Apr 29, 2010

First let me share a little background on the email:
This email was written by a female third year law student at Harvard who also attended Princeton.  Just on that description alone she shares the same credentials as one Mrs. Michelle Obama.  She is also scheduled to begin a very prominent circuit court clerkship upon graduation.  So on paper, this young lady definitely sounds like a reasonably intelligent person (at least book sense wise), but that is not what came across in an email she sent out.  
She was apparently at dinner with a group of friends when she made a few statements that appeared to have offended some.  So in order to clarify her statements she sent an email to couple of the people from the dinner who in turn forward the email to the Harvard Black Law Student Association.  As you may have guess, the email didn't go over very well with the students fromt he BLSA and thus they forward the email to the BLSA's at the top 14 law schools across the country.
Here is the email in its entirety (the name of the author has been changed to 'DNA')

… I just hate leaving things where I feel I misstated my position.

I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent. I could also obviously be convinced that by controlling for the right variables, we would see that they are, in fact, as intelligent as white people under the same circumstances. The fact is, some things are genetic. African Americans tend to have darker skin. Irish people are more likely to have red hair. (Now on to the more controversial:) Women tend to perform less well in math due at least in part to prenatal levels of testosterone, which also account for variations in mathematics performance within genders. This suggests to me that some part of intelligence is genetic, just like identical twins raised apart tend to have very similar IQs and just like I think my babies will be geniuses and beautiful individuals whether I raise them or give them to an orphanage in Nigeria. I don't think it is that controversial of an opinion to say I think it is at least possible that African Americans are less intelligent on a genetic level, and I didn't mean to shy away from that opinion at dinner.

I also don't think that there are no cultural differences or that cultural differences are not likely the most important sources of disparate test scores (statistically, the measurable ones like income do account for some raw differences). I would just like some scientific data to disprove the genetic position, and it is often hard given difficult to quantify cultural aspects. One example (courtesy of Randall Kennedy) is that some people, based on crime statistics, might think African Americans are genetically more likely to be violent, since income and other statistics cannot close the racial gap. In the slavery era, however, the stereotype was of a docile, childlike, African American, and they were, in fact, responsible for very little violence (which was why the handful of rebellions seriously shook white people up). Obviously group wide rates of violence could not fluctuate so dramatically in ten generations if the cause was genetic, and so although there are no quantifiable data currently available to "explain" away the racial discrepancy in violent crimes, it must be some nongenetic cultural shift. Of course, there are pro-genetic counterarguments, but if we assume we can control for all variables in the given time periods, the form of the argument is compelling.

In conclusion, I think it is bad science to disagree with a conclusion in your heart, and then try (unsuccessfully, so far at least) to find data that will confirm what you want to be true. Everyone wants someone to take 100 white infants and 100 African American ones and raise them in Disney utopia and prove once and for all that we are all equal on every dimension, or at least the really important ones like intelligence. I am merely not 100% convinced that this is the case.

Please don't pull a Larry Summers on me,

I know you may be asking yourself why is this news, of course there are people at Harvard who are racist, but that is not the reason why this is news.  The reason this email is news is because the young woman who wrote this email will eventually be in a position of influence where her opinion can have a great affect on your life and the lives of your children.  You may think I'm reaching with this one, but look up all the past Presidents, Supreme Court justices, federal court judges, etc. and tell me what the majority of these people have in common. 
I can sit here all day and tell you how racist 'The Man' is, but the truth of the matter is we have to do a better job with our children.  We are capable of producing some of the brightest and most brilliant people in world at a quarter of the resources.  Everyday we as a people defy the odds, but somewhere along the line we began to lose our ingenuity and brilliance.  Some of us began to think the mediocrity is normal and all that we are capable of.  I know for fact that we are capable of so much more.
I don't want this email to just make you hate 'The Man' I want this email to serve as a reminder and be your motivation.  For every 'DNA' that's in a position of influence we must counter with a Myron Rolle, Katie Washington, Michelle Obama, or Reginal Laster, Jr. (who happens to be my brilliant 8 year old nephew).  We can sit back and sang songs about whoa-is-me or we can prove our brilliance through our actions. 
Everyday some of us rise to the occasion when it comes to mediocrity and ineptitude.  How about we rise to the occasion and maximize our potential and be the brilliant people that we are.  Stop dumbing it down and smarten it up.  Our children deserve better.
****Me stepping off of soap box****

1 comment:

  1. Not necessarily ('she will eventually be in a position of influence where her opinion can have a great affect on your life and the lives of your children.') For one, she's young. I know I had several viewpoints in my twenties that no longer served me and the direction I wanted to go so they changed. Further, we don't know what God is doing in a person's life at any given point in time. I personally heard testimony in church whereby a man who was a klansman gave ended up giving a man in my congregation, a majority ownership in his company. Personally, I try to take examples, such as this (well not this because I still fail to see how this young lady is even remotely relevant) and make them teachable moments in my daughter's life. Yes - there are a lot out there. But I'm also teaching her the power of being a stronger more active CAUSE and not the reaction or effect of what ignorane puts out there.