Sharon sent me Jill Filipovic’s blog post about Stephanie Grace’s “racist email” that seems to be doing the rounds of the angry internet. First of all Stephanie Grace’s email was kind of racist. Not Arizona racist, but it definitely had a racist subtext. She doesn’t state that she believes that African Americans are genetically predisposed to be less intelligent than the rest of the US population, but by raising the suggestion she… raises the suggestion. It’s kind of like me pointing out that Glenn Beck has never provided evidence that he didn’t rape and murder a young girl in 1990.
Personally I think that it’s an entirely reasonable belief that more closely related groups (for example Americans whose ancestors largely originated in the Twi-speaking tribes of West Africa, or Americans whose ancestors originated from small towns in Scandinavia) will share physical traits. We’ve spent the past year travelling the world and people in different places look different. They have significantly different features, often adapted to their environment. If we connect the fact that genes can determine traits and closely related groups of people tend to share genes it’s obvious that closely related people tend to share some traits. I really don’t think that’s a racist concept.
What is racist is attaching moral value to traits associated with groups of people.
I don’t have any reason to believe African Americans are less intelligent than the rest of the population. Any difference in performance at school or income levels or incarceration rates are easily attributable to the class issues that Americans are so afraid of talking about. I think Stephanie Grace’s suggestion that their might be a genetic predisposition to lower than average intelligence among African Americans isn’t a particularly sound or even interesting suggestion, but she didn’t directly suggest that lower intelligence lowers the worth of individuals or groups. That all came from Jill Filipovic. It was Filipovic who used took a discussion of different traits and applied language like “genetically inferior”.
To equate intelligence with value (which is what Jill Filipovic does in her post) is where I have the problem. I’m happy to assume (as Filipovic does) that Stephanie Grace also equates intelligence with value or “superiority” but that’s not what the blog post was about. It was about arguing that intelligence is the key factor in determining the value of a person in society, and in the legal system in particular.