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.