Either our nation is committed to the principles of freedom of thought, speech, expression and association, or it is not.
With that preface, here is the kind of gray area, bizarre fact pattern controversy that puts ethical analysis to the test.
In the Muskegon County (Michigan) town of Holton, African-American Rob Mathias, accompanied by his wife and children, was walking through the home of Charles Anderson, a local police officer, with the intent of possibly purchasing it. Then he saw a framed Klu Klux Klan application hanging on a wall, as well as several Confederate flags. He and his family immediately left the property.
Later he posted a photograph of the KKK application on Facebook, (above) explaining later that he felt it was something the public had a right to know about, especially if the officer had a history of questionable interactions with African Americans. Mathias wrote that Anderson “was one of the most racist people” in the community and “hiding behind his uniform.” The post was also personal and threatening, concluding with “I know who you are and will be looking for resources to expose your prejudice.”
The Facebook post triggered an internal investigation of Anderson, and he was placed on administrative leave. “We do take this sort of issue, seriously, and we are working hard to understand if/how this may impact his ability to safely and fairly police our community,” Muskegon City Manager Frank Peterson reporters. Muskegon County NAACP President Eric Hood piled on, saying, “We want a thorough investigation to be sure that when he goes out there and puts on that uniform and performs his duties as an officer that he’s being fair and impartial.”
“I’m still disgusted by it. I’m hurt,” said Mathias “You can’t serve your community and be a racist. You can’t. There are people of all different colors, of all different nationalities … out there that you have to serve and protect. You can’t just protect one group of people.”
Rachel Anderson, the officer’s wife, told reporters that her husband is not and never was a KKK member. She said he was a collector, and called the uproar a misunderstanding.
Mathias’ wife said in rebuttal,
“I like antiques, but I collect things that I represent. You can go in my basement, we have Detroit Lions, Red Wings, Michigan stuff, everything we associate ourselves with.So why would you collect something you don’t associate with yourself?”
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