Who Were They?

Harvard Law Student Starts Racist Email War, Will Clerk for Cow Porn Judge This Summer
I'm not sure what the normal reaction to dissent here on Gawker is (as my silly name indicates, I spend most of my time on Deadspin). At the risk of being assailed with the sort of profanity-laced anger that this story has generated, I must say that I don't share in the rather broad view of what constitutes "racism" among the majority of commenters here.

The mere suggestion that it is possible that intelligence - however one might define it in this instance - is not distributed precisely equally among all racial groups does not, in and of itself, constitute racism in my opinion. So long as one does not extend that conclusion to any sort of moral or legal judgment that implicates the group, I don't see it as bigotry. Speaking personally, I avoid judgments about any group, and stick to individuals. Quaint as that notion is. But I digress . . .

Put another way - the refusal to keep an open mind that the results of some hypothetical (perhaps impossible) scientific experiment may run counter to one's pre-existing ideological tenets seems troubling. Blind adherence to those principles, no matter how benevolent they may be, could potentially compromise the acquisition of any truth that does not mesh with them precisely.

What's frightening is that it seems like, if many of the commenters had their way, this person would be barred from ever holding a job of any kind. Others upped the ante by expanding the target. The legal profession as a whole was deemed suspect, as entry into law school was evidence of either deficiency in the hard sciences, or poor moral character.

I would humbly suggest only this: That by taking so strident a posture, one seems less open-minded than the very people they're attempting to condemn.

missdelite: "The mere suggestion that it is possible that intelligence - however one might define it in this instance - is not distributed precisely equally among all racial groups does not, in and of itself, constitute racism in my opinion."

It may not constitute racism, but it does constitute lazy thinking.

I'm going to assume that we're referring to book smarts as opposed to street smarts, because the former is measurable by test scores while the latter can't be quantified into a neat, chart-ready statistic.

I define "book smarts" as intellectual training that prepares an individual for employment in a field that requires higher learning. If you want to look at test scores and make a correlation between race and intelligence, you first have to examine who has access to what academic prepatory tools and why certain groups have access in higher numbers than others.

Who goes to the best schools? Who can afford the best tutors? Who gets preferential treatment in classrooms? Who can afford tuition to an Ivy League institution? Whose father fraternizes with high ranking CEOs who can guarantee his recently graduated son/daughter an interview?

Once you've answered these questions, the next logical step is to ask "Why?", which inevitably leads to an examination of Western history.

The fact is, you simply can't draw any conclusions about the relationship between race and intelligence in contemporary society without looking at the history of conquest and subjugation, slavery, privilege (be it earned or robbed) and social exclusion.

This is why I called the suggestion you mentioned above "lazy thinking", because it's just too easy to blame one group's lack of progress on some hypothetical defect they were supposedly born with as opposed to a burden they were saddled with the moment they fell out of the womb. It conveniently ignores social structures that've been in place for hundreds of years and continue to benefit certain groups over others to this very day, in an attempt for that group to justify living off the fruits of other people's labour.

And yes, it's the same lazy thinking that leads to moral and legal judgments that implicate entire swathes of people deemed intellectually inferior. After all, how can one group justify punishing and limiting the personal freedoms of another group if they don't see themselves as intellectually superior? What, exactly, gives a group the right to act as judge and jury over another?

I can only attribute your lazy thinking to a certain comfort level derived from reaping the benefits sowed by past generations. It would do you well to acknowledge the sins and triumphs of your ancestors that afforded you a place of privilege in society. Maybe when you've understood what your family's been through, you'll get a clue as to what other families have not. Just be grateful your family's records have (most likely) survived hundreds of years. Mine - on the other hand - were lost the day my ancestors were either herded onto merchant and slave ships or slaughtered by conquistodors who "discovered" them on their native soil.

Who were my great grandparents? Honey, I don't know. Do you think my family's lack of connection to prosperous institutions over a multitude of generations has impacted my progress as a citizen today? Most definitely "Yes".

Oh, and guess what? My intelligence and genes have nothing to do with it.

Racial Profiling