A third year female Harvard law student goes out to dinner with some friends and she reveals that she’s open to race realism. The next day she sends out an e-mail clarifying her views.
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.
Six months later one of the friends gets upset over something else and forwards the e-mail to the Black Students Law Association. Madness ensues, and finally the school’s Dean sends an e-mail out apologizing and expressing regret.
Here at Harvard Law School, we are committed to preventing degradation of any individual or group, including race-based insensitivity or hostility. The particular comment in question unfortunately resonates with old and hurtful misconceptions. As an educational institution, we are especially dedicated to exposing to the light of inquiry false views about individuals or groups.
And suppressing true ones, I suppose.
Finally, the girl has a heart to heart with some affirmative-action professor and apologizes.
I wonder if the religious police in Saudi Arabia would take action if they came across a private e-mail of somebody open to the possibility that there is no God. I would guess not. In America, on the other hand, we don't even tolerate private dissent on the issue of black people.
And let’s not say that the religion here is “anti-racism” or “multiculturalism.” To this day, nobody cares that The Bell Curve brought forth evidence showing that Asians were smarter than whites and whites smarter than Mestizos. I doubt much would have happened if the girl in question sent out an e-mail wondering whether Hispanics don’t assimilate too well because of genetic factors. People get upset when thought criminals point out that blacks are less intelligent than whites because they know it’s true. And the differences aren’t slight or limited to IQ. Regarding blacks, the truth simply hurts too much for a nice person with middle-class values to face.
Michael Levin in Why Race Matters theorized that perhaps blacks evolved to be more melodramatic in talking about pain because throughout their evolutionary history they needed to get the attention of members of a race that had less natural empathy. So if an African on a pain scale of one to 10 feels a five, he’ll shout out like he’s at an eight. Whites hear this and think he’s feeling eight and react accordingly. At the legal blog Above the Law, an African American blogger recounts the time in his mid-20s when he called his mother to cry because somebody used the abbreviation “nig” to refer to blacks in a class outline. Early European race theorists interpreted this kind of behavior as Africans lacking a sense of dignity, which isn’t mutually exclusive with the missed signals theory. In the end, it may simply be that this seeming shamelessness is explained fine as a byproduct of low intelligence and impulse control. Whatever the causes of black whining may be, it's another complicating factor for those hoping to return society to sanity.