Ethical Quote Of The Week: Ann Althouse

“It’s a terrible idea to go looking for incidents  where the killers are black and the victims are white and to exploit them in what seems like an effort to undo the distortions. I saw this happening earlier this week over the Christopher Lane murder, I labeled it “counter-Trayvonistic,” which was a too-subtle way to say: Don’t fight skewing with skewing in the opposite direction….Trayvon Martin — an individual human being — was used by demagogues to score points about the suffering of black people in America, but this is not a game, and it is delusion to imagine that there is a need to score points on some imagined other side. This is not a game. There is no score. And we are all on the same side.”

—–Law prof/ blogger Ann Althouse, reacting to the effort in conservative circles to assert that recent high-profile black-on-white incidents of violent crime were racially motivated, as a “tit-for-tat” response to the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman distortions.

Uh, let's NOT ask the President about the thrill killing of Christopher Lane. After all, Jesse Jackson already said that it was "frowned upon"...

Uh, let’s NOT ask the President to give us his thoughts on  the thrill killing of Christopher Lane. After all, Jesse Jackson already said that it was “frowned upon”…

Prof Althouse is exactly right. Tit-for-tat is always an unethical and ultimately destructive response, abandoning the moral high ground and lowering ethical standards so that the good guys and villains are indistinguishable. In this case, it is especially wrong-headed, because the tactic also exacerbates the racial divisions that the Martin-Zimmerman lies and misrepresentations were cynically designed (by some, at least) to widen.

Althouse goes on to say,

“To paraphrase the Chief Justice: The way to stop skewing public opinion based on race is to stop skewing public opinion based on race. To stir hearts counter-Trayvonistically is to nurture feelings that white people are oppressed by black people. This alternative to colorblindness is profoundly stupid. 1. It abandons the easy to express, principled position that many people perceive as the high ground. 2. It steps into the arena of taking account of race, where the left liberals would love to take you on. And 3. It gives air to the white supremacists among us. These people have been outcasts for a long time, but they exist, perhaps not quite yet recognizing what they are.”

Counter-Trayvonistically might be the most awkward adverb I’ve ever read in my life, but her point is wise and ethical. I hope it prevails.

12 thoughts on “Ethical Quote Of The Week: Ann Althouse

  1. Tit-for-tat is always an unethical and ultimately destructive response, abandoning the moral high ground and lowering ethical standards so that the good guys and villains are indistinguishable. In this case, it is especially wrong-headed, because the tactic also exacerbates the racial divisions that the Martin-Zimmerman lies and misrepresentations were cynically designed (by some, at least) to widen.

    The problem is, what if the people doing the “tatting” are openly getting away with it? (By openly getting away with it, I mean they do the “tatting” while openly making their intent known, instead of doing it secretly or trying to make the “tatting” look like something else, and the public justifying what they are doing.) Why should not “titting” be an appropriate response?

    • Hear hear! Professor Althouse is normatively right, but she is empirically wrong. It IS a game, like it or not, and if only one side is playing, the other side will soon lose the field by default. I’m not willing to allow that.

    • It skews the narrative that people are pressing, but one of the boys was African-American-the passenger (with a white girlfriend), mixed race African-American-the triggerman(with a white mother), and white-the getaway driver. The getaway driver is being charged as a youth, while the other two are being charged as adults.
      It’s difficult to see a racial motivation in this killing, though in some ways that might almost be preferable to the boys stated motivation, that they were bored. That is completely chilling.

  2. I think there’s a certain place for this, though- not to say “This black-on-white killing was racially motivated too!” but rather to say “So it was racial when that white hispanic killed a black kid, huh? And yet nobody is saying that this black-on-white killing was racial, or this one, or this one- why is that again?”

  3. And then you have the slew of beatings with the perps shouting things like ‘This is for Trayvon!’ We should not go about looking for, and falsely applying tit-for-tat logic, but neither should we avoid fair and just comparisons where applicable, out of fear of simply appearing vindictive.

  4. Side note: tit-for-tat is not inherently unethical or counterproductive. In fact, the earliest known statement of tit for tat is Hammurabi’s eye for an eye, meaning ONLY an eye for an eye, not a beheading for an eye. It is a way of tempering a situation to avoid escalation.
    Tit for tat is also the most successful strategy in an iterated prisoner’s dilemma. The implications are that defection from a group optimal strategy will be punished and deters defection.

  5. They are alike in this way. Media is using the incidents to promote a pre-existing editorial bias. When liberal media quits using nearly every crime as a reason to call it a racist action by whites I’m guessing conservative media will tone it down as well.
    It might be ethically incorrect, but it’s 100% understandable, given the state of the media in America today. There is no such thing as an unbiased press.

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