Ethics Observations On Justin Trudeau’s “Brownface” Scandal

Other than “Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!” that is.

News item:Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, wore brownface makeup to a party at the private school where he was teaching in the spring of 2001. TIME has obtained a photograph of the incident. The photograph has not been previously reported. The picture was taken at an “Arabian Nights”-themed gala. It shows Trudeau, then the 29-year-old son of the late former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, wearing a turban and robes with his face, neck and hands completely darkened. The photograph appears in the 2000-2001 yearbook of West Point Grey Academy, a private day school where Trudeau was a teacher.”

Also: “The re-election campaign of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada was thrown into turmoil on Wednesday when a photograph surfaced of him wearing brownface makeup at a 2001 private school party….Speaking with reporters aboard his campaign plane, Mr. Trudeau, who has long championed the rights of racial minorities in Canada, confirmed that he was in the photo and that he was dressed as Aladdin.

“This is something I shouldn’t have done many years ago,” Mr. Trudeau said. “It was something that I didn’t think was racist at the time, but now I recognize it was something racist to do, and I am deeply sorry.”

Observations:

1. Wearing make-up to create an image along with a costume is not “racist.” Either Trudeau is just pandering  and grovelling to political correctness, or he’s not every bright. I’ve written about this before, most notably here (the post that got Ethics Alarms banned from Facebook). How is that make-up a negative commentary on the inferiority or inequality of a race? Not being sensitive to the hair-trigger offense reflexes of minorities and activists looking for a “gotcha!’ is not racist. It is not being sensitive to hair-trigger offense reflexes by minorities and activists looking for a “gotcha!” Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Review, 7/13/2019: The Uncomfortable Truth About “The Lion King,” The Green New Deal, Children At the Border, Blackface, And Harvey Weinstein

Hi!

Is it unethical for an ethics speaker to drop trow during a program? I think so. It was a situation I narrowly avoided this morning. I am a rather animated speaker, and after I slammed the D.C. ethics rules into the floor to illustrate a point, my effort to retrieve the volume resulted in the rear snap of my galluses pulling loose from the back of my pants. With an unpantsing imminent (and about to be streamed live to hundreds), I asked my moderator to come down from his platform and rescue me by reclipping the devices on, which he did.

Hilarity ensued.

1. “Asshole” ethics. In another episode today, I referred to Harvey Weinstein as an “asshole,” in the context of discussing the multiple David Bois ethics problems in handling the Hollywood mogul’s representation. The exact statement was “Even assholes deserve competent representation.” This came closely after I had mentioned that lawyer incivility was an ethics problem whether there were explicit rules against it or not. One of the attendees in cyber-space texted a query as to whether it was uncivil for me to use the term “asshole.”

I answered that I was reminded of the moment in  “1776” when one of the members of the Continental Congress challenges Thomas Jefferson’s use of the term “tyrant” to describe King George. Is it really necessary, Jefferson is asked, to use such a harsh word? Why resort to an insult? “Because the King is a tyrant,” Tom replies.

I went on to say that I have found that in certain situations, only certain harsh words are sufficiently accurate.  What should I call Harvey, a miscreant? A jerk? No, the man is an asshole, I said. I’m not using the term as an ad hominem attack, but as the most accurate term I can think of for someone who has done the things he has done to so many women while indicating no remorse at all. I do not use the term indiscriminately, and would not use it in certain forums, such as open court. But I do not believe in word taboos, and when the description, however harsh, fits, it is not uncivil to make a Harvey Weinstein wear it.

2. Now, what’s the right word for THIS? In the Washington Post,  Dan Hassler-Forest reflects on the themes of “The Lion King” and asserts that the lions, hyenas, and gazelles are “stand ins for human societal organizations” and that the themes of the movie “incorporates the white supremacist’s worldview.” Hassler-Forest is an author and public speaker on “media franchises, cultural theory, and political economy” who works as assistant professor in the Media Studies department of Utrecht University in the Netherlands. “No matter how you look at it, this is a film that introduces us to a society where the weak have learned to worship at the feet of the strong,” his article asserts. Continue reading

Rueful Observations On The Latest Development In Virginia Governor Northam’s Blackface Scandal

Well, let’s see: my college has embarrassed me, my law school’s professors continue to make me wish I had earned a law degree by drawing “Skippy” from the cover of a matchbook, black students were apparently insulted in my home city’s famous art museum, my baseball team allowed itself to be split by “the resistance,” and my adopted state of Virginia has the most ridiculous governor since Rod Blagojevich was making Illinois residents consider moving to Tierra del Fuego.

To refresh your memory regarding  the Ralph Northam Ethics Trainwreck, since it’s been stashed in the news media memory hole for a while: the same week  that he appeared to casually explain how post-birth abortion works while showing all the passion of someone describing how to replace a carburetor, Northam’s med school yearbook surfaced showing the governor-to-be either dressed as a Klansman or wearing blackface, unless you subscribe to the theory that the photo of two men in such get-ups was just randomly planted on Northam’s page.

In a dizzying sequence, the Governor 1) apologized for the photo and wearing blackface in it, apparently admitting that it was him 2) said that he didn’t think either figure was him, and he could “tell by looking at it” 3) admitted that he did once wear blackface to look like Michael Jackson in a talent show 4) said that he had to have someone explain to him recently that blackface was considered offensive.

The short version: he’s a babbling, untrustworthy idiot. Continue reading

Dead Ethics Alarms+Blackface+Social Media+Spineless School Administrators= One Hopeless Ethics Train Wreck

Constant reader/commenter/master provocateur Michael Ejercito flagged this story for us, and it had already garnered some interesting commentary before I spotted it.  Michael has a distinct style here and is always asking questions that are the equivalent of firecrackers thrown into a wake. He’s one the longest-enduring participants here, and I haven’t let him know sufficiently how much I appreciate what he contributes.Thanks, Michael.

This is a hopeless ethics train wreck at this point, screwed up beyond all repair. I will note the points at which it all could have been avoided, but really, as it is now, it can only get worse. The thing unfolded like contemporary Shakespeare tragedy, in five acts.

ACT I: In Illinois, photos and video  posted to Snapchat, showed a group of white males wearing blackface pulling up to a fast food drive-thru and making denigrating comments about African-American girls. One of the boys is wearing a sweatshirt from Homewood-Flossmoor High School, where all of them were students.

Morons with dead ethics alarms. No high school student in the United States should be unaware that such a prank/stunt/ unbelievably stupid act and self-publishing the evidence of it is almost—but not quite!—the equivalent of maliciously shouting fire in a crowded theater, and thus deliberately tempting others to react emotionally and destructively. I know, teenage boys are too close to sociopaths for comfort, but conduct  like this indicts their parents, their teachers, and the community, as well as them.

Just to be clear, the reason why this is not quite like shouting fire in a crowded theater is that doing that is deliberately inciting a riot, and thus not legal and protected speech. Blackface is offensive speech, but still legal.

ACT II: A former student of the school re-posted the content to her Facebook page, thus ensuring as much damage as possible.  Over a thousand students and others now knew about the blackface episode, and so did the school district.

This is like someone hearing someone whisper fire in a crowded theater when there is no fire, and then shouting what was whispered to maximize the damage. If the student wanted to alert school officials, then she should have done this responsibly and quietly. Doing what she did was intentionally creating an online mob and inciting as much anger and irrationality as possible. The student was virtue-signaling, while magnifying  the harm done by the original jerks. That is malicious.

ACT III: District 233 superintendent Von Mansfield and Homewood-Flossmoor High School principal Jerry Anderson sent out a letter to parents denouncing the “highly offensive and culturally insensitive” posts, saying,

“The social media postings that were seen and heard were not representative of the high expectations we have for all students that attend our school.This type of behavior is contrary to our expectations, is being addressed quickly and appropriately and will not be tolerated.”

What students do and post to social media off campus and unrelated to school personnel and activities is none of the school’s business. They have no obligation to comment on it or disclaim it.  Let me repeat that: What students do and post to social media off campus and unrelated to school personnel and activities is none of the school’s business. Just because school activists, social justice warriors, busy-bodies, victim-mongers and trouble makers want to start shaking their fists and screaming at clouds over what someone else does, student or not doesn’t mean that the school should take the bait. Wearing blackface is 100% legal, in fact, it is Constitutionally protected. So is saying mean things about black girls, Asian girls, white girls, or Martian girls. The letter from the administrators made a tricky problem worse, and that’s not the moronic boys’ fault, nor the trouble-making ex-student’s fault. It’s their fault. They are supposed to be adults, and more competent, responsible, and reasonable than this.

[No, I do not think the fact that one of the students was wearing a school T-shirt made this a school-related act. If one of the students was wearing a Union Jack T-shirt, I would not assume that Great Britain was behind the episode.]

ACT IV: In an effort to urge administrators to take harsh discipline against the students in the blackface episode, nearly 1,000 of the uninvolved students participated in a walkout,  “chanting their demands for justice.” I assume this means that hackneyed “No justice, no peace” chant that I have come to loathe as much as “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”Students don’t get to dictate discipline to administrators. That is known as “letting the inmates running the asylum.” Every one of the students participating in the protest should have been suspended. The parties responsible for students acting like this are the dim-witted and unethical educators who have allowed and even encouraged student holidays to protest gun control and climate policies. Protesting is not part of high school; it isn’t even a valid component of college.

ACT V: The president and vice president of the district’s board of education reacted by sending  out a letter following the walkout, where they condemned the blackfaced students’ conduct  and praising the “speedy response” from Homewood-Flossmoor administrators, which allegedly includes an investigation. The administrators have no right to investigate legal actions engaged in outside of school not involving other students. The parents of the students should tell the school to back off, and hire some tough lawyers to make the point as vividly as possible. “Our children misbehaved, and this is our job, not yours. You worry about education in the school, we’ll worry about how our kids act out of it.”

The letter read,

“The District 233 Board of Education will be revisiting and moving forward with the diversity and inclusion aspects of our new strategic plan, as they relate to cultural awareness and cultural competency training. Homewood-Flossmoor High School will continue to stand against racism, and against insensitive and disrespectful behavior of any kind, and will take the appropriate and necessary actions to ensure that all students are respected, that our differences are embraced and that our unity is celebrated.”

Oh, ugh, yechh, blechh. More posturing and virtue-signaling out of abject cowardice. “Cultural awareness and cultural competency training” sounds like, and almost certainly will be, political indoctrination. I’d like to see 1000 students walk out over that. You can’t dictate that “all students are respected,” and wearing blackface off school grounds isn’t a show of disrespect for students, since it didn’t involve students other than the jerks in blackface. Nor can students be compelled to embrace differences or to celebrate unity, especially when there is only one kind of unity that Big Brother School District will allow to be celebrated, and because you can’t encourage “differences” while demanding unity.

My review of the play? Everybody involved screwed up, acted without considering consequences or proper boundaries. At this point, this mess can not be fixed. If my son was one of the idiots who wore blackface, I would consider,

  • My own protest to the school and the school district, as well as a law suit for demonizing and endangering my son based on his non-school related conduct.
  • Meeting with every administrator involved and explaining in great detail why they are incompetent fools unqualified to train goats, much less educate children.
  • Taking my son out of the school, and either hone schooling him or shipping him off to military school.
  • Making him regret the day he donned blackface for the rest of his youth, telling him that such privileges as driving, having an email account, using social media or having a cell phone would cease until he was living elsewhere and over 18.

Good job, everybody!

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/5/2019: Knaves, Idiots, And Fools

Good Morning!

1. Stupid lawsuit update. The bitter ex-Ethics Alarms commenter now appealing the obvious ruling by a Massachusetts judge that his vindictive defamation suit against me continued his abuse of process by filing a spurious motion accusing me of contempt of court and perjury, and calling for sanctions.. It’s 100% baloney, but I still have to file an answer, thus wasting more of my time, which is the point. I’m debating whether to note in my opposition to the motion that the man is an asshole.

2. What an idiot, #1: You have been signed to a ridiculous contract by the Philadelphia Phillies, 13 years for $330 million dollars. You waited four months to do so, jamming up the careers and lives of dozens of lesser players because you really didn’t want to play there, and were determined to get a record setting amount. You know the city’s fans are dubious about your loyalty and commitment, though you have stated that you took such a long contract to demonstrate that commitment. Now you are being introduced to your new team, city and fan base after spending all of your career playing for one of their rival in the National League East, the Washington Nationals. Do you carefully plan out what you will say, when you have your turn at the microphone, knowing that one has only one chance to make a good first impression?

Not if you are Bryce Harper. Yesterday, at his press conference, he said that he wanted to bring a World Series title to Washington D.C.

It’s going to be a long 13 years. For everyone.

3.  What an idiot, #2: Special counsel Robert Mueller notified federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson that Roger Stone had sent  an Instagram post which containing a photo of Mueller under the words “Who framed Roger Stone,” despite Stone being under Jackson’s gag order barring him from speaking in public about Mueller’s team and its investigation.
Continue reading

More Blackface Ethics From The Ethics Alarms Double Standards Files: The Zulu Club Parade

In other threads around the blog, I have argued that the politically correct position against black make-up on a non-black individual, which is that it is the equivalent of “blackface” and thus racist per se regardless of the intent or purpose of the wearer or how it is reasonable perceived by others, is the declaration of a taboo rather than a logical argument. We have reached a similar taboo state with the use of the term “nigger” (and I have just violated that taboo by printing the word.) Teachers and professors have been punished for expressly employing the word to discuss racist uses of the word in other contexts. This is obviously bats—such instructors are not engaging in racist speech or intending to do so—but that is how taboos work. It’s like saying “Niagara Falls” in the old vaudeville skit.

Amusingly—hypocritical searches for secret exits when one is hoisted on one’s own petard amuses me—the fact that two Democrats in Virginia were found to have once worn black make-up has set off new safaris on the Left to find  a way to define blackface so the taboo approach doesn’t hurt the good people—you know, anyone who isn’t a conservative or a Republican. Now harsh focus has fallen on a black group that has used blackface for over a century.

The Zulu parade is staged on Mardi Gras by the New Orleans African-American philanthropic and social club. The Zulu Club’s paraders, both black and white, wear blackface and grass skirts, a tradition that began in 1909. How is the Zulu Club’s fun and games different from Gov. Ralph Northam wearing blackface to imitate Michael Jackson—in a nice way, of course?

As far back as 1956, when an NAACP officer criticized the parade’s dress-up,  the Zulu tradition has been controversial.  “It’s always made me cringe,” wrote Jarvis DeBerry, a columnist with the Times-Picayune newspaper on Twitter. “That said, they swear it’s satire.” What? How is THAT a defense? The original blackface was satire, and it was satirizing blacks. Kim Coleman, an African-American woman who is curator of the city’s McKenna Museum of African-American Art, was interviewed by the New York Times and told the paper that she was  offended by “the sight of white people in blackface.” Does that mean black people wearing blackface is OK, because it satirizes white racists satirizing blacks? I presume she knows that black performers during Jim Crow sometimes had to wear blackface to be allowed on stage. That image isn’t disgusting? Continue reading

“Signature Significance For A Very Sick Culture” Redux: Great, Now We Have A Blackface SHOE Scandal…

I thought Nike pulling an all-white shoe because some race-baiting lunatics on social media said it was racist to offer such merchandise on Black History Month was as bad as race victim-mongering hysteria could get in 2019. Boy, was I wrong.

“In order to be respectful and sensitive the team is in the process of pulling the shoes,” a spokesperson for Perry’s shoe line said, according to The Guardian.

Ethics observations: Continue reading