Martha Minow, dean of Harvard Law School, has released a statement in response to the controversy that erupted yesterday when a student’s email discussing “the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent.” Here’s an excerpt from Minow’s statement:
“Here at Harvard Law School, we are committed to preventing degradation of any individual or group, including race-based insensitivity or hostility. The particular comment in question unfortunately resonates with old and hurtful misconceptions. As an educational institution, we are especially dedicated to exposing to the light of inquiry false views about individuals or groups. […] This sad and unfortunate incident prompts both reflection and reassertion of important community principles and ideals. We seek to encourage freedom of expression, but freedom of speech should be accompanied by responsibility. This is a community dedicated to intellectual pursuit and social justice. The circulation of one student’s comment does not reflect the views of the school or the overwhelming majority of the members of this community.”
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The student who sent the email, Stephanie Grace (pictured above), is currently a third-year at Harvard Law School. She has since emailed an apology to the Black Law Students Association, saying: “I am deeply sorry for the pain caused by my email. I never intended to cause any harm, and I am heartbroken and devastated by the harm that has ensued. I would give anything to take it back. I emphatically do not believe that African Americans are genetically inferior in any way. I understand why my words expressing even a doubt in that regard were and are offensive. I would be grateful to have an opportunity to share my thoughts and to apologize to you in person. Even beforehand, I want to extend an apology to you and to anyone else who has been hurt by my actions.”
Do you think Grace’s apology is sincere? Do you still think she should lose her job? Tell us your opinion in the comments!
[4/28/2010, 3:50 p.m.] – Harvard Law Student’s Racist Email Gains National Exposure
A student at Harvard Law School recently sent an email suggesting that Black Americans are genetically predisposed to inferior intelligence, and it’s been made public.
The missive first found its way into onto the email list of the Harvard’s Black Law Students Association, and was eventually forwarded to similar student groups at law schools across the country. Here’s what it said:
“I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent. I could also obviously be convinced that by controlling for the right variables, we would see that they are, in fact, as intelligent as white people under the same circumstances. The fact is, some things are genetic. African Americans tend to have darker skin. Irish people are more likely to have red hair. (Now on to the more controversial:) Women tend to perform less well in math due at least in part to prenatal levels of testosterone, which also account for variations in mathematics performance within genders. This suggests to me that some part of intelligence is genetic, just like identical twins raised apart tend to have very similar IQs and just like I think my babies will be geniuses and beautiful individuals whether I raise them or give them to an orphanage in Nigeria. I don’t think it is that controversial of an opinion to say I think it is at least possible that African Americans are less intelligent on a genetic level, and I didn’t mean to shy away from that opinion at dinner.
I also don’t think that there are no cultural differences or that cultural differences are not likely the most important sources of disparate test scores (statistically, the measurable ones like income do account for some raw differences). I would just like some scientific data to disprove the genetic position, and it is often hard given difficult to quantify cultural aspects. One example (courtesy of Randall Kennedy) is that some people, based on crime statistics, might think African Americans are genetically more likely to be violent, since income and other statistics cannot close the racial gap. In the slavery era, however, the stereotype was of a docile, childlike, African American, and they were, in fact, responsible for very little violence (which was why the handful of rebellions seriously shook white people up). Obviously group wide rates of violence could not fluctuate so dramatically in ten generations if the cause was genetic, and so although there are no quantifiable data currently available to “explain” away the racial discrepancy in violent crimes, it must be some nongenetic cultural shift. Of course, there are pro-genetic counterarguments, but if we assume we can control for all variables in the given time periods, the form of the argument is compelling.
In conclusion, I think it is bad science to disagree with a conclusion in your heart, and then try (unsuccessfully, so far at least) to find data that will confirm what you want to be true. Everyone wants someone to take 100 white infants and 100 African American ones and raise them in Disney utopia and prove once and for all that we are all equal on every dimension, or at least the really important ones like intelligence. I am merely not 100% convinced that this is the case.
Please don’t pull a Larry Summers on me,
When sending out the email, a member of the Harvard BLSA stated: “The author of the email will be clerking on the 9th Circuit next year, is a member of the Harvard Law Review, [Federalist Society], and is a graduate of Princeton. I am saddened that a current HLS student holds such antagonistic and archaic views about our people and that the potential impact of her ignorance is only strengthened by her prestigious affiliations and credentials.”
The campus controversy has since been covered in the national media, including the Huffington Post, Jezebel, and Above the Law. What do you think, NewsOne readers: Should the author of the original email lose her job over this? Sound off in the comments!
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