Yes, this comment has little to do with ethics, but it’s so interesting as a supplement to the main post that it deserves greater circulation.
Here is Pennagain’s fascinating Comment of the Day on the weekend’s post, Racist Political Correctness, Casting Ethics, Double Standards, And The Rock:
I knew there were at least two versions of the song, “The Ballad of John Henry,” but I’ve so far found dozens more online, most of them having umpteen verses, and a work-song rhythm – the most basic of which my 7-year-old self stomped in that driving stop-rhythm around the classroom (chanting?), with that hammer-driving oomph! at the end of each line, to lyrics like “gonna die with the hammer in mah han’, Lord, Lord”.
For what it’s worth, a “real” John Henry is pretty well authenticated in at least one version of the story, ending fatally at the C&O’s Big Bend Tunnel in Talcott, West Virginia.
From KPBS’ “The African-American Railroad Experience”, built on Theodore Kornweibel’s photographic history: The entire southern railroad network built during the slavery era was built almost exclusively by slaves. Some of the railroads owned slaves, other hired or rented from slave owners [later from contracted freedmen or convict work-gangs]. And. . . women as well as men were actually involved in the hard, dangerous, brutal work. … several of the song versions finish with John Henry telling his wife to pick up the hammer and continue the job.
Negative evidence of Henry’s race would be that none of the many, many verses of the songs (recorded by 38 singers besides Ives) nor folk references – negro dialect aside (arguably stretched to “Suthun,”) – refer to that figure as being other than black. And as a black man, and a real, live “Everyman” working-man’s hero, he is proudly and fiercely claimed by South Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky . . . and Jamaica. Continue reading
Kanye West may be crazy, but he isn’t wrong.
Writes the former race-baiting ESPN reporter Jamele Hill in The Atlantic:
On Tuesday night, I was in an auditorium with 100 black men in the city of Baltimore, when the subject pivoted to Brett Kavanaugh. I expected to hear frustration that the sexual-assault allegations against him had failed to derail his Supreme Court appointment. Instead, I encountered sympathy. One man stood up and asked, passionately, “What happened to due process?” He was met with a smattering of applause, and an array of head nods.
Why did Hill expect a group that has historically been the victim of “believe the white woman” more than anyone to regret the failure of the desperation hit on the SCOTUS nominee using the banneer of #meToo waving over an unsupported accuser? Why did the Democrats? It’s pure bias: they assume that any group in their base automatically approves of their “ends justifies the means” tactics, no matter what basic principles of justice or democracy have to be sacrificed. I heard about Hill’s bias-driven myopia before I read the whole article, and immediately wondered what Brian Banks, the promising high school football player whose life was upended when a jury believed his false accuser, Wanetta Gibson, would think of the argument that Kavanaugh’s appointment should be forfeit because a single accuser “must be believed.” As it turns out, Hill thought about Banks too, and even approached him.
I reached out to Banks and asked whether he had any thoughts about this solidarity some black men seem to feel with Kavanaugh, but he politely declined to comment. I can’t say that I blame him, since there’s probably nothing Banks could say that wouldn’t be interpreted as being unsympathetic toward victims.
Interpreted by who? I’m sympathetic toward victims, but like Banks, I suspect, I’m not sympathetic with those who want to ruin the lives of men, be they a an African American high school athlete or a judge with an impeccable personal and professional record as an adult, by discarding the principles of due process, equal justice, and presumption of innocence. Nobody can say that Blasey-Ford is a victim any more than the women who got Emmet Till killed was a victim. Democrats wanted her to be a victim, and that was the sole basis for her to be believed more than the man she accused. Continue reading
I know: I could spend all my time debunking unethical columns like Times pundit David Leonhardt’s piece a few days ago. However, since I noted in the previous post that I was puzzled by the fury of so many people regarding what was, in any objective assessment, a fair and competent—and, thank god, successful—effort by Republicans to prevent Democrats from shredding basic principles of justice and fairness in their desperate effort to preserve a favorable ideological balance on the Supreme Court as if they were entitled to it (They weren’t, because elections have consequences), I am obligated to inform the assembled that my puzzlement was cleared by his screed.
There are pundits like Leonhardt who are actively trying to foment fury and division, they are using false narratives, deceit and lies to do it, and newspapers like the Times and news networks like CNN and MSNBC are actively promoting the effort. I won’t waste my time and yours on the whole column, fun as it would be, but just this section:
If you’re not angry yet, you should be.
Let’s review: Decades ago, a businessman built a fortune thanks in large measure to financial fraud. His corrupt gains helped him become famous. He then launched a political career by repeatedly telling a racist lie, about the first black president secretly being an African.
This lie created an audience in right-wing media that made possible a presidential campaign. During that campaign, the candidate eagerly accepted — indeed, publicly sought — the illegal assistance of a foreign enemy. When national security officials raised alarm with Congress, before Election Day, leaders of the candidate’s party refused to act.
The foreign assistance appears to have been crucial to the candidate’s narrow victory. He won with only 46.1 percent of the popular vote, less than 16 losing candidates over the years had, including Mitt Romney, John Kerry, Williams Jennings Bryan and the little-remembered Horatio Seymour.
Having won, the new president filled a Supreme Court seat that his party had stolen with an unprecedented power grab. This weekend, the president finished filling a second seat, through a brutal, partisan process. During it, the president, himself an admitted sexual molester, mocked victims of abuse.
Together, the two new justices have cemented an extremist Republican majority on the Supreme Court. It has already begun acting as a kind of super-legislature, throwing out laws on voting rights, worker rights, consumer rights and political influence buying. Now, the court is poised to do much more to benefit the wealthy and powerful at the expense of most Americans — and the planet.
This is not how democracy is supposed to work.
That’s right: democracy doesn’t work when journalists are complicit in fomenting public division and violence to advance a political agenda. Continue reading
In the past, I mostly visited the New York Times Magazine “The Ethicist” column to take issue with the succession of ethics amateurs and ethicist wannabes the Times employed as its ethics advice columnist. Once Kwame Anthony Appiah took over, this wasn’t as much fun, and I admit I don’t even check the column that often. Appiah is a real ethicist, and knows what he’s doing. I sometimes disagree with his conclusions, but he reaches them using valid ethical analysis, and seldom employs bias or rationalizations.
A recent column, however, deserves special praise. The inquirer asked what the ethical course would be to handle historical artifacts that reflected racist attitudes and artwork, like the card pictured above. The writer concluded her question…
I offered it to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. I never heard from them, so it moved with us. My husband thinks I should throw it away, but that feels wrong. I feel it is history that we should acknowledge, however painful and wrong. Your thoughts?
“The Ethicist’s” response is note-perfect, even with my intentional omission of its best and most surprising section. I’m doing this so you will hit the link and read the full column. Appiah wrote in part,
I am not a fan of the intentional destruction of historical artifacts….It’s a familiar thought that we need to understand our past, not least in order to help us avoid repeating the worst aspects of it. So your impulse to offer this souvenir card to a museum seems right. Of course, the sort of document you describe is well represented in collections already, and this may be why you didn’t hear back. But who knows whether there isn’t something about it that a historian might find useful in unpacking some detail of the history of American racial attitudes?
So if you think this card does have historical value, and you can’t readily find an interested archive or scholar, you could just put it up for sale on eBay, say, where it will join a large assemblage of racist artifacts. You can’t guarantee that you’ll approve of the motives of the buyer, but someone who is willing to pay for it is most likely to preserve it.
Given that your motives are honorable, I don’t share your worry about profiting from the sale. Selling an image isn’t endorsing its message. And my guess is that most contemporary collectors of such items aren’t motivated by racism. Still, if you want to avoid profiting, there’s an easy solution. Just send the proceeds to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. That’s an offer they won’t turn down. Continue reading
Mike Brown’s father during a discussion after the performance.
“Antigone in Ferguson” premiered at Normandy High School, Michael Brown’s alma mater, in September of 2016. Now the Harlem Stage is presenting it in New York City, Off-Broadway. A play is a play and art is art; artists are going to enable juvenile, half-baked and even destructive political ideas and themes, and playwrights will turn their perceptions of reality into stagecraft that they often are far more qualified to execute than the task of making sense out of the world. This drama was conceived and directed by the activist playwright Bryan Doerries in response to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri four years ago, overlays the structure of the ancient Sophocles Greek tragedy with a distorted version of Brown’s death and its aftermath. The goal, says the sympathetic—complicit may be a better word—New York Times, is “to open the door on the thoughts and feelings aroused by the shooting of the 18-year-old Mr. Brown by a white police officer, and by the protests that followed. ”
The play is championed by the Brown family, which means that in part it exists to perpetuate a politically useful lie and the apparently invulnerable narrative that Brown was the innocent, sweet-natured victim of a racist cop who murdered the teen in the streets of Ferguson, and then got away with his deed because the white justice system is bent on killing young black men.
This quite simply is not what happened. The racialist Obama Justice Department was eager to be able to show that the officer was a killer, but in the end, despite the sympathetic spinning of the news media for months, the evidence did not support that conclusion, and no charges could be brought. Mike Brown, stoned and freshly off roughing up a storekeeper, resisted a lawful arrest, tried to grab a police officer’s gun, and then, when he focused his imposing 300 pound mass on charging the smaller cop who arrested him, got himself shot—stupidly, needlessly. His friend on the scene, however, quickly concocted the “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” exchange that never happened, and as that false version slowly twisted its way from slogan to protest to debunked myth, the facts of Brown’s case were neatly discarded for a narrative that advances the cause of division, anti-police bias, racial hatred, and more. Continue reading