Kristen Clarke, Harvard, and “race science”

Kristen Clarke, Biden’s nominee to head the DOJ Civil Rights Division, penned a 1994 letter to the Harvard Crimson, stating that African Americans have “superior physical and mental abilities”.  At the time, Clarke was an undergraduate at Harvard, and the president of the university’s Black Students Association.

Clarke based her letter on…race science.

Here are some excerpts from the letter:

“One: Dr Richard King reveals that the core of the human brain is the ‘locus coeruleus,’ which is a structure that is Black, because it contains large amounts of neuro-melanin, which is essential for its operation.

“Two: Black infants sit, crawl and walk sooner than whites [sic]. Three: Carol Barnes notes that human mental processes are controlled by melanin — that same chemical which gives Blacks their superior physical and mental abilities.

“Four: Some scientists have revealed that most whites [sic] are unable to produce melanin because their pineal glands are often calcified or non-functioning. Pineal calcification rates with Africans are five to 15 percent [sic], Asians 15 to 25 percent [sic] and Europeans 60 to 80 percent [sic]. This is the chemical basis for the cultural differences between blacks and whites [sic].

“Five: Melanin endows Blacks with greater mental, physical and spiritual abilities — something which cannot be measured based on Eurocentric standards.”


Obviously, this is complete hooey, dressed up in the sort of pseudo-scientific language that passes for erudition at places like Harvard.

Obviously, the mainstream media would be shrieking, Twitter would be exploding, if a white nominee to any senior federal government post had made similar claims about whites, based on “race science”.

Nevertheless, I’m of two minds on this one.

Clarke’s age is not available online, but her Wikipedia entry states that she graduated Harvard in 1997. Backing into the numbers, this would mean that she was about 19 years old when she wrote the above words.

Kristen Clarke

Most people don’t reach full adulthood until they are about halfway through their twenties. (This is why I would be in favor of raising the voting age, rather than lowering it, but that’s another discussion.)

This doesn’t mean you should get a blank check for everything you do when you’re young, of course. But there is a case to be made that all of us say and think things during our formative years that will make us cringe when we look back on them from a more mature perspective.

This is certainly true for me. I was 19 years old in 1987. I am not the same person now that I was then—both for better and for worse.

Secondly, let’s acknowledge environmental factors. Being a student at Harvard is likely to temporarily handicap any young person’s judgement and intellectual maturity. Even in 1994, Harvard University was a hotbed of pointy-headed progressivism and insular identity politics.

Clarke was also involved in the Black Students Association. There was a Black Students Association at the University of Cincinnati when I was an undergrad there during the late 1980s. Members of UC’s BSA were known to write whacko letters like the one above. Most of them, though, were nice enough people when you actually talked to them in person. They just got a little carried away when sniffing their own farts in the little office that the university had allocated for BSA use.

What I’m saying is: I’m willing to take into account that 1994 was a long time ago. A single letter from a 19-year-old, quoting pseudo-academic race claptrap, shouldn’t be a permanent blight on the record of a 47-year-old. And I would say the same if Kristen Clarke were white, and had taken a very different spin on “race science”.

We all need to stop being so touchy about racial issues, and so preoccupied with them. That goes for whites as well as blacks, and vice versa.

I’m willing to give Clarke a fair hearing, then. But I’m skeptical. Her 1994 Harvard letter isn’t an automatic disqualifier; but it’s a question that needs to be answered.

I’m also skeptical of Biden. Biden may be a feeble old man; he may be a crook. He is not particularly “woke” at a personal level. In fact, some of his former positions on busing and crime suggest that he’s anything but “woke” on matters of race.

Yet Biden is now head of a Democratic Party that is obsessed with race. This means that Biden may try to overcompensate, by filling his government with race radicals. This recent selection supports that concern.

Given the time that has elapsed between the present and 1994, given Kristen Clarke’s age at the time, I want to hear what she has to say in 2021 before I outright condemn her as a hater or a looney. But this recent personnel selection doesn’t make me optimistic about the ideological tilt of the incoming Biden administration.