May 3, 2010

The Intent......Second Class Humans

Harvard 3L - Stephanie Grace 
 Racist - a person with a prejudiced belief that one race is superior to others.
The unequivocally racist argument that blacks are genetically less intelligent than whites has once again been brought t to the fore by the outing of a third year law student at Harvard Law School, known by her online pen name as "Crimson DNA" and in real life as Stephanie Grace (photo courtesy of Gawker).  Stephanie's opinion on the genetic inferiority of blacks was brought to light when an email with her views on the subject were outed by another Harvard law student she had some beef with. So for kicks, they forwarded her email to the Harvard Black Law Students Association (BLSA). It also got circulated to other BLSA chapters and went viral.  The Above the Law blog broke the story :

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. {Emphasis mine}
Got all that? I think her views on the genetic basis of lower black intelligence are pretty clear. I also noted in passing her allusion to blacks having a cultural issue that makes us more violent, especially in comparison to our docile slavery years.  As I noted earlier, she is a third year student and is apparently off to a federal clerkship this summer for Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Alex Kozinski, who had to recuse himself from an obscenity trial because he had posted cow porn on his personal website. But she has an opinion about the intelligence of black folk. For the record, I'll bet Stephanie is a perfectly nice person. I'll bet we could sit down and have a lovely conversation.  I'll bet she knows at least one or two or more black people personally which whom she has perfectly cordial relations. But this is the conversation she is having within her white peer 2010.

The fallout has been mildly impressive for something that doesn't matter much in the big scheme of things. She's gone into hiding, many people  have expressed a desire or intention to try to derail her clerkship and the Harvard BLSA chapter had such a tepid and controlled response that they were basically called ball less. To the extent that there were people who wanted to aggressively try to prevent her from getting her clerkship, I would not have advocated that. The Above the Law blog put some effort into protecting her identity until she was outed by Gawker and in publications like the Boston Globe.

Fundamentally, the conclusion that blacks are genetically less intelligent is based on lower scores on intelligence, cognitive or whatever test used. Its about some X number of point difference.  In other words, the discussion of genetic black intellectual inferiority is not about a performance gap in intelligence as wide as say that between a healthy human being and a human being who's cognitive function was seriously impaired,  so low as to require supervision and support to ensure they survived.  We're just talking about a point spread on these tests which claim to measure something called "intelligence". I'll stipulate to the point spread. Using such tests as the measure of "intelligence", black humans are less intelligent than white humans.  So what?

On the basis of that point spread, conclusions about an entire segment of our population are drawn, and people want to build social policy around these dangerous conclusions. People will base their behavior around such ideas, consciously or unconsciously, overtly and covertly, in the workplace, in the home, in the community, in government. They are not academic exercises.  They are foundational for ideas about how we behave or should behave.  They become the justification for how we treat other human beings.

Lets be clear about something.  We live in an imperfect world of imperfect human beings. Don't think for a minute that this is merely an "academic" discussion or harmless thought exercises.  Once people reach the conclusion that black human beings are genetically inferior to white human beings in intelligence, people want to do something with that conclusion.  I've already seen in comments on this controversy round the web people allude to the idea that if this were true, we could use that knowledge to "improve" society in some way, practice some form of social engineering.

What on earth of any value to me or my children can come of such conclusions? Why hire genetically stupid people for important jobs or permit them to make important decisions for themselves or for others?  What manner of things might be done to such a group or for such a group or for the benefit of the genetically superior group who perhaps might need to be insulated from the inferior group?

People want to suggest that we ought to be able to discuss such things in the marketplace of ideas, that there is something neutral about these discussions. An Above the Law editor notes that distinguished sitting jurists on our federal bench think so:

None other than Judge Richard Posner, it turns out, of the seventh circuit, has written with similar open-mindedness about the possibility of a racial IQ gap.
In “Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline,” Posner defended Charles Murray and Harvard’s Richard Herrstein, authors of “The Bell Curve,” writing that their discussion of race and IQ was, at worst, a “rhetorical mistake.” There ought to be nothing controversial, Posner continued, about the propositions that 1) a black-white IQ gap exists and 2) it has genetic as well as sociological roots.

That's a sitting judge on the federal bench who thinks establishing the genetic inferiority of black intelligence is a fine and legitimate subject  for journalistic, academic, scientific or other discussion. Hey thanks, but no thanks. I don't require scientific, academic or any other type of commentary and debate on where my genetic potential for intelligence ranks against my supposed white betters.  I would suggest to Judge Posner and anyone else who views these discussions as simply food for the mind that people who don't find them offensive to notions of common decency would feel quite different if they were on the receiving end of this baloney.  I imagine Ms. Grace would not particularly care for a world in which female intelligence were questioned in such a way and or our behaviors as a society were based on such conclusions.As she and the judge demonstrate, black people have to navigate a world populated with people who think this way. If you doubt it, merely sample the comments on this story at the ATL.

A day or two passed and I returned to peruse the comments at the Above the Law blog just for kicks, hoping not to be  disappointed by the number of people who think there is any redeeming value in an ongoing debate about whether my children are genetically inferior in  intelligence. It is disheartening in the extreme to watch white people in 2010 debating the inferiority of black humans to themselves.  They dance around the issue and pose as though discussing whether my children are genetically "inferior" in intelligence is merely some objective examination of the results of scientific study.  Its not. 

Don't kid yourselves. Calling black humans inferior in intelligence is calling them inferior period.  People want to trade in these supremacist ideas (its what they are) go ahead, I simply wish they  would drop the BS about what they are really saying. For all the times that black people react or overreact to the various and sundry behaviors of white people, or race hustlers shake down a corporation, whites really have little to complain about when this is the conversation you're still Harvard.

 If you're white, the next time you find yourself irritated at black people engaged in a knee jerk reaction to some incident as racist, think about the fact that in 2010, educated, intelligent white people are still having a spirited and raucous conversation with each other about whether or not blacks are inferior to yourselves, intellectually or otherwise. Can you blame us?

People  espouse "the content of their character"  and merit out of one side of their mouths and have this conversation out the other. This discussion makes a mockery of American ideals of equality and merit when whites are arguing with all of their might to establish a biological determinism that cements white humans as superior to black humans. I imagine that most of ATL's readers know black people personally, socially, professionally.  Perhaps many of them even call a black person friend. I'll bet you money that Stephanie Grace knows a few black people.  Yet she and they are discussing how inferior we and our children are.  How they can prove it with science.  In 2010. Shameful.

Frequent reader Phelps pointed out to me recently that white people regard racism and being a racist as synonymous with evil.  Its why the Tea Party denies accusations of racism as vehemently as they do. I get that. So people should get this.  If you are a white person and you entertain this bullshit, you are engaging in evil. What you are doing is helping to give legitimacy to a scientific foundation for treating me and my children as second class humans. You are championing a science of subjugation. No sensible black person would regard these ideas or social, political or economic policy derived from them as anything other than a threat to our security, freedom and our very lives, nor should any white person be surprised at that upon hearing this garbage. This is a morally bankrupt discussion.  Even more disturbing is how lost on many people that fact is.

That's not just some white people. It amazes me that some black people operate from a misguided, mistaken idea that there is utility for blacks to discussing this as though it had serious scientific merit..  James Collier of the blog Acting White is one of those. He opined on this controversy thusly;

The fact that Blacks score, on average, one standard deviation below Whites on IQ test and under perform on a myriad of standard empirical measures, across all education levels, establishes a basis, however incomplete, for Ms. Grace’s statement. This incomplete basis stands, and will remain as the ‘best case’ line of reasoning in the censored mouths of all, until the point which it is openly and critically debated. For this debate to happen, people like Ms. Grace must not be crucified.

James is an intelligent guy, which is why I simply can't understand why he doesn't get that if you accept the premise that there is something to debate in the first instance, you've already lost.  Why should I accept a premise which calls into question my equality of humanity in the first instance? I don't give a damn what the so- called "science" says. I regard any "science" which purports to judge the comparative quality of my humanity based on racial genetics as suspect, self serving, morally bankrupt, and clearly intended to be used to justify treating people as inferior.

Bottom line.  I consider these ideas and people who subscribe to them to be dangerous to me and to my loved ones, my life, security and freedom.  I can't imagine why any decent human being would want to live in a world ordered around such ideas. This discussion of the inferiority of black humans as against white humans (intellectually or otherwise) has an intent. The point, the purpose, of having a conversation about the genetic inferiority of black humans is so that you can justify treating them like their inferior. Of what other use is a drive to PROVE the inferiority of one set of humans vs. another? This abhorrent debate has no other utility. Point blank and period. The long bloody history of humanity is replete with the carnage humans wreak upon each other fueled by such ideas. So I don't give a damn what some think the "science" tells them. Trust that irrespective of how stupid some think the science proves blacks to be, we're not stupid enough to sit around and let people establish a so-called "scientific" foundation for subjugation and treating us as second class humans.

Exit question: I wonder what portion of the Tea Party movement and indeed whether its patron saint, Sarah Palin, would agree with the statement "The fact that Blacks score, on average, one standard deviation below Whites on IQ tests and under perform on a myriad of standard empirical measures, across all education levels, is evidence of a genetic predisposition to lower intelligence worthy of additional scientific study"

I would pay money for video of the initial, first reaction, verbal and non verbal, to that question.