in the responses trying to brush this off as not really racist. Of all the possible scenarios in the world for which we have no evidence, you can’t just bring up the one that happens to align with racism and then pretend racism has nothing to do with it.

    Like, if I suggested the US has a high maternal morality rate because the secret Jewish cabal likes to steal and eat Christian babies, that would be stupid and anti-Semitic. We already have a perfectly good explanation for the high rates (poor access to health care). Likewise, we already have good explanations for how racial constructs work and numerous demonstrations of how strongly culture influences our behavior. Pity Ms. Grace didn’t do the research before sharing her ignorant racist thoughts with the world, but at least people who deal with her in the future will be forewarned.

  32. Mr. Purple
    Mr. Purple April 29, 2010 at 5:41 pm |

    If you really want the Ms. Graces of the world to shut up, you will have to prove them wrong on their terms. Whether or not you choose to admit it, when you declare a certain subject to be off limits, you open yourself to attacks on the legitimacy of your point. Sad but true.

  33. gomi
    gomi April 29, 2010 at 5:43 pm |

    “Well, she’s screwed if she hoped to work for people who aren’t racist any time soon. She’s screwed if she ever hoped to run for office or lobby for high appointment as a Democrat or liberal. Aside from that, I think you may be underestimating the extent to which society seems comfortable with nominally-disguised racism.”

    Unfortunately, you might be right about it being too comfortable in society. And maybe that justifies or excuses plastering her name (and face) across the blogosphere.

  34. matlun
    matlun April 29, 2010 at 5:43 pm |

    “Ok, I’m going to put the kabosh on further comments about whether or not the idea that black people may be less intelligent than white people is racist.”

    Fair enough. I also think that the whole “intelligent” = “high IQ” is unsound. IQ in the end only measures how well you take IQ tests. “Intelligent” in normal speech means so much more.

    I am sorry if my comments have been offensive. I will let it rest here.

  35. Nicholas Blendy
    Nicholas Blendy April 29, 2010 at 5:48 pm |

    I’m not going to get into why Grace’s arguments are wrong; that should hopefully be self-evident, and I don’t think we need to waste time entertaining completely ignorant ideas about the genetics of intelligence, or whether certain racial or ethnic groups are “naturally” more or less intelligent than others. There are certain ideas that just do not belong in the realm of serious intellectual conversation, and this is one of them.

    I actually think you glossed over the most important part of the counterargument in writing this, but I understand why, I think (also, it’s your blog, after all, you get to write what you want).

    The problem with the position of Stephanie Grace and her intellectual-debate defenders, is that they accept the premise that accurate, unbiased and objective measures of intelligence exist, a premise which I, and presumably you, flatly reject.

    I think it’s far more fascinating to wonder what drives a person to want to slice up our world into racial groups and dissect and compare “intelligence” as if this is some quantifiable measure like home runs in a season or batting average. Personally, I can posit that it might come from insecurity and the need to vindicate one’s worth in a particular arena they are successful in (Lord knows if she is in Harvard Law School, she’s probably done quite well on the LSAT), but I am firmly of the belief that low self-esteem is the answer for 90% of why people end up doing/believing things that they do, so that’s my bias. But it doesn’t mean their argument on this matter isn’t academic masturbation; it still is.

    Regardless, the rest of your argument is spot on. You don’t get to say things and then defend those statements with the argument that isn’t this just “rational debate.” You also open yourself up to be judged by those with whom you share the beliefs you supported with your statement. And, in this case, it’s the same stale, familiar argument about the inferiority of black people that’s timeless to our shores.

    I suppose my point is that it’s better to address every piece of an argument, however briefly, just so people like Stephanie Grace’s academic defenders don’t get to muddy the debate (though they’ll probably try to, regardless).

  36. MJ
    MJ April 29, 2010 at 5:49 pm |

    I agree with everything in this post, except for the choice to discover and widely publicize her name. Yes, she said something nasty and ignorant and racist, but she was not a public figure or speaking as a representative for some institution. She’s a student, and clearly she has a lot more left to learn.

    Who among us hasn’t said something stupid when they were young that they would not want widely repeated? In my case, I was raised as a fundamentalist Christian and said a fair number of ignorant and stupid things, but over time I grew marginally more enlightened, and I’m certainly glad that statements I made privately 15 years ago were not widely disseminated around the Internet under my name for my current employers to read.

    As much as I am repulsed by the tone and content of what our Harvard law student said, this strikes me as a distasteful form of Internet vigilante justice.

  37. preying mantis
    preying mantis April 29, 2010 at 5:50 pm |

    “And maybe that justifies or excuses plastering her name (and face) across the blogosphere.”

    The ethics of the situation are up for debate. I’m merely pointing out that this is very unlikely to be the end! of! the! world! for this woman unless she fancied herself a champion of the downtrodden.

  38. Hot Tramp
    Hot Tramp April 29, 2010 at 5:52 pm |

    preying mantis, I think you’re underestimating the extent to which Democrats are comfortable with nominally-disguised racism.

  39. Jackie
    Jackie April 29, 2010 at 5:53 pm |

    “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.”

    She just couldn’t keep her mother’s pride out of this? Of course her babies will be perfect no matter if they’re raised by her or someone else, talk about arrogance.

  40. Venus
    Venus April 29, 2010 at 5:54 pm |

    @ preying mantis.
    Agreed. Given the number of people who are defending her on the grounds that she’s a brave intellectual or some other nonsense, I’m guessing she could easily find a home in places that pride themselves for going against the grain.

    And there a lot of them.

  41. EDGY1004
    EDGY1004 April 29, 2010 at 5:58 pm |

    So basically you shouldn’t ever do or say anything in a digital for unless you are okay with it being spread across the internet (naked pictures any one?).
    Feministe, I am disappointed. This was a personal statement, (a stupid, ugly personal statement but personal) not a public statement. She isn’t a public figure. Just because you live your life online doesn’t mean everyone else wants too.

  42. m. leblanc
    m. leblanc April 29, 2010 at 6:05 pm |

    Definitely. I mean, I went to a law school (NYU) that has a reputation as a leader in public interest.

    I went to one that doesn’t, that is not Harvard, and believe me, it was just as bad there. I think there were probably 3-5 racial flaps as bad or worse than this one while I was there.

    I think it’s got something to do with prestige+entitlement. They are invested in believe that they’re special, and that part of that specialness is whiteness.

    Any commentary from students who went to non-”prestigious” law schools? Did you experience the kind of “knowing glances” that Jill is talking about?

  43. NYSDIVA
    NYSDIVA April 29, 2010 at 6:09 pm |

    Some white ppl have selective memory. They think the only hardship blacks faced in this country is slavery & that it happened years ago and it’s legacy has no affect on African Americans today. Well what about some of these other variables:
    1. JIM CROW LAWS
    2. 15TH AMENDMENT gave blacks the right to vote. BUT some had to pay a “poll tax” or take a reading comphrension test.
    3. REDLINING: is the practice of denying, or increasing the cost of, services such as banking, insurance, access to jobs, access to health care, or even supermarkets to residents in certain, often racially determined areas.
    4. BLOCKBUSTING: was a business practice of U.S. real estate agents and building developers meant to encourage white property owners to sell their houses at a loss, by fraudulently implying that racial, ethnic, or religious minorities — Blacks, Hispanics, Jews et al. — were moving into their previously racially segregated neighborhood, thus depressing real estate property values.

  44. ben
    ben April 29, 2010 at 6:11 pm |

    Science has proven that the Earth revolves around the Sun. It has not proven that people with different ancestries (and therefore aggregate genetic differences) are on average predisposed towards identical psychological characteristics.

    Your post is written under the presumption that the latter proposition has been proven. It has not. You then proceed to call Stephanie a racist for holding an *agnostic* position on the issue.

    This gets at a larger point, though. The issue is not what Stephanie said but rather our society’s inability to hold a civil conversation about this issue. The idea of genes playing a role in group differences is “taboo”. That is why fairly raising the subject, even without taking a firm position, is punished so severely.

  45. Lauren
    Lauren April 29, 2010 at 6:13 pm |

    Thank you Jill for breaking down this issue in an amazingly thoughtful way. This reminds me of the two men, one white and one black, that told me during my law school career that the historically black college I attended provided me with an inferior education and that I probably wouldn’t have done as well at a majority school. Ignorance comes in all colors and so does intelligence.

  46. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 29, 2010 at 6:15 pm |

    “But consider the repercussions for her for a second. “In the olden days,” before things like email and blogging, this would have made the rounds of the school, and maybe a few associated groupings (maybe a few local law firms, a few other law schools, etc). Now, however, this is permanently tied to her name, worldwide.”

    I don’t know if I agree with the rationale that she should be excused from public shame because once upon a time it would have been much harder to out her bigotry. The flip side is that law firms know exactly what they’re getting if they extend an offer to her, and the public shaming is an effective way to show that this is not okay.

    People make mistakes, right? But I’ve never accidentally argued that a race is genetically inferior. On average. This isn’t a mistake, this is just racism. So no, no pity from me.

  47. NYSDIVA
    NYSDIVA April 29, 2010 at 6:22 pm |

    Stephanie Grace is law student not a med student or a geneticist. Unless your abnormal, we all have nucleotides wrapped around a double helix. What I find interesting is most Whites never compare & contrast their “superior genetic predisposition” or intellect to Asians. I wonder why? Would the results be unfavorable or does it give some comfort in reasoning that blacks are & will always be inferior?

  48. Saurs
    Saurs April 29, 2010 at 6:35 pm |

    Upon first reading this, I wondered (a) why law students should believe they occupy some exalted position that would qualify them, without actually having received any specialized education on the subjects at hand, to speak with real fervor about genes, brains, biology, or whatever racialist, essentialist bullshit these lads and ladies are spouting and (b) why everyone who isn’t a law student thinks so highly of law students that they would actually label and defend their pithy, after-school discussions “reasonable,” “rational,” “scientific” or (shudder) “discourse.”

    None of this is to say that law schools should no longer emphasize logic, rationality or consistency — of course not. But the lack of emphasis on concepts like social justice, and the disparate treatment of non-white people in the justice system, is not a part of the standard law school curriculum.

    When have they ever consistently emphasized logic or rationality, though? Surely people are at their most illogical, irrational, and inconsistent when they’re making uninformed, ignorant, politically-incorrect non-sequiturs about race relations from a biological perspective, FFS.

  49. preying mantis
    preying mantis April 29, 2010 at 6:43 pm |

    “preying mantis, I think you’re underestimating the extent to which Democrats are comfortable with nominally-disguised racism.”

    That estimate is based less on what I feel is the likelihood that Democratic leaders, voters, etc. would reject her based on her record–she’d likely be given a pretty good pass on that side of the aisle–and more on the Republican propensity to act like it’s the worst thing since eugenics if someone of a more liberal stripe displays or has displayed so much as a fraction of the racism, sexism, xenophobia, etc. that constitutes a baseline for their own party.

  50. Kat
    Kat April 29, 2010 at 6:56 pm |

    Don’t think this sort of cult of objectivity asshattery is only a law school thing. Post Larry Summers I learned just how my Caltech classmates felt about women in conversations with them. How could I be objective in such a debate? Some scientists in privileged positions have the same problems with thought experiments and putting them on a pedestal above not being a terrible human being. And can be worse than lawyers given complete disregard for findings from non hard sciences.

  51. Sid
    Sid April 29, 2010 at 6:56 pm |

    Err, this is why science should be left to scientists, and the law to lawyers.

  52. Dom
    Dom April 29, 2010 at 6:59 pm |

    About this: “I think my babies will be geniuses and beautiful individuals whether I raise them or give them to an orphanage in Nigeria” – Ummm, sorry. No.

    Despite you: maybe.

    I vote for the orphanage.

  53. Anony Mouse
    Anony Mouse April 29, 2010 at 7:03 pm |

    Jill, you did an amazing job with this piece. It’s the best thing I’ve read on any blog in a good long while.

  54. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers April 29, 2010 at 7:05 pm |

    It’s funny how theories like “Men are less verbal than women and therefore naturally unsuited to reading and writing” never get proposed, even though the evidence is every bit as strong for such a thing as the “evidence” that women aren’t as good as men in math.

    For that matter, one could argue that white people are naturally less healthy than black people, because there’s vastly more genetic diversity in Africa and because whites are mutants (since humanity started out in Africa, all of the low-melanin conditions are deviations from the original human norm). But somehow, nobody does.

    If you’re going to refuse to shy away from controversial positions that might offend people because SCIENCE!, then how about taking some controversial positions that might offend the *dominant* powers?

  55. Bloix
    Bloix April 29, 2010 at 7:11 pm |

    “She just couldn’t keep her mother’s pride out of this? Of course her babies will be perfect no matter if they’re raised by her or someone else, talk about arrogance.”

    She was making a joke, Jackie. She was poking fun at herself.

    “How ironic that she apparently has red hair, yet is WRONG about the statistics of red hair in Ireland.”

    She didn’t say anything about the statistics of red hair in Ireland, mo. She said that the Irish people are “more likely” than most others to have red hair than others, mo. And that’s true. In the US, red hair is an indication that a person might be of Irish heritage.

    Be as self-righteously outraged as you want, even in CAPITAL LETTERS if it makes you feel good, but please, don’t go out of your way to be stupid.

  56. New Kid on the Hallway
    New Kid on the Hallway April 29, 2010 at 7:11 pm |

    Any commentary from students who went to non-”prestigious” law schools? Did you experience the kind of “knowing glances” that Jill is talking about?

    I go to a “non-prestigious” school, measuring prestige in Ivy terms (tier 1 state school not on a coast; not usually lambasted as “third tier toilet” on charming sites like ATL, but much more regional than national – and, again, public, and not on the Michigan or Virginia model, either). Although there’s a sizable Latino population in this state, my school is in a very white town and my year especially is very very pale.

    I don’t notice the knowing glances Jill describes, but that might just be me not paying attention; I can’t really remember people flubbing in class very much, and my school doesn’t have a culture of students judging each other on their class participation. (Okay, my friends and I do occasionally roll our eyes/dart glances at each other when some people speak, but they are invariably white male gunners showing off.) I’ve never run into anyone saying anything about wanting study buddies who “challenge” them, either; the culture here is much more supportive than competitive, and people (of all colors) are much more likely to downplay their own understanding and effusively thank others for their help in any studying situation (okay, this is probably something the women do more than the men).

    Mostly, I think the kind of elitism at the prestigious east coast Ivies (familiar to me from undergrad) just doesn’t fly as well in the culture out here, which is almost aggressively unpretentious compared to the whole Ivy world.

    But it’s not that there isn’t White Person Code, it’s just different (and I can’t claim that I always catch it). I’d say there’s a strong perception among the white students that even if the students of color are qualified to be here, they’re in a much stronger position because the school has to work to recruit them, whereas smart white folks are a dime a dozen. There’s also a diversity hiring program for 1L summer jobs in the local firms and many white students are convinced that the students of color get these jobs handed to them regardless of merit (which 1) is not true and 2) it’s not like there are enough students of color here to be serious competition, people!). So the code here revolves around these issues.

    My school is also strongly identified as liberal (hippy dippy, in fact), so that shapes the code as well. There is a lot of sort of lip service given to diversity, public interest, and social justice, and there are a lot of people genuinely dedicated to such things. But there actually aren’t very many substantive classes dealing with these issues – and again, the people who aren’t interested in these issues never have to confront them. Thankfully, we have a strong enough bar passage rate that relatively few profs push the standard bar courses, and I have had a number of faculty tell me that I *should* take what interests me. But people who aren’t interested can avoid these things. And the 1L classes don’t deal with these issues at all. I too sat through Crim Law with almost NO reference to race, apart from a kind of obligatory explanation of the disparities in death penalty sentencing. (My young, female, feminist Crim Law prof was pretty good about raising gender stuff in Crim, but not as good as handling the conflicting perspectives raised.) We did delve into issues of equality/race/gender a LOT in Con Law, but there was still a great deal of that emphasis on consistency Jill describes. (In many ways, compared to Crim, that was kind of a relief. It meant I could learn something without being hampered by my classmates’ attitudes.)

    I think my school is genuinely an improvement over what Jill describes because it escapes some of that elitism. But I also have the luxury of thinking that, since I’m white and caught in the weirdness of being an older student. I’m not sure I’m the best judge.

  57. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers April 29, 2010 at 7:12 pm |

    For that matter, what would Stephanie Grace or Larry Summers think of the theory that women are naturally more intelligent than men, and the disparity between male and female levels of higher education is mostly due to the fact that if you remove the societal restraints on women’s education, we are naturally suited to outdo men in any intellectual pursuit except maybe rotating 3d objects in our head? I mean, we have two X chromosomes and they have only one, so if there are genes that affect intelligence on the X, women would be the only ones who could get double X for high intelligence, and men would be much more likely to get a single X that codes for low intelligence — women might need to have two stupid genes to be stupid, whereas men might need only one. Certainly men have higher rates of learning disability than women. Maybe women are naturally smarter than men.

    Raise *that* one with the Larry Summers crowd. See how strongly they feel about “pure scientific inquiry without bias” then.

    (BTW, in case it needs to be spelled out, *no*, I don’t think women are naturally smarter than men or that intelligence is located on the X chromosome… it’s all bullshit. But it’s bullshit with as much circumstantial evidence as “black people aren’t as smart as white people”, yet somehow no one’s written a book proposing it yet…)

  58. Erin
    Erin April 29, 2010 at 7:17 pm |

    It makes no sense to me why people respond to this story by crying about free speech.

    You know what free speech also allows for? The ability to call someone racist.

  59. mathematician
    mathematician April 29, 2010 at 7:18 pm |

    One thing that everyone fails to understand when discussing intelligence, is that it is not a well defined concept that can be measure. Height is a characteristic that can be measured, because you simply look at the length from the toes to their head. Intelligence is not defined in a way like height such that it can be measured at all. It is a “vague” concept at best, but there is no conclusive test for intelligence because we don’t even know what that concept entails.

  60. smmo
    smmo April 29, 2010 at 7:18 pm |

    Echoing all those who really appreciate this Jill.

    I’m very suspicious of those who are exceedingly interested in parsing out the specifics of where things fall on the nature/nurture divide. Because they seem, nearly all of the time, to want to use whatever data they get (or invent) to fight against equality. The Stephanie Graces and Charles Murrays (The Bell Curve guy) may cloak their BS in a veneer of scientific detachment but look at their real motives. Murray was funded by The American Enterprise Institute. Think they’re pro science? The ev-psych crowd is really anti-feminist. This is not neutral scientific inquiry, it is politically motivated.

  61. mathematician
    mathematician April 29, 2010 at 7:21 pm |

    @geek, why are IQ tests even measures of intelligence? There has been no proof that IQ tests measure anything more than how you perform on IQ tests.

  62. Vi
    Vi April 29, 2010 at 7:22 pm |

    What if she said that women’s uteruses make us incapable of rational thought, and therefore we shouldn’t be allowed to attend college or vote or even really argue with men because we just can’t do it, you know, biologically?

    She pretty much did. What on earth does math have to do with testosterone, a hormone responsible for hair, muscle mass, and a certain amount of aggression?

    …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.

    Exactly this, very well said.

  63. Butch Fatale
    Butch Fatale April 29, 2010 at 7:24 pm |

    Law students who whine about how free speech means never having to say you’re sorry should be sent immediately to Con Law, not allowed to pass go or collect their degree, and also fired from the internet.

  64. tigtog
    tigtog April 29, 2010 at 7:26 pm |

    Great post, Jill. Also a great comment thread.

  65. Erica A
    Erica A April 29, 2010 at 7:32 pm |

    Here’s a question. I originally read about this story on HuffPo in an article which did not name the author. For reasons I am struggling to explain, I described the story to a few other people, and consistently referred to the author using masculine pronouns. Did this happen to anyone else? Any thoughts on why?

    I don’t want to derail this comment thread, so if you’re interested in having this discussion, please join me here.

  66. exholt
    exholt April 29, 2010 at 7:38 pm |

    Hmmm…

    Someone who rehashes long discredited racist-based pseudo-science – check

    Someone who doesn’t seem to have a good understanding of the differences between philosophically based logical consistency and being scientifically sound on the basis of the scientific method despite having had a minimum of 3 years worth of lab-based science courses in high school, majoring in Sociology, conducting thesis research in it – check

    Someone who continues to dig deeper even after offending others at a dinner with others – check

    Someone who came from a highly privileged background: Princeton undergrad* & HLS – check

    Umm….tell me how in the hell was she allowed to graduate from undergrad…much less get to the point of almost graduating from one of the topflight law schools in the US?!!

    And she will presumably graduate and eventually gain enough power to screw over anyone who doesn’t fit her dubious racist-based pseudo-science theories…

    What a wonderful thing to look forward to after law school and entering law practice. /snark :roll:

    * Incidentally, Princeton has been widely known by high school classmates, acquaintances, and relatives as one of the most…if not the most socially/politically conservative campus in the Ivy League. Moreover, in the antebellum period of US history, Princeton was also the favored Ivy by scions from wealthy Southern plantation/slaveholding families…..

  67. GenSpec
    GenSpec April 29, 2010 at 7:46 pm |

    Mo: She said that Irish are more likely to have red hair. She didn’t say what percentage. Isn’t she correct? Percentage wise, Irish are more likely to have red hair, aren’t they?

  68. chipchop
    chipchop April 29, 2010 at 7:48 pm |

    I’m so tired of this “It’s just a harmless thought experiment!” bullshit. The devil should be concerned about the quality of his advocates.

  69. April
    April April 29, 2010 at 7:54 pm |

    I cannot believe that you thought for a second that this was something awesome that you just had to post about.

    Regardless of what this young woman said, as someone above touched on, this will follow her for her entire life, and beyond. The things she said? They’re obviously rooted in ignorance, and ignorance isn’t a permanent state. How dare you, and all of the cheerful, congratulatory commenters above get so much pleasure out of this. This isn’t journalism, this isn’t furthering social justice, this isn’t furthering anti-racism. This is making a scapegoat out of a young student who just doesn’t fucking get it yet. “Look at the stupid, racist white girl! Hahahaha! Let’s ruin her entire professional career! She deserves it! Racist bitch! Hahahahaha!”

    Unfuckingbelievable.

  70. umami
    umami April 29, 2010 at 8:01 pm |

    Am I the only one feeling uncomfortable about this? Not about the naming but about the ethics of publishing emails that were intended to be private.

    I don’t really care about the consequences for this particular person, even if she pays a price she’s far more privileged than she deserves to be.

    It’s just that this makes me think of that girl whose “yours was yum” email went viral and whose name I still remember (though the name of the douchebag who forwarded the email didn’t become infamous.) And just so many other cases where the contents of private emails have been used to harass people that I feel really squeamish at seeing someone’s emails to their “friends” posted all over a blog. Even if she deserves it, it just seems wrong in principle.

    I admit I haven’t thought this out completely, there are obviously situations like exposing corruption among powerful people where publishing emails is merited and maybe you could even argue that this falls into that category. idk.

  71. herong
    herong April 29, 2010 at 8:05 pm |

    I’d like to talk about this implicit belief that being part of the legal world allows one to discuss “anything” as long as the discussion is couched in “rationality.” I attend a public interest school, a liberal school, a good school that is nonetheless lambasted on ATL as a “third tier toilet.” We are taught social justice and critical race theory and feminist legal theory. And yet. AND YET. In our first year classes we ARE told that anything and yes anything is fair game if couched in legal theory.

    An example: in my constitutional law class, during my first year, we had several classes on homosexuality as a protected class under Equal Protection and Due Process. Somewhere during the third class period, we began to talk about whether sexuality was immutable – unchangeable. This may be important because one of the factors for determining whether a class of people should be offered protection by the 14th amendment is whether the defining characteristic is immutable.

    And that was when the shit hit the fan. Instead of a discussion about how the (im)mutability of sexuality could impact an Equal Protection analysis, the class nose dived into a base discussion about whether you can tell a baby is going to be gay by the size of his thumbs or the whorl in his hair. The professor, a liberal, pro-choice woman whom I had rather respected up to this point, allowed the discussion about whether sexuality was dependent upon the temperature in the womb for HALF AN HOUR. Because it was a “legal” discussion. Because it was “important.”

    I think it is crucial to separate the legal from the “legal.” In law school we are taught to be exacting in our language and precise in our analysis. It IS important to discuss what implications the immutability of sexuality may have on using Equal Protection to prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. It is NOT important to discuss whether sexuality is in FACT immutable, and it is DEFINITELY NOT important to entertain the kooks in the class as they spout their homophobic half-theories.

    Stephanie Grace fell prey to this. It is important to have a discussion about the education disparities in America and how the legal community can help to rectify them. It is DEFINITELY NOT important to discuss how race innately plays a part in those differences.

    Get it straight.

  72. Gayle Force
    Gayle Force April 29, 2010 at 8:05 pm |

    Seriously, April, I want to live on whatever planet you’re talking about, where people who say racist things get held accountable for them.

    This young woman, who may not “get it yet,” is about to graduate to be an arbiter of justice. She is about to have a position of power. She’s not 7. She has had PLENTY of opportunity to educate herself. She is responsible for her own ignorance.

    I am not cheerful about it. I am depressed. Because these are the kind of folks I also go to law school with, and it just makes me despondent that the world is not going to be in good hands.

  73. Bloix
    Bloix April 29, 2010 at 8:09 pm |

    “how in the hell was she allowed to graduate from undergrad…”

    She passed her classes. You got any other questions?

  74. umami
    umami April 29, 2010 at 8:19 pm |

    replying to myself to clarify:

    not about the naming
    Sorry, it is the naming that is bothering me partly I think. Because without the name attached, it seems more like an exposure of a racist culture among top tier law school students, which is apparently a big problem.

    With the name attached it seems more like exposing the personal racism of Stephanie Grace, which is a much, much lesser problem, and probably not the kind of thing it’s worth breaking the “don’t publish private emails” rule for.

    Sorry, my thoughts on this are all over the place and lack logical coherence. I can see why Jill published the name, the idea that this person should be protected from the consequences of her actions is very distasteful.

  75. Sarah
    Sarah April 29, 2010 at 8:24 pm |

    “For that matter, what would Stephanie Grace or Larry Summers think of the theory that women are naturally more intelligent than men, and the disparity between male and female levels of higher education is mostly due to the fact that if you remove the societal restraints on women’s education, we are naturally suited to outdo men in any intellectual pursuit except maybe rotating 3d objects in our head? I mean, we have two X chromosomes and they have only one, so if there are genes that affect intelligence on the X, women would be the only ones who could get double X for high intelligence, and men would be much more likely to get a single X that codes for low intelligence — women might need to have two stupid genes to be stupid, whereas men might need only one. Certainly men have higher rates of learning disability than women. Maybe women are naturally smarter than men.”

    I know this was only raised as a hypothetical, but the ableism in this statement is rather obvious, putrid, and in need of being pointed out.

  76. Matt
    Matt April 29, 2010 at 8:35 pm |

    Sid, Emily, Jill – awesome points. ATL is gross. When lawyers who hold no other qualifications than being too rational to see the forest for the trees try to out-reason real scientists, a small part of my hope for humanity dies.

    Currently a student at a law school which is not in the top 100, I can say that the whole entitlement and prestige thing is either relative between society at large and law schools generally, or it has nothing to do with the pervasiveness of racism and its ilk in law schools. I have been in seminars where it has been suggested that denying American Indians a religious exception for peyote use was the right decision because the federal and state governments have always oppressed and exploited the tribes. Similarly, a good friend of mine in presenting an administrative law case on due process rights in entitlement discontinuation dismissed the notion out of hand that ending SSDI benefits before a hearing on the matter was a “life” interest in the meaning of the Fifth Amendment Due Process clause. He was fairly embarrassed after I pointed out the classism inherent to his analysis of the case. Other flaps have been made in class and outside it. A hot bed for these remarks has been actually a seminar on the First Amendment.

    Granted, these arguments that offend notions of social justice are also often in support of or explaining majority opinions handed down by some of the highest courts in our country. These two cases both happen to be from the Supreme Court, Employment Division v. Smith and Matthews v. Eldridge. It should be clear that racism and classism inhere in our law, not just our lawyers. The law school problem you’ve outlined does not seem to go away in practice, it may in fact be a hallmark of American law that it cannot see the injustice that is perpetuated by the very way that legal analysis is performed.

    We hide these transgressions behind the liberal (small “L”) mythos of objectivity, rationality, and stoicism. This mode of engaging in argument already gets privileged as the best way to the Truth, we shouldn’t also immunize it from getting called out for being the patriarchal malarkey that it so often is.

  77. RobW
    RobW April 29, 2010 at 8:35 pm |

    What part of any of that popped up and said “It would be an excellent idea to commit me to a permanent and easily-disseminated form of communication” to this woman?

    Word on this. How does someone get through 3rd year at law school, or just into their 20s, without learning the basic rule: never put in writing anything you wouldn’t read back to you in court, or a job interview, or by a reporter.

    Did you experience the kind of “knowing glances” that Jill is talking about?

    I’ve never been to law school, but the White Code to which she refers, and the subtle ways by which it’s communicated, is something I’ve seen in pretty much every other social or work environment I’ve been in. I sure wouldn’t expect law school to be different. Same goes for the Dude Code.

  78. RobW
    RobW April 29, 2010 at 8:37 pm |

    (“…wouldn’t WANT read back to you in court…” is what I meant there. Oops.)

  79. exholt
    exholt April 29, 2010 at 8:41 pm |

    This is making a scapegoat out of a young student who just doesn’t fucking get it yet.

    Umm….as someone else has pointed out…she’s not a child or even a teen anymore. Since law school is a post-undergraduate degree in the US, she’s not only has 4 years of college down, but also close to three extra years on top of that. Even assuming she started college as a 16 year old…the lowest age Ivies like Princeton accepts as matriculating students currently, she would be at least 23…and much more likely…older as a 3L.

    In short, she’s well-beyond the age of majority where our society and especially the law has expectations that she’s willing to take the responsibilities along with the privileges of being an adult. Moreover, considering her privilege….I’d argue that she has a greater obligation in this regard.

    Has the increasing trend of infantilizing US/Western youth gotten to the point that we’re going to start treating even mid-late twentysomethings as helpless itty bitty children who shouldn’t be held responsible/ought to be shielded from the consequences of their misconduct….especially one as irresponsible and heinous as this?!! As someone who started college as a 17 year old and was honored to be undergrad classmates with someone who GRADUATED from college at 17 and became an assistant professor of Politics at a prominent Canadian university around this law student’s age, I find this line of argument to be complete and utter garbage.

  80. April
    April April 29, 2010 at 8:43 pm |

    “Protected” is a gross under-representation of what would have happened to her as a result of her ignorance had this not been posted all over the internet (after being, um, illegally sent to many, many, many other people). AS IF she would have just gone about her privileged little life unscathed. AS IF no one would say anything to her. AS IF she would be high-fived all over campus.

    Jill Filipovic and Gayle Force and the rest of you must have been born 100% anti-racist, feminist, pro-choice, pro-GLBT rights, and without a single privilege or other tainted worldview. Must be nice.

    I, for one, admit fully to having had some pretty ridiculously prejudiced views in the past– racially prejudiced, religiously prejudiced, misogynistic prejudices. I’m really fucking happy that a bunch of trigger-happy ass holes on the internet didn’t stumble across a particularly damning journal entry or email I may have written before I knew what in the hell I was talking about.

    To say that she had the opportunity to educate herself and that she is responsible for her own ignorance is to deliberately overlook the fact that you actually know nothing about her, other than this email that you read on a feminist blog. Congratulations! You made your very own hasty judgment! Keep at it! You have no idea how she was raised. You have no idea what classes she’s taken. You have no idea what her childhood was like. You don’t know about her religious upbringing, her motivation for saying what she did, the context of the conversation, the other things about her that make her an actual whole person. Do you like being reduced to one or two perceived negative traits about yourself? Things you don’t even really seem to understand? How about if someone were to take the one or two bad things and put them all over the fucking internet, and criticize the shit out of you, and attempt to ruin your career, without even giving you the chance to figure out why what you said or did was wrong in the first place? Do you honestly believe that she knew of ways to educate herself on racism and anti-racist issues, but was like, “NAAAAH, I don’t rly care, white ppl r better NEwayz.”

    COME ON NOW. You’re not even being honest with yourself here. It’s not RACIST WHITE GIRL!!!1!!!!! against Good, Anti-Racist Social Justice Folks. People aren’t one thing OR the other thing. Fucking hell.

  81. Bushfire
    Bushfire April 29, 2010 at 8:59 pm |

    “Umm….tell me how in the hell was she allowed to graduate from undergrad…much less get to the point of almost graduating from one of the topflight law schools in the US?!!”

    Because one can be as overprivileged, ignorant and bigoted as one wants and still graduate with a degree.

  82. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 29, 2010 at 9:07 pm |

    “Am I the only one feeling uncomfortable about this? Not about the naming but about the ethics of publishing emails that were intended to be private.”

    Not at all. When things are said in private on a college campus, you can still use this information to report a bias-related incident. Why is this any different? She shouldn’t have thought this information was safe just because no one could overhear it. She still risked offending the recipients.

    And no, I absolutely do not care that she risked her reputation going forward. I’m infinitely more concerned that there are people graduating from HLS and getting prestigious positions espousing shit like “on average, black people are less intelligent than white people.” Sorry, April. No guilt here.

  83. Kristina
    Kristina April 29, 2010 at 9:08 pm |

    I understand that we truthfully know nothing about her except what is in this email, but the fact is that she is in her third year of law school. She is going to Harvard. She should not be this uneducated. And clearly it is willfully so. Most, if not all, studies that have been done with regard to whether lack of intelligence in other races is due to social factors recognize that it could be genetics and CONTROL for that. In my opinion, this girl shouldn’t be talking about statistics when she clearly has no idea. None of us are saints who have never said anything wrong in our lives, but she’s frankly an idiot if she pays that little attention to the studies out there and tries to make an overarching statement regarding said studies.

    Also, shouldn’t you know by your third year of law school that using “in conclusion” at the end of an argument should stop by the time you’re out of fifth grade writing class?

  84. Bushfire
    Bushfire April 29, 2010 at 9:09 pm |

    Interesting comment, April.

    I’ve been thinking about this article and comment thread almost nonstop since I read it and I’ve had similar thoughts. I was a sheltered child raised by a racist family and even still at age 18 I had blatantly racist beliefs that I had never analyzed before. I became interested in social justice issues in university and have recently started reading bell hooks. I feel like I’ve learned a ton and I know it’s only the tip of the iceberg. I’ll probably still be checking my privilege for the rest of my life.

    This girl who is clearly racist right now might start to learn. Eventually she might become an anti-racist ally. We don’t know what lies in the future. I think it’s ok to be against her comment, but if it were my blog I would have left her picture out and wouldn’t have published her full name.

    I’m really ashamed by the beliefs I used to have and I’m glad I was able to be educated face-to-face by people who called me on it instead of being immortalized on the internet as a wingnut.

    I do think Jill wrote an excellent analysis but I fully agree with your comments, April.

  85. umami
    umami April 29, 2010 at 9:11 pm |

    Why is this any different?

    Because publishing private emails on a blog is a completely different situation in every possible way from reporting an incident of bias to college authorities?

    Sorry, I’m not understanding how you think it’s the same.

  86. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers April 29, 2010 at 9:11 pm |

    I know this was only raised as a hypothetical, but the ableism in this statement is rather obvious, putrid, and in need of being pointed out.

    Absolutely true. If it was a progressive theory, respectful of the diversity of humanity and the essential value of all of our lives, it wouldn’t most likely be an embarrassingly ignorant and sexist theory, and therefore it wouldn’t be a good comparison to the embarrassingly ignorant and racist/sexist theories that people like Stephanie Grace or Charles Murray spout.

    I’m sorry if it sounded like I was supporting such an idea, or any of the ideas packed inside it — the whole point was to make a “theory” that was as horrifically bad as the “theories” mentioned here, but which picked on dominant groups such as white people or men. Sometimes I do this — I take evo-psych theories or other racist/sexist bad “scientific theories” and lampoon them in a tone that ends up sounding as if maybe I actually think there’s a grain of truth in them (at one point I riffed on Steven Pinker’s theory that men do art to attract women, which he uses to imply that women aren’t capable of great art, to suggest that only women have a natural artistic vision or appreciation for beauty and men just do it to get laid. Obviously I didn’t believe that one at all, either.)

    It’s intended to be an offensive idea, because the idea that any group of humans is just naturally better at something than any other group of humans, in the absence of *any* ability to separate out the effect of culture, is offensive. But I did not intend it to offend *people* because I was hoping to make it clear that it’s not an idea I agree with (or any of the ideas underlying it, such that learning disabilities are related to intelligence, intelligence is largely genetic, academic performance measures intelligence, or any of that), and if I came across sounding like I actually might secretly believe some of that stuff, I’m sorry. That’s not what I think.

  87. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 29, 2010 at 9:20 pm |

    The point is that the second you’ve put it forth, it no longer belongs to you and only you. And if you don’t like the bias reporting concern, then consider the emails that happened amongst Goldman Sachs employees that they’re now getting a shitstorm for in the press. This didn’t just happen to Stephanie Grace; it happens to other people all the time. No one is sitting on this blog complaining about how the rights of Goldman Sachs employees were violated despite the fact that those emails, while not describing something illegal, were definitely unethical.

    What, is it only okay to publish emails and the identities of the authors when it means financial ruin for rich white people? When it concerns keeping down minorities, it’s different and we should protect the poor white girl?

  88. SarasNavel
    SarasNavel April 29, 2010 at 9:30 pm |

    There’s a meta aspect here that no one is realizing. This may not have been so much a controversial email, but rather, a resume. Depending on where she wishes to get a job there are plenty of professionals willing to hire based on her willingness to “speak the truth”. That is the true scope of the social problem, not whether or not she is right and not whether the race vs IQ question is valid.

  89. Saurs
    Saurs April 29, 2010 at 9:32 pm |

    April, no one is really attacking Grace’s character, here. They’re engaging with her arguments and the apologies issued by her defenders.

    Do you honestly believe that she knew of ways to educate herself on racism and anti-racist issues, but was like, “NAAAAH, I don’t rly care, white ppl r better NEwayz.”

    She’s an adult, April. She’s attending a very well-endowed university, is mixing with some pretty bright minds, and has access to terrific libraries. The subject of her e-mail, which — I think — is biological determinism, is obviously not something she’s read up on. In one form or another, it must have arose as a general topic and became a cause for a minor dispute at a casual dinner amongst students. The impetus for this e-mail was likely a gnawing sense that she hadn’t expressed herself well during the discussion, and there’s little doubt amongst most commenters here that her ideas were expressed in good faith.

    I’ve no doubt Grace believes her position has been misunderstood and read out of context, and that she was approaching her subject from a position of sincerity and, I suppose, intellectual curiosity. The problem with her arguments are that they lack sophistication, sound asinine, and reveal the depth of her ignorance. She refers to “science,” as though that’s what she’s engaging in by writing an e-mail. She employs ahistorical truisms and false statistics. She refers to African-Americans both in her e-mail and later apology as though they consist of a genetic “type.” Her phrasing appears careful, almost too careful, as though not to give offense, but then she closes her remarks with a reference to Larry Summers, warning other students that should they take offense, she can later accuse them of being overly sensitive, not keeping in the spirit of their little experiment.

    To say that Jill has been unfair or is writing from a position of privilege — actually knowing what one is talking about — is pretty disingenuous.

  90. Saurs
    Saurs April 29, 2010 at 9:42 pm |

    Grace may be a victim of insensitive interweb folk and a vindictive friend or two. However, she committed more than a gaff. It’s simply not accurate to say that she was writing a shallow, inaccurate, and deeply offensive generalization about a political topic from a position of objectivity: in order to attain even a smidgen of objectivity, you have to actually be in possession of the facts. It’s clear she hasn’t even begun to fathom the breadth of extant scholarship on a subject she thought she could “solve” in a coupl’a paragraphs.

  91. Dianne
    Dianne April 29, 2010 at 9:44 pm |

    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.

    Decidedly a side point, but I’ve seen studies suggesting that gender differences in math ability are not primarily genetic. The reason I bring it up at all is that if Grace is willing to accept this stereotype without question that makes it all the more likely that she will accept other stereotypes (ie blacks are less intelligent) without question. So her careful “just asking questions” attitude is likely not for real.

  92. EJ
    EJ April 29, 2010 at 9:50 pm |

    If you think this story should receive attention so that Stephanie Grace is held accountable, please comment on the talk page at Wikipedia, where an article about her email is being considered for deletion.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephanie_Grace

    If you edit the article, please ensure that comments are objective or they’ll be deleted. I think the story, and its racism, speaks for itself.

  93. Orodemniades
    Orodemniades April 29, 2010 at 9:54 pm |

    Holy !

    If this weren’t so terrible it would be even more hilarious than it is – I mean, for serious?! You nailed it when you said:
    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’d hate to have her as my lawyer…I’d hate to have her as anyone’s lawyer, good gods.

  94. exholt
    exholt April 29, 2010 at 9:55 pm |

    This girl who is clearly racist right now might start to learn.

    She’s not an 18…or even a 21 year old. Most likely, she’s someone who’s in her mid-late 20s, had access to the great educational resources of Princeton, did thesis research as a sociology major, and was a train-ride away from a global cultural capital to the world.

    Moreover, if she’s like an increasing number of law students, she probably worked a few years before going to HLS. Considering all of this, it is incredulous and disingenuous to believe that her email was a product of being naive from what I know about the Princeton and especially the Harvard campus from my frequent hanging out there with undergrad/grad student friends, taking/sitting in on some classes, and attending some conferences there. You’d have to literally go all-out to maintain intentional obliviousness to be this unaware not only in undergrad, but also the years in the workplace and close to 3 years in law school?!! Right……

  95. cathy
    cathy April 29, 2010 at 9:57 pm |

    “Do you honestly believe that she knew of ways to educate herself on racism and anti-racist issues” She’s probably twenty five or so, literate, and has access to large academic libraries. She has had more than enough opportunity to educate herself, but she CHOOSE not to, because privileged white people can choose to be ignorant racists in our society. So yes, I honestly do believe she has every ability to educate herself, I grew up in an all white area with endemic racism, and was poor, disabled, with aspergers, and with inadequate secondary education and I make no damned excuses for the bigoted views I did let myself hold as a teenager. I only say that I have learned better and I will do better and if Ms. Grace had written this years ago instead of recently, I might be inclined to say that we should make sure that it reflects her current views, however, she wrote it this year and she has no right to be protected from repurcussion of her own bigotry. If she ever changes, she is fully capable of discussing her change in opinions. This woman is an adult, and, if she is an average third year, she is twenty five years old and has spent almost seven years at prominent universities, with full access to a wide range of educational opportunities. Seven years, she has had at least that much, even if she was raised in a hut by a Klansman, and if she has not taken that opportunity, it is her own damned fault. Black Americans should not have to put up with this bullshit from their classmates, neighbors, and fellow citizens due to complaints of highly educated white girls being too lazy to have to learn the tiniest bit about the shit that black people have to live with day in and day out.

    “you actually know nothing about her, other than this email ” Yep, and the massive racism of this email tells us that she is a person who has made massively racist statements, which is the entire point of this post (that and issues of law school culture, which we know this woman is in).

    Okay, I am starting to wonder if I am feeding a troll, and I’m sorry to Jill if I am, but I do try to educate people if I think they are being genuinely mistaken rather than intentionally hateful.

  96. Yatima
    Yatima April 29, 2010 at 10:07 pm |

    Do you like being reduced to one or two perceived negative traits about yourself? Things you don’t even really seem to understand?

    Oh like just because a person has dark skin they’re less smart? HELLS NO I hate it when people do that!

    Oh. Wait. That’s not what you meant, is it?

    Right. God forbid that anyone should judge one of the most privileged young women in the country by her actions. Who knows where that could lead.

  97. exholt
    exholt April 29, 2010 at 10:09 pm |

    I’d hate to have her as my lawyer…I’d hate to have her as anyone’s lawyer, good gods.

    If her email is indicative of her analytical and argumentation skills, she’s well qualified to serve as Arizona’s AG considering the leanings of their governor and most of their legislators….

  98. syndella
    syndella April 29, 2010 at 10:11 pm |

    Ohhh, the poor thing, now people know she’s a racist. How terrible that she can’t keep on hiding it.

    If she feels this way so strongly, why does she care that people know about it?

    No sympathy.

  99. RedSonja
    RedSonja April 29, 2010 at 10:11 pm |

    Yes, this will follow her around for a long time. You know what? I’ve said and done stupid shit that will follow me around too, and I have to explain it.

    If she isn’t ashamed of these views, then why is there an uproar – she should be fine with other people reading them. And if she ISN’T proud of them, then this is an excellent opportunity for her to analyze why she professes them, why she isn’t proud of them, and then to honestly and sincerely apologize. Is that hard? Yes. Does it suck? Yes. But that’s what an adult does.

  100. Yatima
    Yatima April 29, 2010 at 10:14 pm |

    Also!

    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.

    Um, hello? We have already DONE this experiment. We took a Kenyan goatherd’s son and sent him to Pomona and Columbia and Harvard Law. He was maybe seven years older than Stephanie Grace when he wrote “Dreams of My Father.” She only wishes she had his smarts.

  101. Athenia
    Athenia April 29, 2010 at 10:17 pm |

    While this upsets me that this couldn’t have been handled privately, maybe Stephanie has finally gotten the picture. Clearly she wasn’t listening to people at the dinner and clearly she wasn’t to the person she was corresponding with. Maybe with the whole goddamn internet telling her she’s goddamn wrong, she’ll finally get it through her brain.

    On the other hand, I know I’ve said some stupid things sometimes and I thank my friends and family for their patience and not trying to crucifying me on the internet.

  102. Bai Li
    Bai Li April 29, 2010 at 10:30 pm |

    Preface: I read the article and skimmed through a lot of the comments, but forgive me if I missed the one which I will be repeating.

    On the subject of naming the individual, it feels like, now that she’s permanently tied to her racist remarks, she will never be able to break free of that racism. The harder people attack you, the more you want to defend yourself, even if you’re completely, totally, and ridiculously wrong. Don’t get me wrong, there is no defending this person, but when you rebuke her using her name, I feel it does become personal, whether you want it to or not. Therein lies the concrete that hardens her position, however wrong it is.

    I won’t argue with you if you disagree (it’s not like it matters at this point anyway), but I’d love to hear the other side’s opinion.

  103. zuzu
    zuzu April 29, 2010 at 10:30 pm |

    April, why exactly are you so bothered by this?

    I, for one, admit fully to having had some pretty ridiculously prejudiced views in the past– racially prejudiced, religiously prejudiced, misogynistic prejudices. I’m really fucking happy that a bunch of trigger-happy ass holes on the internet didn’t stumble across a particularly damning journal entry or email I may have written before I knew what in the hell I was talking about.

    Stephanie Grace is a Harvard 3L, which means she’s at least 24 years old if she went through school on the standard timetable. She was a Princeton undergrad. She’s an editor on the Harvard Law Review — which was something Barack Obama did during his years at HLS that he campaigned on. She has a clerkship at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lined up, for the chief judge.*

    I think at some point, we can impute knowledge of what the hell she was talking about to her; if nothing else, she’s a functioning adult with some pretty big responsibilities. Moreover, the fact is, she sent that email around because the people she had been speaking to had been disturbed by what she had been saying at a dinner with other Harvard 3Ls.

    Those people knew what the hell they were talking about, and were at the same educational level as Grace. Why shouldn’t she know better? How old does she have to be in your estimation before she “knows what the hell she’s talking about?”

    How old do you have to be before you can stop deflecting responsibility because you didn’t know what the hell you were talking about? How old was Larry Summers (who Grace mentions in her email) when he made those comments? How old is Glenn Beck?

    And, honest to fuck, how old do you have to be before you realize that EMAIL IS NEVER EVER PRIVATE? Surely someone went over that in her first-year civil procedure course.
    _____________
    *Who has some of his own issues with the paper trail. If you read the article, the problem that Stephen Gillers, an expert on legal ethics, has with Kozinski’s maintenance of porn on a publicly-accessible personal website is that he should have recused himself from presiding over an obscenity trial with that out there. IOW, his two errors were failing to make the site inaccessible, and having so failed, to have a conflict of interest.

  104. EJ
    EJ April 29, 2010 at 10:42 pm |

    Someone is continually deleting the wikipedia summary of the contents of the email, which is both frustrating and amusing, since there is no subjective or inflammatory content – just a report of what occurred. In its current state, still being debated for deletion in its entirety, the wikipedia page reads:

    Stephanie Grace is a third year law student at Harvard Law School and a graduate of Princeton University. At some point in 2010, Grace wrote an email about race and intelligence that was disseminated to Above the Law, a legal blog, on April 28, 2010. Grace had written, “I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent.” The email’s contents were subsequently reported by the Boston Globe, Washington Post, and Huffington Post. Grace also commented on gender, stating that “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.”

    The dean of Harvard Law School, Martha Minow, responded to the controversy on April 29 in an email to the Harvard Law community, stating that HLS is ”committed to preventing degradation of any individual or group.” She began her email by stating “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.”

    On April, 29 Grace apologized to the Harvard Black Law Student Association, writing, “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.”

    Grace, an editor of the Harvard Law Review, has been offered a federal clerkship with Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephanie_Grace

  105. m. leblanc
    m. leblanc April 29, 2010 at 10:54 pm |

    These blog posts will in no way ruin her career, because (a) enough people don’t think she was wrong in the first place, and (b) her pedigree is prestigious enough where there are a lot of people who don’t care what her opinions on race are, because of where she’s coming from. Her career is not destroyed, not by any stretch.

    As another lawyer, let me echo this 100%. I know this because I went to school with some students who did similar (although less egregious) things to this, and they are still doing just fine.

  106. Morningstar
    Morningstar April 29, 2010 at 11:06 pm |

    I don’t have anything to add, except that I’m passing this around to all of my law school buddies. Amazing post.

  107. exholt
    exholt April 29, 2010 at 11:21 pm |

    On the other hand, I know I’ve said some stupid things sometimes and I thank my friends and family for their patience and not trying to crucifying me on the internet.

    Another thing that still seems to be ignored by some here is that if someone still needs to be defended on the basis of “I said stupid things when I was younger” when she’s in her mid-late 20s…..that also reflects extremely poorly on her level of maturity and lack of professionalism on top of showing her racism and intellectual vacuousness….and a privilege almost never extended to others not of her extremely privileged background.

    Reminds me of how on the Titanic passenger lists….upper-class individuals who were 14 were still regarded as children with the same protections and privileges to be shielded from the consequences of their actions whereas their lower-class counterparts were regarded as adults at the same age.

    This line of argument is also an implicit insult to many mid-late twentysomethings and especially their younger counterparts who have demonstrated far more awareness about oppressions, intellect, AND MATURITY……especially those like my college classmate who long demonstrated those qualities before graduating college at 17 and who became an assistant professor at the same/younger age as Stephanie Grace is currently.

  108. Robert
    Robert April 29, 2010 at 11:24 pm |

    Jill –

    Thank you for this post. You wrote:

    “Not only did one HLS student write an email literally saying that black people are genetically inferior to white people, but she is being defended by other legal scholars under the pretense that any idea should be up for debate and no one should get offended and oh also maybe she’s right.”

    That is not what the email said. Any fair-minded and careful reader will recognize the difference between “literally saying” x and arguing that x ought to be open for debate. This is not a pedantic point: it has a lot to do with why the legal scholars you mention in the second half of your sentence are defending the author of the email. I am emphatically not defending the arguments in the email – I find them incoherent and irresponsible – and I agree with much of what you say in your post. But you weaken your own argument enormously by so blatantly misrepresenting the position you are opposing. The fact that consistency is not the only relevant criteria in deciding what arguments to make and how to evaluate the arguments of others – a claim you make that I agree with – does not mean we are free to be inconsistent or misleading.

    I apologize if this point has already been made – there are many comments, and I did not have time to read them all.

  109. Erin
    Erin April 29, 2010 at 11:45 pm |

    April, I don’t understand your point of view at all. Are you saying we should have more sympathy for someone who is an ignorant bigot than for someone who is the target of the ignorant bigot? It’s very obvious who you identify with more.

    It is really bizarre to me that you see a 24 year old woman w/ 7 years of higher education who has either chosen to allow herself to remain woefully ignorant about social justice issues, or who is just flat out racist, as a victim. How do you see the people who are the target of racism? Or are you simply not even considering those people at all?

  110. Elisabeth
    Elisabeth April 29, 2010 at 11:55 pm |

    I think there are multiple problems with what she did, and if I were a potential employer there would be at least three huge red flags: 1) the racist content of the e-mail itself 2) the poor logic of her argument 3) the apparently ZERO common sense or judgement this woman has. Holding such views is pretty bad. Telling your friends about such views in private is worse. Writing something widely considered repugnant in an *e-mail* and then sending it to apparently not-very-close acquaintances? Shows that she is not only a bigot, but apparently, a not very smart one as well, or at least one so blinded by arrogance and entitlement that it has completely clouded her judgment.
    Also, last time I checked, believing that certain races are genetically inferior to others is a major impediment to upholding the US constitution as it is (or should be) interpreted in the 21st century, so I really think that her views express an inability to perform adequately the duties of her future career.
    On the whole, she has revealed she’s not exactly quality lawyer material, and even less so judge material (or politician material, or whatever else she was planning on doing). I hope her clerkship gets cancelled.

  111. Jill
    Jill April 30, 2010 at 12:44 am |

    I have a degree in Education, so I cannot speak about being in law school. However, I do live in a predominantly white state and I certainly understand the underlying white conversations, jokes, and subtle things that are said….and those people assuming I agree or will laugh because I am white. When I was a waitress during college, I encountered it the most….and sometimes I would not mention that one of my best friends was African American and that my husband was African and I had a mixed daughter. I always enjoyed the looks on their faces when they made these discoveries later…..and then tried to remember all the things they had said to me previously, and how they would go overboard after that to try to be extra “tolerant”…our country has so far to go….Don’t misunderstand, I certainly stopped many right in the middle of their “jokes”, but sometimes it’s a stronger lesson learned the other way.

  112. Ens
    Ens April 30, 2010 at 1:09 am |

    It reads to me more like she was caught in the middle of a debate between more virulent racists and people who were far less racist, and is trying to make good with both groups, which is pissing them both off.

    – Evidence she was on the less racist side before and is sucking up to the more racist people.

    1. I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that [x]

    This makes it seem to me like [x] is the position that her opponent had. It reads as “maybe you’re right that black people are dumb, or maybe I’m right that they aren’t morons, WHO KNOWS? NOT ME! And clearly there is no third option here…”.

    2. 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.

    She’s pretty much saying that she (seemingly) shied away from the opinion that maybe black people are stupid compared to white people.

    – Confusing Evidence

    3. She raised what appears to be a straw man argument about black people being more violent, and then pretty thoroughly destroyed it. I’m really not sure what she’s getting at — could be seen as a conciliatory “see? I don’t think black people are all criminals!” or it could be seen as trying to draw an analogy to something she feels she can better defend.

    – Evidence she was on the more racist side and is trying to sound less racist

    4. 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.

    To the letter of this and out of context, I 100% agree. In context, it looks to me like she thinks the conclusion of the heart is “black people are exactly as intelligent as white people on average”, because I doubt anybody trying to sound rational at all would call “white people are smarter than black people on average” a “conclusion of the heart”.

    5. 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.

    This seems very very clearly like she’s arguing with people saying that they’re equally intelligent, because otherwise they wouldn’t want to prove once and for all equality in every dimension.

    6. Please don’t pull a Larry Summers on me

    Probably means she was on the pro-racism side, since Larry Summers was accused of sexism for saying (among other stupid things) that women weren’t present in the sciences because of “intrinsic differences in aptitude”.

  113. Jeff Fecke
    Jeff Fecke April 30, 2010 at 1:15 am |

    Can Stephanie Grace really never break free of this? Come now. If Ms. Grace came out a month from now and said, “You know, I’ve done some research and soul-searching, and what I said was racist. And I’m sorry, because, you know, I want to be better than that.” — if she said that, I think most humans would forgive her, because, hey, most of us have screwed up.

    But while she can be forgiven for stupidity, that doesn’t erase her stupidity. In 2003, I was neutral/positive on the Iraq War. I was a moron. I’ve apologized repeatedly since then. I think I’ve learned my lesson. But if someone wants to bring up my past support of that war to challenge me on my current views, well, that’s my cross to bear. I wrote it. I own it.

    Grace wrote this. She owns it. She can learn from it and disavow it and work to be better — or not. That’s her choice. But no matter her choice, she doesn’t get to make the email not have happened. And that’s as it should be.

  114. Mike
    Mike April 30, 2010 at 1:48 am |

    Erin, APRIL is saying that that a single e-mail containing some unfortunate comments cannot, and should not, be used to define a person’s life story. She’s saying that drawing massive conclusions about a person that extend well beyond the comments in her e-mail because of certain indicators (i.e. she’s “24″ and has had “7 years of higher education”) is similar to the type of thinking that so many on here have decried (i.e. he’s black and at a top law school? the affirmative action program must have admitted him).

    I have to admit I am surprised by the near one-sidedness of the comments following this blog. I don’t agree with or support the views that this young woman made in her her e-mail. But to say that certain topics are entirely “off the table” in the name of social justice is a disservice TO social justice. Fear of retribution for broaching sensitive issues (no matter how misguided or stupid) is a major barrier to reaching a better understanding of how people of all stripes actually THINK about race. Taking a hard-line, absolutist approach (i.e. this is the way one MUST think about issues surrounding white privilege OR feminism OR the urban black poor) tends to de-legitimize anybody who says or thinks otherwise. So you wind up with what we have here: A woman who has been completely lambasted for her point of view; line-drawing among those who believe she made a rational argument and those who would rather burn her at the stake. I fail to see how any of that furthers social justice.

  115. Marcus
    Marcus April 30, 2010 at 1:59 am |

    I disagree completely with the suggestion that there are differences in intellectual capabilities between different ethnic/racial groups, but I don’t understand why it’s a problem to suggest that this is a question that can be answered scientifically. I wonder if you might be willing to address this issue, regardless of whether you found it self-evident.

    As far as I understood, the question of whether any particular ethnic group has intellectual capacity below the mean has already been addressed scientifically and shown to be false. If someone suggests it, surely they should be corrected rather than told that the topic is verboten.

    “There are certain ideas that just do not belong in the realm of serious intellectual conversation, and this is one of them.” I’m not sure I understand where this line comes from. Why can’t we explain why someone is wrong rather than saying that something is unworthy of being corrected? If a layperson brings up phrenology or homeopathy, surely we’d explain to them why they’re mistaken rather than telling them that their perspective is unworthy of discussion. Surely intellectual responses are the best response to outmoded ideas of race rather than knee-jerk anger?

    For the curious, I’m a scientist, academic, and person of color; this has been my usual response to those who suggest there are variations in intelligence between ethnic groups.

  116. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan April 30, 2010 at 2:06 am |

    Hmm, I think upon reflection I’m cool with her name being out-and-about, but I was a little put-off that her picture was posted, too. I’m always very wary of women’s pictures being tacked up next to critique of them, especially when it’s a youngish woman. I really don’t think that her physical appearance is at all relevant and it makes me uncomfortable spreading women’s photos around the internet without their permission (even though I’m fine with publicizing their repulsive personal opinions.) Just my two cents.

  117. CAS
    CAS April 30, 2010 at 2:07 am |

    Jill – late to the party, but I had to respond.

    In your article you said:

    “I’m not going to get into why Grace’s arguments are wrong; that should hopefully be self-evident, and I don’t think we need to waste time entertaining completely ignorant ideas about the genetics of intelligence, or whether certain racial or ethnic groups are “naturally” more or less intelligent than others.”

    I would really appreciate it if you could get into why Grace’s arguments are wrong. Is there research with proof? How about even observations to the contrary?

    I understand why you might be angered by her position. I don’t see a problem with that, but I don’t think it’s fair for you to say that you are angry because she is clearly wrong and this is a stupid idea without stating why. Especially when Grace wasn’t even claiming that intelligence has a genetic component, but merely stating it as a hypothesis.

    Thanks!

  118. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 30, 2010 at 2:09 am |

    Re: Naming

    For members of the general public, I’m not a fan of naming in the context of private statements.

    BUT Ms. Grace is not a member of the general public. Remember that fancy speech they give us the first day we showed up at law school about leadership and trust. Well, its not complete bullshit. As an attorney you are in a position of trust and confidence with respect to your clients. People trust us with the well-being of their families, their personal safety, their livelihood and sometimes even their lives. Potential clients deserve to know whether their attorney has views that may prejudice the advice they receive. I think this attorney-as-fiduciary distinction gets dismissed by many in the top tier because we assume our clients will all be sophisticated, but if you step outside the very narrow world of Big Law, you realize the amount of trust individuals place on their legal advisers.

    And that’s aside from what other positions of power she will hold/would have held.

    @smmo

    “Because they seem, nearly all of the time, to want to use whatever data they get (or invent) to fight against equality.”

    Yes, cause Goddess forbid that we ever acknowledge our genetic advantages as unearned privileges.

  119. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan April 30, 2010 at 2:16 am |

    As a scientist, the most racist part of what she said for me was what she picked as her “null” hypothesis. Rather than assuming that all people/races are basically equal, and demanding that someone try to convince her otherwise, she hypothesized that blacks are probably inferior, and their equality would have to proved to her.

    Sure, I like it when people are willing to be convinced by overwhelming evidence (even if I don’t like what they’re convinced of) but it’s just straight-up unscientifically racist bullshit to assume the worst and require that other people basically prove their humanity to you.

    Harmful hierarchies should not be the default position; they should not exist at all and if they do it should be the last-ditch dragged-kicking-and-screaming conclusion of very skeptical people who accept only perfect evidence. (Such evidence will never exist in this world, of course, making the whole “which race is better?” question moot at best, and horribly tasteless and offensive and damaging at worst.)

  120. alec
    alec April 30, 2010 at 2:36 am |

    Anybody who went to law school or business school should be put into an internment camp.

  121. alec
    alec April 30, 2010 at 2:38 am |

    Your wordpress ate my comment! Putting people with JD’s and MBA’s into internment camps is a perfectly rational idea.

  122. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan April 30, 2010 at 2:38 am |

    Alec: Yeah, I think those are called … “law school” or “business school.” 9.9

  123. Banisteriopsis
    Banisteriopsis April 30, 2010 at 3:23 am |

    So yes, I honestly do believe she has every ability to educate herself

    Occasionally talking with kids who have multimillionaire parents, it absolutely astounds me how stupid people can be, having come from exclusive schools where everyone you know has parents in a position of serious power. I don’t think the point can be made often enough, wealth/privilege != critical thought. If anything highly privileged kids tend to know less about the world around them, because their environment is so insular.

  124. umami
    umami April 30, 2010 at 3:43 am |

    And if you don’t like the bias reporting concern, then consider the emails that happened amongst Goldman Sachs employees that they’re now getting a shitstorm for in the press. This didn’t just happen to Stephanie Grace; it happens to other people all the time.

    I was in fact thinking about those. But Goldman Sachs was heavily involved in a worldwide financial catastrophe! Not just “financial ruin for rich white people.” Putting it that way makes you a little hard to take seriously, tbh. Financial catastrophe hits poor people the hardest.

    My objection to publishing them is because people’s private emails get used to harass them. Obviously it’s not the same as a case of some guy publishing his ex-girlfriend’s sexy letters to him, or a teenage bully sharing private communications on Facebook, and it’s hard to care about the consequences for this particular person. But it’s hard to articulate a principle that allows publishing this email and not those ones. The only one I can think of is a journalistic “public interest” kind of defense, which does seem to have been Jill’s reasoning, I guess I am not as sure as she is that it applies.

    Also I think Bagelsan makes a good point about the picture. I think that is part of what made me really, really uncomfortable, when I realised her picture was juxtaposed with private email content. It gave me the feeling of reading an Encyclopaedia Dramatica entry. Which is a really really bad feeling to have!

  125. FirstTimeComment
    FirstTimeComment April 30, 2010 at 4:11 am |

    Holding illogical and ‘abhorrent’ views may be stupid, but it is not disgusting. What is disgusting, however, is publicizing private correspondence, such as e-mails, in order to smear and destroy a young woman’s career. I assume that the reason her picture was provided was to perpetuate the ostracization of this woman so that it will be next to impossible for her to find a decent job in the future (even if she changes her views).

    Do you really know that she is a vile racist? What if she sent this e-mail in a drunken state? What if she had a minor mental breakdown? And if she is a racist, are you sure that her views would not have evolved? And if she is an irredeemable racist, so what? Are you so high and mighty that you really want to pillory an individual who holds views that are antithetical to your understanding of fairness?

    But that is the point, isn’t it? To ridicule her, to humiliate her publicly and to destroy her career prospects. You could have published this story without naming her (or providing the picture!) and drawn lessons about endurance of racism at elite educational institutions. You could have even had a collective laugh at the ignorant privileged white girl from Ivy League school ha ha but that was not enough. It had to be personal.

    I grew up in a communist dictatorship which employed similar tactics in dealing with its perceived and real opponents and I find this whole episode viscerally repugnant.

  126. Rena
    Rena April 30, 2010 at 4:33 am |

    I…don’t really see a problem with “outing” her either. She isn’t a criminal (though criminally stupid) and she isn’t a child or a victim (except maybe of her own ignorance). I feel sorry for her, because I doubt she’s going to understand that what she said was…really stupid, and I don’t think she’ll be able to correct her general opinion any time soon.

  127. Ann
    Ann April 30, 2010 at 6:11 am |

    The Chemist says above: “I’ve often wondered what kind of graduates my own university is churning out. There was a blackface incident not too long ago and gratuitous swastika scribbling in one of the buildings at a certain point. My university is incredibly diverse, with a substantial portion of the student population being people of color. Yet, flipping through the school newspaper and overhearing some students talk in racially homogeneous groups- it’s abundantly clear that we have some real bigotry flowing strong in the school’s veins.”

    And this dynamic *will increase* as long as people are treated as Grace were, and it is made abundantly clear that if they dare to voice certain questions–even at small dinners with friends–they will be punished. Exquisitely. What these folks will do is simpy turn to a different community, who does allow them to explore these questions, and maybe not with the sort of resources and insights you wish they had access to. This Grace case will create another 1,000 Tea-baggers.

    I teach undergrads, and I can tell you: this kind of cutting people off at the knees is going to come back and bit you. Big time.

  128. Bakka
    Bakka April 30, 2010 at 6:31 am |

    Well, she certainly lacks intelligence:

    “(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”

    Exposure to testosterone in utero is an *environmental* factor, not a genetic factor even if it might be congenital (present at birth). No wonder she holds these racist beliefs, she does not even understand what she is talking about.

  129. preying mantis
    preying mantis April 30, 2010 at 6:38 am |

    “They’re obviously rooted in ignorance, and ignorance isn’t a permanent state. [...] This is making a scapegoat out of a young student who just doesn’t fucking get it yet.”

    Given that she seems to be of an age with James O’Keefe, can we at least accept the possibility that she might just be racist?

  130. Agnes
    Agnes April 30, 2010 at 6:58 am |

    ‘Congratulations! You made your very own hasty judgment! Keep at it! You have no idea how she was raised. You have no idea what classes she’s taken. You have no idea what her childhood was like.’

    I really don’t think that upbringing is any excuse in holding racist, or sexist, or anything else -ist views. My mother and her friends are of that ilk of white people who quite often start sentences with ‘now, I’m not racist, but…’ and then follow it up with a racist statement or, when talking about a pupil who had misbehaved, would finish their narration with a faux- muttered ‘of course, they were black’. My father, meanwhile, was a white South African who often commented on how weird it was to see black people in restaurants. I think these views are disgusting and completely unacceptable – not because of the way I’ve been brought up, but because I could tell from a very young age that these things were just plain wrong. You don’t need to be brought up a certain way to not be racist.

    Grace’s arguments do APPEAR logical at first glance because she has presented them as such, but they are based on a completely illogical, racist premise. I doubt she has a list of black and white people’s IQs to compare – it seems she is basing the fact that black people aren’t as intelligent on the fact that there aren’t as many black people as white people in her educational institution. But entry into institutions like these are almost entirely dependent on social factors. I’m a student at Oxford, where the majority of students are from wealthier than average backgrounds. According to Grace’s ‘logic’, this suggests that people who are less wealthy are possibly genetically less intelligent, because there aren’t as many of them here at Oxford. I could just as easily say, from Grace’s ‘logic’, that English people are genetically more intelligent because there are more English people at Oxford. And yet no one is making these arguments, because they’re clearly rubbish and are immediately recognisable as illogical and irrational. The fact that Grace is able to make her arguments and have people defend her right to make them rests solely on racist assumptions – it is racism, and racism alone, that gives her arguments the illusion of rationality.

  131. Ama
    Ama April 30, 2010 at 7:45 am |

    EDGY1004: So basically you shouldn’t ever do or say anything in a digital for unless you are okay with it being spread across the internet (naked pictures any one?).

    But…that is exactly true. Once you put something on the Internet, it is there forever whether it was a particularly brilliant post or a Facebook status message saying you wish you could kill your coworkers.

    That’s a risk you take when you post anything online.

    Erin: It makes no sense to me why people respond to this story by crying about free speech.

    You know what free speech also allows for? The ability to call someone racist.

    This.

  132. Samantha b.
    Samantha b. April 30, 2010 at 7:49 am |

    “If anything highly privileged kids tend to know less about the world around them, because their environment is so insular.
    I’ve been to similar schools myself, and you know what? They *all* recruit students from underprivileged backgrounds. To reaffirm Jill’s point (among Jill’s many excellent points,) one would have to take willful measures to be unfamiliar with those from less privileged backgrounds. There are no excuses here.

  133. FirstTimeComment
    FirstTimeComment April 30, 2010 at 8:14 am |

    Ann said: “if they dare to voice certain questions–even at small dinners with friends–they will be punished. Exquisitely. What these folks will do is simpy turn to a different community, who does allow them to explore these questions, and maybe not with the sort of resources and insights you wish they had access to. This Grace case will create another 1,000 Tea-baggers.”

    You can only control what people say in small circle of friends through the use of electronic surveillance or informers, which is how this woman’s racism was “exposed”. Nice. A University teacher advocating that students should be punished in public for conversations which they had in private. This violates the principles of liberal and open society, and in my opinion, basic human decency.

  134. Sailorman
    Sailorman April 30, 2010 at 8:17 am |

    Jill said:
    “I think Maureen from Gawker made a really great point in her response to ATL: That we find it more offensive when someone white, highly-educated and ostensibly “protected” is outed as doing something offensive than when someone who fits the redneck stereotype does something offensive. Gawker, for example, published the name of that guy with the racist Islam truck decal (with the 9/11 illustration, “this is what Islam looks like,” etc) and no one objected; but they published Stephanie’s name and everyone was up in arms.”

    And Maureen was wrong: she didn’t distinguish between putting something on your truck and driving around with it in public, versus sending a private email.

    Neither did you.

    Half of law school is learning to discuss things which are troubling or difficult. Part of it is that law school tends to use hypothetical and extreme positions to ferret out specific points. And part of it is that lawyers are often asked to take or defend positions which they do not hold.

    It’s a distinct form of thinking, in which you start with public stuff and then retreat into higher and more esoteric (and less limited) stuff, in private, and then, once you have discussed when you want, you start heading back to reality and evaluate your thoughts as you go.

    At the highest and most abstract level, it’s not uncommon to take radical or entirely unsavory positions. Because those aren’t the real positions, they are simply the mess you go through to get there.

    So when you and a friend are discussing ownership rights to body parts removed in surgery, in the context of law school it’s not that surprising if 10 minutes later you end up discussing whether the government should be able to force debtors to give up their organs for sale. Neither of you would support it in real life, but someone will argue the position.

    I have no knowledge of this woman and no reason to believe she’s NOT a racist. But I note that this was raised in a private discussion, and am uncomfortable at the concept that we should hold law students to task for their internalized private discussions: they often fail to reflect the consideration and understanding given by a public view.

    It’s also a valuable teaching tool. If my daughter asks me whether “girls are stupider because Bobby says so” I don’t just say no, I explain why. If I just said no, or barred her from asking the question, she would be much less likely to believe it.

  135. Derek
    Derek April 30, 2010 at 8:22 am |

    Tremendously excellent article, Jill. I had thought to blog on this issue myself, but after reading your own perspective, I see there’s no need — you’ve summed it up rather brilliantly.

    I do wonder, though:

    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 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 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. Your argument for calling her out publicly is apt — and it is not so great a stretch to suggest that she is unfit for the practice of law.

  136. mk
    mk April 30, 2010 at 8:37 am |

    I think Jeff Fecke nails this:

    But while she can be forgiven for stupidity, that doesn’t erase her stupidity. In 2003, I was neutral/positive on the Iraq War. I was a moron. I’ve apologized repeatedly since then. I think I’ve learned my lesson. But if someone wants to bring up my past support of that war to challenge me on my current views, well, that’s my cross to bear. I wrote it. I own it.

    When I was at Harvard as an undergrad, I once said something really stupid about race in the middle of a small seminar. It was stupid, it was privileged, and it was racist–although at the time I don’t think I would have called it any of those. I might have thought I was just being misguided.

    Am I glad that, three years later, when I went to apply for my first internship at an inner-city school with a predominantly black and Latino student population, nobody asked about my dumbass college remarks? Sure.

    And honestly there was never much risk of that, because despite going to college with the internets and cell phones readily available–heck, I had a classmate in that seminar who sometimes updated her Livejournal during class–I don’t think anyone really cared about alerting my potential future employers to my racism, because I wasn’t the editor of the Harvard Law Review. I was at Harvard, sure, but I was also a pretty mediocre student with no particular career ambitions at that point.

    You know what makes me even more glad, though? The fact that several classmates in that seminar called me out on my comments immediately (and publicly), inspired me to investigate the concept of privilege, and gave me a much needed kick in the ass. Nobody was worried about hurting my feelings or damaging my reputation, because I was wrong.

  137. Vail
    Vail April 30, 2010 at 8:45 am |

    We are a society who are charging children with child pornography for sending pics of themselves to their boyfriends (which were supposed to be private). Why in the world would a fully grown woman who’s in law school get a pass at this? This doesn’t even include all the kids getting in trouble (suspended from school or sports) because of Facebook. You put it on a computer and send it out, it’s out there forever, and that’s life in the world of computers.

  138. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 30, 2010 at 8:49 am |

    Congratulations on promoting the same categorical thinking that is the very essence of how “real racists” operate. I was very frustrated by Grace’s email as well, and I do think she was way out of line with some of the things she said, but it is outrageous for you to try to pawn off one person’s closed-mindedness on the bullshit notion that law school sacrifices all conceptions of social justice in an attempt to promote logic and rationality. Yes, law school teaches you to consider different angles of arguments and figure out ways to logically prove different points, but that is COMPLETELY unrelated to concepts of justice and unfair treatment. You cite the disparate treatment of different races in the criminal justice system… yes, definitely a huge issue that needs to be taken seriously. Know why we don’t delve into that topic in depth during criminal law class? BECAUSE IT’S IRRELEVANT TO LEARNING THE ELEMENTS OF ACTUAL CRIMES. That’s what anthropology classes are for.

    And what gives you the right to categorize law students as all having had sheltered upbringings? Just because I’m not a minority doesn’t mean that I am a spoiled little sheltered kid who has never seen a black person and is all of the sudden immobilized upon leaving my little bubble of a home and realizing that there are people with different colored skin than myself. But I guess since I’m white, that automatically means I abide by the “White Code” as well right? This article is so dripping with self-righteousness, it’s almost unbearable. You’re like those jerks that say things like “Oh, racism is terrible. I can’t imagine how someone could ever say something like that. I am legitimately not racist at all because I have a friend that is African American.”

    Good job attempting to make crappy excuses for what was a poorly worded argument based on some flawed assumptions. Guess what. Racists exist in the world! Still! OMFG WTF!?!? Yea. Just because this chick goes to Harvard Law School doesn’t mean this email should be receiving even close to the amount of attention that it is, if it should receive any at all. And it definitely shouldn’t be explained away by a ridiculous commentary on the institution of law school.

    MAYBE the point should be that the inquiry Stephanie promoted shouldn’t be addressed because it is irrelevant to personal success, achievement, intelligence, and ability, and should have no bearing on equality and the manner in which we treat people.

    I guess I might have more to say to you if I can actually stomach reading the other subsections of your article.

  139. Oy
    Oy April 30, 2010 at 8:51 am |

    Ms. Grace should take the Bar in Arizona. Unfortunately, I’m sure she’d have a prestigious career ahead of her amongst their politicians.

    Actually, I’m sure she’ll have a prestigious career anywhere amongst closet bigots. I fear that she will now be heralded as a “maverick” (ahem), the woman who took a risk and really spoke the truth to America.

    Everything is the worst.

  140. Brian
    Brian April 30, 2010 at 9:03 am |

    Decidedly a side point, but I’ve seen studies suggesting that gender differences in math ability are not primarily genetic.

    But this isn’t a question worth asking anyways. As mentioned above, it’s my understanding that as best we can measure it (which is probably shittily), women are smarter than men on the average. Whether it’s genetic or environmental is irrelevant, and probably unknowable in any practical sense. The dispersion is large compared to the difference, and so you should just evaluate people as people, because just knowing they belong to some group isn’t helpful in evaluating them. (And even when the dispersion isn’t large compared to the difference, in say height, we still should evaluate people as individuals, and (in that case) let women who’re tall enough do jobs that require height, even though the average woman is shorter than the average man.)

  141. peacocks
    peacocks April 30, 2010 at 9:06 am |

    Just because an argument is made to sound rational with an even tone does not mean it is not harmful. How much trouble would we get into if every time a person laid out an even toned argument we said “wow, sounds smart, must be sorta true.”

    She is very clear about what she believes and for her to bring up science at all on this topic is insane. Testing for the right variables? How can people acknowledge that the concept of race itself is biologically problematic yet still “do not rule out the possibility” that race biologically influences something as elusive as intelligence?

  142. Becca
    Becca April 30, 2010 at 9:29 am |

    “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.”

    Wrong. Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. Wrong.

    “just like I think my babies will be geniuses and beautiful individuals whether I raise them or give them to an orphanage in Nigeria.”

    Is the implication that if you were to adopt a baby from Nigeria, s/he would be stupid and ugly? Racist.

  143. LSG
    LSG April 30, 2010 at 9:31 am |

    If you are still reading, are unclear on why her argument is one hundred percent wrong, and did not follow HotTramp’s link, get thee to a library, check out Stephen Jay Gould’s book The Mismeasure of Man and read it. Do this right now. Go back and read HotTramp’s link, too.

  144. NPP
    NPP April 30, 2010 at 9:44 am |

    I’m not going to get into why Grace’s arguments are wrong; that should hopefully be self-evident, and I don’t think we need to waste time entertaining completely ignorant ideas about the genetics of intelligence, or whether certain racial or ethnic groups are “naturally” more or less intelligent than others. There are certain ideas that just do not belong in the realm of serious intellectual conversation, and this is one of them.

    I actually disagree. I think that the only way to show how someone has an opinion that is not based on fact is to show how the facts differ from their opinion. For instance what if it were a scientific fact that ALL the race genes and ALL the intelligence genes were located on the same chromosome? That they were inherited in the same way? The only way to prove this is not the case is to link to/summarize studies that suggest something else entirely.

    As it turns out this is NOT trivial – there are strong disagreements in academia and research about whether or not there is even a correlation between intelligence and race. Part of the problem is that first you need to define what intelligence means (which I will now abbreviate as “IQ”), which is the first non-trivial portion of the problem. Then you have to find a way that can accurately measure individual IQs across cultures, without bias, which is another non-trivial portion of the problem. Even before all that you need to establish whether or not IQ has a genetic basis at all, which is another non-trivial aspect.

    Basically: The whole question is definitely not trivial and obvious, even though I think we would like it to be. After creating a test that is universally accurate you would then need to be able to accurately eliminate culture variances so that the ONLY difference in the participants was race. Not height, weight, hair color, hand shape, nor any other physical or environmental factors. This is complex, and I’m not even sure it *can* be done accurately. Although some have tried and suffered serious rebukes from the (mostly global) community for making the attempt.

    At this juncture, though, I’m not sure such a study would be beneficial if it showed anything but “all races are equal”. Mainly because if it showed even the slightest, even negligible, difference then it could be used to reignite racial tensions. (By taking whatever the results were to create unintended generalizations and extremes.)

    P.S. (to an already long comment) I would like to point out that IQ (as I have defined it here) does not necessarily lead to success. If everything comes to you at a young age very easily, you are learning that you don’t have to work as hard as your peers (while your peers are all learning how to work hard to succeed). When the day finally comes that you also need to work hard, you might feel/get a bit stuck. There are people with very “high” IQs who are successful, and those who are not. It is the same with people who have “average” and “low” IQs. The most common factor isn’t their intelligence, but rather their ability and drive to work and succeed.

  145. Bushfire
    Bushfire April 30, 2010 at 10:03 am |

    exholt said “Reminds me of how on the Titanic passenger lists….upper-class individuals who were 14 were still regarded as children with the same protections and privileges to be shielded from the consequences of their actions whereas their lower-class counterparts were regarded as adults at the same age.”

    Cathy said “Black Americans should not have to put up with this bullshit from their classmates, neighbors, and fellow citizens due to complaints of highly educated white girls being too lazy to have to learn the tiniest bit about the shit that black people have to live with day in and day out.”

    Thanks for these comments, folks. I’ve realized that my earlier comments were really protective of someone who is already very privileged at the expense of the people she has hurt. That was stupid of me. This thread is really thought-provoking.

  146. LSG
    LSG April 30, 2010 at 10:04 am |

    Oh, and her arguments are not “insane,” they’re illogical, willfully ignorant, and racist.

  147. exholt
    exholt April 30, 2010 at 10:14 am |

    I was in fact thinking about those. But Goldman Sachs was heavily involved in a worldwide financial catastrophe! Not just “financial ruin for rich white people.” Putting it that way makes you a little hard to take seriously, tbh. Financial catastrophe hits poor people the hardest.

    umami,

    If that comparison is not apt…which I disagree with from my experience working in IT, may I direct you to what happened to an actual case that I recalled reading in papers when it was first reported several years ago:

    http://www.snopes.com/risque/tattled/chung.asp

    In short, once you send out an email, there is a great potential it could be forwarded by those who received it with possible negative ramifications. As Princeton graduate Peter Chung found out back in 2000, in practical terms…it is up to the sender/poster to choose the level of discretion…and then accept whatever consequences arise from that.

    I teach undergrads, and I can tell you: this kind of cutting people off at the knees is going to come back and bit you. Big time.

    So we are now supposed to treat undergrads and even mid-late twentysomethings like helpless children who need to be shielded from the consequences/excused from the negative consequences of their conduct?!! That mentality would certainly be news in most workplaces I’ve worked in…..

    Taking a page from the Titanic passenger lists where 14 year old working-class passengers were classified as adults and to be held fully responsible for their conduct whereas 14 year old upper-class passengers were still regarded as children who should be excused and shielded from the negative consequences of their actions?!!

    Really?? Why are people so eager to extend her a privilege I doubt they’d extend to people who don’t share her socio-economic or racial privileges…….hmmm….

    Moreover, I am surprised that as a college instructor, you still view and argue that we should treat young adults as immature dependent children who lack drive and maturity. Frankly, I disagree as someone who started undergrad at 17 and felt that the responsibility of learning and taking advantage of the educational resources of the college and surrounding areas is overwhelmingly on the shoulders of the student….not on the college instructor, college, or even fellow classmates. That’s part and parcel of how one proves one is a mature independent thoughtful adult….and is a process that should IMHO should have been finished long before someone graduates from college, much less someone about to complete law school at HLS with a plum clerkship in hand….

  148. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 30, 2010 at 10:19 am |

    Umami, Goldman was not solely responsible for the financial collapse (which is why you’re hard to take seriously, tbh). But to educate you, it may be time to start looking up Lehman, Countrywide and all others who did mortgage-backed securities, pretty much every derivatives trader ever, AIG, the US government, and so on for their roles. You see, Goldman did not act alone, nor was it even the biggest propagator of the financial crisis. The reason this is such an issue is because they dicked over the people on the other side of the Paulson trade – rich white people. Saying otherwise is dishonest. You think these hearings are about poor people? I’m really sure that’s who the SEC had in mind. Right. And no, I do not feel bad for choosing not to further everyone’s white and class privileges. You can do that plenty for everyone by saying they don’t need to be held responsible for their actions. After all, all they did was spread hate and vitriol and racism from a reputable source. But what about the white girl??

    Do you really know that she is a vile racist?

    I think she’s a racist. Are there degrees? She hides her racism behind education. That doesn’t make her a KKK-hat sporter, but it doesn’t make her something better either.

    What if she sent this e-mail in a drunken state?

    This is an extreme example, but I absolutely HATE when people say this shit. Both men who sexually assaulted me were drunk. Do they get a free pass? YOU ARE STILL RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT YOU DO WHILE DRUNK. Go fuck yourself with this logic.

    What if she had a minor mental breakdown?

    What if? She still has to answer for her actions.

    And if she is a racist, are you sure that her views would not have evolved?

    In the last six months before getting called on any of this? Pretty sure, yeah. Any “steps taken” would for sure have made her apology email.

    And if she is an irredeemable racist, so what? Are you so high and mighty that you really want to pillory an individual who holds views that are antithetical to your understanding of fairness?

    Yup! See also my feelings on the KKK, everyone who stands outside abortion clinics yelling at women for having reproductive choice, most extremist groups, Ann Coulter, and so on.

    As an aside though, I probably could have done without the picture too. I do think this should be brought up when she’s looking for jobs which is why I absolutely do not care that her name was published, but attaching a picture pretty much makes it okay for strangers to harass her in public which is not a desired outcome.

  149. Jo
    Jo April 30, 2010 at 10:51 am |

    Jill,

    “I’m not going to get into why Grace’s arguments are wrong; that should hopefully be self-evident, and I don’t think we need to waste time entertaining completely ignorant ideas about the genetics of intelligence, or whether certain racial or ethnic groups are “naturally” more or less intelligent than others. There are certain ideas that just do not belong in the realm of serious intellectual conversation, and this is one of them.

    I may also be the only one who doesn’t understand why this is something that doesn’t belong in the realm of serious intellectual conversation.

    I can see why such research could be / could be seen as inherently racist, and I can totally see the argument that, as with arguments about the consequences of nature and nurture with respect to gender it is completely impossible to disentangle the effects of one or the other, which will forever make this a matter of belief rather than actual fact.

    But it will also never be possible to point all this out when this is *not part of serious intellectual debate* – when winning the argument means not convincing the other of having been wrong, but of calling him, or her, in this case, names. You may notice how people get defensive when you call them “racist”, because they don’t think they are. Calling them racist will not make them change their opinion, quite to the opposite.

    Articles like this may feel good to you, but they’re likely a disservice with respect to the problem you’d like to solve – regardless of being right.

  150. MJ
    MJ April 30, 2010 at 11:00 am |

    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.

    One hears this kind of statement often from advocates of quasi-racist positions. “Oh, of course I could be convinced of perfect equality, if only someone could show me a study the proves that no differences exist!” It’s an extremely disingenuous argument and reflects a fundamental (deliberate?) misunderstanding about statistics.

    No study can ever “prove” that no difference between two groups exists—a study can only fail to detect a difference of a certain size with a certain confidence level. Any experiment with enough statistical power will be able to find differences between any two groups, even two flasks of genetically identical bacteria, if you try hard enough.

    My point is that asking for a study that demonstrates equality may sound reasonable, but is in fact just a rhetorical technique that can never be satisfied and serves as a shield for racist ideas.

  151. Shoshie
    Shoshie April 30, 2010 at 11:01 am |

    April-
    I understand where you’re coming from. I really do. As I’m educating myself, I’m constantly, CONSTANTLY re-evaluating my beliefs and adjusting them. And I’ve totally said stupid shit in the past. But if someone were to ask me about them today, I’d say, we’ll, I’ve learned a lot and realized that they’re stupid. Also:

    “Do you like being reduced to one or two perceived negative traits about yourself? Things you don’t even really seem to understand? How about if someone were to take the one or two bad things and put them all over the fucking internet, and criticize the shit out of you, and attempt to ruin your career, without even giving you the chance to figure out why what you said or did was wrong in the first place?”

    OK, dude. This is a super privileged statement. Because it happens to me all the time. Why? Well, I’m fat. So virtually every argument in the media, Internet, books, newspapers, you name it picks this one insignificant detail about me and uses is to lambaste my character. And that is what Stephanie Grace is doing here. She’s picking an insignificant trait of a group of people- skin color- and using it to judge their intellect. So I feel pretty OK taking one of her SIGNIFICANT traits and talking about how much it sucks.

  152. Tracey
    Tracey April 30, 2010 at 11:21 am |

    April:
    Are you serious? Do you really believe that a future lawyer who holds these beliefs shouldn’t be made public. Black people and poor people suffer in the justice system because of people like her, judges like her and lawyers like her. Lawyers and judges who buy into the idea that black people are less intelligent and more violent. Anytime a lawyer, judge,police officer or doctor (or future one) makes a comment like that, it is a responsibility to put them publically on blast for it. These people are literally killing us, tearing black families apart, providing sub-par legal services or going after tougher punishments b/c of the notions they hold about us.
    This should affect her for the rest of her life, it should limit her career, and yes she deserves it. I only wish so many of the judges, lawyers, and police officers out there today who held racist views at the onset of their careers had been limited by those views being made public. And what is sad, is that it probably won’t affect her career that much. If she goes into criminal she may very well have in her hands one day the life of a “naturally more violent” black person. If not, there are plenty of corporate and real-estate firms that’ll accept her regardless of her views.
    And her ignorant beliefs are a choice, she has activelly chosen to go out and find information that has been debunked countless times and that only serves to reinforce racist beliefs. I have no sympathy for her whatsoever. I have no more sympathy for her than anyone else who chooses to load their heads with social darwinism and evolutionary psychology only to use it to reinforce oppression. Maybe her beliefs will change, if they do, it is on her to prove it to any future employers or clients that might be initially put off by her remarks.

  153. Loosley Twisted
    Loosley Twisted April 30, 2010 at 11:23 am |

    I do NOT agree with the contents of the email.

    However, I don’t really care where /who / what she is, was, or will be, but I do care that Bullying someone is the norm when YOU Amanda had an entire post or two about Bullying and how we can’t allow it to continue.

    What do you call this? Do you think you’re really helping in this instance? I am referring to the picture. You could have done this without it. Her name would have been enough, but no you had to post the picture with it. All your points after it fall because you lowered yourself to bullying.

    I don’t agree with that. I think it’s wrong and I think you should remove the picture.

  154. Mike Vala
    Mike Vala April 30, 2010 at 11:33 am |

    Jill,

    The major flaw in this post is your logic. When people have pointed out that you are completely ignoring the fact that her e-mail is not suggesting anything beyond a possibility you fire back:

    “If Grace had taken her argument one step further and said that the genetic inferiority of black people is reason to seriously consider blocking them from all institutions of higher learning, is that an argument that should be rationally considered or debated without taking offense? What if she said that black people are genetically both stronger and dumber, and so maybe it makes more sense to put them to work in the fields? What if she suggested that, say, Jews are genetically inferior to non-Jews, and that they are sneaky and greedy and hog too many spots in law school, and they destroyed our economy by controlling all the banks, and so maybe we should round them up in one place? What if she said that women’s uteruses make us incapable of rational thought, and therefore we shouldn’t be allowed to attend college or vote or even really argue with men because we just can’t do it, you know, biologically?”

    You must be a republican, because this is the type of fear-mongering that jumps from the mere mention of a possibility to “preventative warfare”. Nowhere in her e-mail does she even remotely suggest any sort of a policy shift to African Americans. In fact, she even takes pains to point out that much, if not all, of the discrepancy is due to socio-economic factors. And yet you skip right past that and label her a racist for suggesting the POSSIBILITY that there is a link between intelligence (however you measure it) and one’s genetic makeup. No one finds it racist to say African Americans are typically better sprinters, as they have a higher prevalence of fast twitch muscles. It’s entirely possible that there may be something like that with intelligence as well. Mind you, there’s no suggestion that white people would be on top of that list anyway. The bottom line is that this is not racist. You’ve sensationalized this to make it far more contentious than it was, and your own logical lacuna are evident in your use of quotes that you subsequently don’t properly respond to. I can only imagine what your SAT reading comprehension scores were like…

  155. Amellifera
    Amellifera April 30, 2010 at 11:40 am |

    I haven’t seen this comment yet, but does anyone else find it hilariously problematic that Above the Law writer uses sexism (catfight) to defend racism? You see, if two women have a falling out, it’s not for any rational reason. It’s not, say, that the second person might have ruminated on the email and made a conscious decision that this shit is not on. No, it’s a “catfight.” It should be funny, except then I read the comments and got very sad.

  156. Shoshie
    Shoshie April 30, 2010 at 11:44 am |

    “So virtually every argument in the media…”

    Oops, this should be “virtually every argument that makes reference to weight in the media…”

    When I am frustrated I post without editing. Bad me.

  157. Ricky Nelson
    Ricky Nelson April 30, 2010 at 11:44 am |

    Jill, your inconsistent stance on whether this e-mail should or will ruin this girl’s career is perplexing. First you say that her employer should know about her racist views and that her views should be outed so she can’t do any ‘serious damage.’ But then later at comment 89 you claim you claim her career won’t be damaged by any means.

    So which is it Jill? Do these blog posts about this racist ‘fight the good fight’ in making sure racists don’t hold onto positions of power or are you conceding that this media circus is just a fanfare to get people worked up. Perhaps you are simply using a story that you know will drive traffic to your site, increase Feministe’s presence (and your own career) at the expense of a private figure’s reputation? That’s a bit cynical, I’ll admit. But considering the person in question is not in the public spotlight, it’s a bit perplexing why this has become a national story. The media always needs something to discuss I suppose.

    There are two things other things that deeply disturb me about the media treatment of this report. First is that it appears from the Gawker report that the media was played into being a hired gun for a petty revenge. It’s a little scary to think that anything you say that may be slightly controversial can wind up on the internet and debated by the bloggers.

    Secondly, at the very worst all the e-mail claimed that black people contain genes that make them less intelligent than white people. But never in this girl’s published statements do they go down the road and say, “And because black people are on the whole less intelligent, we should…“–something which makes all the difference in whether you should oppose her advancement in the legal profession. As a lawyers and judges constantly have to deal with people who are less intelligent than others. If you are poor, you may not be as intelligent as I am because you couldn’t go to a good school. Some genetic conditions, such as autism, can interfere with learning making someone less intelligent than another person. My point: we can look at someone, acknowledge that they are less intelligent than we are, and still treat them equally and respectfully. Just because you view someone or a group of people as less intelligent than doesn’t automatically mean that one will handle that person’s legal problems in an improper manner. Granted most people who do hold the belief that black people are less intelligent probably use that belief as a springboard to some other disgusting beliefs. But has this person in question made this jump? And yet so many want to send her to the gallows.

  158. Black Thought
    Black Thought April 30, 2010 at 11:45 am |

    This woman is racist and as smart as she is should know better and I’ll show you why. When put into modern day perspective you can say what she speaks of intelligence is true when it comes to Blacks to some degree. But when you look in historical perspective she is absolutely false. When Blacks had thriving societies in Africa, Whites were in the Caucasus Mountains dragging their women by the hair, eating raw food and still using clubs as weapons.

    Othello, a fictional book based on the historically very real Black Moors whom brought Whites out the Dark Ages, taught them (Whites) architecture and building techniques that are today still used and whose original Black Moor designed and built buildings can still be seen in Portugal and Spain. Black Moors had also already mastered Algebra and advanced mathematics and geometry. So where was her genetic theory in those days, seems it could be easily said that back then the whites weren’t very intelligent and around we go.

    My point is this. There are many variables that go into perceived or measured intelligence and this woman is purposely blurring those lines knowingly, whether for racism or maybe even shock value…..think Ann Coulter. Peace

  159. Mike Vala
    Mike Vala April 30, 2010 at 11:54 am |

    Jill,

    I concede that it wasn’t in reference to her e-mail, forgive me. But the point still stands; you haven’t explicitly pointed out where the racism lies. I can see quite clearly how easy it would be to jump from her statements to racism, and for that perhaps, but only perhaps, it should be condemned, but she is merely expressing an open possibility. Scientists are clearly unsure as to the relationship between intelligence and genotype, and the author seems to take that into account. Nowhere does she say that “based on this possibility, we should alter our behavior/perceptions/actions”. True, rhetorically, she could have phrased things better than: “…we would see that they are, in fact, as intelligent as white people under the same circumstances.” But that’s besides the point. You are holding her accountable for inferences that her readership might make. That’s where the flaw is. Sorry about the quip about your reading comp scores, and I appreciate your willingness to engage the debate.

  160. FirstTimeComment
    FirstTimeComment April 30, 2010 at 11:54 am |

    PrettyAmiable, you did not address my main point – which is that she said what she said in a private conversation which was then used to castigate her in public. And she didn’t stand in front of abortion clinics, she didn’t make a public stand on any issue. That’s the whole point. If she did, public attacks on her would be completely justified. But people have every right to share their thoughts on important issues in private, regardless how opposed they may appear to be to the dominant view, without the fear of being denounced by informers. And when things like this happen, informers should be condemned. As a supposedly repressed minority, feminist activists should be well aware of this. This is an important principle and it is indicative of basic human decency as it places individual above ideology, and in more violent times, it has probably saved hundreds of thousands of political/social/religious/ heretics.

    And no, my logic is fine, yours however, is rather puzzling. You compare sexual assault and talking shit in a drunken state. Overwhelming majority of people have said dumb things when they’re drunk, but only few committed sexual assault.

  161. Amellifera
    Amellifera April 30, 2010 at 12:03 pm |

    I teach undergrads, and I can tell you: this kind of cutting people off at the knees is going to come back and bit you. Big time.

    Uhhh. Are you arguing that people are racist because we marginalize them? Because that does not make any sense. Tea Party racists aren’t racist because we pushed them into a room together. They choose to group together. They choose to be racist. Ms. Grace will be the only person responsible if she doesn’t learn anything from this. Racist views were held just fine when they were the dominant view. You know, before we started holding people accountable for being racist. So, how exactly do you think we can end racism without any social consequences for espousing it?

  162. Matt
    Matt April 30, 2010 at 12:19 pm |

    Wait – do they teach anthropology at some law schools? Because if so, I definitely missed the boat on that one. Most, if not all, of my colleagues in law school would benefit from a course in sociocultural anthropology. At least then they might know who Franz Boas is. Ms. Grace clearly didn’t.

    I agree with the anonymous commenter (142) that just because you are in law school does not mean that you all of a sudden become enlightened and are no longer capable of being racist. Being racist isn’t exactly like being white, you can change racist thought and behavior. You can advocate against racism wherever you encounter it. Sure, no one is perfect but that’s not an excuse. Seven years of tertiary education does not necessarily mean that your prejudices have been exorcised or at least criticized. However, perhaps it should.

    Attorneys are supposed to be community leaders, professionals. If we allow racist/sexist/classist/ableist thought to go unchallenged, if we don’t call it out as such, how can we expect society at large and the law to change? Perhaps magic.

    I agree that the reason that notions of justice don’t factor into law school instruction is that it doesn’t have much bearing on learning the law or legal reasoning. I do however think that that is a sad commentary on both American law and law school, and a dangerous way to train America’s lawyers.

  163. Jeff Kaufman
    Jeff Kaufman April 30, 2010 at 12:20 pm |

    grace: Irish people are more likely to have red hair.

    mo: How ironic that she apparently has red hair, yet is WRONG about the statistics of red hair in Ireland. Although about 46% of Irish people have the gene for red hair, only approximately 8-10% of them actually have red hair. The US has a rate of 2-6% of people with red hair, but having a much larger population means we actually have more people with red hair than Ireland does.

    Mo, while a person with red hair is more likely to be an american than be irish, by your own numbers grace is right to say that irish people are more likely to have red hair. As you say, if you’re irish your chances of having red hair are 8-10%, if american 2-6%.

  164. exholt
    exholt April 30, 2010 at 12:23 pm |

    I can only imagine what your SAT reading comprehension scores were like…

    First, unless you’re still in high school…using SAT reading comprehension…or any scores as a benchmark of one’s intelligence is silly.

    It also reminds me of many college dropouts/flunkouts I’ve encountered who felt they should still be looked upon highly solely because they gained admission to an Ivy-league/Ivy-level college…..even a decade after high school. :roll:

    Sorry…to most working professionals and even Ivy grad students I’ve known….bragging about one’s SATs past high school is regarded with the same contempt as some washed up adult bragging about how s(he) was captain of the high school debating society or the football team. :roll:

    Moreover, I’ve encountered plenty of college classmates and tutoring clients who were products of prestigious/expensive prep schools, had stratospheric SAT scores, and flunked out or floundered so badly they needed to pay good money for my tutoring services. Incidentally, some of those clients were students at Ivy schools…including Harvard.

  165. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan April 30, 2010 at 12:24 pm |

    but she is merely expressing an open possibility. Scientists are clearly unsure as to the relationship between intelligence and genotype, and the author seems to take that into account.

    I’m not the final word in racism or science, but I did address this in comment #123, fyi. Science requires a certain set of assumptions that can be readjusted later — it’s not her willingness to readjust that is racist, it’s the initial assumptions she makes.

  166. Mike Vala
    Mike Vala April 30, 2010 at 12:30 pm |

    Jill,

    So are you saying that offense should be taken because she had the nerve to express the possibility? If so, then that’s something I hadn’t considered. But what frightens me there, is that future scientific inquiry and discovery would then be limited to things that we are comfortable hearing. Obviously she is not a scientist, and is only expressing her relatively uninformed opinion, but I am still sticking by the point, which is the crux of what I’ve been saying, that nothing in her e-mail was explicitly racist. Also, I fully agree that historically, so much as posing this question has indeed led to actual discrimination and harm. However, that’s often an example of what I labeled “blame on the readers”. If I suggest the possibility that Asians have statistically/genetically (I realize the massive difference between the two, but please overlook it for the time being) a better cognitive ability to handle numbers and symbols than white people do, I do not think that that is a racist remark against white people. In essence, I think that her e-mail could be boiled down to something along the lines of: “I believe there is the possibility that intelligence and genotype are linked. As such, I believe that certain races/ethnicities may have advantages or disadvantages. However, I am willing to wait for conclusive scientific data to prove or disprove this tentative theory”. Clearly the insertion of a particular race in here makes the e-mail appear more polemical, but do you think that my reading of it is unfounded?

    (And don’t worry, I didn’t take offense. I was, after all, the one “who started it”. And thanks again.

  167. Amellifera
    Amellifera April 30, 2010 at 12:31 pm |

    @FirstTimeComment

    I’d agree with you if this had been an email she sent to one person: A person to person communication, like a letter. As this was sent to a group of people, I’m less inclined to agree. This makes it a public conversation, even if the public was small and she had reason to believe they agreed with her. A letter to a family member at xmas is private. The mass mailed Family Newsletter for Friends and Family is not. Additionally, this was the continuation of a public conversation, ie a dinner attended by more than one person, some of whom obviously disagreed with her. I don’t know where the dinner was held, but that’s immaterial. Dinner parties are public, and it’s not okay to be a racist in the privacy of your friend’s home anymore than it’s okay to do it in a restaurant.

  168. Marcus
    Marcus April 30, 2010 at 12:36 pm |

    @baglesan: Thanks for clarifying! I agree, her premise and perspective does seem to come from an implicitly racist position; on this reading, it is rather offensive!

  169. Mike Vala
    Mike Vala April 30, 2010 at 12:39 pm |

    Exholt,

    Yes, it was a stupid comment that I took about .5 seconds to think about. I hope you actually read the rest of what I said. Incidentally, I did just graduate from an Ivy League college last year and am currently working a pretty awful job, though I’m not quite ready to accept the “washout” moniker.

  170. Jennifer Messing
    Jennifer Messing April 30, 2010 at 1:13 pm |

    THis article is eloquent and bold! Three cheers for writing this as I wish I could. I agree with you on every single point and am saddened by the ridiculous and hurtful views and comments coming from HLS. As I spend a lot of time thinking about race issues in our country, Stephanie Grace’s email only serves to confirm and reinforce that not much progress has been made here in the way of racial equality.White denial is prevalent, alive, and well – and what is most important to remember, is that it’s coming from the people who hold the most power in our country and those who are next in line for that power. Well said Jill and THANK YOU for this wonderfully brilliant and supportive response.

  171. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 30, 2010 at 1:42 pm |

    Thank you Amellifera, because, that.

    And as for this: “And no, my logic is fine, yours however, is rather puzzling. You compare sexual assault and talking shit in a drunken state. Overwhelming majority of people have said dumb things when they’re drunk, but only few committed sexual assault.”

    I’m not comparing anything, asshat (speaking of logic fail). I’m saying that people do things drunk all the time. They are still responsible for the repercussions of it. It irritates the fuck out of me when people try to say they are excused for their behavior because they were of a different mind.

  172. lt
    lt April 30, 2010 at 1:43 pm |

    Mike and others –

    I teach at a public university where over half our students are people of color. I can tell you from experience that living in a world where their right to higher education is a constant subject of debate has an impact. Not to mention the role this rhetoric plays in a period where higher education for folks who can’t afford private schools are on the chopping block. I’d like to see Stephanie Grace come to my classroom and tell these students, most of whom work long hours to put themselves through school, and ask her innocent ‘question’ to their faces. Because she’s just so curious, right?

    You’re afraid of scientific inquiry being shut down? What do you think is the bigger “scientific purpose” behind Stephanie Grace’s question? IF it’s for any purpose other than to feel her lucky position in life is deserved (or to ingratiate herself with her racist dinner companions), I’ll eat my shoe.

    And surely you can see that asking the question about whites vs. Asians isn’t the equivalent. The presumed inferiority of whites at math hasn’t been used to justify slavery and genocide, and isn’t today being used to justify the highest rates of incarceration in the western world.

  173. jen
    jen April 30, 2010 at 1:44 pm |

    But what frightens me there, is that future scientific inquiry and discovery would then be limited to things that we are comfortable hearing.

    ugh, i can’t believe what kind of crap people feel the need to express on posts explicitly dealing with racism. don’t you love the “i am not a racist, but”-talk?!

    and yes, because “scientifically” “discovering” that human beings are unequal because of alleged genetic markers is a very futuristic concept, and up until now people always shied away from “using” it (hello jim crow) and it’s because “we” were uncomfortable with the “truth”, i.e. the possibility that people of different skin colours are inherently unequal due to their genetic disposition, “we” gave concessions to “those” black people who claimed to be “our” equals. But hey, “we” always knew better, and we’re still open to having it proved conclusively, right?!

    White privilege bred assholes are incredible.

  174. syndella
    syndella April 30, 2010 at 2:05 pm |

    OH NO!

    What if she was DRUNK! what if she was having a MENTAL BREAKDOWN OMG!!!

    What if she’s just a racist?

  175. Mike Vala
    Mike Vala April 30, 2010 at 2:09 pm |

    It and Jen (And Jill),

    I can appreciate both of you putting this into a larger context, but I’m not. Frankly, for the scope of my current argument, I don’t care that in the past such arguments have been used to justify atrocious behavior, which I do not deny. The law student suggested no such thing. My argument is that her e-mail is not explicitly racist. Equally, I don’t care what her secret reason was for sending it in the first place. Stop placing this within the controversial realm of race politics, and consider what she actually said. I have conceded before that it is not a far cry to see how her statements can be used for racist purposes, but what she actually said was not racist. And Jen, sarcasm doesn’t carry through particularly well in the written word, so to be honest, I’m not exactly sure what you’re attempting to say. What I’m interested in is what I said above:

    “In essence, I think that her e-mail could be boiled down to something along the lines of: “I believe there is the possibility that intelligence and genotype are linked. As such, I believe that certain races/ethnicities may have advantages or disadvantages. However, I am willing to wait for conclusive scientific data to prove or disprove this tentative theory”. Clearly the insertion of a particular race in here makes the e-mail appear more polemical, but do you think that my reading of it is unfounded?”

    Also, I agree with what was said earlier about her “base line” being that white people are smarter, and that is what needs to be disproved is wrong. But please, answer the above quote.

    And Jill, I’m still curious what you think about this?

  176. Gar
    Gar April 30, 2010 at 2:19 pm |

    Everyone agrees that ethnoracial groups show differences in IQ-type intelligence, the only question is what is the cause?

    Genes plus environment = Galtonian

    Environment only = Boasian

    There are two schools of thought regarding ethnoracial group differences in IQ and academic achievement. The currently politically incorrect Galtonian school (founded by Francis Galton) sees heritable genetic differences in mental ability as being the major factor but also allows for some lesser influences of cultural and environmental factors. In contrast, the currently politically correct Boasian school (founded by Franz Boas) sees cultural and environmental factors as being the complete explanation; furthermore Boasians feel that attributing the cause for ethnoracial group differences in mental ability to genetic differences is a racist viewpoint that must be strongly condemned.

    The dispute between these two schools has not been resolved.

  177. buzzbee
    buzzbee April 30, 2010 at 2:30 pm |

    I’m embarrassed and disappointed by the vigilantism going on in this discussion. While the original article is well written and addresses an important topic, I feel that the incendiary nature of the subject matter does not excuse the unethical methods employed throughout. While I do not support Grace’s comments, I see many of her failings echoed in the comments of her detractors and also in the article itself.

    First, a word on science. In a recent post, the author claims, “Sometimes, posing a question is essentially the same as posing a proposition.” I can’t say I agree. There are no questions that are off limits for science. I think this if this statement were made in any other context it would be ripped apart. Using Creationism as an example is especially troubling, because for many years questioning Creationism would have created a backlash very similar to this one.

    Meanwhile I don’t think there’s a person here who doesn’t believe genetics have some effect on a person’s behavior. To adopt the very tactics employed by many of Grace’s detractors, perhaps you all are horrible, hateful, evil people whose lives can be summed by the three paragraphs of venom you spewed in a social forum. Imagine the sweet social justice of exposing you all for what you are, you bunch of know-it-all bloggers who know nothing of what life is like in a third world country. Now the world knows everything about you they need to know, because they’ve seen the hate in your words. And you will never change, so there is no point in trying to educate you. Let the punishment fit the crime.. right?

    Think about this. This woman said something socially taboo in an email message to a small group of people in a way that did not affect anyone personally. You then decided to go on the Internet and pile on in a bid to destroy her personally. It is more evil to think bad things, or to deliberately set out to destroy someone you have never met based on a three paragraph email?

  178. umami
    umami April 30, 2010 at 2:33 pm |

    Umami, Goldman was not solely responsible for the financial collapse

    I wouldn’t even respond to this if you hadn’t used my handle. I said “heavily involved.” If you want to interpret the words “heavily involved” as “solely responsible” so you have a cue to deliver a lecture about a subject you clearly know absolutely nothing about, pls to wank away without me.

    And yes, I do think the SEC investigation is fuelled by populist sentiment so to that extent it is “about poor people.”

  179. Amellifera
    Amellifera April 30, 2010 at 2:38 pm |

    @Mike Vala re: “So are you saying that offense should be taken because she had the nerve to express the possibility? If so, then that’s something I hadn’t considered. But what frightens me there, is that future scientific inquiry and discovery would then be limited to things that we are comfortable hearing. Obviously she is not a scientist” emphasis mine

    And obviously you aren’t either. Whether you agree that the statement is racist, it has clearly been shown that it isn’t scientific. So don’t worry about the future of science. Really. Seriously. Science is not going to suffer from excluding racist critical assumptions on hypothesis driven research. In fact, we have already seen benefits from reducing incorrect critical assumptions (craniometry, anyone?) and not just because we’re reducing racism, but because its bad science. Science never has (and never will) shie away from addressing issues that aren’t palatable to the public. But it’s usually the status quo that suffers. See: homosexuality in other species, Global Warming, evolution, and, yes, racism. Because in science you don’t start with an answer and then look for proof of it. You start with a question that doesn’t make assumptions. If it does, you are fully aware that you are making said assumption. An example of an okay critical assumption: endogenous carabinoids serve some function in the brain. A bad critical assumption: Carabinoids in marijuana behave similarly to endogenous carabinoids because they are the same type of thing.

    Finally, as has been stated in numerous times in different ways, you can’t prove a negative. Science doesn’t aspire to prove a negative. Her statement is racist because it requires proving an impossible-to-prove negative (black people aren’t genetically inferior) before she’ll allow belief in a positive (social factors favor certain people over others and she is a member of the group who is favored).

    As an aside: kind of funny that she uses “Disney utopia” as a way to raise children without race issues. They ummm…. don’t have the best record there.

  180. Amellifera
    Amellifera April 30, 2010 at 2:39 pm |

    Geez. Sorry for the bold! Total mistake.

  181. lt
    lt April 30, 2010 at 2:45 pm |

    Jill @ 187 – Thank you!! That says it better than I ever could have. Part of being educated is understanding that our ideas don’t come out of nowhere. People’s pseudo-intellectual investment in Stephanie’s “question” needs to be called out.

    I mean, seriously. If you’re so into “what ifs,” why not ask “what could our society look like if we got serious about combatting the effects of poverty and injustice” Why don’t these brilliant minds give a thought of two to that?

  182. Mike Vala
    Mike Vala April 30, 2010 at 2:47 pm |

    Jill,

    I can think of an obvious counterpoint to what you are saying. In the not so distant past, questioning the existence of god, even in the most roundabout way (see Galileo) was enough to get you tortured and executed. The obvious difference of course is that back then it was the questioners, rather than their subjects, that felt the brunt of the suffering. However, the fact still stands; should we not question the existence of a god because in the past it would have lead to persecution? The only reason that one shouldn’t is if some fringe god worshipped decides to act out. The same goes for this. It’s only the potential fringe reader that turns this into a racist subject that you should condemn, not the one to pose the question. And finally, why should we continually ask questions that may have no answers (which in this case is debatable anyway); have you ever taken a philosophy class…?

  183. Black Thought
    Black Thought April 30, 2010 at 2:49 pm |

    @Mike Vala:

    Sorry Mike but it’s not even up for debate that intelligence and genotype are not connected. In the scheme of human history Blacks ruled the longest and have laid the ground work for most of the basic foundations of human existence as we know it some of which still can’t be understood in modern times with all are so called technology, from mathematics to Governmental structure and construction techniques that leaves historians saying aliens most have done it rather than blacks, all this while Whites were still in caves……think Flinstones. I think some find it easier to put blinders on and attempt to not see what is right in front of their eyes. All one must do is study the history of humans on this planet.

    Stop and think for a second why it is in this White mans world that the history of the Black Moors and the history of the Nubians who were the first to build Pyramids then later moved into Northern Africa (Egypt) are not taught in school. Knowledge is power. Blacks are in their fall at this moment in history ignorant of their true potential, whites were also in their fall not so long ago historically speaking. It’s all cyclical and has nothing to do with genetics. Tho the mysteries of Melanin is another story………………

  184. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan April 30, 2010 at 2:54 pm |

    As an aside: kind of funny that she uses “Disney utopia” as a way to raise children without race issues.

    Maybe she means “Disney” as in “all of their mothers will be killed first”? :p

  185. exholt
    exholt April 30, 2010 at 2:55 pm |

    Frankly, for the scope of my current argument, I don’t care that in the past such arguments have been used to justify atrocious behavior,

    Ideas and arguments don’t arise and aren’t advanced in a vacuum isolated from the historical period, culture, society, and the attitudes from which they were originated or advanced.

    To understand the issues involved in this email, how such ideas were used….sometimes in the very recent past is critical. This very willful failure to account for historical contexts has played a key role in negative outcomes whether it is poorly written social science research essays drawing laughably wrong conclusions or horrific policies causing harm or even death to millions.

  186. S.A. Small
    S.A. Small April 30, 2010 at 2:56 pm |

    No one finds it racist to say African Americans are typically better sprinters, as they have a higher prevalence of fast twitch muscles.

    Actually, people do. Instead of praising, say, Michael Johnson, for all the training and dedication he put in to become the world-class athlete he was, you instead say that he’s just fast because he’s black. Devaluing the work that a person of color does because of their color is bloody racist. (Oh, and what studies are you citing? Assuming you have at least one actual piece of research in mind, did they examine a range of black and non-black people, or y’know, just the fast ones? If you just examined fast people then of course you would find a lot of fast-twitch fibers.) Trust me, I was a sprinter in high school–and, despite being black, really only an average one. I call bullshit, because being fast and getting faster is hard fucking work.

    And, maybe more importantly, it feeds into the notion that somehow black people are more suited to “physical” pursuits versus “intellectual” ones.

    Long story short: if you believe that “no one would think that X or Y is racist,” then you need you to step back for a second (maybe check your privilege) an examine whether that’s actually true.

  187. S.A. Small
    S.A. Small April 30, 2010 at 3:02 pm |

    Also: people should really consider reading the entire post–which was great–before asking why racialism is worth taking valuable time to discuss. Oh, and publishing a racist email is not like a witch hunt or a police state as some people have implied. People get murdered by actual witch hunts and police states. You want “chilling consequences” for expressing “unsavory” opinions, that’s fucking chilling, not calling someone out on their bullshit.

  188. Uli Kunkel
    Uli Kunkel April 30, 2010 at 3:04 pm |

    What if I say, “It’s possible that Creationism is how human beings were created, because evolution has not been proven”? Should I be held accountable for other people inferring from that statement that I’m pretty ignorant?

    This is where I’m not quite on board. Is questioning the genetic basis of intelligence the same as asking if the world is flat, or if evolution is a sound theory? Is there the same monumental amount of evidence against a genetic basis for intelligence as there is against creationism? It seems like rhetorical overreach to say there is.

    Sometimes, posing a question is essentially the same as posing a proposition, especially in this context — the “question” of whether black people are intellectually inferior has been posed for centuries, as a justification for actual discrimination and harm.

    Good point. Since the evidence for a genetic basis of intelligence is shaky at best, it does take a certain kind of person to wonder idly about it.

    Yes, it’s possible there’s a genetic basis for intelligence that’s yet to be discovered; and yes, S. Grace is an @sshole for spending more than 5 seconds musing about who those genetic groups might be.

  189. jennygadget
    jennygadget April 30, 2010 at 3:04 pm |

    “Seriously, why is the answer to an unanswerable question so important that we need to continue posing it, when we know that posing it has done serious historical damage and does damage in the here and now? What’s the end goal? What do we get out of that?”

    This. Exactly this.

    Also, I’m more than a little annoyed by the people equating the outing of Grace with people sharing private photos with the public at large.

    Agree or disagree with the decision to out Grace, but don’t pretend there aren’t vastly different expectations of privacy when it comes to – on the one hand – images of acts that were not only done in private but are often only legal as long as they aren’t done in public and – on the other hand – political and moral opinions that were initially stated in a public place. Furthermore, as people have already said several times over, Grace’s opinions on these subjects have a direct affect on her ability to perform well in her chosen career. The same is not true of private sexual choices and experiences and we do all women a disservice when we fail to acknowledge this difference. The fact that there are assholes out there that can’t tell the difference between the two should not stop us from doing so any more than the existence of victim blaming should mean that we shouldn’t champion a woman’s right to where whatever she wants.

  190. jennygadget
    jennygadget April 30, 2010 at 3:08 pm |

    “This woman said something socially taboo in an email message to a small group of people in a way that did not affect anyone personally.”

    You know, seeing as someone in that small group had to care enough to pass the email along, I fail to see why you are so certain that her email “did not affect anyone personally.”

  191. buzzbee
    buzzbee April 30, 2010 at 3:11 pm |

    Within 5 minutes of leaving my post, I clicked on another blog on a related site and found this article:

    http://www.womanist-musings.com/2010/04/black-mothers-are-in-best-interest-of.html

    Here’s a highlight:

    It seems that the best interests of the child always involve removing hir from the Black community, thereby severing their history and familial connections. This is a form of social attack that Whiteness has been perpetuating for generations. Ask a First Nations woman how comfortable she is having a White woman hold her child. The White woman as expert has destroyed families and filled the earth with the salty tears of children who long for their mothers touch. No White woman is better at raising a child of colour than a WOC. Your best intentions and liberal credentials don’t amount to a pot of piss.

    So, in all honesty, I really don’t want you anywhere near my child. I don’t want you to touch him, hold him or even grow to love him, because your love has proven toxic to mothers of colour for generations. We watched as you sold our children for profit and then bought new ball gowns. When you handed us your children as substitute — a pale reflection of the love we once knew, you turned your eyes on our bitter tears.

    Even now you continue to use the best interest of the child as you cart our babies to soccer tournaments and we are left with an echo of the love we once knew. No matter how liberal, educated, or well-meaning, you cannot know what it is to love a Black child, the way we love the fruit of our womb. You have not suffered for a simple touch or wept at a passing glimpse –but we have and we continue to.

    Now that, to me, is at least as offensive as what Grace said. And it was not stated in a private email, but in a public forum with the author’s name attached. I’m not one to cry about “reverse racism” and all, but it only seems fair that everyone gets their dose of invective. Are we going to demand scientific proof that white women can’t raise black children? If Grace is possibly racist and deserves to be called out, should authors of public facing blogs not also be questioned?

  192. Mike Vala
    Mike Vala April 30, 2010 at 3:16 pm |

    Black Thought,

    You get the bonus points for the most inane comment yet:

    “Sorry Mike but it’s not even up for debate that intelligence and genotype are not connected. In the scheme of human history Blacks ruled the longest and have laid the ground work for most of the basic foundations of human existence…”

    So what you’re saying is that “you are not allowed to debate that genes affect intelligence”; I, however, will tell you how throughout history, the blacks are the best…

    Give me a break!

  193. exholt
    exholt April 30, 2010 at 3:19 pm |

    In the not so distant past, questioning the existence of god, even in the most roundabout way (see Galileo) was enough to get you tortured and executed. The obvious difference of course is that back then it was the questioners, rather than their subjects, that felt the brunt of the suffering.

    And here we go with decontextualization again. One critical difference that’s also at play here is the following:

    In Galileo’s time, the religious authorities were the powerful orthodoxy with socially sanctioned political and legal power behind them whereas those who questioned the existence of God were the marginalized group.

    In the case of this email, the “questions” she poses are argued in such a way to assume by default that African-Americans are intellectually inferior which needs to be disproved…a line of questioning which has been the orthodoxy in mainstream US polite society until a few decades ago…..and still prevalent in many areas where those with social and political power dominate….such as the court system, law firms, and universities like Harvard.

    One easy way to prove this mentality is still prevalent….why is it that there is so much grousing among many White students and alums about affirmative action and how beneficiaries “didn’t deserve their place” when crickets are heard when others bring up a similarly structured program for the most socio-economically privileged known as legacy admissions?? Hmm???

  194. Amellifera
    Amellifera April 30, 2010 at 3:19 pm |

    And finally, why should we continually ask questions that may have no answers (which in this case is debatable anyway); have you ever taken a philosophy class…?

    Dude, science =/= philosophy. And it isn’t debatable. You cannot prove a negative. Also, science has never (even in a roundabout way) tried to disprove that a god exists. Scientists may have made arguments against belief in a god, but there is no study in the history of science trying to prove that god doesn’t exist. Not an actual scientific (you know, using the scientific method and hypothesis driven research) study. Also, these race questions have already been asked and asked and asked. It is not a new question that scientists avoid so as not to be perceived as racist. See phrenology, craniometry, eugenics, polygenism, social darwinism, Unilineal evolution, etc. I could actually go on. Hereditarianism is the new “science” in a long, long list. Every one of these theories has been used by people attempting to prove the very “question” posed here. Every one has been shown to be wrong. At what point will you allow that the very question is the problem?

  195. imactuallyliberaltoo
    imactuallyliberaltoo April 30, 2010 at 3:20 pm |

    This discussion, and the ATL one before it, have had my head spinning. I’m awfully surprised by where I land on this, though. As strong and well-reasoned a response as you make, Jill, I find I agree with much of it but not with your conclusion. I remember that I felt there was a sort of white person code at law school, but it is not one that the white students generally felt or understood. (At the time I was in law school, I felt it also extended to women to some extent — women and minorities who were quiet seemed to be thought of as somehow less stellar and, as you suggested possibly the result of some leg up in admissions, but I never heard anyone SAY that.) Naturally, though, there were some white students who rarely interacted meaningfully with their black counterparts and vice versa, and some men who reserved their most high-level philosophical discussions for each other. But given that environment, why would I pick out just one of the white students and rake them across the coals as “racist” or “sexist” for being part of the group that had an unspoken sense of “superiority.” What was needed was a frank discussion about the dynamics of the school, the assumptions made regularly about other students, the biases underlying peoples’ views of one another and, due to an unpleasant incident with racial connotations, we started to have that discussion until people simply became too shrill and too personal so that the discussion devolved into personal attacks and offenses rather than the larger issue. IT was a sad time for me and my law school, but it pales in comparison with what’s going on with this girl, who apparently has been hanging out with a community that has not been exposed to some of the more progressive movements and causes that are obviously active at Harvard, too.
    Although there IS an implicitly racist undertone to the questions posed in the original email (based on the obvious bias in framing the issue as whether African Americans are on average less intelligent than Whites as opposed to the broader question of whether there are genetic factors in intelligence), I think your writing her off as a racist for allowing herself to be unresolved on the question is short-sighted and actually unfair. She does seem to have a racial bias that she may not have even understood, although she must certainly be coming to terms with it now, but it is a sad fact that many, many people – many of whom are also extremely well-educated – ask similar questions even if they understand that the question is basically useless and deleterious from a policy perspective. I mean that I have run across a number of actually liberal people — especially in the generations older than me — who support equal rights for everyone, affirmative action, social welfare programs of all sorts, etc. but who also ask questions about why certain “races” seem so predisposed toward negative outcomes even with such programs. They wonder if there’s a genetic component as well as a socio-economic one. It’s a sad question and a sad fact that it is asked, but it IS asked so much more widely than you appear to understand.
    Fortunately, I think, most people — including the ones I’m talking about who champion civil and human rights so highly — know that the answer to such a question really should not matter because the average would not speak to an individual’s capability in any case. It rather sounds like Stephanie’s email reflects that sort of outlook — she’d like for it to be proven that everyone averages out the same across races (she says as much with the 100 infants in a Disney world thing), but she’s not convinced one way or another about that. Either way, there’s nothing to suggest that her perspective is akin to those that you raised as similarly offensive (e.g., using genetic arguments to deprive blacks of college, to round up Jews, to deprive women of the right to participate in society), each of which is a policy question of how to deprive someone of their rights.
    Moreover, given an interpretation of Stephanie’s email as likely reflecting an attitude more broadly held in her community that she SHOULD have questioned more thoroughly throughout her education but probably hasn’t had to (until now), doesn’t Lat’s position have some resonance (both about not revealing her name for a mistake and about asking anything in an academic setting)? In an academic setting, all of the great arguments regarding the assumptions she made in posing the argument as she did, the issues of the limits of “science” and the definition of “race” in trying to “prove” such an argument, and all the other flaws inherent in the question and in the email could/should have been fleshed out in a way that would help her and everyone better consider these issues. It is supposed to be a setting for such questioning, reacting, discussing, as Lat points out. Having been out of an academic setting for many years now, it honestly is or should be the best setting possible for people to really engage with issues like this — later on, one is either not discussing such issues or not doing so as frankly as they might (e.g., at work, with other parents, etc.) or is rarely exposed to discussion partners who have entirely different assumptions and experiences to bring to bear. And there is no problem with being offended by these remarks and reacting strenuously to them within that setting. Instead, now that it is in this very public realm, Stephanie has just become a caricature of a “racist” and a target for people who are so offended by the headline (SO many people commenting seem not to have read the email beyond the first couple of lines). People feel justified in writing her off as a racist, in trying to ensure that she will carry the burden of her mistake throughout her career and life. She has apologized and is likely seeing her own comments in a new light. What is just about continuing to punish her for her beliefs if she’s sincere? And none of us who don’t know her are capable of knowing whether she’s, in fact, sincere, so we’ll stick with our assumptions about her and either keep excoriating her or defending her accordingly, which is far more about consistency than justice.

  196. Friday week-end roundup «
    Friday week-end roundup « April 30, 2010 at 8:47 pm |

    [...] 3rd year Harvard law student sends an email supporting ethnic genetic inferiority [...]

  197. The genetic inferiority of stupid people « Software and Opinions

    [...] sent me Jill Filipovic's blog post about Stephanie Grace's "racist email" that seems to be doing the rounds of the angry internet. [...]

  198. The Racist Harvard Law Student and Naming Names. « PostBourgie

    [...] FIlipovic has a fantastic post up about the blogosphere kerfuffle over a third-year Harvard Law student’s decision to show her [...]

  199. Mad Sprint to Freedom « Left Coast Contessa

    [...] Yell at me to focus on my studying via blog comments if I post any sort of commentary. But check this article which I think does a good job of summing up several main issues related to the email. I’ve [...]

  200. Interesting posts, weekend of 5/2/10 « Feminists with Female Sexual Dysfunction

    [...] of attitude is a sign of the culture at Harvard (and unfortunately outside of academia as well)? Jill and guest blogger Diane Lucas over at Feministe broke it down for [...]

  201. PostBourgie
    PostBourgie May 2, 2010 at 9:11 pm |

    [...] On this week’s rollicking podcast, Monica, Joel and I discuss Arizona’s new immigration law, Thomas Chatterton Williams’s head-scratcher of an essay on Obama, Drake and the evils of hip-hop, and Stephanie Grace, the Harvard 3L whose racist e-mail set the Internet on fire over the past week. [...]

  202. There Is No Right to be Exempt From Criticism : Lawyers, Guns & Money

    [...] part of her excellent take on the racist email send by a student at Harvard Law School, Jill identifies another excellent example of Sarah Palin’s theory of free speech, i.e. that [...]

  203. The Bilerico Project
    The Bilerico Project May 4, 2010 at 4:00 pm |

    Future Supreme Court Nominee Stephanie Grace??…

    Well, maybe. But not until President Palin’s second term. Via Jill at Femeniste and Jezebel’s Anna North comes this bit of insight from Harvard Law School 3L Stephanie Grace, who felt the need to clarify her statements after a dinner conver…

  204. Who Knew “Pull A Larry Summers” Was A Phrase? « Around The Sphere

    [...] Jill at Feministe: 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?” [...]

  205. Things I think you should have read this week 5.7.2010 | Life in the Middle Lane

    [...] an article of all the reasons S. Grace is a fool from a white feminist point of view and here’s a article from a black male point of view. Be sure to stick around for the comments [...]

  206. What’s wrong with this blog « ethecofem

    [...] comment derail here (my comments haven’t showed up yet as of posting time), and this entire thing, I really want to exit the feminist-blog world. You know why? The entirety of this feminism exists [...]

  207. За четене « It Looks Like A Feminist Blog

    [...] [...]

  208. Internet is Watching You « Andy's Mercury Comments

    [...] example of this could be Stephanie Grace. A woman who was thinking out loud in a mail, and then had to pay the price. She talked about race [...]

  209. Law Riot » Blog Archive » (Racist) Harvard Law 3L: “African Americans…genetically…less intelligent”

    [...] the full email on the Feministe.us blog. [...]

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