Meet Harvard's Racist Email Antagonist, Stephanie Grace


Above the Law wouldn’t reveal the name of the Harvard Law School student who made waves with her racist email. But people talk, and they name names. Turns out, Stephanie Grace has a history of interest in race.

The email in question contained such comments as “I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent.” But when it went viral, Above the Law’s Kashmir Hill found the inclusion of the sender’s name “troubling.” Apparently not troubled was blogger Jonathan Pitts-Wiley, who posted the sender’s name: Stephanie Grace. Why he thinks she’s “kind of a hero” is a question only he can answer, but a number of Twitter users also name Grace as the sender. User berrygraham, who seems to be a law student in the DC area, writes:

Crzy_Sxy_Cool, who tweeted before the Above the Law or Pitts-Wiley posts went up, added a helpful hashtag:

Harvard sources we spoke to also identify Grace as the emailer. While her name was relatively easy to find, Grace’s online footprint is pretty small. She’s an editor at the Harvard Law Review, graduated from Princeton in 2007, but doesn’t appear to have any publications online (at least in obviously searchable form). Based on Pitts-Wiley’s assertion that she’s a Princeton grad, however, we did find a description of some research she did with Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade:

Espenshade and former Princeton student Stephanie Grace are extending work on how the racial composition of one’s freshman year roommates influences behaviors, attitudes, and perceptions in subsequent college years. A particular focus is on the racial composition of best-friend networks, conditional on outcomes of random roommate assignments.

Espenshade has also studied race and college admissions — he even wrote a 2009 book on the subject. But at least according to a March interview with New Jersey Newsroom, he’s at odds with Grace’s current opinion: he sees racial inequality as a matter of public policy, not genetics:

[I]f there’s any significant recommendation that comes out of the book – and we have three in the final chapter – the most important one is spurred by a societal challenge posed by the racial gap in skills and knowledge, and what as a society we ought to be doing about it. It is an issue that affects higher education, but it also pervades so much of inequality among adults in this country. And it has implications for the quality of the U.S. workforce and the competitiveness of the U.S. economy.

The phrase “racial gap in skills and knowledge” is a little odd (elsewhere Espenshade uses the phrase “achievement gap”), but despite his poor word choice he appears committed to both equal opportunity and campus diversity. He advocates race-based affirmative action as one way to equalize access to top college spots, and he says,

Diversity work does not begin and end with the admission office. I believe it’s incumbent upon campus leaders to be more proactive in finding additional ways for students from diverse backgrounds and perspectives to mix and mingle in order to realize the full promise of diversity.

It is possible to see how someone might twist Espenshade’s ideas about “achievement gaps” into racist speculation about an “intelligence gap,” or how prejudice might lead someone to turn Espenshade’s recommendation of further sociological research into a call for genetic research instead. If we’re to assume that Espenshade’s research partner is the same Stephanie Grace who sent out the email in question, it’s clear that she’s no newcomer to racial discussions. She should have known that her comments on intelligence would generate fallout, and her claim that “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” seems pretty disingenuous. More on target is her signoff — “Please don’t pull a Larry Summers on me.” Above the Law has posted a statement criticizing the email from Harvard Law Dean Martha Minow, including the line, “I am heartened to see the apology written by the student who authored the email, and to see her acknowledgement of the offense and hurt that the comment engendered.” However, Above the Law hasn’t seen the apology, and neither have we.

This was someone who knew — or least should’ve known — what she was getting herself into when she sent that email. And she had clearly done a lot of thinking about race, suggesting that her remarks were hardly off-the-cuff. Worse, she may have more potential influence on public policy than her email’s initial recipients feared. With Grace’s established interest in racial issues — and some pretty prejudiced views — it’s not such a stretch to imagine that she might seek to advance those views in her upcoming legal career. Which is slated to begin with a federal clerkship this summer.

The New Larry Summers: Racist Email Jeopardizes Harvard Law Student’s Career
Related: Meet Stephanie Grace, the Harvard Law Student Who Started a Racist Email War
Stephanie Grace: Kind Of A Hero [Pitts Think]
Princeton’s Thomas Espenshade Takes On Affirmative Action And The Racial Achievement Gap [New Jersey Newsroom]
The Harvard Law School ‘Racist’ Email Controversy: Dean Martha Minow Weighs In [Above the Law]

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