1) Stephanie Grace's premise is just wrong
To think that intelligence is genetic is ridiculous. Do some people just "get it?" Sure, but to say that an entire race is dumber because of their skin color is ludicrous. I'm a nurture over nature guy to begin with and I find statements disparaging an entire race just factually unsound. Someone is intelligent because they apply themselves and were given the tools to succeed intellectually during their development. It has nothing to do with skin color.
2) Never, ever, memorialize something in an email if you think it will come back to haunt you
People do and say stupid things; mostly these tend to be spur of the moment statements that one wishes they could take back immediately. But you need to show extremely poor judgment to say something stupid, as Stephanie did, and then go back to your apartment, re-write it and send it out as an email. And before people say, "Maybe she didn't think it was a bad idea," she wrote at the end of her email (produced in full at the end of this post) "Please don't pull a Larry Summers on me," knowing full well that what she was saying was as ridiculous as former Harvard president Larry Summers' statements about women being less intellectually apt when it came to math and science.
Beyond Grace's racism, however, it might be even more disturbing that she thought sending this email to multiple people would be a good idea. Racists permeate throughout society (the fact that Grace is a Harvard 3L with a federal clerkship lined up for next year speaks to this), but the fact that Harvard and 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski accepted a person who is racist and this clueless is scary. There are rumors that the email was sent out as the result of a "cat fight" between Grace and another Harvard Law student and thus is unfair. Look: if Grace had not been so daft and had not written this email, none of this happens. I don't care how the email surfaces, it surfaced. Don't want this to happen to you? Read the headline of this section.
3) I don't buy Stephanie Grace's apology
This is a classic case of "I'm sorry I got caught." She wrote in her apology email that, "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." Yet in her email (which was written in November of last year) she states, " 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." What changed in those six months? The fact that her racist email was seen by the nation and now it might be harder to get a job. She's a Princeton grad and got into Harvard Law, so she's no dummy. She meant what she wrote in that email (she didn't want to be characterized as having shied away from her opinion of blacks being dumber than whites) and to say that she doesn't is just insulting our intelligence.
4) Stephanie Grace will probably not lose her clerkship
As much as I'd love to see her receive her comeuppance for being a racist, I don't see her losing her clerkship. I mean, Judge Alex Kozinski is the kind of guy who puts up porn of naked women painted in cow print on the internet while presiding over an obscenity case. He escaped a judicial misconduct charge in part by apologizing. He'll put out some statement that this was a "learning opportunity" and that Grace simply "made a mistake." I would argue that by the time you're in your third year of law school the time to "make mistakes" involving writing racist emails has passed. So I don't see Grace losing her clerkship, but I do see her having a difficult time getting a job at a large, reputable firm that has a public image to think about.
Photo - Stephanie Grace (Gawker)
The Full Email:
… 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,