by Guest Contributor Nancy Leong
Earlier this week, a media firestorm erupted over a lengthy email written by Harvard Law School third-year student Stephanie Grace in which she stated that she “absolutely do[es] not rule out the possibility that African-Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent.”
The controversy over Grace’s email is the latest in a series of periodic flare-ups over the question of whether a particular race or gender is intrinsically “more intelligent” than another. In such situations, debate inevitably ensues. Insults are leveled. Offense is taken. Carefully-worded apologies is issued.
Although in my view Grace is just plain wrong on the facts, my purpose here is not to spend time engaging her claim on the merits. Certainly we can argue over whether there’s a difference in “intelligence” between the races. But those debates eat time, drain resources, exacerbate racial tensions, and, ultimately, get us nowhere useful. So the problem isn’t only that some people answer the question “are blacks less intelligent?” in the affirmative. It’s that they care about the answer to the question in the first place. In my view, it’s a useless question, one not worth asking and not worth trying to answer.