Comment Of The Day: “Friday PM Ethics Discoveries, 5/15/2020: … Reasonable Discrimination Opposed [Item #5]” [Corrected]

The 5th item in yesterday’s Warm-Up sparked a lot of debate, and a number of Comment of the Day candidates (another is on the way.) That was the post about the white police officer suing on the basis of employment discrimination because his superior told him that the community controversy over the police-involved shooting of a black man had made it essential to hire a black police chief.

Here is Glenn Logan’s Comment of the Day on Item #5 in “Friday PM Ethics Discoveries, 5/15/2020: A Coup Option On The Way Out, A Narrative Reappears, Trump Tweets, Reasonable Discrimination Opposed, And More}:

You said: The community has a potentially explosive race problem, and hiring O’Toole would exacerbate it. They need a qualified black officer in the job. If that violates the Missouri Human Rights Act as O’Toole’s lawsuit claims, the Act needs to be fixed.

Tools of ethical decision-making:

1. What must be decided?

Is it ethical to make race an overriding priority in a hiring a police chief for a majority-black community?

2. Alternatives:

a) Use race as a requirement in this decision

b) Weight race more heavily than normal in this decision

c) do not use race as a factor at all.

3. Eliminate the impractical, illegal and improper.

a) Using race as a requirement is illegal, both in U.S. and state law. Title VII would seem to state that a) is illegal under U.S. law, and also under the Missouri Human Rights act. Therefore, this option is eliminated as lawless, whether or not it’s proper and practical

b) Weighting race as a factor appears to be legal under applicable law. It is also practical, but may not be proper.

c) Not using race as a factor is legal, proper, but likely impractical.

4/5. Force three ethically justifiable options and examine:

a) Hire based solely on qualifications. It is proper, legal, but may produce a backlash in the community and inflame the situation and defeat the purpose of the position. In aggravation: May produce a response that harms the community you are trying to help. In mediation: Stands up for fairness in hiring, racial justice, and is squarely legal.

b) Hire favoring a minority candidate, but not necessarily a black person. Assuming there is a compromise candidate available, this may be justified under the rubric of affirmative action. It isn’t really proper, but it is legal and may be more practical than a) because it is more likely to avoid a backlash. In aggravation: A form of affirmative action that is falling out of favor with the American public and the courts. In mediation: Is more likely to keep the community from becoming violent, but will not assuage all elements. Risks problems down the road, but lessens them in the near term.

c) Set specific criteria that qualified non-black candidates may not be able to meet, and weight them more heavily. This may be justified by utilitarian ethics vis-a-vis the possible chaos a non-black candidate would create, but it is ethically suspect to say the least and may not be strictly legal. In aggravation: A dodge intended to skirt the meaning of civil rights laws in favor of “obeying” the forms. In mediation: Most likely to prevent antagonizing the community you intend to serve.


1. The consequence of a non-minority candidate is likely to be violence. The consequence of a non-black, non-white candidate are difficult to foresee, but may also produce a backlash later, although at a lower level. The consequences to tailoring the job to a black person are transparent racial favoritism, distrust and potential backlash among whites in the district, and a suspicious ethical position.

2. My personal conscience favors 2 b) and hoping for good luck. 2 a) is preferable, but the consequences too dire. 2 c) is too slippery for me.

3/4. The utilitarian in me says a compromise candidate is the best choice among a bad lot. The minority community is helped more, racial fairness is harmed, but less so.

5. Worst case: Community rejects any non-black chief.

6. Perhaps the non-black candidates could be asked to withdraw, or accept some other form of accommodation? If the goal can be changed from “not inflaming the black community,” I don’t see how.

7. a) Golden Rule: No, but utilitarian ethics. b) since I am publishing my reasoning, res ipsa loquitur. c) I have no children, but if I did, I would be comfortable with it — although not without reservations.


10 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Friday PM Ethics Discoveries, 5/15/2020: … Reasonable Discrimination Opposed [Item #5]” [Corrected]

  1. “My personal conscience favors 2 b) and hoping for good luck. 2 a) is preferable, but the consequences too dire. 2 c) is too slippery for me.”

    Absent an established point system of some kind (as may be the case in certain school admissions), when is 2b ever anything but a smoke screen for actually going with 2a?

    And congrats on CotD.

    • Thank you.

      In answer to your question, there can be no doubt I prefer 2a, but the utilitarian in me sees the benefits slightly outweigh the harms if 2b were chosen.

      Obviously, we should always default to “color-blindness” where qualifications are concerned, but it isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. There are going to be times when the risks outweigh the reward. We want to minimize them, but we have to acknowledge that such situations may require extraordinary remedies that can’t be strictly fair. Unless, of course, we choose to abandon the objective in favor of principle.

      I can’t quite go there in this case.

  2. Excellent use of the ethical decision process.

    I don’t however accept the premise that considering a violent response from the minority community is a worthy consideration unless you want to reinforce the behavior in that community. It can also be argued that assuming the minority community will resort to violence suggests a rather low behavioral assessment of the majority of persons that make up that community which is itself a bigotted perspective. Violence is often instigated not by a given act but by those who profit from it.

    • All this is so, but the community reaction was the synthesis of Jack’s post. Therefore, in my analysis, rather than debating the premise I merely accepted it as true an analyzed it based on that, much like a civil court would do in a preliminary hearing. Without being closer to the problem, I doubt I could make a superior judgement to Jack’s conclusion that a white candidate was likely to inflame matters.

      I hate to say it, but very often communities such as Jack described are worthy of a low behavioral assessment. It’s a just and noble impetus to want to ascribe to people the ability to behave rationally in emotional cases, but surely our experience here and in life shows us that, especially amplified by social media, that hope of reason is no longer realistic, especially in communities where violence, gangs, drugs and poverty are rampant.

      Which brings me to your last point, the instigators. Where gangs, high drug use, and the associated violence and lawlessness have taken root, there is no good way to remove them — they are like Creeping Charlie (for those of you who have yards). They are the classic ills of social structure.

      Do I have faith that a minority chief will be any better at actually curing the problem? No. But if we look at the problem realistically, the only real cure is resection. That isn’t really an option in this country — we aren’t living in the mythical world of the Green Arrow. So it becomes a problem of management, and a chief starting out with a racial animus strike against him makes an impossible job much harder.

      There is no good solution, in my view. Only less bad ones.

  3. Radical honesty is the practice of always being completely honest and refraining from telling even white lies. It was trademarked in 2017 as a technique and self-improvement program by Brad Blanton, but different authors have proposed similar ideas, such as Sam Harris, in his book Lying, and Immanuel Kant, who claimed in his 1798 essay “On a Supposed Right to Tell Lies from Benevolent Motives” that we have a categorical imperative not to lie under any circumstance, not even to a murderer looking for their victim. Proponents of the practice assert that lying is the primary source of modern human stress, and speaking bluntly and directly, even about painful or taboo subjects, will make people happier by creating an intimacy not possible while hiding things.

    Blanton’s Radical Honesty technique includes having practitioners state their feelings bluntly, directly and in ways typically considered impolite.

    — Wiki page on Radical Honesty.

    OK, so here goes . . .

    The essential problem is that the Negro community is quite literally out of control and beyond control. They are a problem. The problem is in them. And Whites seem to be made responsible for solving this problem.

    The issues in this community, in this area, are similar and related to the issues on Negro communities all over America. To name that ‘issue’, to state it as it is, involves the radical action of telling the truth. Seeing clearly , organizing one’s perception, and then coordinating one’s understanding with one’s discourse. If you ask very nicely I will write out in one clear paragraph the nature of their problem. 🙂

    Since in our present that is impossible, one has to stop and examine that problem: what it is, how it came to be, and then what is the solution to it.

    The given *ethical problem* presented for consideration and adjudication is mired in absurdity from the start, I suggest. The reasons are (I think) somewhat simple, yet they cannot be stated. The base-reason is simply that the Negro community is out of control and uncontrollable. Their ‘rebellion’ (I do not know what else to call it) is tied to the general, national rebellion of Negro populations. The fact of the matter is that Negro men hurt or kill Whites in a much higher proportion — an excessive proportion. Negroes are a danger to Whites far more than Whites are a danger to Negroes. Yet, the *narrative* that is being used says precisely the opposite, and that false-narrative is broadcast by conventional media for reasons that need to be investigated. But the base-reason seems to be ‘anti-whiteness’: an open attack on Whites-as-Whites. So, any whimpering about ‘Negro victimhood’ is a ruse. And Negro activism, and a general *uprising* in attitude and activism, is also a ruse. It is not what it purports to be.

    So, if this is the *real backdrop* here, the real scenario, a description of the real situation, I suggest that it subverts in a strong sense the ethical analysis offered by both Glen and Jack. It renders their viewpoints *absurd*.

    If the Negro community is out of control and uncontrollable as I suggest it is, then it is thoroughly improper as well as unethical to bend to their desires, since it is their disturbed and disordered desires (a disorder in their social body) that is the cause of the problem essentially. The situation there is in some respects similar to the more advanced situation in South Africa: the Negro population, though it desires power, control, sovereignty and has been granted it, shows itself incapable of handling the responsibility. I have read material that suggests that the more civic power granted (or achieved) by Negroes in many cities in America is the degree to which those communities suffer under that leadership. One reason is because of the basic *rebellious posture* and also of *ressentiment*: a profound a deep-seated resentment by Negroes of white citizenry. Ressentiment is a very complex emotion and, of course, the entire issue of Negro ressentiment to their *fate* is part of the entire problem. That ressentiment is a sort of disease and a cancer in the American body-politic right now. This connects, as I do indeed tire of saying, to the demographic shift now forcefully underway. This is just the beginning. If it is bad now it will be that much more worse in 5 years. Not to mention in 10 or 20 years. What is the core issue here: displacement of Whites by *POC* not only in a physical sense, which is obvious, but in many other senses that can be discovered and named. That is if there were people home to do that.

    In no sense is it ‘ethical’ to bend to the will of an insane, destructive Negro community. Here is this issue and problem in essence (from the Wiki page on death of Anthony Lamar Smith

    Prior to the verdict, a group of clergy publicly stated that an acquittal [of Jason Stockley] would result in “mass disruption” in the city.

    Now that is a threat. What that means is that if you acquit those who the irrational, rebellious community desire to prosecute, the city will suffer riots, destruction, violence and other killings at the hands of the Negro mobs. If someone can present to me a solidly-reasoned ethics argument that convicting a man because of the will and desire of the mob is an ethical thing, I am all ears. But it is this sort of thing that is going on all across the land. Now, the same general thing is being rehearsed in the Ahmaud Arbery fiasco (Georgia).

    This is the future though. None of this will abate. It will only get worse.

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