Harvard Law Student’s Inferiority Complex

I received a couple e-mails an e-mail sent out by a third-year Harvard Law School student.   While viewing the headline of the article, my head shook and my eyes rolled as I read the ignorant comments of someone who clearly wasted their money on an attempt to become educated. 

 So what did this law student  (her name is out there but I’ll refrain from using it) say?  You can read all about it in detail from the over 200 articles now posted on the web about it.  In a nutshell, she sent out an e-mail to a group of people after attending an event, where she wanted to clarify her statements.  In case she was not abundantly clear, she wanted them to understand that she was not wavering and adamantly believed that “African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent.”  I guess this young lady would make an exception to the African-American students in her law school class or simply chalk them up to good ol’ affirmative action.

While some may be shocked and appalled by her comments, there are plenty of people who think like this student.  Besides, as lawyers (she also majored in sociology in undergrad), we tend to want things to fit logically into a box.  We’ve exhausted the notion that the disparities amongst the races are due to the hundreds of years of inequality that Blacks have endured throughout the history of this country.  We have a black president now so those “excuses” are ancient!  So what would any “intelligent” law student do?  Find an objective commonality among a group and apply it to their misfortune—black people are the way that they are because of their innate lack of intelligence. 

 I’m certain almost all of my friends have had a similar experience as this when they were in college or graduate school.  What is most puzzling to me is not her comments, but how comfortable she felt in sending it out as an e-mail to those she believed also shared her views.  I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and say maybe she was testing out the Socratic method or refining her logical reasoning skills.  Whatever her rationale, though troubling to some, it is a good reminder to keep in mind that some people like this law student (who could have been my classmate, co-worker or friend) really think of me as inferior to them despite my accomplishments.

 So what should we do when we encounter people like this law student?  We could expose the person and her comments for their stupidity and recklessness.  I’m not sure what that accomplishes other than the usual public apology and deep remorse for a statement that she probably would not have felt bad about had it not gone public.  On the other hand, we could brush our shoulders off and keep it moving while never losing sight of the fact that racism and ignorance is still prevalent despite how educated someone becomes.  This is what Black people are up against, so we don’t have the luxury of falling short or not living up to our fullest potential.  Symposiums, debates, books, race forums and banter that seemingly fizzles once the dust clears, is one way of confronting her statements.  However, challenging ourselves to be our best despite the obstacles is one way to dispel this foolish myth.

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9 Responses to “Harvard Law Student’s Inferiority Complex”

  1. michaeleriksson Says:

    I am not aware of this letter, nor the context of your quote; however, that quote (“African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent.”) is well in line with what the established science says (with some reservations for groups influenced by political/ideological pre-conceptions of the PC kind).

    I cannot speak for the students communications as a whole, but there is nothing in this statement that justifies claims like “[S]omeone who clearly wasted their money on an attempt to become educated. ”; further, even if the statement was factually wrong (the opinions of scientist are not infallible and often change over time) a fair treatment with arguments ad rem, not ad hominem, should follow. There is, in particular, nothing ethically wrong with being factually wrong.

    I further note that the few counter-arguments that you present are specious and/or base on misrepresentations, notably that you do not take the explicit claim “on average” into consideration: Men are taller than women, on average—yet, there are many women who are taller than most men.

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  2. michaeleriksson Says:

    To make matters worse: The very next post I read is on the same topic, and here it appears that you have made a very critical misquote of what the student said, the full quote being: “I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent. ”

    This is an act of gross intellectual dishonesty on your behalf.

    For a deeper analysis see that post: http://ethicsalarms.com/2010/04/30/the-ethics-of-harvards-racist-e-mail-scandal/

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  3. dixonm Says:

    Michael,

    I provided a very brief synopsis of the young lady’s quote because my intention was not to debate her theory. I also provided the link so that readers could obtain the full story.

    I’m sure you are aware that there are scientists who believe that blacks are not genetically inferior, as well as other scientists who claim that Europeans are genetically inferior to Africans.

    I do not agree with the young lady’s statements whether she was saying it’s plausible or whether she was saying it as fact. She is also not a scientist. With the troubling race relations we have in the U.S. I find it ethically wrong to disseminate such comments. The point I was trying to get across is simply that there is no reason for me or others to form a counter argument to those types of statements. The millions of educated Blacks continue to disprove that theory on a daily basis.

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    • michaeleriksson Says:

      No, by all signs, you deliberately distorted her statements to allow for a strawman attack. The presence of a link to a fuller quotation is not a valid excuse.

      “Genetically inferior” is something very different from “genetically predisposed to be less intelligent”.

      The existance of intelligent blacks is, again, not in anyway a counter-proof of the statement. If you do not provide arguments why she would be in error, then you really have no right to proclaim her in error. To call it ethically wrong to make statements of (perceived) facts is preposterous and leads down a very bad road indeed.

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  4. Jack Marshall Says:

    “In a nutshell”, you misrepresented what the law student wrote. She did not say she “adamantly” believed that blacks were intellectually inferior. She didn’t says she believed it at all. She said that she did not rule out the possibility. I don’t rule out the possibility that there is a God, though I doubt it. I don’t rule out the possibility that the Washington Nationals will win the pennant, or that we’ll find a way to make people live forever. I don’t actually believe any of those things. According to your method of interpreting things, I’d qualify as a Bible beating, baseball ignorant optimist, rather than an agnostic, baseball-savvy pessimist, which is what I am.

    She stated that she had an open mind, and because political correctness commands that people not consider such possibilities (or, based on some data, that Asians might well have a superior disposition to intellectual pursuits to Caucasians), or, if they do, that they be branded as racists to keep them from Thought-Crime…or bucking the conventional wisdom. I see no evidence in this young woman’s e-mail that she is a racist. I do see evidence in your post that you are willing to deceive your readers to make a point, though a completely misguided one.

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  5. dixonm Says:

    I understand his point. I used the word adamant because she made it a point to further clarify a statement she made at a previous dinner by sending out an e-mail. I’m not going to comment on your slippery slope argument.

    It is fair to assume that my readers are as intelligent as you guys are and will not be misled by my own personal opinions (especially when I provide them with sources). In my personal opinion I believe this theory is disparaging and racist.

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    • michaeleriksson Says:

      The use of “adamant” is still a severe distortion.

      It is not fair to assume that of your readers—why do you think politicians are elected on cheap propaganda? You did not provide sources for your opinions.

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  6. Jack Marshall Says:

    You wrote: “she wanted them to understand that she was not wavering and adamantly believed that “African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent.” I guess this young lady would make an exception to the African-American students in her law school class or simply chalk them up to good ol’ affirmative action.” That is not what she wrote, it is not a fair representation of what she wrote, and your follow-up accusing her of approving of racist conduct does not vaguely apply to what she wrote. It doesn’t even follow from what YOU wrote! Even if there was incontrovertible evidence (which there isn’t) that African Americans, on average, were less intelligent than whites, that would provide no justification for assuming any individual black student was less qualified than any specific white student. You have no reason to attribute such attitudes to her, beacuse she has written nothing that suggest them.

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