Racism

Texas exists so I don’t have to make up headlines like the one above. Khou.com reports:

Simkins Residence Hall is the last all-male dormitory at the University of Texas. Tucked into a quiet corner of campus along Waller Creek, it was the first men’s dorm with air conditioning.

It is notable for another reason as well: Simkins is named for a UT law professor who was a leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

Yeah, no average Klan sympathizer can get his name on a dorm in Texas. You’ve got to be a Klan leader for that kind of recognition.

Administration officials claim they only recently became aware of the Simkins’s supremacist background. That’s probably true. But something tells me that 55 years ago, when the dorm opened, somebody at UT damn well knew that this law prof was a Klansman…

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As we mentioned in Morning Docket, the lawsuits are coming for Arizona’s new immigration law. First up, the ACLU. Bloomberg reports:

The American Civil Liberties Union is leading a court challenge to Arizona’s new law targeting illegal immigration, claiming the measure would allow unconstitutional racial profiling by police.

A group of civil rights organizations led by the ACLU also alleges that the law interferes with federal power and authority over immigration matters in violation of the U.S. Constitution, according to a complaint filed today in federal court in Phoenix. The group claims in addition that the statute infringes the free-speech rights of day laborers in the state.

It’s not surprising that the ACLU is taking the first shot at this. The Department of Justice might not be far behind….

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We’re hoping the Harvard Law School email controversy has run its course — and we suspect that it has. (But we still invite you to take our reader poll on whether Crimson DNA’s email was racist or offensive.)

Before we close the door on this story, we’d like to give you the background on how it all got started. It’s disturbing — and a cautionary tale for all of us.

Our initial report on this story was missing some important pieces of information, which we did not acquire until later. This post will attempt to provide a more complete report of how one Harvard 3L’s personal email message, shared with just a handful of friends, became national news….

UPDATE: We’ve added a statement from one of the principal players, “Yelena,” after the jump.

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If you’re tired of reading about the Harvard Law School email controversy — judging from our traffic and comment levels, most of you aren’t, but maybe some of you are — we have some good news. Our coverage is winding down. (We do have a few loose ends to tie up, though, which may take us into the weekend or early next week.)

Before we conclude, we’d like to hear from you, our readers. We’ve heard from the commenters, of course — but many readers never comment, so the commenters aren’t representative of everyone.

Reader polls, which draw much larger participation than the comments, offer a better gauge of audience sentiment. We’d like to poll you on two questions:

(1) Was Crimson DNA’s email racist?

(2) Was Crimson DNA’s email offensive?

Please vote in our two reader polls, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Was the Harvard Email Racist? Was it Offensive?
Take Our Reader Polls”

Yesterday, I asked why the Harvard Black Law Students Association had been silent on the controversial email from a third-year Harvard Law School student raising the “possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent.” Today, the organization released a statement on its website:

Harvard BLSA denounces racially inflammatory language – The Harvard Black Law Students Association (HBLSA) strongly condemns the racially inflammatory email that was circulated among the entire Harvard Law School community. Like many individuals who read its content, we find the message to be deplorable and offensive. We are open to thoughtful discourse on even the most controversial of views, and yet we categorically reject the archaic notion that African-Americans are genetically inferior to white people. We recognize, however, that this issue is much larger than any single email or any particular student.

Was that so hard? The foregoing paragraph is a pitch-perfect assessment of the situation and an effective response.

The BLSA letter goes on to say that HBLSA should not (and apparently does not) want to be the focus of attention here…

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Plus a statement from the HLS dean of students.

Elie here: just wanted to make sure you all know what’s coming.

Few things embarrass me like the Harvard Black Law Students Association. It could be the most credible foil to systemic racism against black law students. It has instead become a convenient tool to be used by those who wish to ignore the racial tensions in our system of legal education.

Don’t believe me? Earlier this week, we learned that a sole white kid called blacks genetically dumber than whites, and Harvard BLSA backed down — stepped and fetched, if you will — in the face of one solitary white person. It’s not the first time (we’ll get to the tragically impotent reaction to Kiwi Camara later). But at a point when the entire law school world would have at least considered what Harvard BLSA had to say, the organization sought to cover their own ass in the media, instead of standing up on the behalf of maligned black law students everywhere.

I cannot and do not wish to speak for all black law students and lawyers. But when confronted with abject racism, I can find the courage to speak for myself. I believe that gives me more balls than BLSA…

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I got an email this afternoon from Maureen O’Connor of Gawker, letting us know that she had outed CRIMSON DNA:

Great post on the Harvard 3-L who started the racist email war. We just did a follow-up.

We’ve made great efforts to keep the identity of the Harvard 3L under wraps, terming her CRIMSON DNA and deleting mentions of her real name in the comment section. Now that she has been publicly outed, on a site much larger than our own, we will no longer be moderating the comments.

Still, for us, the story was about the fact that a Harvard law student with a prestigious clerkship holds these views and about the reaction from Black Law Student Associations. We did not think that her identity was an important component of the story, nor that she was a typical public figure whose name should be disclosed. Obviously, those of you spamming the comments with her name disagree, as does Gawker.

We won’t say her life is ruined, but it’s certainly not been a good week. People have emailed the judge she’s rumored to be clerking for. She has issued an apology. And the Harvard Law School dean has issued a statement, distancing the school from DNA’s views. And hell, it’s finals time.

Here’s an excerpt from her apology to the incoming and outgoing presidents of the Harvard Black Law Students Association, available in full after the jump:

I am deeply sorry for the pain caused by my email. I never intended to cause any harm, and I am heartbroken and devastated by the harm that has ensued. I would give anything to take it back.

So what set this all off? A cat fight, apparently…

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Martha Minow, Dean of the Harvard Law School — and, by the way, a possible Supreme Court nominee — has issued a statement regarding the allegedly racist email by a third-year Harvard Law School student that has been making the rounds. (We refer to the 3L in these pages as simply “CRIMSON DNA” or “DNA”; please do not post DNA’s real name in the comments.)

Not surprisingly for a law professor, Dean Minow avails herself of the teaching moment that the Harvard Black Law Students Association apparently passed on. She writes:

This sad and unfortunate incident prompts both reflection and reassertion of important community principles and ideals. We seek to encourage freedom of expression, but freedom of speech should be accompanied by responsibility. This is a community dedicated to intellectual pursuit and social justice. The circulation of one student’s comment does not reflect the views of the school or the overwhelming majority of the members of this community.

Dean Minow condemns the substance of the email in question:

Here at Harvard Law School, we are committed to preventing degradation of any individual or group, including race-based insensitivity or hostility. The particular comment in question unfortunately resonates with old and hurtful misconceptions. As an educational institution, we are especially dedicated to exposing to the light of inquiry false views about individuals or groups.

She also highlights a point we emphasized last night, namely, that BLSA did not publicize the email or pressure DNA’s future employer (a federal judge) to rescind a job offer.

The dean’s statement refers to an apology written by DNA. We haven’t seen the apology in question (although we’re trying to obtain it). If you have a copy, please email us (subject line: “HLS Apology”).

Dean Minow’s full statement appears after the jump.

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Dean Martha Minow Weighs In”

Earlier today, we wrote about an email controversy emanating from the halls of Harvard Law School. A 3L at HLS — referred to in these pages simply as “CRIMSON DNA,” and please help us keep it that way — sent out an email message that some construed as “racist.” In the email, “CRIMSON DNA,” following up on remarks made during an apparently spirited dinner conversation, wrote as follows:

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.

That was just the opening. Read the rest of DNA’s email over here.

We now bring you some corrections and clarifications, as well as additional discussion — in case the 100+ tweets, 800+ comments, and 1,000+ Facebook shares weren’t enough for you….

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Corrections and More Commentary”

Every time you put something into an email, please remember that someone you send it to may hit Forward. 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.

That’s what happened to a Harvard 3L yesterday. We’ll call this 3L CRIMSON DNA. According to our sources, DNA made some controversial comments about race at a dinner held by the school’s Federalist Society.

CORRECTION: This dinner was not a Fed Soc dinner. [FN1]

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. African Americans tend to have darker skin. Irish people are more likely to have red hair.

One of the 3Ls to receive that email, available in full after the jump, was very upset by it. We’ll call this student CRIMSON OUTRAGE. OUTRAGE arranged for the email to be sent out to the Harvard Black Law Student Association list-serv, including DNA’s name and the fact that after graduation, the author will be doing a federal clerkship.

CORRECTION: It now appears that OUTRAGE disseminated the email, several months after the email was originally sent, because she got into a fight with DNA — not because she (OUTRAGE) was offended by the email.

After that, the email went viral, apparently circulating to BLSAs across the country. There are now plans to try to go after DNA’s clerkship….

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