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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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79 Responses

  1. Sarah
    Sarah April 30, 2010 at 10:49 am |

    “Lastly, there seems to be something peculiar about my profession. I have encountered more than a few racists throughout my law school and professional career — so many that it seems vastly disproportionate in comparison to other professions.”

    Thank you! If you hadn’t said this, I was going to.

    I went to law school in the south, and for a long time I blamed the racist (and misogynist, and homophobic) attitudes and actions of the students, faculty, staff, and institution on the geography. But now as an attorney I’m in a position where I deal regularly with students from a particular state law school in the northeast, and I hear the exact same crap out of their mouths.

    I wonder if the legal profession just oozes so much class privilege that some of us become convinced we’re “better than” others. Do we convince law students and lawyers that we’re a cut above the general population – more intelligent, better informed, less given to being concerned about “feelings” and more focused on “facts” – and does that exacerbate pre-existing problems with racism, sexism, xenophobia…?

  2. EM
    EM April 30, 2010 at 11:22 am |

    Amen to every word of this post. I’m in law school now, and I continue to be stunned at some of the views that students and faculty have no problem expressing openly and legitimately, many of which are categorically racist, homophobic, xenophobic and classist.

    I agree w/ Sarah that there’s an overwhelming sense of superiority among students. Unfortunately, that creates an environment where we make these judgments and determinations about entire groups of people from this vacuum of privilege in which there is no diversity of experience. In my section of 80 people, in a private law school in CA, I am the only gay person, there are no African Americans and there is one Latina. I’m invisible on campus at the same time that I stick out. I’m thrust forward during class discussions as *the* representative of all queer people, ever.

    In my experience at school and at a firm, the profession consists of many who practice White Code (thx, Jill), White Privilege and Straight Privilege. It’s an attitude and a organization model that is not sustainable and not in the best interests of the profession.

  3. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 30, 2010 at 11:22 am |

    What is the best way to argue against people who say you’re stifling their free speech? I feel completely blindsided when someone says something horrifically racist and I call them out, only to hear that they have first amendment rights.

    Is it that I have first amendment rights too and thus have every right to call them an asshole? Does the first amendment protect hate speech? If not, do one of the lawyers on this site have a reference about what constitutes hate speech and what doesn’t?

  4. RL
    RL April 30, 2010 at 11:26 am |

    As an incoming 1L at HLS and a black female, thank you for this. I guess I need to mentally prepare myself for both overt and clandestine racism. I hate the fact that I am going to have to prove myself at every turn…is it not 2010? And at Harvard nonetheless? I must say I am very disappointed in HLS as an institution for not making racial realities part of the everyday conversation and leaving it to a linear pseudo-intellectual legal discourse that dismisses so much of a greater, holistic picture.

  5. Emily
    Emily April 30, 2010 at 11:33 am |

    PrettyAmiable – I think a proper response is “last I checked, I wasn’t the government and I wasn’t trying to throw you in jail for what you said; you have every right to say what you said, and I have every right to call you a racist for saying it.”

  6. jen
    jen April 30, 2010 at 11:43 am |

    Diane, thank you for this brilliant post. it is an outrage, and i am completely horrified by this racist and misogynistic behaviour. stephanie grace’s bullshit left me quite speechless, and to learn that she’s one of the many at HLS, makes me furious. I agree that it is comletely justified for BLSA to publish this email and show how much work needs to be done here (and everywhere else, actually)!

  7. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers April 30, 2010 at 11:57 am |

    Is it that I have first amendment rights too and thus have every right to call them an asshole?

    Basically, yes. “You have the 1st amendment right to say what you did, and I have the 1st amendment right to say that you are an asshole for saying it and no one should hire you. Both are opinions, and neither is backed by the federal government.”

    I am a huge proponent of the first amendment, and actively campaigned against things like the Communications Decency Act in the 1990′s, and the notion that you, a private citizen, are violating their right to free speech by using your right to free speech is absurd in the extreme. You could respond by saying, “Hey, aren’t you trying to stifle my free speech? I have just as much right to call you an asshole over what you said and ask other people to boycott or fire you as you had to say it in the first place.”

  8. Jim F.
    Jim F. April 30, 2010 at 11:59 am |

    The answer to PrettyAmiable’s question, is to acknowledge that yes people do have a First Amendment to spew racist nonsense, but by the same token, you have a First Amendment right to call them out on it; to condemn and ridicule them for being racist yahoos.

  9. Alex
    Alex April 30, 2010 at 12:04 pm |

    That’s right Diane unveil the ghosts of HLS. You hit the nail on the head. As your identical twin (in resume), I think it’s important to say a little more about Charlie “Poppa” Nesson. It is not enough to say that we are confident that he did not possess malicious intent when he organized the mock trial of Kiwi. We have talked extensively with him about the situation. The mock trial was one man’s attempt to have a ceasefire in a race war that the administration purposefully ignored. And, the administration was all too happy to vilify Poppa, slithering behind him while he took the backlash for his attempt to make a lawyerly teaching moment of bad situation. Remember folks the administration did and said NOTHING, per usual. The administrators tap dance around race issues in order to preserve moderate liberalism on their pre-marked paths to the Supreme Court. That school is a freakin’ mess, and they wonder why I hang up when they call to plump up their endowment!

  10. Anita
    Anita April 30, 2010 at 12:11 pm |

    I cannot believe that we are still having a discussion on the need to discuss racism in 2010. Get over it HLS, we are still a racist society and we need to talk about racism every day. Please get diversity classes and proper information about your Black students. You really do need Black students contrary to what you guys might think. Ms. Grace said what she believed and now she is trying to distance herself from those stupid statements and she really cannot. She’s probably a member of the new KKK, the tea party movement.

  11. grrljock
    grrljock April 30, 2010 at 12:43 pm |

    As sad as it is that a HLS student still holds an idiotic belief (the whole bit about how her babies would verily be beautiful geniuses even if they had to grow up in a Nigerian orphanage is…truly bizarre), it’s even sadder to read that this type of thinking is alive and well at the school. Am I naive to think that in 2010 no sentient person should believe such obviously racist things, let alone express those beliefs, in email, in righteous indignation, to make sure that her ‘friends’ know that she meant what she said at dinner?
    So hell yes I agree with BLSA for forwarding the email and including her name in it. It just shows how much further we have to go to fight stupidity anywhere.

  12. Rena
    Rena April 30, 2010 at 12:51 pm |

    Pretty Amiable-There is nothing you can really do to argue with someone who cites the first amendment as an excuse to say racist or offensive statements…as long as THEY believe it’s a conversation stopper. (It is one, but not in the way they think it is.) Arguments that Offensive Person is violating YOUR free speech don’t seem to work very well (at least with me they don’t.)

    <blockquote cite="Professor Charles Nesson decided to have an open debate and have students defend Camara in class, in a mock trial-like setting. The purpose was to promote free discussion on the issue. But this completely backfired, and many students, especially African-Americans, were very offended. “/>

    I think that mock trials/social hacking like this can go wrong very easily in an environment as described by the op.

  13. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil April 30, 2010 at 12:52 pm |

    Great post. I also have to think that Grace’s defenders feel that she shouldn’t have been called out because she’s a white woman and white women need to be protected from dangerous black people. I find it kind of staggering to view the number of levels that the racism operates on: in Grace’s initial comments, the response to her name being publicized, and the “you’re so sensitive!” response to people who complain.

  14. Amellifera
    Amellifera April 30, 2010 at 1:49 pm |

    The “you’re too sensitive” thing is funny on a feminist blog. (Really? You aren’t at all sensitive for frequenting a blog you know you disagree with?) But it’s downright scary coming from people in positions of power.

    @Alex and Diane on Professor Nesson: Something I don’t understand about the mock trial. I get that Nesson was the only person willing to acknowledge that there was a problem, but I kinda don’t understand defending his actions. It scares me to see law students displaying an inherent misunderstanding of the first amendment, as we’ve seen on Above the Law. Didn’t Kiwi Camara willingly remove the offensive language due to social pressure? It’s my understanding that there was no censorship. That, instead, people rightly called him out for being a bigot and he apologized for it. Maybe I’m wrong. If no censorship transpired, however, what in the world was the point in holding a free speech mock trial? Isn’t that dangerously conflating legal repercussions of speech with social repercussions? Don’t get me wrong, I understand that he was trying something when no one else would. But why didn’t he host a discussion outside of the classroom or something? I’m honestly asking, because I (obviously) only really know what’s written in Wikipedia and here.

  15. Zes
    Zes April 30, 2010 at 1:51 pm |

    The good news is that being a Jew at Harvard was first banned and then miserable, and now is seen as normal. Chin up; we’ll get there!

    That said, and please do not misconstrue what I’m going to say as a defense of Ms Grace’s asinine and horrible comments, but as someone who is surrounded by Ivy Leaguers and went to the foreign equivalent, I think there are two additional factors to consider here.
    1. Ivy Leaguers do not understand until they leave that where you went to school may give you good connections but that other than that, nobody gives a fuck. I’ve known Harvard kids who thought they were the shit because they had read Adam Smith. Well bully for them; so have I, but I don’t ponce around shoving my learning in people’s faces. Once they grasp that nobody likes a smartass, they get better. Within 2 years of leaving most of them have clicked that life experience and wisdom cannot be taught from a book, that there are a hell of a lot of smart (and smarter than them) people out there, and that sometimes they should STFU and defer. Most of them are about to go from being most senior kid at Harvard to the most junior person at a workplace, and that breeds a little humility. I believe – I hope! – that Ms Grace will look back on her idiotic rant, sanctified by the Harvard bubble that was telling her that she is oh-so-educated and therefore allowed to talk like that and we should all bow down and serenade her, with absolute horror. God knows we have all said outrageously stupid things as teens and young adults that we now regard with abhorrence. Ms Grace’s misfortune is that she did it in a way that will follow her forever.
    2. University, particularly law school, promotes itself as a place to consider new, controversial or different ideas, and often is not careful enough to set the parameters such that the offensive views necessarily aired in this environment are contained. Again, the Ivy Leaguers are taught that they are super awesomely smart and that therefore they are capable of facing the biggest intellectual challenges, and that they don’t have to be careful in this way. I attended debates at university where I personally stood up and made arguments I do not believe, for the intellectual achievement of constructing an argument and examining the other side – but (I hope) I was clear before or after about my motives, and actual beliefs. I’ve been at debates on the death penalty, feminism, prostitution, this or that war, and race too, and seen people who I know to be good folk play devil’s advocate for the sake of a good debate. If we cannot articulate the other side’s position we cannot defeat them, and that gets truer the more appalling their stance is. We need to talk about what race is, what intelligence is, why IQ testing is pretty meaningless, nurture vs nature, how disparities of outcome arise and what systems best redress them, etc.
    Clearly argument for its own sake wasn’t what happened here; she must believe some of this stuff. But Ms Grace is in an environment where putting forth a ravingly contrary view for its own sake is seen as fashionable and brave. I’ve seen a lot of Harvard kids prat around saying the most insanely right- or left-wing drivel just to rile people up or get attention, and then recant it shortly after clicking that nobody is impressed.

    I hope she will grow up, get out of the HLS bubble, live in the world a bit, meet some more diverse people and learn what a total crock she put forth. Then write another email admitting it. She may even resolve publicly to help remedy the situations that lead to the disparities of outcome she is mistakenly chalking up to genetic inferiority – no fanatic like a convert after all, and she must be a reasonably intelligent person, who can therefore be worked on. As you say, she could be an influential person, and hopefully she can use this experience to learn something.

  16. Diane
    Diane April 30, 2010 at 1:54 pm |

    First, I have to say, I co-sign what Alex said. And I sincerely THANK her for shedding more light on the situation and how Professor Nesson was used as a scapegoat by HLS in the most deplorable way to avoid dealing with the actual issue at hand. Instead of using the Kiwi outline incident as an opportunity to institutionalize meaningful racial senstivity courses or forums, they tried to destroy Nesson, and write the situation off as an isolated but “unfortunate” incident. Then they washed their hands… Grand Opening, Grand Closing.

    To all the lawyers and law students that commented, I think we really do need to do something about the insensitivity to people considered “other” in law school. Many of our colleagues will make very impactful decisions in their careers, whether consciously or subconsiously, based on others’ race, gender, and sexual orientation, among other indentity factors. Why then, do we not value these types of discussions in law school? Why are discussions of race, gender and sexuality considered non-academic and unimportant?

    RL, I encourage you to push the HLS administration on this in general. And especially if, and when, another race war breaks out. Law school is, and should be an open and welcoming intellectual community. It should prepare its students to lead and represent a diverse world. But as they stand now, law schools horribly fail.

  17. lt
    lt April 30, 2010 at 1:56 pm |

    This was a really wonderful post, Diane. I hope the folks in the other thread who are so concerned about Stephanie Grace’s future read it and rethink who is really being harmed with this crap. It never ceases to amaze me that people who think free speech is so wonderful and sacred don’t recognize that words actually mean things and have consequences.

    Also, *that* Elena Kagan? Bleh. Has this been discussed anywhere else regarding her possible nomination? From what else I’ve read, I’m not excited about the prospect, and this sure doesn’t help.

  18. human
    human April 30, 2010 at 1:57 pm |

    Diane, thank you so much for this excellent post. I really have nothing to add but I so appreciate the additional information and perspective that you lay out here so clearly that I want to thank you for taking the time to write this and share it with us.

  19. Kallista
    Kallista April 30, 2010 at 2:22 pm |

    I’ve encountered the same thing in the legal profession. I’ve been a lawyer for 11 years. I don’t know if lawyers are more racist, or just more comfortable airing their racism than other white professionals.

    We disagree and argue for a living. We take all sorts of unpleasant positions for our clients. So, maybe our profession is just more open about our racism.

    On the other hand, my best friend is a nurse married to a doctor, my mom is a nurse, and my husband is a nurse. I’ve met lots of their co-workers on a social basis. White medical professionals also have plenty of racist/classist/homophobic crap to say when it’s just white people talking. So maybe it’s the class/race privilege that comes from being a white professional.

  20. Eronarn
    Eronarn April 30, 2010 at 2:23 pm |

    The examples you cite in your post are disgusting, and I don’t think further comment is required on why the school in question is so broken. I’d prefer to comment on the way in which Grace’s beliefs have been called out. She is incorrect, of course, but I have yet to see anyone actually put effort into stating why. Consider:

    “I refuse to waste my time and energy refuting a point as ridiculous as this, as I literally cannot have the intellectual equality of black people be open for debate.”

    It is ridiculous to follow a claim of superior rationality with a statement like this. It does not become acceptable to close a topic for debate by fiat simply because it’s a topic that we wish people would move on from. To call her point ridiculous without engaging it is exactly the same dismissal technique used to avoid engaging with racism by branding demands for change as unreasonable.

    What makes this quote particularly tragic is that you seek to close debate on the topic, yet are not interested in making use of scientific methods to do so. You “refuse to waste [your] time and energy” doing so – but it could be done in less time than it took you to write this lengthy blog post. Let’s give it a try:

    “The black-white IQ gap exists in raw data, but it nearly vanishes when socioeconomic factors are controlled for. Looking for genetic IQ differences to explain the remaining difference is likely futile: it is impossible to draw clear racial boundaries even on a cultural level, never mind a genetic one where a “black” person and a “white” person may be more genetically similar than two “black” people. Even if the remaining unexplained variance could be proven to be solely genetic, rather than due to other factors such as oppression, discrimination, or the lasting damage done to black culture by the above, it would have less consequence than difference in average heights – it would end up significantly smaller than the IQ gap between poorly fed and well fed children, for instance.”

    Do you believe that she won’t listen to something like this? That’s quite possible. If the strong scientific evidence against genetic differences in IQ on racial lines doesn’t sway her, though, why would insulting her publicly without providing that evidence work?

    (And I don’t mean to not call out her beliefs out as racist. What I mean is that calling her irrational in the way it has been applied is an insult without any real foundation in the presented counterarguments. It’s being used as a substitute for “stupid”.)

    Grace may be painfully white and painfully uneducated (both about racism and about the science related to race), but given that, her mistake is pretty understandable. People make mistakes about racism all the time and they make mistakes about science all the time. That doesn’t mean you should go easy on her for her mistakes, but it does mean that she really isn’t some cackling, moustache-twirling villain who must be silenced. Strictly speaking, she’s not even “irrational” – she is applying rational thought to flawed starting evidence and receiving flawed conclusions (“garbage in, garbage out”). Force her to engage with an intellectually honest rebuttal, and either she’ll sort out her beliefs quickly and come that much closer to being on the right side, or she’ll refuse to change and you’ll have a lovely new source of ammunition against her.

  21. Carmen
    Carmen April 30, 2010 at 2:26 pm |

    Very well written Diane… As my professor would say, “it was very gracious”

  22. Tanglethis
    Tanglethis April 30, 2010 at 2:35 pm |

    @Pretty Amiable: Also, you can tell them not to confuse having the right to spew bullshit with being right in doing so.

  23. lt
    lt April 30, 2010 at 2:37 pm |

    Zes –

    A couple things: Have you seen the law school breakdown of the current Supreme Court? Ivy Leaguers *are* overrepresented in positions of power throughout law and other fields. To negate this because some people get more humble as they get older is a bit beside the point. Secondly, the arguments here about law school culture suggest that the idea that more debate is the be all for ending injustice needs to be rethought. The civil rights movement didn’t hold debate meetings about racism, it said it was unacceptable and needed to stop.

    Also, your first point about Jews comes off as a bit glib. Antisemitism and racism have very different histories in the United States and one can’t say that because one was overcome in this context the other will be.

  24. Dave
    Dave April 30, 2010 at 2:44 pm |

    Thanks for a great post, Diane!

    I worked at HLS for a year in the computer lab. During that time, I met very few students (of any race or gender) that I found tolerable. One of my co-workers observed that there was something about the process of “educating” law students at HLS that turned them into insufferable, self-righteous pricks. He speculated that it was the ultra-confrontational classroom environment. Having never gone to law school myself, I wouldn’t know.

    That’s not to say that I didn’t also meet some awesome people there, but sadly, Grace seems pretty much par for the course. The telling thing about her is not the obvious, casual racism (though that’s certainly a problem), but the fact that it never once occurs to her that she should re-examine her own position. Instead she tries over and over to make better arguments for it.

    I’ll leave the analysis as an exercise for the reader :)

    The administration probably just suffers from the same disease. It’s easier to blame the victim if you can’t imagine that anything bad could possibly be happening at Hahvuhd. It’s just really ironic that it’s going on at the same university where the undergraduates routinely suffer* from administration efforts to make the campus “more diverse” and “more integrated”.

    * Not in the sense that diversity or integration is bad, mind you – and the undergrad system there does a wonderful job building a diverse student population; better than many big state schools! But things like housing randomization hurt far more than they helped.

  25. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil April 30, 2010 at 2:44 pm |

    It does not become acceptable to close a topic for debate by fiat simply because it’s a topic that we wish people would move on from.

    Funny, I was under the impression that authors of blog posts got to do exactly that. I’m also amused that you think Diane somehow as the power to prevent anyone else from having that conversation, but, you know, if she does, well done, Diane!

    Really, though, do you think it’s fair to demand that Diane entertain the notion that she’s intellectually inferior because she’s black? Would you make the same demand of women or any other group?

  26. alum
    alum April 30, 2010 at 2:52 pm |

    “Worse, black students were often racially profiled on campus– made to show identification to and from class.”

    I’m an HLS alum who is a POC, but not black. To the author of the post: we attended Harvard at roughly the same time. I didn’t experience this on campus, I didn’t hear about it from my black classmates, and most of all, our campus had very few ID checkpoints (other than to enter Langdell Library, and everyone had to swipe IDs there.) Could you share more information about this? Who was asking for students’ IDs? Did this occur in specific buildings on campus, or elsewhere on the grounds of the law school campus? Were the Harvard police involved? If the police weren’t the ones profiling, was this behavior reported to them? With what frequency did this profiling occur/what does “often” mean?

    ***

    Also, a quick factual correction about Kiwi Camara: he was class of 2004, so he would have matriculated at HLS in 2001, at which point he was 17 (per Wikipedia, which states that he was born in June 1984).

  27. Dave
    Dave April 30, 2010 at 2:52 pm |

    @Eronarn: so basically, Grace’s statements boil down to:

    “I don’t have a deep understanding of this topic and am unaware of research that actually refutes my point, but you must still listen to me pontificate pseudoscientifically in the defense of my own personal prejudices, since clearly I am an authority worthy of your attention.”

    Perhaps we should add “whitesplaining” right next to “mainsplaining” in the dictionary?

  28. Sailorman
    Sailorman April 30, 2010 at 2:58 pm |

    Jill,

    It seems like you’re ducking the two things that are coming up most in the comments:

    1) Whether taking a private email viral was, in fact appropriate.

    For which a good question might be “if it was a group you disliked taking a private email viral, would you still think it was appropriate?” Or, perhaps “have you or any of your friends ever said anything–at any time–in a private email, which you would feel was inappropriate to be shared publicly?”

    I think there’s a lot of stretching here to think of her as some sort of public figure. She’s not. Why are you glossing over that? Would you really be comfortable if the same attention got paid to someone you liked?

    2) Whether it makes more sense to shut down discussion or answer it.

    I’m in the latter camp: While it makes no sense at all to assume that blacks are intellectually inferior*, the question “do genetics have anything to do with brain formation and processing, and if so, what?” remains fairly important for research.

    I doubt you’d want to shut down general discussion about genetics and how they might influence our thoughts or abilities. But it’s hard to leave that open if people who are learning can’t ask the normal-if-wrong questions, like “isn’t race genetically identified, and if so, is there a link between race and genetic intelligence?” There are plenty of ways to deal with the question in a few short sentences–many illustrations exist in the comments–and I don’t think the “I will not even deign to answer this at all” approach is working too well.

    *Because (1) there’s no good evidence of differences between whites and blacks or between any race for that matter, and (2) if, for some random reason, you were going to postulate a difference which hasn’t been shown to exist at all, why not assume whites are INFERIOR?

    #2 is really the most accurate response: we don’t know of many gene/intellect links at the moment, we know race-as-construct isn’t reflected well in genetics anyway, and we therefore don’t expect to find any intelligence variations which can conclusively be linked to race-as-construct. But if future scientists DO discover one that’s linked to race… well, there are a lot of races out there, and the chances that whites will be at the top is pretty damn small, statistically speaking. So assuming “whites are smartest” is both wrong and stupid.

  29. Sara Anderson
    Sara Anderson April 30, 2010 at 3:09 pm |

    I really appreciate the comeback about freedom of speech protecting angry reactions equally. I’m totally using that.

  30. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 30, 2010 at 3:10 pm |

    Thank you all who have responded; I really appreciate the help.

  31. saralovesyou
    saralovesyou April 30, 2010 at 3:28 pm |

    I wanted to hit a couple of key things in this post, which was flat-out awesome.

    First, I think Diane really got to something that is both interesting and dangerous with her observation that this kind of behavior/opinion is more common in lawyers/law students. The danger is, of course, that these are indeed the future lawmakers/influencers of American policy. The interesting part is that I hadn’t thought much about the personality/background of those going into law and how that might make them even more resistant to analyzing their white/class privilege and sorting out their behaviors and participation in a racist society. I think it’s spot on.

    Secondly, despite not really wanting to address it, I can’t help myself. This is @Sailorman. Measuring “intelligence” is not the same as determining which collection of genes contribute to a predisposition to types of cancer or something like that. Measuring intelligence means subjectively determining what intelligence is and what questions determine whether a person has that and in what amount.

    If a person wants to promote the idea that there is some inequality between races in terms of intelligence, they start off with a scientifically flawed research question. There is no accurate, objective measure of intelligence because what we measure to prove intelligence is culturally and socially constructed.

    I really wish we had better education about scientific research and what kinds of claims you can/cannot make based on studies. Of course, a person can still be an ass and publish The Bell Curve or some crap like that to promote a racist agenda, but it doesn’t make your conclusions valid just because you take data and interpret it however you want.

  32. alum
    alum April 30, 2010 at 3:31 pm |

    “Diane can do what she wants, but she isn’t under any obligation to give you details of who was asking for the students’ IDs, and where, and exactly who was involved and whether it was reported to the police and how often this occurred. Give me an effing break.”

    I don’t think I stated she was under any obligation. She is making a serious allegation about our alma mater (that unidentified people were racially profiling minority students on campus at a time when we were both in attendance), and I asked for more information because it was something of which I was previously unaware. She can choose to clarify her post or not.

  33. Diana Lee
    Diana Lee April 30, 2010 at 3:50 pm |

    It’s hard for me to feel sympathy for Stephanie Grace. She said what she said and shouldn’t have done so if those thoughts weren’t something she could tolerate being publicly known. It’s naive to think an e-mail is truly private. Though it perhaps should, I’m sure this little incident won’t have any negative impact on her career.

  34. saralovesyou
    saralovesyou April 30, 2010 at 3:54 pm |

    @alum

    The Google, it’s pretty good at giving you information. You can start with these and use the affordances of the Internet to seek out more if you’re actually interested in educating yourself.

    http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2007/6/4/shifting-the-race-debate-commencement-is/

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=5671106&page=1

  35. exholt
    exholt April 30, 2010 at 3:55 pm |

    I’m an HLS alum who is a POC, but not black. To the author of the post: we attended Harvard at roughly the same time. I didn’t experience this on campus, I didn’t hear about it from my black classmates, and most of all, our campus had very few ID checkpoints (other than to enter Langdell Library, and everyone had to swipe IDs there.) Could you share more information about this?

    This does happen from my own experiences reading about how Harvard Police were called to an upper-class dorm quad a few years back because a group of African-American students were having a picnic and some Harvard undergrad thought they didn’t look like they “belonged there”.

    Also, an African-American college classmate who is currently a Harvard science PhD student has been asked for his ID on campus at a far greater frequency than his White/Asian colleagues. Heck, he’s been asked for ID exponentially more times than I have*….and I wasn’t a regular Harvard student like he is.

    * I’ve NEVER been asked for ID whenever I was on the Harvard campus over the last 15 years….and a large part of that is due to the fact that as an Asian-American, there’s an automatic assumption I “belonged there”.

  36. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 30, 2010 at 4:01 pm |

    The fucking need for exact syntax on this site from commenters is getting ridiculous. People are commenting on a blog, not putting forth a doctoral dissertation.

    Alum, no, you did not say she was under any obligation. The point the person who responded was making is that your demand for more information is inflammatory and indicates an absolutely unnecessary sense that you doubt her word. Guess what? Harvard? Big school. It’s completely unsurprising that someone had a different experience than yours. Her report here should be sufficient because you can’t magic yourself back in time to do anything about it. If you’re asking what you can do today as an alum to change current racial attitudes at the university, then that needs to be asked – and perhaps should be asked – of all of us.

    And for when you inevitably reply that you didn’t SAY you doubted her word, let me direct you in advance to this statement: “She is making a serious allegation about our alma mater…” which is chock full of doubt.

  37. Diane
    Diane April 30, 2010 at 4:08 pm |

    Alum,

    The fact that you were unaware of the problem of racial profiling at HLS is unfortunate and makes me particularly happy that I wrote this post. This was a problem that deeply affected alot of black students at HLS. Your lack of knowledge on this perhaps speaks to the common problem of racism being considered only a “black issue,” which should be confined to black student groups, and not opened up to broader community. I specifically noted in my post that it was a common observation that black students, not all students of color, were asked for identification while on campus, at a higher rate than students of other races. This was particularly true of the black male students, but I too found myself victim to this profiling. To answer your question, the Harvard police asked for identification. The issue was so pervasive that concerned HLS students and BLSA organized a town hall meeting ON CAMPUS and invited the Harvard police, who accepted the invitation. Although it was advertised widely, it was almost exclusively attended by black students. You may like to know, we had a constructive conversation, and I believe many of the Harvard police officers were unaware of implicit biases many of them had.

  38. Sailorman
    Sailorman April 30, 2010 at 4:09 pm |

    I remember the Camara incident well. but when you say this:

    Further, African-American students who criticized this incident were portrayed as overly-sensitive and opposed to free speech.

    it’s not true. Plenty of people criticized the incident. The “opposed to free speech” group wasn’t labeled as such just because they were criticizing Camara and HLS, but because of what they did and said in that process.

    For example, people were asking for Camara to be officially disciplined. While that’s a tempting thing to say, it’s very odd to try to get involved in the interscholastic discipline (or lack) of an individual.

    And they weren’t just asking for profs to be removed from class. They were also asking for formal reprimands to be placed on their records.

    And worst of all, they were making demands like this one:
    Two-L Joi Chaney, who helped to organize the protest, echoed some of West’s concerns to the RECORD. “Our biggest problem is with covert racism, because it reaches into our everyday life,” she said. Chaney described her vision of BLSA’s proposed Multicultural Affairs office as one that would, “research and investigate whether hate speech had been uttered, and would be able to suspend students or note their conduct on their transcripts.” (from the Harvard law Record.)

    So: if that’s the sort of thing that was getting proposed, and plenty of the “criticizers” were getting behind it. Are you sure you want to put that up as a free speech support line?

    You’re framing it now as “HLS denied us a forum.” From what i remember of it, it was more like “HLS didn’t meet our demands.”

    Cawara was an asshole; Harvard was (and still is) a racist place. Both of those things are true. But when people are looking to use the powers of the academy to “research and investigate” those who say the wrong thing, and punish them? Yeah, that’s an anti-free-speech position all right.

  39. exholt
    exholt April 30, 2010 at 4:16 pm |

    As an aside, incidents like this and other excessively callow ignorant behavior and comments among law students who went straight to law school from undergrad are reasons why several friends who attended/attend topflight law schools like Harvard as older students argue for a complete cessation of admitting law students straight from undergrad and actually mandating 2+ years of work experience for all before one is allowed to apply.

    Jill and any other law students/graduates,

    Out of curiosity, how did you all deal with the “asshole factor” in law school and law practice? How does one protect/defend oneself from that?

  40. Diane
    Diane April 30, 2010 at 4:27 pm |

    @ Amellifera

    Alex and I are defending Nesson because his tactics were very well-intentioned, although misplaced. I was not at HLS when this happened. I am basing my discussion of this on what other students, websites/blogs, and Nesson himself told me. His purpose was to let students discuss what happened in a trial like setting, in part for students to vent and cope with what happened. And also, to refute the racist actions. The problem with that method, which Nesson has acknowledged, and is very, very apologetic about, is that it appeared to legitimize Kiwi’s actions. In other words, it put Kiwi’s racist comments on a level with sound arguments about why the use of derivations of the word n*gger is inappropriate in a communal law school outline database. My point is that Nesson was far from the problem. It is problematic to focus on his action rather than Kiwi’s racist acts, or more importantly, the administration failure to act and criticism of students’ outrage. Nesson at least made an effort to remedy the situation (which again, backfired). But HLS just hung him out to dry, and used him to avoid dealing with the deeper issue.

  41. Violet
    Violet April 30, 2010 at 4:48 pm |

    @RL: I am a black 1L at HLS and while the school isn’t perfect, I really hope that you are still looking forward to being a member of our community! Some professors are better than others in interjecting some of these realities into our esoteric conversations.

    Diane, thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I am disappointed to know that Dean Kagan was so…dismissive of the concerns of black students.

    Lastly, there seems to be something peculiar about my profession. I have encountered more than a few racists throughout my law school and professional career — so many that it seems vastly disproportionate in comparison to other professions.

    I thought I was the only one who thought that. The White Person Code that Jill wrote about yesterday and this comment really sum up how I feel about law school. When I talk about this with non-black friends they don’t seem to understand how pervasive this is and how it can affect someone.

  42. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 30, 2010 at 6:32 pm |

    “As an aside, incidents like this and other excessively callow ignorant behavior and comments among law students who went straight to law school from undergrad are reasons why several friends who attended/attend topflight law schools like Harvard as older students argue for a complete cessation of admitting law students straight from undergrad and actually mandating 2+ years of work experience for all before one is allowed to apply.”

    Yeah, we have this issue (that is, people like you) at my business school too. On behalf of all of us younger students, maybe you should rethink your horribly ageist stance. She didn’t say something ignorant because she didn’t have work experience or because she’s two years younger than you, and to think otherwise is horribly naive. I’ve heard ridiculously sexist, heterosexist, classist, and racist things IN CLASS from my older classmates. Get over yourself.

  43. Amellifera
    Amellifera April 30, 2010 at 7:29 pm |

    Diane:
    Thank you for your response. I really appreciate it. I suppose I should watch my knee-jerk response to anyone who uses the phrase “good intentions.” Especially when it isn’t used to excuse behavior, only to explain context. And I reread what you and Alex wrote, and realized that he withdrew himself from teaching L1 students.

    That Harvard used this mock trial as a means to derail a larger conversation is inexcusable. I realize now that I was derailing the more important conversation as well. The biggest question is why Kiwi thought it was okay to write those notes in the first place. The secondary problem is why he felt it was okay to publish these notes. I apologize for derailing, and I also thank you for taking the time to respond.

  44. octogalore
    octogalore April 30, 2010 at 7:45 pm |

    Great post, Diane.

    Interesting insights re Harvard. I went to Michigan Law, and noticed much more racial insensitivity than I had noted in engineering or business school. Not sure why. Law provided more of an obvious focus on issue of race than the other topics. Possibly it’s because lawyers-to-be are often very risk-averse and although they like to think of themselves as intellectually adaptable, they can be more fixed in their ideas. But that’s just a theory — there are certainly many exceptions.

    Of course, the content of her email is idiotic. In situations like this or like Larry Summers, though, is the goal to get people to stop saying these things, or to stop thinking them? My concern is that the difference between Grace and other students is simply that her judgment was worse. There have been great studies, like Sowell’s (discussed here by Brad DeLong) debunking the Bell Curve, and showing IQ differences are not racial.

    We here know Grace is ignorant, but I’m not as confident in the widespread understanding of this as I am in people’s understanding of when to shut up. It’s good that there’s info out there that will not only shut them up, but will put to rest such ignorant statements.

  45. becca
    becca April 30, 2010 at 8:13 pm |

    I finally read Ms Grace’s entire email. I only have one thing to say: I don’t think she should be allowed to comment and interpret statistics. After all, in her racist tirade, she also suggests that its “fact” that women aren’t exposed to enough testosterone in the womb to be as good at math as men. So really as a girl, she ought to leave the “numbers” to the menfolk. :)

  46. Sanna
    Sanna April 30, 2010 at 8:42 pm |

    Jill, this is a great comment. Thank you.

    Midway through Grace’s message, just when I thought my jaw couldn’t drop any lower, I saw that she stated with certitude that her babies would be “beautiful individuals” (as well as “geniuses”) if they grew up in a Nigerian orphanage: that is, Nigerian orphans are less likely (on the most charitable construal of her example) to be beautiful individuals short of a mommy of immaculate white pedigree.

    Her unrelenting determination to slur African Americans (why not leave your unwelcome views at the dinner table?) is almost as harrowing as the comments themselves. But nowhere does the abject racism of her attitude become more transparent than in this gratuitous, offhand scorn against impoverished African babies.

  47. exholt
    exholt April 30, 2010 at 10:04 pm |

    Yeah, we have this issue (that is, people like you) at my business school too. On behalf of all of us younger students, maybe you should rethink your horribly ageist stance. She didn’t say something ignorant because she didn’t have work experience or because she’s two years younger than you, and to think otherwise is horribly naive. I’ve heard ridiculously sexist, heterosexist, classist, and racist things IN CLASS from my older classmates. Get over yourself.

    Stephanie Grace’s case is symptomatic of the Ivy/Ivy-level educational bubble which amplifies and unfortunately further normalizes the overblown sense of entitlement, self-importance, and a gross lack of perspective common among socioeconomically privileged undergrads as observed by friends who attended or taught/TAed undergrads at such institutions as well as IME from my time visiting/taking classes at such campuses as a “Special student” while working full-time.

    I don’t know about b-school, but from the complaints of those law school friends….it seems law schools…especially those at the very top like Harvard or Columbia seem to be heavily populated by such socio-economically privileged students who went to law school straight from undergrad according to friends who attended/graduated. Several mentioned in disgust that their main reasons for going straight from undergrad after several of them mentioned it in passing can be boiled down to Wanting to stay in school longer because they didn’t want to bother looking for a job, they had great GPAs/LSAT scores, and anyways, mom and dad were going to foot all the expenses anyways…..and this was happening well before the recession of 2007-now. Hence, several more years in an even more insular privileged bubble further augmenting the normalization of such attitudes if they don’t want to bother being challenged on it until it gets so out of hand that it blows up like this case.

    Of course, the content of her email is idiotic. In situations like this or like Larry Summers, though, is the goal to get people to stop saying these things, or to stop thinking them? My concern is that the difference between Grace and other students is simply that her judgment was worse. There have been great studies, like Sowell’s (discussed here by Brad DeLong) debunking the Bell Curve, and showing IQ differences are not racial.

    Considering she graduated as a Sociology major and did thesis research related to race with a prominent scholar on sociology and race at Princeton, she has had plenty of opportunities to review the relevant literature. Hence, it isn’t as if she’s ignorant about these issues, but that she chooses to continue to hold such racist beliefs as judging by the very premises she uses to pose her questions. As such, unless she’s willing to take the initiative to change, the best we can hope for is for her to not act on her racism or if she does, to be prepared to face the same/greater level of negative ramifications of those acts than what she received as a result of this email.

  48. kwame
    kwame May 1, 2010 at 12:09 am |

    @ Alum,

    I agree with Diane. Part of the problem is that too many white students are totally oblivious to racism and its impact.

    A quick Google check might have saved you some keystrokes. There are several articles online about racial profiling at Harvard.

    I am African American. I was Ph.D. student @ Harvard anthropology when Diane was a student at Harvard Law. There were in fact many instances racial profiling on campus. Dr. Allen Counter, one of the most recognizable faces on campus, was once threatened with arrest by campus police if he did not produce identification.

    My former roommate, Tanu Henry, is a graduate of Harvard Divinity School. Several years ago, Tanu was on campus to pick up a letter of recommendation. Someone reported to the campus police that he looked “suspicious.” The police arrived on the scene and forced him to empty his pockets whilst other Harvard students looked on.

    I have been reported as “suspicious” to Harvard security guards several times–in a campus building that I have been going in and out of for eight years! And of course there is the “what are you doing here” look from random white people on campus that many Black Harvardians are very familiar with.

    The issue racial profiling was severe enough that President Faust organized a panel to examine the issue.

    Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree had this to say on the topic:

    “I’ve been hosting, moderating, and mediating meetings between Harvard’s black students and university police for much of the last 20 years, and it always stems from an individual incident when African-Americans appear to be the subject of racial profiling by the police department…The problem is a persistent one, because there’s still this unfortunate assumption that equates the color of a person’s skin with involvement in criminality.”

    I crashed one such meeting organized by Prof. Ogletree in 2004 or thereabouts. It was a well-attended event with participants from many different sectors of the Cambridge community including the chief of Cambridge police, if recall correctly.

    One specific policy change came out of these meetings:

    When I started graduate school at Harvard it was common for the Harvard police to release vague descriptions of suspects like, 6ft, dark complexioned male, blue baseball cap. 

    These sorts of generic black man descriptions no longer appear on campus police blotters. In lieu of these useless descriptions the blotters now say something like “the victim could not provide detailed description of suspect. kzs

  49. littlem
    littlem May 1, 2010 at 1:28 am |

    I find it so telling that there were 250+ comments on the other thread on this topic, a good half pleading and attempting to rationalize, minimize, and excuse Ms. Grace’s reprehensible conduct on pseudo-intellectual grounds …

    and less than 50 on this thread where a graduate of the law school details her personal experience with similar life-corroding behavior and says “Yes, this is really how it is.”

  50. LORD ADAM ALIU-OTOKITI
    LORD ADAM ALIU-OTOKITI May 1, 2010 at 2:46 am |

    I am not at all surprised that people like Stephanie Grace have taken off their KKK hoods and are now in the classrooms of reputable Law School like Harvard. Black people have always been oppressed and sabottaged in every aspect of their attempts to move ahead, not to mention the fact that they are denied economic opportunities like employments, loans to purchase houses, credit availability for businesses, etc. Given a level plain-field, Black people will far surpass Whites in every aspect of life.
    I look forward to see the day that every child will come to the arena and exhibit what they have to offer. I can guarantee you, some people will not make it to the 50 yard line. Tell Stephanie to wait a minute, the weather will change like New England weather.

    No thanks!

  51. Olivia Walker
    Olivia Walker May 1, 2010 at 7:38 am |

    Diane,

    I am grateful for your blog post and admire your bravery for posting it. I am also grateful that this whole email scandal with the Head of the Harvard Law Review came out before President Obama chose another Supreme Court Justice of which Elena Kegan is on the shortlist, who was dean of Harvard Law at the time you attended. If the email incident had not come out you would not have written this blog post to let us know where Kegan’s heart really is towards blacks or is it black women by this time I’m getting confused if blacks are the hated group or black women.

    If Obama chooses Kegan blacks will have to wonder what he’s trying to do to them because as you emphasize Kegan told black women they were being oversensitive when they objected to being parodied in a HLS play, a more far reaching court decision by an Obama appointee ruled that blacks could not sue American Airlines for racial discrimination, Sotomayor ruled, in King Vs. American airlines that American Airlines had the right to bump a black couple from a flight though they had prepurchased tickets, while white passengers who had purchased on the same day remained on the plane was not a court matter but a government matter this emphasizes a strong assault on the rights of blacks. If Obama appoints Kegan to the Supreme Court blacks will have to take a serious look in the mirror and reconsider their stance on electing Barack Obama.

    I will be forwarding this blog entry to my congressman and to the senator for my state. While it may not make any difference on whether President Obama chooses Elena Kegan to be a Supreme Court Justice at least the world is a little wiser to her stance on race matters.

  52. La BellaDonna
    La BellaDonna May 1, 2010 at 8:29 am |

    Is Stephanie Grace aware that for a very long time, it was an accepted “scientific fact” that women were just naturally less intelligent than men, because their brains were smaller? She might want to think about THAT science nugget for a while, and then revisit her “scientific probability”.

    @Exholt: If the argument suggesting mandating 2+ years of work experience for all before one is allowed to apply to law school is made with the goal of mitigating callow ignorance and at least making the applicants *aware* of their White Privilege, I’d like to at least suggest a caveat: Those 2+ years of work experience have to be in a SERVICE job. Two/plus years of work in Mom or Dad’s office or business, or in the office or business of a friend of Mom or Dad, will do NOTHING to mitigate that attitude. They need to be spending that time working at McDonald’s, or Wal-Mart, or as a maid at the local Motel 7, or as a cashier at the local ACME, or at the local JC Penny’s or Macy’s (NOT at a boutique). The closest they should get to an office would be a secretarial job – NOT an internship, NOT as a clerk.

    They need an apprenticeship in the life experiences of people who are NOT at the top of the food chain, or they will never understand or accept the humanity of the Other.

    In the interests of not being ageist, time spent working at the kinds of jobs listed above while in highschool or as an undergraduate *would* count.

  53. octogalore
    octogalore May 1, 2010 at 8:53 am |

    Exholt — of course, there’s no excuse on ignorance grounds for Grace. Doing work for Espenshade, she should have encountered Sowell’s work (Espenshade’s work focuses around diversity in higher ed, not racial genetic differences, but the studies are certainly related). And even if she hadn’t, there’s no excuse for beliefs in inferiority based on race or gender.

    My point was just that, having been around people like her classmates, I think the difference between Grace and some (not all) of her classmates is that she got caught. The more of those folks (who will go on to have kids, whose ideas they will mold to some degree) who can be turned around by the truth, the better. So, while we here aren’t going to need to peruse Sowell’s study to feel like we know what’s what, I think it’s good that there are additional weapons out there besides identifying people as racists. Although this may be correct, I’m not sure it is going to change the minds of spectators.

  54. exholt
    exholt May 1, 2010 at 11:14 am |

    If the argument suggesting mandating 2+ years of work experience for all before one is allowed to apply to law school is made with the goal of mitigating callow ignorance and at least making the applicants *aware* of their White Privilege, I’d like to at least suggest a caveat: Those 2+ years of work experience have to be in a SERVICE job. Two/plus years of work in Mom or Dad’s office or business, or in the office or business of a friend of Mom or Dad, will do NOTHING to mitigate that attitude. They need to be spending that time working at McDonald’s, or Wal-Mart, or as a maid at the local Motel 7, or as a cashier at the local ACME, or at the local JC Penny’s or Macy’s (NOT at a boutique). The closest they should get to an office would be a secretarial job – NOT an internship, NOT as a clerk.

    They need an apprenticeship in the life experiences of people who are NOT at the top of the food chain, or they will never understand or accept the humanity of the Other.

    In the interests of not being ageist, time spent working at the kinds of jobs listed above while in highschool or as an undergraduate *would* count.

    Great point and I agree. Unfortunately, from the quotes I read from some topflight law school admissions people, working such service jobs beyond actual financial need and a short period would be interpreted as a “lack of ambition/willingness to stretch oneself”, especially if one had the means through credentials like high grades and skills to gain more “challenging employment”.

    Consequently, unless there’s a substantial attitude change among law school/b-school admissions….especially those at the very top, working such SERVICE JOBS could actually hurt your chances of gaining admission to a law school…especially those at the top 25.

  55. Annie
    Annie May 1, 2010 at 12:46 pm |

    Thank you so much for writing this!

    I went to a master’s in social work program at Smith which is very committed to antiracism work – they have an antiracism mission statement, racism is discussed frequently in classrooms, faculty have workshops and trainings and are required to address these issues when discussing all cases. It still is a bubble of privilege and white people say really ignorant things, and these are wannabe social workers, most with at least 2 years of ‘real world’ experience working in social services with predominantly poor people. It seems like lawyers and social workers tend to have opposite personality types and ways to look at problems, so I’m thinking it’s more the blinding privilege and lack of self awareness of (white) people attending these prestigious private schools than the personalities of particular professions (whoa tongue twister) that leads them to be closed-minded and racist.

    [On a side note, somebody mentioned being solicited for money from their alma mater, and I've noticed that part of the process of branding schools and advertising to get people to donate is creating an environment that makes the students at the school feel like they are exceptional and that the school is the best and therefore they should give money after graduation. It's like paying to be part of a club - a fraternity that includes the whole school community and inherently others people. This is why my other alma mater, UNC, so vehemently hates Duke even when our school does the same thing essentially.]

    I also know that students of color at Smith SSW had a really hard time on campus because their racial identity was constantly on display in a sense. They were not receiving the same education as the white folks who were learning all about how racist they were (this is a generalized statement based on things I’ve heard students of color say, but obviously is not everyone’s experience). I think it’s absolutely necessary for higher ed administrators to support open dialogue about racism in any field but especially in public service positions. However, the thing that gets me discouraged is that even in an environment where this is happening, racism manifests in all these other ways and still ends up hurting POC.

    At least the Smith SSW admin is attempting to tackle this huge challenge, and as a white student the experience at the school has made a significant impact on how I interact with all different kinds of people both personally and professionally.

  56. Molly
    Molly May 1, 2010 at 1:32 pm |

    I think it’s important that Grace be accountable for her hate speech, which is currently documented (objectively) at wikipedia. However, people continue to erase the part of the entry that contains an excerpt of her email, and are rallying to have the page deleted.

    Please share your thoughts on whether the page should be kept here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Stephanie_Grace

    And feel free to add to the article here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephanie_Grace

  57. Zes
    Zes May 1, 2010 at 1:52 pm |

    @It – yes they are overrepresented, often irritatingly so. But the point is that who a person is at 21 is not necessarily who they are at 50. Or even at 22.

    Re ending injustice, of course it just needs to stop. In the real world is the place to stop it. But there is a place to debate about the intellectual stuff, the semantics, the genetics, and one such place is certain spaces at university, certain labs or lecture halls. The world beyond (including the campus) is the place to just say “You cannot do that; it is wrong.” Ms Grace is in university and probably felt that she is therefore supposed to be thinking differently and having the debate. In her bubble she’s also incredibly insulated from the impact of racism, because the black students there are still there no matter what she says, so she can delude herself she has not hurt anyone. She gets to say to herself, “I was only talking about averages, these black people are obviously just smarter than most, I didn’t mean them”. In the real world she will hopefully see what such thinking leads to and be more moved to agree with you and just say it has to stop.

    Re the point about Jews, it was meant to be encouraging. I know the history is different. You can’t really compare oppressions but you can take tips and encouragement from each other’s liberation!

  58. Agnes
    Agnes May 1, 2010 at 2:16 pm |

    A possible reason why there appears to be disproportionate racism in the law profession is that lawyers are trained to logicalise (not sure that’s a word – it is now!) everything. My boyfriend has just finished his undergrad law degree, and many of my friends are about to take finals. What I notice with them is that they have been taught to try and articulate any argument as logically as possible. Unfortunately, a lot of people, like Stephanie Grace, are not smart enough to recognise which parts of their supporting ‘evidence’ are actually based on completely erroneous prejudices which are so deeply ingrained that they appear to them to be ‘fact’. Thus her conclusion that less black people in her educational institution = black people are genetically less intelligent.

    It also really gets on my nerves when people equate freedom of speech with being able to say whatever you want without anyone being allowed to take offence. Freedom of speech does not mean you can abandon common decency.

  59. littlem
    littlem May 1, 2010 at 2:44 pm |

    I am not at all surprised that people like Stephanie Grace have taken off their KKK hoods and are now in the classrooms of reputable Law School like Harvard.

    “Now” there? With respect, they were always there.
    Those so vigorously arguing we live in a “post-racial society” *eyeroll* are asserting they are no longer there.

    I can’t help but wonder if those types of people are going to look wide-eyed and blankly right at this incident, and then keep arguing that.

    *looks back at earlier thread on topic*

    Oh, wait …

  60. Doug S.
    Doug S. May 1, 2010 at 3:18 pm |

    A link that may be important:

    “What you can’t say” by Paul Graham

  61. adrian
    adrian May 1, 2010 at 3:39 pm |

    i think it is very unfortunate that Stephanie Grace is being branded a racist based on an email she sent to people she thought were her friends to clarify her position on an earlier discussion. If people were to judge me based on an inflammatory private email (and I sent several I’m sure) I’d be branded a racist too.

    sidenote: I’m a black male HLS alum (c/o 07 ) and I was never stopped by HLS police, Cambridge police, or even Boston police and asked for identification or for any reason at all. I really enjoyed my time at HLS and didn’t experience any of the racist vibe that others are saying they felt. I’m not saying that it didn’t happen to someone, I guess I was just fortunate.

  62. kwame
    kwame May 1, 2010 at 6:08 pm |

    @ zes,

    there is a notion circulating that racists remarks “hurt” black people. i can only speak for myself, but ignorant white people (or for that matter ignorant black people) don’t phase me. my concern has nothing whatsoever to do with hurt feelings. rather my concern is that so long as white racism and white privilege are tolerated as legitimate was knowing and being, our (potentially) great nation remains greatly diminished. And given the fact that Americans of color, as a matter of survival, are adept at navigating the diminished nation, the “hurt,” whether they realize it or not, belongs to white people who move about the planet with delusions of grandeur. kzs

  63. kwame
    kwame May 1, 2010 at 6:14 pm |

    @ zes,

    there is a notion circulating that racists remarks “hurt” black people. i can only speak for myself, but ignorant white people (or for that matter ignorant black people) don’t phase me. my concern has nothing whatsoever to do with hurt feelings. rather, my concern is that so long as white racism and white privilege are tolerated as legitimate ways of knowing and being, our (potentially) great nation remains greatly diminished. and given the fact that Americans of color, as a matter of survival, are adept at navigating the diminished nation, the “hurt,” whether they realize it or not, belongs to white people who move about the planet with delusions of grandeur. kzs

  64. EJ
    EJ May 1, 2010 at 6:30 pm |

    While this issue goes beyond Stephanie, I find it disturbing that she will soon be in a position of power as a clerk to one of the most influential judges on the bench. As one blogger wrote
    “The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is one step below the U.S. Supreme Court. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decides major cases regarding affirmative action, employment discrimination, housing discrimination, civil rights and all kinds of race and minority issues.”

    http://stephaniegraceharvard.blogspot.com/2010/04/why-should-we-care.html

    Ideally, this incident would open foster dialogue and Stephanie would realize WHY her views are wrong, rather than issuing a rehearsed apology contradicting the views in her email. I wonder what the best way is to reach a racist – I’ve known many – and they have persisted in their beliefs regardless of the environment (e.g., I have known racists who have encountered brilliant and accomplished minority students, but maintain that those students are only accomplished due to affirmative action). What is the best way to influence someone like Stephanie Grace, before she becomes an influential clerk?

  65. Kit (Keep It Trill)
    Kit (Keep It Trill) May 1, 2010 at 8:32 pm |

    It’s a slippery slide downwards from publicly ‘making a case’ for inferiority of one group, to making a case justifying mass murder, aka ethnic cleansing or genocide.

  66. Barbed'or
    Barbed'or May 1, 2010 at 9:42 pm |

    What the racist thinker thinks, the racist prover proves

    Yet another pseudo-intellectual reflection from a supposedly intelligent Harvard Law School student. I thought we were done with this largely useless argument, that certain ethnic groups are (supposedly) genetically inferior to others. I mean what a useless, time-wasting debate. I thought that intelligent people from all ethnicities understood how futile it is to argue about a proposition that offers absolutely no practical applications in today’s world. I can understand if insecure, under-educated and socially-challenged idiots still think this is worth discussing over dinner. But when I read Stephanie’s email I couldn’t help be admire her for this contortion. I mean, even Troy, my dog would struggle to lick his own parts like she did.

    Because let’s admit it: this email and the preceding discussion is a form of gloating to the point that it is comparable to social masturbation; which often stems from an often unfounded sense of insecurity and a need to re-affirm one’s potency). It happens. Maybe she had a moment of jealousy after seeing a Black student score better than her and having this discussion was the most obvious way to sooth her ego. If that’s the case then she should be forgiven for her lapse and we should all move on. But if her apologies are not sincere then that’s another story.

    If she actually continues to maintain such a view then she is not at all as genetically well-endowed as she’s convinced she is. People need to understand this implications of Stephanie’s untestable ‘theory’. This is what I mean: this time she was taking a swing at Blacks. But surely once she’s done with Blacks, she’ll move on to, i don’t know … say, people if Indian, Hispanic, South East Asian and Arabic descent. What’s stopping her after she establishes a false precedent? And remember, that the whole point she and people who think like her want to make is that White folks are genetically superior to just about everyone else. Then this goes outside of the black vs white ‘struggle’.

    So in Stephanie ideal world, other ethnic groups will be excluded from holding important positions or to have influential roles because they are supposedly less intelligent. And as an intelligent individual, particularly someone who is going to be an attorney, she can’t see the problem with her unashamed self-serving theory? Well, dear here it is for you:

    the problem with the elite is that it is by definition a small group of people. Today you start with Blacks but one day your own will look down on you too for one of the same reasons you looked down on others (maybe they will do a study and find that White people with red hair are significantly smarter then their blond cousins. And if you happen to be blond then I guess, it sucks.

    In conclusion, everyone should be concerned about this type of self-serving garbage thoughts because even if you’re not Black, if you let those insane racist ones have their way, one day they will come for you (and your blond hair, or short stature or big feet).

    This was said long before us. Maybe we should return to our history books (Harvard Law School should make it compulsory):

    First they came for the Communists
    but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out.

    Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists
    but I was not one of them, so I did not speak out.

    Then they came for the Jews
    but I was not Jewish so I did not speak out.

    And when they came for me,
    there was no one left to speak out for me.

    Martin Niemoeller

  67. katy
    katy May 2, 2010 at 4:40 am |

    Dear Jill,

    As a law school hopeful, I have been following this situation closely. I will be a nontraditional student upon entry next year and I have questioned how diversity will affect my time on a campus (even a west coast/liberal campus). I really appreciate your explanation and insight. I too believe Grace’s views are beyond unfortunate but extremely dangerous. Explaining her behavior as talk between friends is no excuse and is even more alarming. One would think that a 3L would know how dangerous it is to record potentially inflammatory information. I am just an undergraduate and I know that, now. I won’t even cuss in an email or send pictures on my student account for fear of what might accidentally get out. That she would ignore simple safeguards seems to prove your point – that she saw nothing wrong with her way of thinking and did not feel the need to hide her opinion. In fact, from what I read, it appears that she is almost boasting for the air-tight lock she makes on sociological logic.
    Of course I know this is crap and you know this is crap…plenty of people have proven this archaic way of thinking to be so outdated that it is laughable. So it is equally upsetting that someone with this much potential power doesn’t appear to have done any research on this issue. If Grace had read a book, perused a few journals, and relied on anything except institutional junk science, she would have realized that the advancements in social science and historical ways of thinking do not prove any ethnic or racial superiority ladder. If she had done actual research and perhaps argued her point to the rational level which is – pointing out the con statement and admitting that her “opinion” could be negated. Instead, Grace submits to folksy wisdom and argues herself “right.”
    Of course she should be help accountable for her actions. At a certain level, you have to back up what you put in writing and what you represent. As a representative of the school, she has a responsibility to conduct herself in a manner befitting all students. I don’t care if she is 22 or 52. There aren’t mulligans when you take on responsibility that can further your own career.
    It is this kind of nonsense that makes me silly with rage. How is it that so many people can have such a lack of sensitivity and at the same time, possess such little common sense? If someone is a disgusting racist a-hole, it’s often known. But if you are at an ivy league school, at least be smart enough to hide it for the times you spend in close proximity to other weasely a-holes. Jeeze! But I digress.

    I wish you luck in the future!

    -KB

  68. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 2, 2010 at 10:30 am |

    Exholt, “Hence, several more years in an even more insular privileged bubble further augmenting the normalization of such attitudes if they don’t want to bother being challenged on it until it gets so out of hand that it blows up like this case.”

    So, as someone who went nearly straight from undergrad to b-school, would I get a bye because I grew up to immigrants who couldn’t afford giving me anything I wanted growing up? Because I went to a high school that graduated only 50% of my starting class, with only 60% of graduates going on to a four year school? Because my environment wasn’t so insular?

    I really don’t care how you justify it away. The fact of the matter is that one year out of school, I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do, knew exactly where I wanted my career to take me, and wasn’t making enough to pay my bills. The idea that you think you belong in a graduate school environment more than I do because you have at least two years’ work experience and I only had one is disgusting and horribly ageist.

    Age and work experience is not the issue. Stephanie Grace is a racist. Racism is a problem on campus (as extolled by Diane and other commenters). If you really think working two years for daddy at GS is somehow going to mitigate that and that it makes that person more deserving than ME to be in a graduate environment, you’re simplifying racism into an age issue, like it’s something you grow out of. That’s not the case.

    I’ve heard this time and again from older classmates who justify away my worth in the classroom. I’m not willing to apologize for having my life together, but don’t you dare try to take my education away from me by some flawed ageist explanation.

  69. DocAmazing
    DocAmazing May 2, 2010 at 12:04 pm |

    PrettyAmiable–

    It’s not ageism; it’s recognition of the need for education of all kinds. Requiring a student to spend time working is no different from requiring a student to take the GRE.

    I teach medical students. I can immediately tell which ones have spent time in the working world, because they understand that it is unreasonable to prescribe a $400 drug when a $75 drug will work; they understand that time spent away from work chasing down specialist appointments is economically damaging; they understand that parents will try to get their children back into school as quickly as possible so that they can get back to earning the rent. That you come from a working-class background is great, but the well-to-do are wildly overrepresented in graduate schools, and it causes real damge.

  70. Pistolina
    Pistolina May 2, 2010 at 12:09 pm |

    @PrettyAmiable, your argument comes off as deliberately derailing.

    This isn’t a question of age– it is true of people who come from insular communities of 10, 20, 40 or 70 years of age. The issue is that when someone who was raised in an insular, white community moves to an insular, white prep school, to an insular, white college, and then immediately on to an insular, mostly white law school without actively taking it upon themselves to force themselves into a real world scenario and to face the privilege of their own position and experience, they fail to see anything outside their realm of experience as actually existing.

    Some people spend their whole lives like this and are still this way at 65. Others realize their experience is incomplete and do something about it– at 15, at 20, at 25. When you have a law school full of people who haven’t done anything about it and even fail to see that it’s a problem, you get a situation like this one, where someone like Stephanie Grace not only thinks she’s right, but can’t even believe there is a situation where other people will not agree with or at least consider her arguments as rational.

    Your immediate kneejerk reaction makes it seem like you are only trying to find an argument for why you are oppressed by this post, rather than considering the ways in which the OP was oppressed in her experience, and it seems very disrespectful of her right to speak out on this subject.

  71. exholt
    exholt May 2, 2010 at 2:19 pm |

    The fact of the matter is that one year out of school, I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do, knew exactly where I wanted my career to take me, and wasn’t making enough to pay my bills.

    Interesting. Nearly all of the B-schools I’ve looked at, especially most of the elites with the exception of Stanford required 2+ years of work experience before applying. And with that exception, one’s needed to have demonstrated stratospheric grades(4.0 level) and “achievements demonstrating impressive leadership” in school and part-time/summer work experiences.

    As for not doing what you wanted to do or making enough to pay your bills, that sounds like the majority of college graduates who just graduated with the exceptions of those who immediately enter lucrative occupations and/or those who are able to live off the family wealth/trust funds….including dozens of undergrad classmates working for various NGOs and political activist organizations which pay a pittance…if they pay anything at all.

    In fact, many high school classmates and some colleagues I’ve worked with had to give up dream careers or postpone grad school for several years because they needed to earn money to save up for grad school, to support their parents and younger siblings, and/or gain the required work experience for the grad programs they were applying for.

    Incidentally, the only college graduates I or many grad school friends have known who went directly to grad school straight from undergrad tended to either be academic grad/PhD students with funding, students from socio-economically privileged families, or both.

    Even with the PhD students…there were exceptions such as a college classmate who graduated with high honors at 17. Despite knowing he wanted to be a college professor, he decided to take 2 years off to teach kids in poor rural areas to gain some perspective as he didn’t want to end up with a cocooned perspective from being cooped up in a highly rarefied academic bubble for years and even decades like some Professors he’s had who never worked outside of academia due to socio-economic privilege. Even with taking off two years, he managed to finish his PhD at a topflight institution and become an assistant Professor at a prominent university at around the same/younger age as Stephanie Grace…and with a greater appreciation of what people outside of academia have to deal with in their lives than those Professors he wanted to avoid emulating.

    I’m not willing to apologize for having my life together,

    …and your implication is that those who didn’t go to grad school straight out of undergrad or with less than 2 years of work experience “don’t have their lives together”?? And you’re calling me ageist?? Niice.

    That’s the exact same attitude my law school friends had to deal with from their socio-economically privileged straight out of undergrad classmates on a daily basis….and the ironic part is…in nearly all of those classmates’ cases…it is complete and utter BS considering how their presence at elite law schools like Harvard and Columbia is largely due to their socio-economic privilege….

  72. Samantha B.
    Samantha B. May 3, 2010 at 10:38 am |

    Since Elana Kagan’s name has been brought up in this thread, I will point to this excellent post on Kagan’s hiring history ( http://coloreddemos.blogspot.com/2010/04/some-questions-about-elena-kagan.html )
    and highlight this passage in particular,

    “But what about people of color? How could she have brokered a deal that permitted the hiring of conservatives but resulted in the hiring of only white faculty? Moreover, of the 29 new hires, only six were women. So, she hired 23 white men, 5 white women, and one Asian American woman. Please do not tell me that there were not enough qualified women and people of color. That’s a racist and sexist statement. It cannot be the case that there was not a single qualified black, Latino or Native-American legal academic that would qualify for tenure at Harvard Law School during Elena Kagan’s tenure. To believe otherwise is to harbor troubling racist views.”

  73. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 3, 2010 at 11:18 am |

    “Your immediate kneejerk reaction makes it seem like you are only trying to find an argument for why you are oppressed by this post, rather than considering the ways in which the OP was oppressed in her experience, and it seems very disrespectful of her right to speak out on this subject.”

    Are you kidding me? I’m calling out a commenter on simplifying racism as a result of not having enough work experience. I’m not going to respond to this comment anymore, but suggesting that the reason Stephanie Grace said any of this is because she didn’t go out into the “real world” for two years instead of being a product of systemic racism is disgusting. That commenter is doing a massive disservice to Diane and other commenters for suggesting that racism is suddenly fixed by instituting mandatory work experience.

    “…and your implication is that those who didn’t go to grad school straight out of undergrad or with less than 2 years of work experience “don’t have their lives together”?? And you’re calling me ageist?? Niice.”

    No, sweetheart. My implication is that I have MY life together and I shouldn’t be subject to bullshit policies like “mandatory two years of doing whatever even though you know it’s not right for you.” I’m not suggesting anyone does or does not have their life together EXCEPT me, because I’m not willing to make that judgment for anyone else. Your policy, however, would do exactly that. Get over yourself. You can’t decide what would and would not optimally benefit anyone’s education and career choices, and least of all, you are absolutely not in a position to suggest that this track does or does not lead to blatant racism as in the case of Stephanie Grace just because you now have anecdotal evidence.

    Blame it on STEPHANIE GRACE and the people who have harassed the poster and commenters above for being bigots. Suggesting that this wouldn’t happen if they had more work experience is shunting off your own bigotries and minimizing the OPs experience.

  74. karak
    karak May 3, 2010 at 8:51 pm |

    Most black Americans have ancestry of several different kinds Africans and usually some European ancestry as well. By her argument, that means that a population of Irish people that intermarried Polish and then have smatterings of Thai in them are a distinct group of people and will always act the same.

    Yeah, doesn’t make as much sense when we put it into white terms, does it? Africa=/=country, just like Europe=/=country.

  75. NancyP
    NancyP May 11, 2010 at 8:50 pm |

    Now that this thread is totally derailed, I should like to mention that some business schools require real world experience because they would like to have students who have concrete experiences, good or bad, to contribute to formal and informal discussions.

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