Racism Alert!: David Lat’s Clumsy Parody of Black Harvard Law Alumni

Before my latest post this morning, more than a week had passed since I last checked on how many people had visited my blog — at last check, less than 200 people.  Imagine my surprise this morning when I noticed that well over 8,000 people have now read my blog (in case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a counter in the upper left).

Naturally I was curious to find out why so many people had suddenly heard about my blog, which I had done little to promote (I did e-mail a couple bloggers about it, Ann Althouse and Steve Sailer, to let them know I’d mentioned their work).

As I’ve said, I’m not good with statistics, but I looked at the “StatCounter” website that collects information about visits to the blog, and it seemed to me that something happened on September 30 that drew attention to the blog.  Here’s the bar chart of visits since September 16, when I launched the blog, that led me to that conclusion:

Digging deeper into the statistics, I found that almost all of the visitors were coming from a blog called “Above the Law,” which you can read here.  I had never heard of it, but judging from the number of visits it triggered to my blog, apparently it is read by thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of lawyers and law students.

I did some research on it, and apparently the blog is run by David Lat, a Yale Law School alumnus who delights in attacking Harvard Law School, its students, and its alumni.  According to a New York Times article which you can read here, after Lat’s  employment with a New York law firm did not work out (“He always looked like he had tears coming out of his eyes,” a former colleague at the firm recalled), Lat got a summer job in the entertainment industry, but that didn’t work out either.  Lat then got a job at the United States attorney’s office in Newark.

There, Lat spent part of his work days, on the taxpayer’s dime, on a blog in which he pretended to be a fashion-forward female attorney in San Francisco obsessed with gossip about federal judges.  He called this persona “Article III Groupie.”  He did so in secret, without getting permission from his boss, leading what he called a “double life.”  He did it without getting permission because, as he put it, “I just didn’t see the perception issue involved with a federal prosecutor writing an irreverent blog” about federal judges.

Due to his clumsiness in covering his electronic tracks, Lat was eventually revealed as the author of the blog, leading to trouble at work.  Lat decided to go into blogging full time and eventually started the “Above the Law” blog.

Many of Lat’s posts are made under his own name, but apparently Lat is still fond of creating fake personas that allow him to explore certain issues in what he evidently regards as interesting and/or absurd ways.  Apparently he calls one of his personas “Elie Mystal.” This “Mr. Mystal” (perhaps that’s a pun on the “Mr. Misty” DQ frozen drink?; perhaps “Elie” is a pun on Lat’s attendance at Yale?) is said to be a black alumnus of Harvard Law School.  It seems that Lat favors this persona for his frequent attacks on Harvard Law School (such attacks sound more credible coming from a purported alumnus), and especially for Lat’s frequent efforts to use his blog to stir up racial controversies.  Lat, himself a good writer, when using this “Mr. Mystal” persona works diligently to dumb down the content, and make specious arguments and silly asides, all while using an awkward writing style. Apparently one aspect of Lat’s design in using the “Mr. Mystal” persona is to parody black Harvard Law School alumni as sloppy thinkers and poor writers.

This “Mr. Mystal” persona was the one Lat used in the September 30 post mentioning my blog, which drove many thousands of readers to my own blog.  You can read the post here.  I won’t delve into the details, but let me state for the record that I regard this as an especially clumsy effort by Lat to parody black Harvard Law alumni.  He seizes on my blog to recap old stories on his own blog; to advance the simultaneously  silly and hateful aside that “[a] white Harvard Law student could shoot Medgar Evers and there would be some professor or judge eager to defend the kid and give him or her a second chance.”; and to offer armchair psychoanalysis of me and the Harvard Law School administrators, and predictions about our likely future actions — and those of another blogger who has nothing to do with my blog, law professor Ann Althouse.

In line with the overall parody of “Mr. Mystal” as a stupid and ineffectual black Harvard Law alumnus, there’s no effort in the post to address the substance of my blog.  A followup post by “Mr. Mystal” addresses various issues concerning affirmative action admissions in higher education in a similarly ineffectual way, and is focused mainly on spinning out further biographical details regarding the “Mr. Mystal” persona.  You can read that post here.

Isn’t it surprising that someone like Lat, afforded an education at an elite law school, would spend so much time creating a fake persona for the purpose of parodying black Harvard Law alumni?  Lat’s clumsy parody, as illustrated by these posts and others by “Mr. Mystal,” has amply earned him this Racism Alert!.


How Did the Other 381 Black Attendees at the Conference Do In Law School?

A couple weeks ago I wrote about how well the 98 speakers at the celebration of black alumni did while they were at Harvard Law School.  It turned out that only eight of them received honors, about 8%.  This was only about a fifth the rate at which their classes as a whole received honors (since 1999, 40% have graduated with honors, and before then it was even easier to get honors).

I wondered:  what about the black alumni who attended the celebration but who didn’t speak?  Were they any smarter, as measured by their academic performance on blind-graded exams after they were given the benefit of any doubt and given the opportunity to attend Harvard Law School?

Don’t get me wrong here.  As I said before, I like black people, and some of my best friends are blacks.  I like the idea of giving the benefit of the doubt to blacks and other applicants who may not seem quite as smart as others when they apply, because they came from poor families or didn’t go to the best secondary schools or colleges, but who seem to have the potential to do as well or almost as well as the others.  I just think it’s important to ask at some point, after “affirmative action” applicants are  admitted — and especially if they come back and hold a big “blacks only” celebration after graduation, at which they honor those who created the affirmative-action admissions program — how well they actually ended up doing compared to their classmates.

There were 380 non-speaking black attendees, listed on the Law School website here.  Unlike the list of the speakers, this list doesn’t mention whether or not the attendees graduated with honors.  That’s a matter of public record and I looked it up for each attendee.  I guess it’s possible I made a mistake and missed someone, and if so please let me know.  But I’m pretty sure my numbers are right.

After all that work, I wish I had something exciting to report, but the bottom line is the same:   only about 8% of them graduated with honors (32 of the 380, all but one of them cum laude), a fifth the average rate.  You can read all the details here.

The numbers are even worse if you look at recent trends.  The great majority of the black attendees who received honors (22 of the 32) graduated during the rampant grade inflation of the 1990s when close to half, maybe more than half, received honors — before a 1999 reform which strictly capped honors at 40% of the class.  Honors for blacks plummeted once the cap went into effect.  Indeed, a decade passed before another black graduated with honors (2008, Alissa Jijon).

A random selection of 139 people who graduated from Harvard Law School between 1999 and 2011 would contain about 55 honors graduates (40%), with about 14 of them graduating magna cum laude. Of the 139 black attendees who graduated during this period, only four graduated with honors (all cum laude; zero magna cum laude).  It appears that for the past decade at Harvard Law School blacks have graduated with honors at less than a tenth of the rate of their classmates as a whole.   This information tends to support a criticism that “Remnant,” one of my readers, has made of my earlier analysis based on the academic records of the 98 speakers:  “You are OVERestimating the number of blacks who actually qualify to be at the top law schools they attend. The number crunching at the following link puts it at about 1 in ten.”

I have not studied Remant’s information carefully, but one source he cites says that only 16 blacks a year in the whole country score high enough on the LSAT to keep above the bottom quarter of Harvard Law School’s admissions pool.  If that’s true, and if once admitted to Harvard Law School the blacks who are admitted do not take full advantage of the opportunity and make up for lost ground, then perhaps it should come as little surprise that almost none of them graduate in the top 40% of their class.

“Celebration of Affirmative Action” at Harvard Law School

I just found out what the black alumni are celebrating this weekend at Harvard Law School.  I suppose it’s obvious to most readers, but I’m just a Harvard Law Caveman.

They’re celebrating the affirmative action program that was put into place in the 1960s which was responsible for something like 4/5 of them obtaining Harvard Law degrees they otherwise would not be been able to obtain (judging by their performance, after admission, compared with their classmates — see my last post).

I figured it out when I read to the end of the events program (I’m a slow reader).  You can read it yourself here.  At the end of the celebration the Dean is going to award the Harvard Law School Medal of Freedom (I have no idea what that is, but it sounds important) to Derek Bok and Walter Leonard.

I asked one of the black alumni why they’re getting the award, and why it’s being given out here.  He told me Bok and Leonard are the ones who put in place the affirmative action program in the 1960s that led to a large increase of blacks at the school.  I found some information in the archives of the campus newspaper about what Bok and Leonard did.  It seems that over just a few years in the 1960s, while Bok was the Dean and Leonard was his assistant, they something like quintupled the blacks admitted to the Law School, from around 10 a year to around 50 a year (150 total for the three classes on campus at any particular time).  You can read more about that here.

Although such an aggressive affirmative action program burdened all blacks at Harvard Law School with the stigma of probably not being as smart as the other students, a stigma that persists still, I guess a lot of black alumni are happy that they got Harvard Law School degrees, and I can see why they’d celebrate that and give an award to the men who got them those degrees.

I wonder, as they celebrate into the night, and as Bok and Leonard enjoy getting that medal, whether any of them will consider the moral question concerning affirmative action recently dicussed by Professor Ann Althouse.  What about the hard-working, non-black applicants to Harvard Law School who were denied admission to make way for the dozens of black applicants admitted each year whose academic work (as measured by honors at graduation) didn’t end up being even close to average? Once it became clear that most of the black applicants being admitted under the program were ending up at the very bottom of their class, so that the opportunity being given them was being wasted, was it morally right to continue the program? What about the missed opportunity of the unseen — the more academically qualified applicants who were denied the chance to study at Harvard Law School, and who are not there this weekend?  You can read more about that here and here.

How Did the Top 98 Black Harvard Law School Alumni Do In Law School?

In trying to figure out whether in the old days the black Harvard Law School students were smarter than they are now, I didn’t have to go much beyond the website on the celebration of black alumni.  By my count 98 black alumni are speaking.  They’re listed here (a Word document containing links to bios for almost all of the speakers).

Because they’re speaking at this prestigious event, I figure that these 98 black alumni are probably some of  the best and the brightest of the more than 1,000 total black alumni.  If in the old days black students were as smart as the others — or, if not as smart to start with, they worked extra hard in law school to catch up, and graduated as smart — I figure these top 98 black alumni would pretty much all have graduated with honors. Currently 40% of all students graduate with honors (30% cum laude, and the top 10% magna cum laude).  I hear that in the old days they were even more liberal with honors.  But just sticking with the 40% figure to be safe, if black alumni did about as well as the others, and there are at least 1,000 of them, then the top 400 should all have honors, and most of the top 100 should have graduated magna cum laude, right?

So how did these “top 98” black Harvard Law School alumni do in law school? Well, they sure didn’t all graduate magna cum laude.  In fact, none of the top 98 black alumni graduated magna cum laude.  Apparently magna cum laude black Harvard Law School graduates are as rare as the White Buffalo.

Setting aside the dearth of magna cum laude graduates, it turns out that these 98 top black alumni did even worse — much worse — than you’d expect from just a random selection of alumni.  If you picked 98 Harvard Law School alumni randomly, because 40% graduate with honors you should find at least 39 of them graduating with honors, and at least 9 of those graduating magna cum laude.

Looking at the bios on the webpage, which I double-checked for accuracy (the only omission is that the bio for John A. Payton ’77 omitted his cum laude honors), it turns out that only 8 of the black alumni graduated even cum laude (top 40%).  So  it looks like the black students here weren’t any smarter in the old days than they are now.  Even these top black alumni graduated with honors at only about a fifth the rate of non-black alumni.  If these 98 top black alumni are representative (presumably they’re much more able than the average black alumni who are not speaking), it looks like you’d have to eliminate at least the bottom 4/5 of black students at Harvard Law School before the black students who were left graduated with honors at the same rate as other students.  Put another way, doesn’t this suggest that for every black student  at Harvard Law School who’s roughly as qualified to study law as the non-black students, there are four black students who aren’t?  Maybe smarter people can weigh in on this.  I’m just a Harvard Law Caveman.

Here is a complete list of the speakers, and the graduation honors received, in chronological order.  Unless otherwise indicated the alumni did not graduate with honors.

Meet Joe White: Harvard Law Caveman

Hi.  My name is Joe White.  My brain is small so I use small words.  I have to use short sentences.  Otherwise I forget my idea before I’m done with the sentence.  I feel bad about myself (I think they call it “low self esteem”) because our Dean at Harvard Law School says smart people are superior to everyone else.  You can read what law professor Ann Althouse said about that here.  I’m so dumb, and thus in the Dean’s eyes so inferior, that she calls me the “Harvard Law Caveman.”

I’m dumb, but there’s one thing I know.  Most of the black students around here are even dumber than me.  If I were smart maybe I wouldn’t say that.  Here you’re not supposed to talk about how dumb the black students are. But I can prove it, with some numbers I’ll write up soon.

Black students here get real mad when they hear people say they’re not as smart as the other students.  I guess it’s because they know it’s true and they don’t like being reminded of it.  I mean, if you said the jews here are dumb they’d just laugh.  Same with asians.  They know they’re smart.  For more on that check out a blog by Steve Sailer, here. For example, his last two posts.  Steve uses lots of numbers, and I’m not always sure what he means, but yesterday (here) I think he said that based on SAT scores over the past 15 years, it looks like whites have gotten a little smarter, asians have gotten a lot smarter, and everyone else including blacks has gotten dumber.  Steve’s real smart, and his post today (here) talks about standard deviations, so I wasn’t sure what he was saying.  I think the main point is that “Tiger Mom” Amy Chua is smart, but not nearly as smart as her father, who I guess is maybe even more asian than Amy.

Where was I?  Oh, about the blacks getting mad.  In fact, the blacks at Harvard Law School got so mad awhile back that now the school has a special rule.  Under the rule you’re not supposed to talk about black students being dumb, even if it’s true.   You can read about it here.

They’re real serious about that Don’t Voice Inconvenient Truths About Blacks Rule. For example, several years ago a few students got mad at other students for pointing out bad things about some blacks. They wrote mean e-mails about it to all the other 80 or so students in their first-year (1L) law school “section” and to their professors.  You can read more about it here. And in several comments starting here.  A couple years ago a real smart white woman student (she was on the Law Review, and you have to be real smart to get on that if you’re white) wrote some questions about why blacks are so dumb, in a private e-mail to a friend. When the friend sent the e-mail to some black students, they complained to the Dean.  The Dean wrote mean things about the law student in a national press release.  The Dean ruined the white woman’s career.  She had to go work for a judge who spends most of his time looking at naked girls painted to look like cows.  You can read more about what the Dean did to that woman here.  And here and here. And for smart people, here, here, here, and here.  You can read about the naked cowgirls here and here, and about her work with the judge here.

With that rule and how mean the Dean is about people who break the rule, maybe I shouldn’t tell you about the black students here being even dumber than I am. But I’m just a Harvard Law Caveman.  So I’m telling you what I think.  I hope the Dean doesn’t write mean things about me.

Don’t get me wrong.  I like black people.  Some of my best friends are black.  It’s just that I can’t figure out why, as dumb as I am, almost all the black students here are even dumber than me.

I decided to start this blog because yesterday I saw some extra blacks on the campus.  Today are are lots and lots of extra blacks on campus.  Many of them are old, so maybe they’re not as black as they used to be, but they still look pretty black.  It turns out that these are all black alumni of Harvard Law School who are having a celebration.  You can read more about it here.

Don’t get me wrong.  Like I say, I like black people.  I like lots of extra blacks on campus.  But I’m doing this blog because I’m trying to figure out what they’re celebrating.  Their website doesn’t say.  Maybe people can leave me comments to help me figure that out.

My first thought was: maybe in the old days the black students were smarter than they are now. Most of these black alumni attended in ancient times, in the 1980s or even earlier. Maybe back then these black alumni got admitted to Harvard Law School by being as smart as the rest of their classmates.  Or, if they weren’t quite as smart to start with (because they came from poor families or didn’t go to the best secondary schools or colleges), maybe after getting admitted they worked extra hard to catch up, and got as smart as the others — so they ended up getting good jobs by competing on the merits.  If so, I can see why they’d celebrate.  It’s great to be talented and work hard and end up doing well in competition.

But then I started looking at the numbers.  I’m not remotely as smart as Steve Sailer, but based on these numbers it looks like when they graduated these black alumni were no smarter than are the current black students when they graduate.  In my next post I’ll tell you what I found out about the academic records of the 98 black alumni that are speaking during their celebration this weekend.  It really surprised me.