Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Guess which child welfare “scholars” are in the group defending a “race realist” law professor beloved by Tucker Carlson

Self-proclaimed "race realist" law professor Amy Wax having a friendly chat with election denier Tucker Carlson

Prof. Amy Wax of the University of Pennsylvania Law School is quite a piece of work.  The school’s Dean, Theodore Ruger, has written a letter urging the University to consider imposing a “major sanction” against the self-proclaimed “race realist.” 

I’ll go into some of what Wax is accused of saying – and some of what she has unquestionably said – in a moment.  But I should explain at the top why this commentary is on a blog about the “child welfare” system. 

Wax’s most strident defenders include a group called the Academic Freedom Alliance.  AFA’s members include some of the most strident supporters of tearing apart more families and some of those deepest in denial about racism in child welfare.  

AFA members include Emily Putnam-Hornstein, America’s foremost evangelist for the use of predictive analytics in family policing (a more accurate term than “child welfare”) and someone who has gone out of her way to ridicule the work of a Black activist in the field. They also include Prof. Sarah Font, who issued a publication with a graphic labeling anyone accused of child abuse a “perpetrator” – even after they’re found innocent.  She also condemned the Indian Child Welfare Act.  

Font and Putnam-Hornstein have been brought in by that other bastion of the child welfare establishment, Chapin Hall, to advise them on a study that amounts to a whitewash of abuse in foster care. 

A founding member of AFA, Elizabeth Bartholet, is also the leader of child welfare’s caucus of denial concerning racism in child welfare. 

All three signed a paper (with Font as the lead author) calling for a massive increase in surveillance of poor families by family police even when they are not accused of abuse or neglect. 

As The New York Times reports, AFA sent a letter to University of Pennsylvania President M. Elizabeth Magill denouncing the call to investigate Wax and demanding that any and all attempts to discipline her cease.  Indeed, they are demanding the issuance and publicizing of “a complete exoneration of Amy Wax for her multiple exercises of academic freedom both in her teaching and public statements.” (There are links to Ruger’s letter and the AFA letter in the Times story.) 

Amy Wax’s “race realist” vision 

So now, some highlights from the work of Amy Wax: 

The Times cites comments the self-proclaimed “race realist” made while appearing on Tucker Carlson’s program on Fox Nation (which is like Fox News but without its subtlety and nuance). According to the Times, Wax 

said “American Blacks” and people from non-Western countries feel shame for the “outsized achievements and contributions” of Western people.
Wax appeared with Carlson in 2022, well after Carlson began spreading lies about the 2020 election and lies about the Jan. 6 insurrection that followed.  None of that deterred Wax.  The Times story continues: 

On a recent podcast, she said, “I often chuckle at the ads on TV which show a Black man married to a white woman in an upper-class picket-fence house,” she said, adding, “They never show Blacks the way they really are: a bunch of single moms with a bunch of guys who float in and out. Kids by different men.”… 

Here, from Ruger’s letter, are some more examples: 

• Stating, based on misleading citation of other sources, that “women, on average, are less knowledgeable than men,” women are “less intellectual than men” and there is “some evidence” for the proposition that “men and women differ in cognitive ability.” 

• Stating that “our country will be better off with more whites and fewer nonwhites.” 

• Stating that Blacks have “different average IQs” than non-Blacks, could “not be evenly distributed through all occupations,” and that such a phenomenon would not be “due to racism.” 

• Stating that Asians have an “indifference to liberty,” lack “thoughtful and audaciousindividualism” and that “the United States is better off with fewer Asians and less Asian immigration.” 

• Stating that immigrants with “Brown faces, Asian faces . . . feel anger, envy, and shame,”and expressing her disbelief that they would criticize the United States when “on some level, their country is a s---hole.” 

• Stating that “there were some very smart Jews” among her past students but that Ashkenazi Jews are “diluting [their] brand like crazy because [they are] intermarrying.”

 • Stating that low-income students may cause “reverse contagion,” infecting more “capable and sophisticated” students with their “delinquency and rule-breaking.” 

• Stating that “if you go into medical schools, you’ll see that Indians, South Asians are now rising stars. . . . [T]hese diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives are poisoning the scientific establishment and the medical establishment now.” 

The Times discussion of academic freedom does not discuss a concomitant responsibility: academic.  But according to Ruger, Wax 

relies on outdated science, makes statements grounded in insufficiently supported generalizations, and trades on the University’s reputation to amplify her baseless disdain for many members of the University community. … When challenged regarding her unsupported and uncited claim that communities that are “more diverse” litter more, she responded that “[s]ociologists don’t study this stuff,” when in fact there are multiple studies on the topic. … Wax proclaimed that “there is essentially no science being done in a place like Malaysia. No science, no technology coming out.” This is patently false.

What Wax allegedly said to her students

 AFA and Wax’s other defenders say that, as a tenured professor, she should be free to go on whatever “race realist” rants she chooses without fear of consequences concerning her employment. 

But Wax also allegedly has made belittling, racist comments to her students.  From the Times: 

[A] Black law student who had attended UPenn and Yale said that the professor told her she “had only become a double Ivy ‘because of affirmative action,’” according to the administration. 

The complaint filed by Ruger lists more allegations: 

Emailing a Black student, that “[i]f blacks really and sincerely wanted to be equal, they would make a lot of changes in their own conduct and communities.” 

• Stating in class that people of color needed to stop acting entitled to remedies, to stop getting pregnant, to get better jobs, and to be more focused on reciprocity. 

• Stating in class that Mexican men are more likely to assault women and remarking such a stereotype was accurate in the same way as “Germans are punctual.” 

• Commenting in class that gay couples are not fit to raise children …  

• Commenting after a series of students with foreign-sounding names introduced themselves that one student was “finally, an American” adding, “it’s a good thing, trust me.” 

Wax denies saying anything belittling or racist to students. But the Times reports that even another group that supports her suggested hers was a borderline case: 

Professor Wax is a test case of academic freedom, “right up on the line,” said Alex Morey, the director of campus rights advocacy for the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression [FIRE]. But, she said, “We have not seen any evidence that it crosses the line.” 

But is the line always bright and clear?  When a professor says Black people are cognitively inferior, nonwhite immigrants come from “s---holes” and that they are only in her classroom because of affirmative action, how can she be trusted to treat all students fairly and equally?  If even some of her defenders concede it would be wrong for her to tell her own students to their faces that they are cognitively inferior, come from “s---holes” and are only in her classroom because of affirmative action, why is it ok retain a tenured professorship after saying the same things about them using someone like Tucker Carlson has an intermediary? 

While FIRE might concede that a line might exist, even if they don’t think Wax crossed it, the letter
from AFA expresses no qualms about Wax’s statements at all.  It doesn’t even offer up the Voltaire defense:  You know, the quote attributed (
probably wrongly) to Voltaire which goes: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”  

So one might expect AFA’s letter to begin with something like: “Make no mistake. We are appalled by Prof. Wax’s repugnant views and her actions, and we want to make clear in the strongest possible terms that we do not share them.  Nevertheless …” 

But no such statement appears.  The AFA letter contains not one word disapproving of what Amy Wax says amid the 1,109 words defending her right to say it.  And, as noted earlier, AFA is demanding “a complete exoneration” of Wax for what she has said “both in her teaching and public statements.” 

The letter is signed by the co-chairs of AFA’s Academic Committee.  There is nothing to indicate that Bartholet, Font or Putnam-Hornstein were involved in drafting it or even read it.  But it speaks volumes about all three that they are part of a group that would rush to defend the right of a self-proclaimed “race realist” to spew venom without one word of criticism concerning the venom she spews. 

It’s also unsurprising. 

Putnam-Hornstein’s most celebrated predictive analytics algorithm, the one in Pittsburgh was launched after stacking the deck on evaluations and ethics reviews.  When, finally, independent researchers got to evaluate it they found racial bias.  That same algorithm now is reportedly under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for possible discrimination against disabled families.  A just-published Associated Press story and an analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union make clear just how much havoc the Pittsburgh algorithm can cause. 

As for taking away children, Putnam-Hornstein has said "it is possible we don’t place enough children in foster care or early enough.”  And, taking an approach I suspect Wax would like, Putnam-Hornstein has gone out of her way to ridicule the work of a Black activist. 

As noted above, Sarah Font has condemned the Indian Child Welfare Act and claimed that families have too much due process when faced with the vast power of child protective services. 

Bartholet has made a career out of denying that there is racial bias in child welfare, proposing mandatory family police surveillance of every family with young children and calling for changes that would require taking millions of children from their families.  (But apparently, she’ll compromise. The document she signed with Putnam-Hornstein and Font only suggests requiring that people reapplying for public benefits be forced to produce their children for family police inspection if they are not otherwise seen by a mandated reporter of child abuse.) 

So it’s no wonder Putnam-Hornstein, Font and Bartholet joined – in Bartholet’s case co-founded -- a group that felt one of its highest priorities should be to rush to the defense of Amy Wax. 

Yet Chapin Hall has turned to Font and Putnam-Hornstein to advise them on that stacked-deck study of abuse in foster care – a study whose methodology guarantees that such abuse will be minimized. 

Chapin Hall should have the decency to dismiss Font and Putnam-Hornstein from their advisory board immediately – and to tell another advisory board for their “study,” a board made up of young people with lived experience in foster care -- why Font and Putnam-Hornstein were such a bad choice in the first place.