Chris Marschner, a grandmaster of the Ethics Alarms Comment of the Day feature, issued another deserving one with his thoughts on the Milwaukee riots. It is a highlight of the threads generated by this topic, but there are many other highlights amid the 90+ comments, including an Alamo-like stand against overwhelming odds (and logic) by that prolific, embattled, and adamant EA progressive, deery. The whole discussion is well worth reading. Deery also authored the comment that inspired Chris’s response below.
Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “Sarcasm-Tainted Observations On The Milwaukee Riots”:
For the life of me I cannot see how any rational human being can justify rioting and the looting businesses because they feel they are owed something for being “oppressed”. What the hell did the gas station or auto parts store do to them? Does that case of Cheezits being carried out of the store address all of your complaints, or is it just a partial down payment on a never ending invoice for the injustice you perceive? Sorry I have no sympathy for anyone who had myriad opportunities to become educated in a manner that would permit them to read, write, perform arithmetic calculations, and just plain think.
No amount of funding can overcome community apathy. Especially, when apathy is the root cause of the need for funding in the first place. The community needs to recognize that if it wants things to be different then it needs to come to grips with the idea that they must take on the lion’s share of the work to enjoy a better life; it cannot be bestowed upon them. It must pool its own resources first before it requests resources from others. It must demonstrate that it is committed to being responsible for the work of changing the situation. Any one who thinks jobs and opportunities will simply emerge with more government spending in areas that suggest crime is rampant needs his/her head examined. No amount of tax abatement will overcome the cost of rebuilding a business that has been burned to the ground. It should be noted that the police did not spray paint tags all over other people’s buildings. It’s not urban art, it’s vandalism. The police did not create the need for security grates over the glass windows of shops. The police did not throw litter all over the street and dump furniture and tires wherever they pleased. More importantly, within the BCPD, the officers charged with various felonies while on the force were predominantly non-white so it not always a racial issue.
I grew up in Baltimore City. I lived there from 1956-1989. I went to Balto. City public schools (BCPS). I went to Woodbourne Jr. High and graduated from Northern High in 1974. Both schools were integrated and each had its share of bad actors be they white or black. In those days black parents wanted to keep their kids away from the “element”. I don’t think that is the case today. Today we celebrate the gangsta persona.
I was neither a star pupil nor a bad student. What I did learn from my father was that college was not something I could ask for help with and no school counselor ever suggested that I consider college. I saw the battles my older brother went through to get him to fill out the financial information on the financial aid applications. My father hated to disclose his income. Perhaps it was because he felt inferior to what others made or maybe he just did not like the idea of getting government assistance. I don’t know. I just learned not to ask about college. To this day I don’t remember either parent talking to me about college except for when I was in 8th grade and I could not pass the foreign language class which was required for college prep.
I did not go to college immediately after high school. Ironically, both my parents were Baltimore City Public School teachers for much of their lives. My mother who taught English was known as that white honky bitch at Northern Parkway Junior High. That’s what the parents called her when she called them to discuss a student’s lack of progress. She got called that a lot. I saw the tears of frustration.
GoFundMe thinks the 6th Amendment is heinous, apparently…
A about a week ago, I designated the crowd-funding website GoFundMe an Ethics Dunce. Now it’s clear that it is worse than that. It’s an unethical website, period.
After the six Baltimore police officers were prematurely charged with serious crimes before the investigation into the death of Freddie Gray was complete, the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police created a GoFundMe page for their defense. Less than an hour later, it was taken down, with GoFundMe citing the same dubious policy it used to cut off support for a bakery driven out of business by vengeful same-sex marriage supporters:
“‘Campaigns in defense of formal charges of heinous crimes’ are prohibited by our terms . . . GoFundMe cannot be used to benefit those who are charged with serious violations of the law.” Continue reading
I don’t know if a 24 hour period has ever produced as many provocative, passionate and well-argued comments on Ethics Alarms before. This, commenter Holly’s reaction to my designation of the viral Baltimore mom Toya Graham clobbering her rioter son during the Freddie Gray disruptions in Charm City, is just one of several. I’ll address some of the issues she raises after the post; in the meantime, here is Holly’s Comment of the Day, in a day that will probably have more than one, on the post, “Ethics Hero: The Baltimore Riot’s ‘Mom of the Year’”:
I am surprised at this response. For a number of reasons. In any other circumstance, this woman probably would be going to jail. But if we watch the video more closely, the following observations can be made:
1. This child was leaving with his mother and she was so angry that she chases him to pull him back towards her to continue the beating. He appeared to be complying and in her anger continued to the assault the kid during the walk away.
2. The child was not in imminent danger. There are bystanders all around I saw no rocks being thrown in this video nor police for that matter. It does not appear the threat of losing his life was immediately in front of them.
3. The assault starts with a few close-fisted strikes as well as continuing with open-fisted strikes or what people are calling “smacks”.
Exemplary action on the part of this mother would not have been beating her son as he walked away from the riot, however. It would have included not allowing a 16 year out of her supervision to wander in the riot in the first place. Continue reading
It is odd that the now-anointed “mom of the year” is a woman videotaped beating her son, and rather violently at that. That’s the Ethics Incompleteness Principle for you: even conduct that is “always” unethical may be made ethical by unusual circumstances. Seeing your grown son participating in looting and rioting that are destroying your neighborhood changes the rules, or perhaps makes them inapplicable.
Here is what the unidentified woman (UPDATE: Her name is Toya Graham) was doing that is an ethical duty: she was fixing the problem to the extent she could. Utilitarian? Yup. Would Kant approve? Well, if every mother of those rioters intervened, they would have had more success than the Baltimore police did.
As for the Golden Rule, her conduct passes that test as well. If I were getting pulled into violent, mindless mob violence like that kid, I would want my caring parents to stop me by any means short of shooting me. If it were my son wearing that hood, I’d be tackling him.
I don’t know if she’s really “Mom of the Year”—I’d like to think that a really exemplary mother won’t raise a rioter. She’s an Ethics Hero, though, beyond question.
Being the mayor of any city in the throes of a race riot is a losing proposition; being an African-American mayor when the rioters are all black and the riot was sparked by the mysterious death of a black man in police custody is a hopeless proposition. Last night’s riot in Baltimore actually justified the kind of para-military response that got Ferguson, Missouri condemned by Eric Holder’s Justice Department, but that approach was politically impossible. I don’t know what I would have done in Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s hot seat, except hope against hope that President Obama didn’t come out with a statement that Freddie Gray could have been his son. So this is not the time to second-guess the mayor’s actions.
For the record, my assessment is that the volatile combination of acculturated black community contempt for policy authority and long-incubating and neglected racist inclinations in police departments was activated nationwide by seven years of cynical exploitation of racial divisions and distrust by President Obama, Eric Holder and the Democratic Party for electoral gain. Race riots were the predictable consequence, and I say that with confidence because I predicted it in 2012, when Trayvon Martin’s death was elevated to a national issue just in time for the President Obama’s re-election push. Rawlings-Blake may have been part of that effort; I haven’t investigated that. She certainly inherited its results.
My verdict of incompetence in her case focuses less on her failure to prevent or contain the riots than on her inept communications skills. Leaders have to communicate clearly. If they can’t, they have a duty to learn: the skill can be taught. (I’m looking at you, W.) If they can’t communicate, their leadership ability is intrinsically crippled. Leaders who have to constantly “clarify” what they said, or “walk back” comments, or claim that they were “quoted out of context” when they were just quoted lose the public’s trust, and deserve to. Public officials have to be careful what they say, and how they say it, and this is a crucial, indispensable skill in their chosen field.
Rawlings-Blake held a press conference as the riots in her city were unfolding, and said this:
“And I’ve made it very clear that I worked with the police and instructed them to do everything that they could to make sure that the protesters were able to exercise their right to free speech. It’s a very delicate balancing act because while we try to make sure that they were protected from the cars, and the other things that were going on, we also gave those who wish to destroy, space to do that as well. And we work very hard to keep that balance, and to put ourselves in the best position to de-escalate and that’s what you saw.”