Two For The “When Ethics Alarms Don’t Ring” Files (Or Maybe “Mine Detectors” Is The More Appropriate Metaphor) [CORRECTED]

HEY! Don’t you see that? IT’S RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU!”

These two recent stories puzzle me. There are some aspects of civil conduct and societal norms that every cognitively functioning human being who lives in this society and culture cannot possibly have failed to notice. Nonetheless, these events keep happening. Quite part from the specifics of the incidents, they represent a failure of basic life competence.

1. California: Another Teacher Uses Blackface

I have, much to my sorrow—it was one reason Ethics Alarms is censored on Facebook—defended the use of dark make-up when its objective is not to denigrate and mock a race, but to play a dramatic role in a context where such make-up is necessary. White actors should be able to play the Moor Othello. In a saner society, white kids should also be able to dress up as Barack Obama or Beyoncé for Halloween, but interpreting any use of dark make-up as a deliberate reference to minstrel show “blackface” is now part of the victim lobby’s power tool kit, and one has to be aware of and understand the risks of bucking a treasured narrative.

How could any teacher not know, following the travails of Governor Northam in Virginia and Justin Trudeau in Canada, about this cultural landmine? If these elected officials, among others, were threatened by the cancellation culture for having used black makeup as students years ago, wouldn’t it be screamingly obvious that using blackface today, before a classroom, would be professional hari-kari? (Oops! Cultural appropriation there!)

Yet a white high school teacher in Milpitas, California wore blackface in his class on Halloween  to do an imitation of the rapper Common. Of course one of the students made a viseo, of course it came to the school board’s attention, of course it created an irresistible opportunity for members to grandstand and engage in virtue-signalling, and of course such opportunities must not be wasted.

Thus Chris Norwood, the president of the school board in solemnly intoned that the behavior was “inappropriate, unprofessional and insensitive” and called for an investigation, adding,

“As an African-American man, the history of blackface reminds me of the cruelty, hatred and fear my parents and people of African ancestry have dealt with in the past and still experience today around the world. Unfortunately, blackface still permeates global society today through social media, comedy and fashion.”

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“It’s OK To Be White” Strikes Again, And Drives People Crazy Again! GOOD!

The first Ethics Alarms post about the trolling masterpiece “It’s OK to be white” was in 2017. The message, apparently launched by those puckish trouble-makers at 4Chan,  first appeared on stickers appearing on the Harvard campus, sparking an idiotic response from an African American dean. I concluded, in part, that the sticker campaign was brilliant “no matter who came up with it or what the motive was,”;  that anyone who was troubled by the message is part of the problem the stickers are responding to, and  that the stickers would have  been harmless if they were treated as harmless, and they should have been.

The Ethics Alarms’ self-appointed Voice of the Woke at the time took umbrage, saying, “The stickers are stupid. No one disputes that it’s OK to be white….The correct response from average citizens to this display of faux persecution should be mockery and ridicule, not outrage.” Realizing a hanging curve over the middle of the plate when I say one, I replied in part, ,

“You know, it’s easy to deal with any problem if you make up your own facts. Nobody says its not OK to be white? This list took me less than 10 minutes:

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/texas-am-wont-fire-professor-who-called-for-killing-white-people/article/2622810
http://www.theroot.com/college-campus-shut-down-after-professors-letthemfucki-1796334903
http://www.theroot.com/for-black-people-who-have-to-deal-with-white-people-thi-1797835711
https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/10/06/opinion/ta-nehisi-coates-whiteness-power.html?smid=fb-share&referer=http://m.facebook.com
http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/38149/
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/lady-gaga-the-problems-with-non-racist-white_us_59960aeee4b033e0fbdec279
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/toxic-whiteness-healing-white-people-internalised-racism-woman-sandra-kim-new-york-a7595216.html

Then there’s the Ethics Alarms anti-white racism tag…https://ethicsalarms.com/tag/anti-white-racism/ All resulting in THIS:
http://www.npr.org/2017/10/24/559604836/majority-of-white-americans-think-theyre-discriminated-against

As I may have mentioned, I was explicitly told that the only reason I was not hired as an Assistant US Attorney in DC …a life and career-altering result for me…was that I was white. Now, I think it is reasonable to assume that if I was not hired because I was white, there was something “not OK” with my being white. I’m not unhappy or bitter about this, but it happened.

The problem with being an ideologue… is that it requires distorting reality.

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Hispanic, Latino, Latinx…A Correction of Disinformation Perpetrated On Ethics Alarms!

I’m sure it wasn’t intentional,  but on October 25, in a thread in response to this post, the estimable and usually reliable commenter Still Spartan stated as fact, in no uncertain terms,

My point is simply that speech about race has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. When is the last time you’ve heard the word Oriental? Heck, we don’t even say Hispanic anymore. But we did 20 years ago….Most people now use the term Latina or Latino, and even that is being replaced with Latinx. 

Your host responded,

If [ “most people”], do,then they are mistaken. Latino is a subset of Hispanic (meaning those from Spanish-speaking nations or regions) , which is why most political organizations use Hispanic in their title. Actually, the various groups don’t particularly like being lumped together at all. Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Puerto Rican-Americans and others resent the generalizations. Just because one’s “crowd” does something doesn’t make it correct or virtuous, but it’s true that a shocking number of people reason that way.

I don’t mean to pick on Still Spartan, but as there is so much angst these days about misinformation being spread on social media and the web, I certainly don’t want Ethics Alarms to be part of the problem. And, I confess that it annoys me when someone curtly declares here something to be true here that I am fairly certain is not.

SS also suggested in the comment above that “Latinx” was replacing :Hispanic.” I was dubious about this too. By happenstance, a recent poll on the topic, the results of which you see in the graphic, was introduced thusly on Medium:

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Cancellation Culture Gone Nuts: The Kenneth Fisher Saga

“Be afraid…be very afraid.”—Geena Davis in “The Fly”

Kenneth Fisher, the acclaimed billionaire money manager whose investment firm manages more than $112 billion of investors’ money,  spoke at an October 8 conference.  In his remarks, he said getting new clients was akin to “trying to get into a girl’s pants.” The analogy between marketing and seduction is old, common, and not without validity. It can (and should) be expressed in less vulgar ways, to be sure, but no one in the audience could have mistaken Fisher’s meaning.

Yet the New York Times described the remark as a “lewd and sexist joke”—Lewd? Joke?—and like-minded cancellation culture posse members set out to destroy Fisher and his business in retribution for using an analogy of dubious taste. [ I should note that some attendees at the conference–including some who are Fisher’s competitors—reported that there were other “off-color” comments that could not be confirmed by the Times.]

Thanks to a news and social media campaign since he made that “joke,” the past two weeks have seen public pensions and institutional investors pull nearly $2 billion from Fisher Investments, which has 3,500 employees.  They also deserve to lose their jobs, presumably, because their boss is insufficiently sensitive in a #MeToo world. Other public pensions have placed  Fisher’s firm on a watch list for potential action.

Mid-Day Ethics Overview, 10/24/2019: TV Ethics, Theater Ethics, Negotiation Ethics…You Know. Ethics.

This song is about ethics, right?

Well, to me it is…

1. Unethical non-traditional casting.  Harvey Fierstein is playing Bella Abzug on Broadway. I know that Harvey, being a very large, undisguisably gay, 65-year old actor with a voice that sounds like he gargles piranha, has a tough time finding outlets for his acting and comic ability (he can be terrific, as he was in his Emmy-winning performance in “Torch Song Trilogy”), but that’s no reason to take it out on the late New York Congresswoman. Abzug was a woman, and being a woman was central to her career, appeal, legend, and legacy. She was not, to say the least, an attractive woman, but that does not mean that it is fair or respectful to cast a 275 pound unattarctive MAN to play her on Broadway. Feirstein is an LGBTQ activist and icon, but he’s ethically confused here.

2. Trump shouldn’t have backed down from holding the Group of 7 Summit at the Trump luxery golf club in Miami. Apparently he did so because Republican members of Congress complained about it, and they complained about it because they knew it would spark more bogus accusations of Emoluments Clause violations (Impeachment Plan C).

Any and every negotiations specialist will tell you that holding a meeting of adversaries in your own territory is a massive advantage. That is why such meetings are often held in Switzerland, or other neutral sites. Holding the Summit at a Trump property makes the President stronger at the meeting, and that benefits the country.

It would have been nice—responsible, educational, fair, honest—if the news media explained this basic principle to the public, but it doesn’t want to justify the President’s decisions or find benign reasons for them. It is in thrall to “the resistance,” and doing a complete analysis of factors involved in a decision like where to hold the Summit just detracts from the effort to undermine President Trump and characterize him as a corrupt and crooked fascist who must be removed from office at all costs.

Republican joined the ignorant stampede because, unfortunately, they aren’t very bright, or very brave. Thus the U.S. voluntarily forfeited a diplomatic advantage because Republicans couldn’t articulate why there was nothing sinister, and much advantageous,  about a world leader holding a meeting at a property that bears his name. Continue reading

The Black Jack O’ Lanterns

In Nyack, New York, a law firm purchased some designer black jack o’lanterns from “Bed, Bath, and Beyond” as office decorations. Some residents complained to a local TV channel and to the law firm, claiming that the decorations were “racist.”

The law firm, Feerick, Nugent, MacCartney, immediately removed them, and soon thereafter, the household accoutrements chain pulled the item from its inventory. Now the law firm is busy grovelling, especially after the local NAACP accused them of “extreme lack of sensitivity.”

I think he meant “a lack of extreme sensitivity.” Isn’t that more accurate?

“We understand that someone complained about them and so once we got word of that we immediately took them down,” said Mary Marzolla, a partner at the racist firm. “We represent people of all colors and faiths, and we would never do anything to exclude anyone from any community,” she added,

What? How do black painted or colored pumpkins exclude anyone from the community? Is she really saying that if an individual, no matter how foolish or addled, complains about anything, then the firm is ethically obligated take remedial action? Is that the standard?  Let’s test it: I’m complaining about the firm’s conduct in capitulating to an idiotic and manipulative claim of racism. OK, Feerick, Nugent, MacCartney, the ball’s in your court.

Satisfy me.

Is there no way in 2019 to tell a hypersensitive wacko, “I’m sorry, but you are a fool. There is nothing to be offended about. I do not have to cater to your paranoia or contrived sensitivities, and I will not.” Continue reading

Catch-Up Ethics Warm-Up, 10/22/2019: Updates, Word Policing, And The World Series

Late start to the day…

…in part as a hangover from the lively Smithsonian Associates presentation on cross examination with my sister last night. The event was completely sold out, a first among my five Smithsonian programs, and it was an intense two hours, followed by lively questioning from some participants who stayed for nearly an hour to grill us.

1. Good ethics news follow-up: Marlon Anderson, the black security guard who was fired from Madison’s West High School last week for protesting being called “nigger” by  a student, thus triggering an unreasonable, brain-dead and indefensible “no-tolerance”  policy, is being reinstated.

Interim Superintendent Jane Belmore  rescinded the termination less than a week after Anderson was fired. The dismissal triggering intense criticism here and elsewhere, including a student walk-out.  One nice thing about incompetent bureaucracies is that their lazy, thoughtless, unethical actions seldom are accompanied by any real logic or conviction, so they will usually back down, following the path of least resistance.

Still, as Ethics Alarms has asked dozens of times, how can responsible parents trust educators whose judgment is so wretched?

I also want to note that most publications reporting on the story emulated the Wisconsin State Journal, which wrote, “A black security guard who was fired from Madison’s West High School last week for repeating a racial slur a student had hurled at him, in an attempt to correct the student, will get his job back.”

Gee, which racial slur? Isn’t the particular slur an essential part of this story? Was it “negro”? “Uncle Tom”? When is it ever competent journalism to withhold relevant information from readers? Is the theory that the mere word will upset some readers more than the tales of carnage the same publications include daily without censorship? Do we read stories that report, “Someone did something really terrible to 26 people in a church using a weapon of some kind”?

In this case, withholding the crucial word at issue supports the “logic” behind the no-tolerance policy that led to the whole fiasco.

2. In more news of progressive word-policing:  Massachusetts state Rep. Daniel HuntGuess what party he belongs to. Come on, guess!  Hey, you have a 50-50 chance of being right!—-has submitted a bill to the legislature that would criminalize use of the word “bitch.” There will be a hearing today on Beacon Hill. Of course the bill is unconstitutional, but why should we expect elected representatives to be able to figure that out?

Meanwhile, the Boston Herald, supposedly the city’s conservative paper (meaning it’s not as left-biased as the Boston Globe) didn’t dare publish the word, writing instead, “the B-word — the term for a female dog that is commonly used to slander women.”

Someone should  tell the Herald that calling a woman a “bitch,” no matter how unjustified, cannot possibly constitute slander. Continue reading