Racist Harvard 3L Kinda Reasonable Akshully

“Racist” Harvard 3L e-mail goes viral.  The 3L in question sent out an e-mail after a dinner with some fellow conservatives.  The e-mail clarified his point of view regarding genetics and intelligence.  Here’s the e-mail, courtesy of AbovetheLaw.com:

… 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.

While this was obviously a dumb thing to memorialize in an e-mail, especially in the internet gossip age, I don’t think there’s anything inherently racist or sexist here.

Everyone agrees that some qualities are determined, or at least heavily influenced by genetics.  As the Harvard 3L points out, hair and skin color are basically genetic features, and many genetic features strongly correspond to race (black people tend to have dark skin, duh).  We also know that genetic differences are not skin deep.  Black people are far more likely than whites to have sickle cell, which can cause anemia, but also protect against malaria.  Women have monthly periods and their hormone cycle can affect moods.  (That’s not controversial, that’s just what hormones do, to fracking anyone, just think back to puberty.)  Girls develop language skills faster than boys, and boys are faster thinkers when it comes to spatial awareness.

But, despite all the known ways that genetics affect us, it’s racist to even suggest that there might be a genetic correlation to intelligence.  Bullshit.  If it’s there, it’s there.  It’s a question of fact, not of social policy.  And that’s what this all comes down to, policy.  The 3L did not advocate denying rights to people who are genetically predisposed to be less intelligent.  There is a huge difference between what the facts are and the way we, as a society, choose to respond to them.

Human beings cannot fly.  Fact.  We still do anyways, because we’re human beings and built planes.

We can’t breathe under water, so we invented SCUBA gear.  We have vaccines to reprogram our immune systems and can surgically install a pig’s heart valve or a metal joint into a person’s body.

What makes being human such a special thing is that we can look at nature, decide we don’t like it, and tell it to fuck off.  If there is an ethnic group out there that is genetically less intelligent, we’re still allowed to treat them equitably.  And might not it be a good thing to find out, so that we can adjust our educational policies to put everyone on equal footing?

If dyslexia is genetic (and it very likely is), wouldn’t you want to know that it was genetic so that we can better screen for it and get help to kids as early as possible?  Although, with how widespread stupidity is, we may just want to try to treat the whole population, regardless of genetic markers.

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10 Responses to “Racist Harvard 3L Kinda Reasonable Akshully”

  1. Donika Says:

    Problem: race isn’t very well genetically defined. There isn’t, and isn’t likely to soon be, a set of genetic factors that correlate to our social concepts of race. More problematic, as people mate with each other, the genetic lines are further blurred. So how do you correlate genetic intelligence to something you can’t genetically pin down?

    http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/v36/n11s/full/ng1435.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_%28classification_of_human_beings%29#Race_and_intelligence

    Hahah, I’m fast becoming your worst nightmare.

  2. Stephanie Says:

    Just like a conservative to assume that the author of the email was male.

    FAIL.

    The author was female. Your sexism AND your racism are showing, but I bet you won’t display this comment.

    Good evening.

  3. bl1y Says:

    Stephanie, here are some fun facts:

    First, I have an extremely liberal comment policy and don’t actually moderate comments. I have akismet on to catch obvious spam, but that’s all.

    Second, I don’t think using a male generic is at all sexist and does not indicate that I thought the author was of either gender. Anyone with a 5th grade education is aware of the male generic and knows it doesn’t imply anything.

    Third, I actually knew that the author was female, but chose to use the male generic because I was treating her as anonymous.

    Fourth, I’m not a conservative.

    Fifth, female is not a race, but nice try at lumping race and gender together. Go back to high school biology.

    Sixth, na-na-na boo-boo, stick your head in doo-doo.

  4. bl1y Says:

    Donika, substantive comments will never be my worst enemy. Have you read the trolls I get here?

    Also, look it! 2 wominz on teh same internets!

    As for the substance of your comment, I do agree that race is pretty ill defined, but I don’t think you can seriously argue that race and genetics are completely separate. I think there’s a reason Asian people have Asian babies. The lines may be blurred and it’s hard to really define what any one race is, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a real thing. It’s hard to figure out where blue stops and red starts, and as we get more and more purple it becomes less relevant, but that doesn’t mean the colors aren’t actual things.

  5. Donika Says:

    Race is particularly ill (or not) defined genetically. Which makes the rest difficult to link up, if at all. I think you’re out of your league here. I mean that in the nicest way possible, but you’re pitting undefined things against loosely defined things. Non-debate.

  6. bl1y Says:

    I think I’m almost always out of my league, but that doesn’t stop me from having strong opinions anyways. It’s the American way.

    I don’t really have a problem with race being a nebulous concept that’s ill-defined. I think so long as we recognize that it’s ill-defined and don’t try to use it as a hard and fast category, it’s okay. If I said “It was the black doctor. Not the black Mormon doctor who was only one for one season, but the other black doctor,” you know I’m talking about Foreman.

    The race question aside though, there is still the question of whether intelligence has any genetic component. Whether those genetic items correspond more strongly to a racial, ethnic, social, geo-political, or facially-similar group, and whether those groups even make sense, is a different issue.

    But, going back to the Harvard 3L who sent this e-mail, I’m sticking by my position that the question is not racist. The girl who sent it may actually be racist, but not because of this. It’s a question about facts in the world, and maybe the question ultimately doesn’t make sense, the same way asking about a brontosaurus doesn’t (because ol’ bronto never existed), but facts aren’t racist.

    And, there is definitely a trend in the far left to take a social policy and try to deduce scientific fact from it. If our policy is that the races are equal, then it must follow that there is no meaningful biological difference. …That’s silly, and counterproductive in instances where there is a meaningful difference which we can respond to in a way that makes our society more fair.

  7. BL2Y (No relation) Says:

    Donika, I think you kind of missed some points in your argument with my friend bl1y. Take skin color for example. Certain pigmentation determines skin color. Such pigmentation is determined by genetics. And roping back the example of sickle cell, wouldn’t that too be determined by genetics? Or Tay-sachs? While there is undoubtedly mixing of races and genetic templates, this fact doesn’t invalidate using them as reference points. They are not so much rules as indicators of possible traits.

  8. bl1y Says:

    BL2Y: I think you’re actually just talking about something different from Donika’s argument. She was talking about race, whereas you’re talking about skin color. While our ideas about race generally involve skin color, they’re clearly different things, given the huge variation within races and overlap between them.

    While there may be some problems saying “Genetic Trait P is associated with Race A,” because race may be too ill-conceived of a concept, you still could argue “Genetic Trait P is associated with Genetic Trait Q, and Genetic Trait Q is traditionally considered a defining characteristic of Race A.”

  9. Snowman Says:

    Wow, this is deep…

  10. Bill Says:

    Donika needs dick. BL1y, why don’t you invite her to a private showing?

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