The painting above, by high school senior David Pulphus, is now hanging in the U.S. Capitol complex, its award for being selected as the first place prize-winner in Missouri Democrat Rep. Lacy Clay’s annual Congressional Art Competition last May. It is not clear whether Clay personally selected “Untitled #1” as the winner or had a part in the section, but the African American congressman praised the work according to a press release:
His visually stunning acrylic painting on canvas entitled, “Untitled #1” will be displayed at the U.S. Capitol Complex. Pulphus will travel to Washington, DC, courtesy of Southwest Airlines, to unveil his winning entry. The painting portrays a colorful landscape of symbolic characters representing social injustice, the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri and the lingering elements of inequality in modern American society….
In his remarks to the overflow crowd of young artists, parents and teachers who gathered at Webster University’s new downtown St. Louis campus in the historic Arcade Building, Congressman Clay said, “Tonight, we are celebrating our sixteenth year of recognizing outstanding young artistic talent. As you can see from the artwork on display here, the level of talent is truly impressive. Your work is inspiring, and I encourage all of you to continue to develop your creative abilities.”
Your first Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of 2017 is to answer this question:
Was it responsible, fair, and ethical for Congressman Clay to have this painting displayed in the U.S. Capitol?
I think it is a tough question. In fact, it’s an excellent opportunity to begin the year by practicing and applying one of the ethics decision-making processes, like this one from the Josephson Institute, in the Tools section:
1. Determine precisely what must be decided.
2. Formulate and devise the full range of alternatives.
3. Eliminate patently impractical, illegal and improper alternatives.
4. Force yourself to develop at least three ethically justifiable options.
5. Examine each option to determine which ethical principles and values are involved.
1. If any of the options requires the sacrifice of any ethical principle, evaluate the facts and assumptions carefully.
2. Distinguish solid facts from beliefs, desires, theories, suppositions, unsupported conclusions, opinions, and rationalizations.
3. Consider the credibility of sources, especially when they are self-interested, ideological or biased.
4. With regard to each alternative, carefully consider the benefits, burdens and risks to each stakeholder.
1. Make a judgment about what is not true and what consequences are most likely to occur.
2. Evaluate the viable alternatives according to personal conscience.
3. Prioritize the values so that you can choose which values to advance and which to subordinate.
4. Determine who will be helped the most and harmed the least.
5. Consider the worst case scenario.
6. Consider whether ethically questionable conduct can be avoided by changing goals or methods, or by getting consent.
7. Apply the three “ethics tests”
* Are you treating others as you would want to be treated?
* Would you be comfortable if your reasoning and decision were to be publicized?
* Would you be comfortable if your children were observing you?
1. Develop a plan of how to implement the decision.
2. Maximize the benefits and minimize the costs and risks.
·Monitor and modify.
1. Monitor the effects of decisions.
2. Be prepared and willing to revise a plan, or take a different course of action.
3. Adjust to new information.
Any reply that goes through the whole process will be published as part of another post, with my comments.
Consider these factors in your responses:
1. This is art. The artist is obviously talented.
2. Art is often political in nature, and that should not be a factor in disqualifying an artwork.
3. Nor should the fact that it offends people, even many people, even justifiably. (Police advocates are not happy, for example.)
4. Painting police as pigs is no less biased and hateful than painting African Americans as apes. Would a masterful painting depicting a black victim in a police shooting as a gorilla be similarly deemed worthy of display in the Capitol?
5. The painting, as well as the Congressman’s remarks, continues the false narrative about Michael Brown’s shooting. Does enshrining such a continuation of a lie give it credibility?
6. I will stipulate that the Congressman’s comments are incompetent, divisive and irresponsible. Is he saying that the talent of the artist is “inspiring,” or that falsely portraying the death of Michael Brown as the murder of an unarmed man by racist monsters in uniform is inspiring…and what exactly is it supposed to inspire?
Your assessment and analysis are encouraged.