Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/29/2019: Updates, Coincidences And Suspicions [CORRECTED]

The same as what?

I heard this song yesterday for the first time in many years, and immediately wondered how many people  my son’s age (he’s 24) or even older would know what “Spanky and Our Gang” referred to. Then I made the mistake of briefly watching HGTV’s “A Very Brady Renovation” and saw to my horror that all the “Brady Bunch” kids are senior citizens. “Who’s that old lady? OHMYGOD It’s JAN!!!!”

1. Well, it was nice while it lasted...Traffic here increased by about 30% over three days last week after Facebook slipped up and allowed a link to one Ethics Alarms—it violates Facebook community standards, don’t you know— post to be circulated on among users.

2. Here’s a poll on the previous post, about a controversial joke related to the Texas governor’s disability that was made by a female judge. Governor Abbott has been in a wheelchair ever since he was struck by a falling tree almost 40 years ago. Noting that Texas Republicans have opposed proposed environment-minded legislation, “even local tree ordinances,”  the judge quipped to her partisan Democratic crowd, “Governor Abbott hates trees because one fell on him.”

While we’re on the subject of polls, the Ethics Alarms readers were strongly opposed to the course of action discussed here, here, and here, with about 88% holding that a Swedish man should not have allowed a doctor to euthanize his sister despite her past consent to the procedure, because she was resisting.

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Ethics Quiz (And Poll): The Cop And The KKK Application

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?” 

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Has this situation been handled fairly, responsibly and ethically? Continue reading