Stephanie Grace, Ivy League Racism, and the Seeds of Institutional Bias

by Latoya Peterson and Thea Lim

We’ve received about five or so emails about Harvard Law Student Stephanie Grace, and her email “clarification” after a group dinner where she made some racist remarks that were not well received (predictably). At the time of the first email, her identity was shielded – as of today, outlets like Bossip, Jezebel, and Gawker have outed her identity and posted her photo.

Again, on its face, this is a fairly simple thing for the Racialicious audience – this woman was basically spouting the foundation to eugenics, the idea that some races are genetically inferior. This isn’t exactly new or revelatory – it’s the same logic used to justify the white man’s burden. So, after arguing that she could possibly believe that black people are genetically predisposed to be less intelligent than whites, she sent out an email clarifying her beliefs. As Above the Law excerpts from her email:

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.

Then, the email went national, leaving us with an interesting other situation that cropped up: those rising to defend Stephanie Grace. Continue reading

links for 2010-04-30

  • "Among bachelor-degree recipients, independent students were also more likely to have high-debt levels. About 24 percent of them had at least $30,500 in loan debt, twice the percentage found among students who depend on their parents or another guardian.

    "Independent students, who are disproportionately likely to come from lower-income families, are most likely to have high-debt levels," according to the report.

    The College Board also analyzed the relationship between student debt and race, finding that black students are more likely than Asians, whites, and Hispanics to have high-debt levels. Only 19 percent of black students graduated with no debt, while the percentage of debt-free graduates from other racial groups ranged from 33 for Hispanic students to 40 percent for Asian students."

    (tags: college race debt)
  • "Park, a 42-year-old Korean-American with a smile that can only be described as "kind," regularly tried to steer the talk back to the group's more centrist principles. But when someone asked how many people in the room were Republicans, all 80 hands remained down. "I like the civility idea, but I hate the Tea Party people," said attendee Karen Anderson. By the end of the event, some in the crowd had decided the movement, barely two months old at the time, needed a new leader. China Dickerson, a 26-year-old community organizer, said the Coffee Party wouldn't last "unless we get someone a little more powerful to head it." She wanted a rabble-rouser, "not someone that says we can all work together." Park seemed a little rattled after the meeting. "If they want to fire me, this may not be the group for them," she said later. "We don't want conflict and confrontation."
  • "In some way it’s good that she spoke out against the measure, especially coming against the woman that followed her in running the state of Arizona. I am also sure that Napolitano’s calling for comprehensive immigration reform is something that the advocates can and should jump on. However, it seems that Napolitano is being a little untruthful about the role I.C.E has already been playing with 287(g) and other immigration enforcement measures that claim to be out looking for “dangerous” immigrants.

    It could be argued, for example, that 287(g), which yes was started by Bush Jr. and was expanded under Obama, as it was implemented in Maricopa County under Sheriff Joe Arpaio, provided a framework for SB1070."

  • "Many white people feel convicted as a race by terms such as ''gentification,'' when, really they shouldn't be. Displacement of the poor is mostly a show of raw economic and political power that often, but not always, falls along racial lines. And especially in places with strong, black middle-class communities like Chicago and D.C., that does not mean just white power. Denying the black middle class' role in the nationwide urban renaissance is offensive because it gives the false perception that black people lack the agency and means to force progressive ''change'' in a community. In many of these communities, such as Hillcrest, black people have been competitive gardening without white people for quite sometime."
  • "However, Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, who has been campaigning for years to have the book removed from Belgian shops, says its depiction of native Africans – including a scene where a black woman bows before Tintin exclaiming "White man very great. White mister is big juju man!" – is ignorant and offensive, and he has applied to the Belgian courts to have it banned.

    "It makes people think that blacks have not evolved," he said.

    The verdict, originally expected today, has now been delayed until next week."

  • …If your email makes the case for a biological reason for racial disparities in intelligence, someone might hit Forward and send it to Black Law Student Associations across the nation.According to our sources, [a Harvard Law School student] made some controversial comments about race at a dinner…After the dinner, DNA felt the need to send an email to a few friends clarifying those views. Here’s an excerpt: "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."… after graduation, the author will be doing a federal clerkship.

Did Shakira’s World Cup Anthem Miss The Mark?

shakira1By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

You gotta love the World Cup. It’s a time when America’s forced to acknowledge not only that other countries exist, but that they might be better and more passionate at some things. The Olympics? Maybe once upon a time, but not when NBC frames the event as the feel-good story of (x) teenage athlete.

Anyway, this year’s selection for the official Cup theme song – a team-up between Shakira and South African group Freshlyground – has a rather curious history. The video below for “WAKA WAKA (This Time For Africa)” is SFW and is actually rather catchy.

While it might seem odd to see the Colombian Shakira fronting a song for a tournament held in South Africa, Guanabee notes that the song’s inspiration, “Zangalewa,” by a Cameroonian band of the same name, was actually popular in her country as well as several others in Africa. Guanabee also says, “The song, music historians say, is a criticism of black military officers who were in league with whites to oppress their own people. Or at least, some of it was. Some of it, as far was we can surmise, is gibberish.”

The “gibberish” thing is questionable, but the fact remains that some of the lyrics do use some uncomfortable imagery:

You’re a good soldier,
Choosing your battles
Pick yourself up,
And dust yourself off
And back in the saddle
You’re on the frontline
Everyone’s watching
You know it’s serious
We’re getting closer
This isn’t over

At a time when popular media likes to depict Africa as little more than a confluence of civil wars – O HAI 24 & FLASHFORWARD! – are those really the words FIFA wants welcoming viewers to South Africa’s moment in the spotlight?

A more fitting choice might actually have been the song Coca-Cola picked to serve as the jingle for its’ Cup ad campaign, K’naan’s “Waving Flag.” (Full disclosure: I posted this version because the “official” video has an unnecessary cameo by Spanish reality-show alum David Bisbal and several annoyingly cheery “Latino” dancers, not to mention subtle product placements.)

links for 2010-04-29

  • "Some of the dismissive comments from the defenders of whiteness call it 'speculative' and tried to shout Wise's conclusions down since it didn't jibe with their vanilla flavored conservaworldview.
    "But it ain't 'speculation' what the reaction of whiteness and the Feds would be to an armed group of Black people calling for radical change to the system. All you have to do is pick up the history books and go back to the 1966 formation in Oakland of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense."
  • "According to the first theory, because Americans fear crime and distrust our government, we support punitive laws and policies. The second proposes that people support punitive policies because they think our country's morals are in decline. And the last theory suggests that racist beliefs are what fuel public support for harsh criminal punishments.
    "All three theories, the study found, explain why American support for so-called 'tough-on-crime' penalties is so high. But it turns out that racist beliefs offer the best explanation of all."
  • "Instead I will say: this is no country for strangers. This is not a people that can be known by observation alone, without the risk of actual engagement. This is no land where you can set yourself apart and then delude yourself with claims that comprehension naturally comes with high-minded goals and noble intentions to enlighten a system whose only fundamental flaw is ignorance of your ways. This is not a place that needs more foreigners coming in to visit, then taking away with them their misconceptions and their privileged judgments — because we have been misrepresented enough, not just in the international community but also amongst ourselves, and false categorizations and claims about who we are and where we came from and where we should go are unneeded and shouldn't be welcomed."
  • And these are the ways in which the Asian and African American communities are encouraged to hate each other.  Instead of talking about systemic racism, we think about our own superiority and receive our pats on the back.  Instead of talking about systemic racism, we resent other groups for the ways in which they are favored.  Close your eyes and you’d swear white voices were coming out of Asian and black mouths.  And those voices are supported and promoted by whites. (Michelle M@lkin, anyone?)And these are the ways in which the Asian and African American communities are encouraged to hate each other.  Instead of talking about systemic racism, we think about our own superiority and receive our pats on the back.  Instead of talking about systemic racism, we resent other groups for the ways in which they are favored.  Close your eyes and you’d swear white voices were coming out of Asian and black mouths.  And those voices are supported and promoted by whites. (Michelle M@lkin, anyone?)

Black AND Asian (and Jewish?)

by Guest Contributor CVT, originally published at Choptensils

I meant to write this post a long time ago – kept saying that I would – but it just didn’t happen, finally fell on the back-burner. Recently, however, I read another post (here) that addressed this topic, but in a manner that felt – to me – to retain the very same “Us vs. Them” theme that’s gotten us here in the first place. The angle taken, the examples given, some of the comments, etc. allow for a dangerous misunderstanding to continue (not the author’s intention, but nonetheless . . .). So I felt it’s time. Let’s do this.

A while back, I was talking to a friend of mine (a black female, which is relevant) – we’ll call her “W.” She’s telling me about this guy she ran into at some store; this Vietnamese guy (“or Chinese or Korean or something”) comes over and starts chatting her up, hitting on her, trying to get her number and all that. She’s not feeling it. She gets irritated on a number of levels. But her primary annoyance is that she feels like he’s just messing with her, so she ends up telling him “give me a break, you don’t date black women,” and (tamely) telling him about how racist Asian guys are.

She finishes her story, looks at me, and, laughing, says “can you believe that?”

I give a one-word response. “Yes.”

But my mind was reeling – because there was so much going on in this one interaction (sort of two interactions, including the re-telling) that just sum up the state of oppression-related affairs in the U.S. First, there’s a (black) woman getting hit on by some random guy, which always carries a tinge of objectification, dominance, etc. In this case, it’s an Asian guy – so we’re bringing together two notoriously “undesirable” race/gender combinations in this country. Then there’s her confusion over the exact ethnicity of this Asian dude. Then there’s her belief (based on real past experience) that he’s not really interested in dating her; that he’s more or less mocking her, because – as an Asian man – he’s probably crazy-racist against black people. And, finally, the beauty of it all – she’s casually relating this story to me, her friend – an Asian (okay, mixed-Asian) male.

And it all made perfect sense to me. Because, you see, I happen to be a sort of connoisseur of the black-Asian interracial experience, and everything that happened in that story follows the confusing, tense narrative of a relationship that has been being shaped for the last couple-hundred (maybe far more) years. It’s a long story – with a lot of loops and twists – but it’s one worth reading, so I hope y’all follow me to the end.

Prologue – “Setting it Straight” (aka “Prepare to Have Your Mind Blown”)

We “all know” that there’s this big rivalry between Asian and black folks. The “opposites” of the PoC spectrum, there just is no bridging the divide. I’ve heard it a million times (from both sides).

And so the look of shock on the faces of this one particular group of Asian folks I was with shouldn’t have surprised me when I asked what should have been a stupid question: “You all realize that there are black Asian people, right?”
Continue reading

A Game Of Inches: The Racialicious Roundtable For Flashforward 1.17

Hosted by Special Correspondent Arturo R. García


So, judging by last week’s responses, the future isn’t bright for this show, is it? Or was it something we said? Gang, what do you think?

jen*: That, or everyone was just thinking, “mmm. Cho.”
Diana: I was disappointed, but maybe this week will be better.
Mahsino: yeaaah. maybe it’s a proportional reflection of the decline in ratings?
Andrea: Mmmmmm. Cho.

In some ways, it’s a pity, as this episode was an example of the writers giving us more of what we’ve been after – a clear-cut story focused on action and possible consequences.
jen*: Um, Yeah! Is it really too much to ask to get this on the regular? Are shows just focused on the season open and then a 4-ep build to the finale? Cuz if that’s the case, I can skip the midseason and take up a craft.
Diana: Jen, it’s not too much to ask. But if you do start crafting, may I suggest knitting. You can throw one of the needles at the tv if you need to and not miss a stitch.
jen*: You know, I always did wanna learn how to knit…
Mahsino: I make and elaborately decorate cupcakes, but I hear knitting is nice too. But yeah, I haven’t even been as into an episode as this one. Continue reading

links for 2010-04-28

  • "A few hours later, the DMV agreed that the plate contains a coded message: The number 88 stands for the eighth letter of the alphabet, H, doubled to signify "Heil Hitler," said CAIR's Ibrahim Hooper. "CV" stands for "Confederate veteran" — the plate was a special model embossed with a Confederate flag, which Virginia makes available for a $10 fee to card-carrying members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. And 14 is code for imprisoned white supremacist David Lane's 14-word motto: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."
  • "Skip Gates sells the concept of reparations very short by presuming that Black Americans want reparations solely to get back at a dehumanized specter of a supremacist White America. The conversation on reparations does not center how badly Blacks were treated by Whites; it centers the ongoing legacy of economic stability that White-dominated institutions have enjoyed by law and tradition over centuries, compared to the economic blight that Black Americans face on an ongoing basis. Despite the hard work our ancestors invested against their will in the future of America, we do not share in any legacy of economic benefit. Opportunities, while admirable and prevalent, are not wealth. Affirmative action, while an attempt to level the playing field, cannot equip Black Americans to move ahead in a system designed to keep a minority underclass thriving without more centuries of underpaid and undervalued work."

Talking About The Things We Do To Each Other

by Latoya Peterson


In order to keep the peace around here, we have a policy against the Oppression Olympics:

Let’s avoid oppression olympics please. I’m not saying it’s never something to be discussed, but generally speaking, bickering over who has it worse off, or who’s more racist, is really kind of useless.

The reason why this policy is in place is simple: we are trying to organize outside of the traditional structures that separate us by race and ethnicity. This process is difficult. It is a constant negotiation of boundaries, an ongoing discussion about who we are and where we fit in race conversation, and requires a lot of weeding out of people who display that they could care less about other races/ethnicities.

However, the concept of Oppression Olympics is flawed. As I explored in an older post “Re-examining the Phrase ‘Oppression Olympics‘:”

Now here’s an example [scholar Andrea Smith sites in her chapter about Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy] that jumped out at me the most (and I think comes closer to what Black Canseco was trying to get at in the comments):

Our organizing can also reflect anti-Black racism. Recently, with the outgrowth of “multiculturalism” there have been calls to “go beyond the black/white binary” and include other communities of color in our analysis. First, it replaces an analysis of white supremacy with a politics of multicultural representation; if we just include more people, then our practice will be less racist. Not true. This model does not address the nuanced structure of white supremacy, such as through these distinct logics of slavery, genocide, and Orientalism. Second, it obscures the centrality of the slavery logic in the system of white supremacy, which is based on a black/white binary. The black/white binary is not the only binary which characterizes white supremacy, but it is still a central one that we cannot “go beyond” in our racial justice organizing efforts.

If we do not look at how the logic of slaveability inflects our society and our thinking, it will be evident in our work as well. For example, other communities of color often appropriate the cultural work and organizing strategies of African American civil rights or Black Power movements without corresponding assumptions that we should also be in solidarity with Black communities. We assume that this work is the common “property” of all oppressed groups, and we can appropriate it without being accountable.

Damn right. As we get deeper and deeper into the feminism debates, I notice a couple of bloggers who do espouse these anti-black sentiments while using the civil rights movement as a foundation to stand on. Particularly, those bloggers who continually refer to “the blacks” or “the black feminists” and the power of our numbers, as if every time we complain, something is granted and we never worked to be recognized or acknowledged in mainstream feminism. These bloggers are not white. But they are not black either. And it would be foolish to think that if someone is non-white, then they must be allied with black women, or a larger movement that advocates for the rights of women of color.

But that’s a discussion for another time.

After looking at some of the discussions about Black-Asian racism dynamics on Reappropriate, some conversations I’ve had with Thea, discussions of South Philadelphia High School, and some of our long standing conversations about inter-racial issues, looks like the time for conversation is now. Continue reading