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?
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.