Friday Ethics Footnotes, 7/31/2020: 1619, Dumber Lawyers, And Trader Joe’s Stands Up For “Trader Ming’s”

1. Psst! This doesn’t send a message that is complimentary to minorities...The California Supreme Court, which oversees the state bar, agreed to lower the passing score for the exam. The objective is to raise the number of black and Hispanic lawyers. 40 % of California’s population is white, and 60% are not. But 68% of California lawyers are white, according to a new report by the State Bar of California.

Well, so what? Maybe more whites want to be lawyers; whatever the reason, lowering the standards for getting a license seems like a poor way to improve the situation, since it promises to add more dim attorneys. Why do all professions have to have identical demographics to the population at large?

“There is absolutely no evidence that shows having a higher score makes for better lawyers,” said UCLA School of Law Dean Jennifer L. Mnookin. “There is significant evidence that it reduces the diversity of the bar.” Yeah, I’m pretty sure letting people get law licenses by playing beanbag would also lead to a more diverse bar. There is no way to determine whether having higher scores on the bar exam correlates with being a “better lawyer,” but I guarantee not being able to pass the bar exam correlates with being significantly slower on the uptake that a lawyer who can.  Mnookin is saying that intelligence and critical thinking skills don’t factor in the practice of law. What an interesting thing for a law dean to say. Do you think she really believes that?

No one has been able to show that the bar exams anywhere have a racial bias, but since other explanations for comparatively low passing rates among African-Americans are not politically palatable, the George Floyd Freakout has led to this. California will now have dumber lawyers of all colors. Progress!

2.  This tweet raises an ethics question--several, in fact:

“Ida Bae Wells” is the Twitter handle of Nikole Hannah-Jones, the New York Times reporter who created the ‘ “1619 Project.” If she “always said” this, why didn’t she say it anywhere in the 1619 Project’s text, as it was presented as straight history? Why are school systems using a text that its instigator admits isn’t history to teach American history? Why does the New York Times employ a reporter who admits that she makes stuff up?

3. I got so many emails about this, I can’t not post it. After this post about Trader Joe’s meekly capitulating to a George Floyd Freakout-spawned petition that nobody knew about until the New York Times made it “news fit to print,” it appears the boutique grocery story that sells such pretty fruit grew a pear last week and decided not to  submit to political correctness bullies after all.

July 24, 2020

To Our Valued Customers:

In light of recent feedback and attention we’ve received about our product naming, we have some things we’d like to say to clarify our approach. 

A few weeks ago, an online petition was launched calling on us to “remove racist packaging from [our] products.” Following were inaccurate reports that the petition prompted us to take action. We want to be clear: we disagree that any of these labels are racist. We do not make decisions based on petitions. 

We make decisions based on what customers purchase, as well as the feedback we receive from our customers and Crew Members. If we feel there is need for change, we do not hesitate to take action. 

Decades ago, our Buying Team started using product names, like Trader Giotto’s, Trader José’s, Trader Ming’s, etc. We thought then—and still do—that this naming of products could be fun and show appreciation for other cultures. For example, we named our Mexican beer “Trader José Premium” and a couple guacamole products are called “Avocado’s Number” in a kitschy reference to a mathematical theory.  These products have been really popular with our customers, including some budding mathematicians.  

We constantly reevaluate what we are doing to ensure it makes sense for our business and aligns with customers’ expectations. A couple years ago we asked our Buying Team to review all our products to see if we needed to update any older packages, and also see if the associated brands developed years ago needed to be refreshed. We found that some of the older names or products just weren’t connecting or selling very well; so, they were discontinued. It’s kind of what we do.

Recently we have heard from many customers reaffirming that these name variations are largely viewed in exactly the way they were intended­—as an attempt to have fun with our product marketing. We continue our ongoing evaluation, and those products that resonate with our customers and sell well will remain on our shelves.

Trader Joe’s has been a unique, fun and neighborly place to shop for over 50 years. We look forward to taking care of our wonderful customers for many future decades.

– Trader Joe’s

It would have been nice if T.J.s didn’t feel it had to lie to do this. “Following were inaccurate reports that the petition prompted us to take action….” is dishonest. At the time, company spokeswoman Kenya Friend-Daniel said, “While this approach to product naming may have been rooted in a lighthearted attempt at inclusiveness, we recognize that it may now have the opposite effect — one that is contrary to the welcoming, rewarding customer experience we strive to create every day.”Then she said that packaging for a number of the products has already been changed, and the company expects to complete the process “very soon.”

She was either lying then, implying that Trader Joe’s was responding to the petition’s claim, or lying now. Or both.

Nevertheless, if Trader Joe’s can stand up to the mob, so can Land O’Lakes, Uncle Ben’s Rice, Hasbro, the Boston Red Sox, the NBA, and all the tens of thousands of other corporate cowards and grovelers.

It’s a start.

16 thoughts on “Friday Ethics Footnotes, 7/31/2020: 1619, Dumber Lawyers, And Trader Joe’s Stands Up For “Trader Ming’s”

  1. I’m pretty sure that Avogadro’s Number is a chemistry term, and not a math one. That used to be basic knowledge you got in high school chemistry; apparently it’s beyond the ken of the folks at TJ’s. But I’m glad to see them engage in zen virtue signaling, maybe this will be a trend.

    • Thank you! That was bugging me. “Oh, we made a nerd pun so the nerds will like us, but we don’t understand what we were referencing at all.”

      They could have actually educated people a bit about chemistry if they said that Avogadro’s Number is approximately how many protons are in a gram (sort of), which matters when you want to know how many times an individual reaction happens when you mix two masses of chemicals together. It helps with calculating what the mass of the products of a reaction will be based on the mass of the reactants used.

      It’s also a physical constant; most mathematicians do not need to learn about this number.

      Then again, maybe the person who labeled the products put the actual facts on the label and the person who wrote the announcement just doesn’t know them.

      …It occurs to me that this is what cultural appropriation feels like, albeit writ small.

        • The Chemists’ Guild, but many people seem to think that scientific expertise is interchangeable.

          “Hey, this character knows ‘science.’ why doesn’t she just build a device that can neutralize their alien beam?”

          “Because that’s not what robotic engineering does? …Never mind, apparently she can build one.”

          (To be fair, it is fairly likely that any given nerd will know the basics of at least a few fields of science.)

          • OK, I’ve been wanting to post this — but, of course, I’m culturally appropriating another Guild, I know.

            Anyways, may the (weak) Force be with you.

  2. 1. This is a very good example of the damage that Affirmative Action has done to the black community. It shows that the bar association considers that black law students finish law school with less knowledge of law than do white ones. Why else would they not be able to pass the same test at the same rate? Maybe it is because they were not held to the same standard during law school, or even a high standard as undergrads.

    This gives people confirmation to a fear that the black attorney may not be as good as the white one. Many hold the same bias when choosing doctors, dentists and other professionals and tradespeople. It is a terrible slap in the face to those who are fully competent and who pass the exams legitimately.

        • I thought the California and New York State and D.C. bars were notoriously difficult to pass because both states and the District wanted to keep their jurisdictions from becoming over lawyered. At least that’s my recollection of the state of things in 1981 when I was taking the Arizona bar. Won’t this just admit MORE LAWYERS? How can anyone be certain by lowering the passing grade to X extent the additional lawyers admitted will be of a particular skin color? Are there tons of black applicants in that stratum of bar takers? What happens if the black applicants are even further down the applicant pool? I just don’t think this is going to work. They simply need to have the California Supreme Court establish a quota for black bar members and let the appropriate number in, test scores be damned. And they need to make that decision public so the public (you know, the people lawyers are supposed to represent?) will know NOT to hire a black attorney unless they were admitted a while ago.

          And tell me again why “diversity” is good for the legal profession? The diversity fallacy rears its ugly head once again. I think the legal profession would be greatly enhanced if it were populated by many, many fewer assholes. But nobody asked me.

          And my God, what a DOPE that law school dean is.

  3. Apparently the anti-TJ SJW is “confused” by TJ’s latest response. So, of course, she’s started a new petition:

    “Trader Joe’s has issued a new statement as of July 24, 2020 that appears to be a reversal of a previous statement issued on July 17, 2020. The latest statement is a departure from the company’s commitment to removing products that they have recognized have not been inclusive or conducive to creating a welcoming, rewarding customer experience. Further, this recent statement adds confusion as to how – and whether – Trader Joe’s will proceed with the repackaging of their ethnic foods…Given the contradictory nature of these statements, we ask that Trader Joe’s clarify which ethnically branded products will be modified. Additionally, we ask Trader Joe’s to clarify statements regarding the company’s corporate brand philosophy and founder Joe Coulombe’s inspiration for the company.”

    https://www.change.org/p/trader-joe-s-remove-racist-packaging-from-your-products/u/27405104

    So far, 5217 people have signed the petition – which speaks volumes.
    OTOH, the petition page allows comments and whoa Nellie are there comments!!! (spoiler alert: still looking for a supportive comment…)

  4. Trader Joe’s is owned by the German company Aldi (nord). Maybe someone back at corporate that understands how to deal with brownshirts got wind of the earlier capitulation and nixed it.

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