Comment Of The Day: “Back To The 13th Question: Answer It, Stop Grandstanding, Or Shut Up”

Frequent  commenter of distinction Ryan Harkins doesn’t exactly try to answer the”13th Question” ( “What is the “systemic reform regarding race in America” that the George Floyd protests purport to be seeking?”), but at least he advances the discussion by trying to define the problem, which is a whole lot more than anything we have heard from media pundits and elected officials over the last week, and they have fallen all over themselves trying be seen as allying with the right “side.”

This seems like a propitious place to raise this article from Foreign Affairs that readers Wesley49 has proposed for discussion. “I would love to hear the opinions and insights from this thread’s contributors in trying to answer your 13th Question,” he wrote. I have a lot of problems with the piece, which typifies, I think, the academic/scholarly equivocation around this issue, but I won’t pre-bias the discussion more than that.

Here is Ryan Harkins’ Comment of the Day —which has the added pleasure of some great quotes—on the post, “Back To The 13th Question: Answer It, Stop Grandstanding, Or Shut Up”:

The problem with trying to end racism is that it runs aground the basic human impulse to “other” people who are different. It has been a practice of mankind from the beginning, and even our very best of societies will constantly struggle with the temptation to “other” the people who at the very least aren’t playing along.

“Othering” is to make someone an outcast from the group, and to place blame on them for the groups problems. Theologians have referred to it as scapegoating. If someone looks different, dresses different, acts different, talks different, there will be the temptation to mock that person, ostracize that person, and perhaps even blame that person for everything that is going wrong. Then, if you can destroy that person, then magically all the problems will go away.

“You want to know what’s wrong with this nation? It’s those damned Republicans trying to horde all the wealth.” “You want to know what’s wrong with this nation? It’s those damned Democrats who are trying socialize everything.” “You want to know what’s wrong with this nation? It’s all those hateful religious folk.” “… It’s all those LGBT people destroying family values.” “…It’s all those white supremacists trying to suppress minorities.” “…It’s all those anti-vaxers…” “…It’s those climate change deniers…” “…It’s those power hungry people who treat science like a religion…” Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Two Public School Educators Duke It Out In Class: What’s Going On Here?”

Recently minted Ethics Alarms participant Ryan Harkins has his first Comment of the Day, and when I read it, I knew it would not be his last. This one does what my favorite comments do: pick up the baton from my original post, and carry it down the track (or, in some cases, throw it into the crowd.) The topic was the classroom fistfight in an Atlanta middle school.

Here is Ryan Harkins’ Comment of the Day on the post,Two Public School Educators Duke It Out In Class: What’s Going On Here?”:

Jack, the only quibble I have is when you say that you don’t care what the fight was about. I think it is important to learn what the fight was about, because then it gets us into the heads of the combatants, and that is what allows us to start the investigation that goes all the way up. The reason I think this requires a little explanation, so please forgive the lengthy rambling to follow.

I have to admit, my bias in this matter comes from dealing with incident investigations at my refinery, and the various training courses we’ve received in how to conduct such investigations. The one that really stands out the most is called “Latent Cause Analysis”, championed by Robert Nelms. The premise is that all incidents, even if we are speaking of a pump aggressively disassembling itself, ultimately are traced back to human causes. In the case of a pump, yes entropy will eventually have its way with the best-built pump in the world, but the reason the pump failed while it was in service causing a major incident is rooted in human causes.

Continue reading

Tony C., Chaos, and the Ethics of Blame

“And then one night

The kid in right

Lies sprawling in the dirt.

The fastball struck him square—he’s down!

Is Tony badly hurt?”

Just about everyone who lived in Boston, Massachusetts in 1967 knows that bit of doggerel, an epic poem written to commemorate the Boston Red Sox miracle “Impossible Dream” pennant that year. Tony, “the kid in right,” was Tony Conigliaro, or Tony C. for short, the 22-year-old Italian stud from nearby Swampscott who was ticketed for the Hall of Fame. Tony had everything: looks, talent, an adoring hometown public and a flair for the dramatic—everything but luck. On August 19, 43 years ago today, an errant pitch from Angels starter Jack Hamilton struck him in the face, nearly killing him. The beaning began a series of events that turned “The Tony Conigliaro Story” from a feel-good romp to an epic tragedy. He was never quite the same after the beaning, though he bravely played three more seasons with a hole in his vision he never told anyone about. He quit, tried pitching, actually made a second comeback that was derailed by injuries, and quit again. He was about to become the Red Sox cable TV color man when he suffered an inexplicable heart attack that left him brain-damaged and an invalid until his death, at only 45, in 1990.

Since 1967, there has been a storyline connected with Tony C.’s beaning, and it resurfaces every year. Let’s have an enthusiastic Red Sox blogger tell the tale: Continue reading