Stupid is as Stupid Does?

April 29, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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by Carrie from Basic Black

The story burning up the blogosphere today is that a Harvard Law student made some racially charged comments at a dinner, and then sent an email to her dining companions to clarify what had been said:

“… 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,

[Name Redacted]”

The individual who forwarded this email to the Harvard Black Law Student Association list-serv included the name of the email’s author and the fact that she had been accepted for a coveted, highly competitive federal clerkship.

The Harvard BLSA is denying forwarding the email correspondence to anyone; however, the story has gone viral, and according to Abovethelaw.com, it has already been shared more than 1000 times on Facebook. The dean of Harvard Law School, Martha Minow, has issued a statement declaring that the email “does not reflect the views of the school or the overwhelming majority of the members of the community” and adds that “at Harvard Law School, we are committed to preventing degradation of any individual or group, including race-based insensitivity or hostility.” And, of course, the profuse apology of the email writer herself has been widely circulated.

This incident raises a number of questions:

1. Are the opinions of the email’s author prevalent, and just left unspoken?

The fact that commenters at various blogs expressed sympathy for the email’s author would suggest that this is the case.

Danwinters, a commenter at newser.com, wrote: “if it took a harvard law student to figure this out we are in trouble”

Lee, a commenter on Wicked Local, wrote: “Wow, so being open minded and interested in seeing actual evidence for something qualifies one as being “racist”. That’s interesting that in 100 years of intelligence testing there has never been a time where Black people have shown to have the same intelligence as Asians or Whites or Jews. It’s also interesting that there has never been an African Einstein or Newton in world history. Yeah Africa sure is an intellectual hotbed! Saying anything else would be “racist”.”

A commenter called My Name at Abovethelaw.com wrote: “Well … what he wrote is racist, but it’s also accurate. Whether it’s brain size, performance on IQ tests (even when using African-American names in test questions and otherwise trying to make sure the test is race-neutral, and at any age), African-Americans don’t do well on any kind of IQ test or any test for which performance is correlated with IQ (LSAT, etc.). That’s not to say there aren’t some African-Americans who aren’t quite smart … the proportion of the population within the higher distributions of IQs, though, as compared to whites and Asians (or, for that matter, Hispanics) just isn’t as high. It is racist, yet accurate, to acknowledge this. Why is it fine to say that most African-Americans have better sprint times and are quicker, due to a higher proportion of Type II muscle fibers, and have bigger junk (come on, does anyone doubt this), yet it’s not fine to acknowledge what decades of research have shown over and over again regarding African-Americans’ IQs?”

2. Does the author deserve to have her career ruined over this email? Several websites (including Gawker) have posted the author’s name and photograph, while others (Abovethelaw.com) have deliberately chosen to keep her anonymous. Who is correct?

Commenter littlelegal at Jezebel.com wrote: “This woman is on the Harvard Law Review and has secured a clerkship with Judge [Redacted]. By holding these positions, she has elected to become a member of the intellectual elite and begun the transition from private person to public one. She has obtained the kind of prestige that opens doors into positions of power thus her career is one in which the public does have a nascent interest–perhaps we should be concerned that a federal appellate judge will have someone so misinformed in his close circle of advisers. If she were a high school student, your average college student or perhaps even a 1L or a 3L off to be a firm workhorse, I would be more sympathetic. In her position, she deserves the spotlight. I think it was right of the original recipient to “out” a future federal clerk for holding invidious racial views.”

Jezebel commenter Cimorene added: “Why are the feelings of an individual with abhorrent views, who’s about to have a publicly funded job with significant influence, whose personal life was not involved, whose privacy was not intentionally invaded (she, after all, sent out the email to several people, apparently unaware that someone on her contact list doesn’t like racism), of more concern than her 18th century-esque, blatant, disgusting racism, a racism that she’ll be bringing to a federal clerkship? Why is the racist white lady more important than black people in general?”

Commenter NinaG at Jack & Jill Politics wrote: “Please use her name so this comes up when people search her name. Say it as many times. No reason to protect her.”

But Gawker commenter Perhaps Not wrote: “I dunno, man, this kind of ruins her reputation forever in a way that is probably not fair. Lord knows I’ve said some stupid shit in my time, and I’m extremely pleased that no one repeated it to millions upon millions of their closest friends.”

Gawker commenter SlickaNicka agreed: “…should she be pilloried for this? She, a mere student who said some very dumb, wrong, and offensive things in an email to a few people? Is this one act a snapshot of all that she believes and all that she is? Do we all want to be judged on the worst possible thing we have ever said? Does her life deserve to be ruined over this one email? If she were the Dean or a person of power and influence, it would be more damning. But law student? Eh, the internets will crash if we have to dispense justice for all the dumb-ass student comments out there.”

3. Does the furor over this email stifle academic discussion?

David Lat of Abovethelaw.com writes: “In an academic setting, it should be possible to put any proposition on the table for debate. No position should lie beyond the pale. Some — in fact, many — such positions will be stupid or wrong. But we should be able to debate all issues rationally, vigorously and openly, without having to worry about offending anyone… Instead of calling your opponents names, like “racist” or “sexist” or “homophobe,” you should respond to arguments you don’t like with better arguments, accompanied by evidence. Rational debate. Isn’t that what free speech and academic discourse — and, incidentally, the practice of law — are all about?”

The opposing view was expressed by an anonymous commenter who wrote: “Lat, thank you for justifying all of my racist comments. I just say them to provoke discussion.”

What are your thoughts on this?

Sandra’s New Baby—or New Black-cessory?

April 28, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Today Oscar-winning actress Sandra Bullock announced her divorce from cheating husband Jesse James—and revealed that before they split the couple adopted an African American baby boy, Louis, who was born in New Orleans and is now almost four months old.

This is particularly interesting given the fact that James has recently been tied to white supremacists—one of his alleged mistresses, Michelle McGee, posed for a photo shoot in Nazi regalia and has tattoos that imply support for the white power movement, and a photo of James himself giving a Nazi salute has been saturating the media. In a new interview with People magazine Bullock says that she was shocked when she saw the photos and condemned them in no uncertain terms:

“This was stupid, this was ignorant. Racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, homophobia, anything Nazi and a boatload of other things have no place in my life. And the man I married felt the same.”

James’ issues aside (Bullock is finalizing the adoption as a single parent), people are already questioning the wisdom of placing the baby in a white family.

Redeemed777, a commenter on the website Sandra Rose, wrote:

“OK WHY DO THESE WHITE FOLKS FEEL THE NEED TO ADOPT BLACK CHILDREN? WHY? WHY? I’M NOT GONNA LIE IT JUST PISSES ME OFF! I FEEL LIKE THEIR LAB-RAT CURIOSITY ABOUT BLACK PEOPLE/CHILDREN/WOMEN/MEN IS JUST GETTING OBSESSIVELY OUT OF CONTROL. UGH!”

Another commenter, Mirsmommy, agreed:

“The baby is beautiful, but WTF @ black babies becoming the new accessory for white celebrities.”

But not everyone shared their opinion. Commenter Cinderella wrote:

“@Redeemed, I don’t think White people “feel the need” to adopt Black children. I think they find it easier to adopt Black kids because there are so many around the world needing homes. Healthy White children are hard to adopt.”

Jazi65 added:

“So many in our race want to criticize white people for adopting black babies but how many of us are stepping up to the plate? As long as she’s going to be a good mother to that adorable baby, race should not be an issue.”

Chase Says wrote:

“Cute kid and go Sandy… I don’t have the money but if I did the first thing I would do is adopt a baby… I’m appalled at some of these comments… D.a.m.n.e.d if u do and d.a.m.n.e.d if u don’t.”

Candi Apple took it further:

“The first thing black people say is the little black baby will be disconnected from his culture. What culture? We have no culture to be honest. By culture do they mean the drug users and dealers, the hoes and the gold diggers, why black women can’t find a good black man, because really these topics are always on the forefront. Black people who are semi-successful and successful try to distance themselves from this because they know its not a culture its a predicament… If Sandra B is going to help this child develop into the best person he will be I don’t see a problem with her being his mother.”

Several commenters pointed out that unlike certain other celebrities’ adopted black children, Louis is American. Historically African American children have been difficult to place in adoptive homes, as many Americans choose to adopt internationally instead.

Keekee83 wrote:

“ When brangelina and madonna were doing it and going over to Africa, the question was why can’t they adopt over here. There are alot of black babies who need a good home…”

Aqtpie agreed:

“Awwwh what a beautiful baby! Congrats to Sandra! There are so many black babies in the US that stay in the foster care system, so if she is willing to help a black baby get out the system and treats him well, more power to her!!!!”

What do you think—should black children be raised by white families?

Guest Editorial: On the loss of civil rights pioneer Dorothy Height

April 22, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Gay Community Loses Black Civil Rights Ally Dorothy Height
by Rev. Irene Monroe

Civil Rights activist Dorothy Irene Height died on April 20th at the age of 98. Of prominent African American civil rights allies to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community – Corretta Scott King, Julian Bond, and John Lewis, to name a few – Height wasn’t profiled and honored enough.

But this unsung heroine was never concerned about accolades. In an interview with Gwen Ifill, an African American journalist and television newscaster for PBS, about her memoir, Open Wide the Freedom Gates, Height said, “If you worry about who is going to get credit, you don’t get much work done.”

This grande dame of the civil rights era, however, got a lot of work done in her lifetime, exhibiting indefatigable energy in championing for gay civil rights as she did 80-plus years championing race and gender civil rights.

President for forty years (1957- 1997) of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), an organization with the objective of advancing opportunities and the quality of life for African American women, their families, and communities with programs on issues like voting rights, poverty and, in later years, AIDS, Height understood that black families and communities could neither be whole nor healthy without championing gay civil rights for its LGBTQ community.

For example, in 1996 with Elizabeth Birch, then-president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Height worked the halls of Congress when the Employment Non-Discrimination Act faced (ENDA) its first vote on the Senate floor. Although the Senate rejected ENDA 50-49 Height continued her efforts.

When African American ministers — especially those of the civil right era who claimed to have marched and worked with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King — were vehemently denounced the gay liberation struggle as a civil rights issue Height told the audience at the 1997 Human Rights Campaign National Dinner, which was honoring her civil rights work: “Civil rights are civil rights. There are no persons who are not entitled to their civil rights. … We have to recognize that we have a long way to go, but we have to go that way together.”

Height’s understanding of LGBTQ civil rights derived from her infighting for gender equity with the stalwarts of civil rights movement. With only black heterosexual men in the Movement’s leadership, both its women and LGBTQ communities were constantly sidelined, albeit shouldering most of the work. For example, just as Bayard Rustin — the architect of the 1963 March on Washington which catapulted King onto a national stage — didn’t have a speaking role at the March because of homophobic sentiments, Height, then president of the National Council of Negro Women and one of the March’s chief organizers and a prizewinning orator herself, didn’t have a speaking role because of sexist attitudes.

In an interview with NPR in 2003, Height commented on the sexism at the March stating that Mahalia Jackson, the Queen of Gospel Music, was the only woman heard from the podium that day.

“My being seated there had some very special meaning because women had been trying to get a woman to speak on the program,” Height said. “But we were always met by the planners with the idea that women were represented in all of the different groups, in the churches, in the synagogues, in the unions, organizations and the like. So the only voice we heard of a woman was that of Mahalia Jackson.”

Born in 1912 before women had the right to vote in 1920 and when Jim Crow America was still very much alive, Height confronted not only sexism but she also faced racism. In 1929, at the beginning of the Great Depression, Height was admitted to Barnard College, one of the elite Seven Sister private colleges for women. Not knowing  the school’s unwritten racial quota policy that allowed two black students per academic year, Height was denied entrance upon arriving on campus as the third student.

Bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004, Height was an exemplar of quiet dignity, prophetic witness, and public service. And it is her shoulders we all stand on.

In 1947, Height became president of the Delta Theta Sigma Sorority Inc., a Greek-lettered sorority of African American college-educated women who perform public service in the African American community. And her life’s work upheld its motto: “Lifting as We Climb.”

As we say in the African American community, Height has gone home to Jesus, but we give thanks for her strength as a fighter for social justice on which we have leaned on, and for her grace by which we have grown.

Height was not only a public servant, but she was also one of our moral leaders.

And by example, Height has showed us that our social justice work is recognized best when we shift the paradigm of looking for moral leadership from outside of ourselves to within ourselves; thus, realizing we are not only the agents of change in society, but also the moral leaders we have been looking for.

And for that we give her thanks.

Reverend Irene Monroe is a nationally-known writer, speaker and theologian.  She has been profiled in O, Oprah Magazine and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.  (The views expressed in this essay are solely those of the author.)

Guest Editorial: A Challenge to the Catholic Church…

April 6, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Pope’s Pedophilic Church
Rev. Irene Monroe

Who among us would not flinch at the thought of a “holy man” preying on children instead of praying with them?

And what faith can anyone have in a Church that says it stands on the teachings of Jesus yet violates his biblical mandate stated in Mark 10:14: “Let the children come to me; do not try to stop them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

But when you have a pope more invested in doctrinal debates than personal suffering, and more invested in exerting his ecclesiastical power in defrocking dissident theologians than his priestly flock of sex predators, then it’s easy to comprehend why the decades-long pleas and petitions from Catholic parishioners – worldwide – to Pope Benedict XVI to do something never made anything happen.

When Pope Benedict XVI was known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (1977-2005), he sent out a letter on May 18, 2001 ordering all his bishops, under the threat of ecclesiastical punishment, to observe “papal secrecy,” keeping sex abuse allegations concealed from both the public and the police.

I know from personal experience that disclosing sexual misconduct by members of the clergy not only shakes one’s faith, but it also shakes the very foundation where one’s faith is housed — the church. But make no mistake, here, pedophilic priests — and the bevy of other priests that archdioceses have conspired to keep silent about for decades — are criminals whose victims are innocent children.

As an institution that vows to protect the old, the sick, the downtrodden, and all of God’s children, the Catholic Church has not only failed at its earthly mission, it has also failed at recognizing one of the places where it needs healing – sexual violence.

One of the reasons Catholic officials avoid implementing a zero-tolerance policy for its pedophilic priests is because the church neither sees nor understands pedophilia as a form of sexual violence. Its pervasiveness within the church, from its seminarians to its bishops, has anesthetized church officials to the severity of the crime and its effects, both on the victims and their families. Therefore, the Catholic Church closes its eyes in taking full responsibility and accountability for the abuse.

Some in the Catholic Church deflect attention from this issue by raising fallacious questions about a causality between pedophilia and homosexuality. However, in the face of overwhelming evidence by behavioral scientists to refute such a harmful and homophobic claim, the Catholic Church, nonetheless, believes that a homosocial and celibate atmosphere of men produces a preponderance of pedophilic priests.

Clearly the issue facing the Catholic Church is not about whether gay men or celibacy cause pedophilia. It is, however, about the church’s egregious neglect to address the issue of sexual violence by priests against children.

Pedophilia is a form of sexual violence. And as such, pedophilia is the expression of anger through sexual exploitation. It is the abuse of power and the use of force, such as manipulation, physical violence, and emotional coercion and extortion, which is expressed through sexual acts. Pedophilia is a violation to one’s sense of bodily integrity, and it maintains itself within ecclesiastical institutions when an ongoing cycle of abuse goes on unexamined and unaccounted for.

While the commonly held belief these days, given the media frenzy, is that Catholic priests have a patent on this form of sexual violence, pedophilia is not specific to one’s gender, race, class, sexual orientation, vocation, or religion. Viewed as a sin and not a crime by most clerics, pedophilia maintains itself in ecclesiastical institutions like the Catholic Church through a culture of silence, deception, and shame. And pedophilia is also believed to be overcome by daily offerings of prayers and penance — but not prosecution.

While pedophilia is a sin within a theological view because it is an ongoing act that exercises control in the life of the pedophile to the point that it enslaves the person and relegates him to a fallen state, pedophilia is also a crime within a legal view. After all, these men are sex offenders like any other sex offenders. If found guilty, they should be placed on sex offender registries as the law requires.

But the law will never prevail to prosecute these priests as long as the pope protects them.

Reverend Irene Monroe is a nationally-known writer, speaker and theologian.  She has been profiled in O, Oprah Magazine and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.  (The views expressed in this essay are solely those of the author.)

The Word “Ghetto” by Press Pass TV

April 2, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The emerging journalists at Press Pass TV ask folks in Boston’s black neighborhoods about the word “ghetto”…

From the Press Pass TV site:  For 5 years, Press Pass TV has gathered some of the brightest and most dedicated minds in media to work with youth. With humble beginnings in an after school program at the Dearborn Middle School in Roxbury, Press Pass TV has become and integral part of the community, serving young people throughout the city and increasing the capacity of organizations and schools throughout Greater Boston.  For more information visit www.presspasstv.org.

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