Tag Archives: political correctness

Comment Of The Day: “Racist Political Correctness, Casting Ethics, Double Standards, And The Rock”

Yes, this comment has little to do with ethics, but it’s so interesting as a supplement to the main post that it deserves greater circulation.

Here is Pennagain’s fascinating Comment of the Day on the weekend’s post, Racist Political Correctness, Casting Ethics, Double Standards, And The Rock:

I knew there were at least two versions of the song, “The Ballad of John Henry,” but I’ve so far found dozens more online, most of them having umpteen verses, and a work-song rhythm – the most basic of which my 7-year-old self stomped in that driving stop-rhythm around the classroom (chanting?), with that hammer-driving oomph! at the end of each line, to lyrics like “gonna die with the hammer in mah han’, Lord, Lord”.

For what it’s worth, a “real” John Henry is pretty well authenticated in at least one version of the story, ending fatally at the C&O’s Big Bend Tunnel in Talcott, West Virginia.

From KPBS’ “The African-American Railroad Experience”, built on Theodore Kornweibel’s photographic history: The entire southern railroad network built during the slavery era was built almost exclusively by slaves. Some of the railroads owned slaves, other hired or rented from slave owners [later from contracted freedmen or convict work-gangs]. And. . . women as well as men were actually involved in the hard, dangerous, brutal work. … several of the song versions finish with John Henry telling his wife to pick up the hammer and continue the job.

Negative evidence of Henry’s race would be that none of the many, many verses of the songs (recorded by 38 singers besides Ives) nor folk references – negro dialect aside (arguably stretched to “Suthun,”) – refer to that figure as being other than black. And as a black man, and a real, live “Everyman” working-man’s hero, he is proudly and fiercely claimed by South Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky . . . and Jamaica. Continue reading

22 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Comment of the Day, History, Race, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society

Racist Political Correctness, Casting Ethics, Double Standards, And The Rock

Oh look, another racist “you’re not black enough” casting controversy!

(Here was a previous one…)

Dwayne Johnson, the action hero known as The Rock, announced last week that he’ll be producing and starring in the film “John Henry and the Statesmen” about the black folk hero who died after defeating a steam-driven machine that supposedly would lay track faster than human beings could. Johnson, one of the top drawing box-office stars in 2017 and 2016, said John Henry was one of his “childhood heroes” and that his father, former pro wrestler Rocky Johnson, used to sing “Big John” to him before he put him to sleep as a kid.

Well, I don’t understand the “Big John” reference at all. The Jimmy Dean hit (yes, the sausage guy) was about a mine worker who dies saving his colleagues in a cave-in, and there was nothing in the song suggesting he was black, just BIG, like Dwayne Johnson. Here’s the song…

But I digress…

Continue reading

22 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Race, U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/8/2018: Weenies, Dummies, Hypocrites And Creeps.

Good Morning!

1. But before we get into the ugly part..I want to recommend an article called “Rationalizations for Unethical Behavior in Tech” over at Medium. The writer, April Wensel, is the proprietor of the Compassionate Coding site.

Her article specifically employs several of the rationalizations on the Ethics Alarms list, quotes me with attribution, and does a terrific job demonstrating what the list is there for, and how it can and should be used. Thanks, April!

2. And here is another reason you can’t trust the media: journalists often aren’t very bright or well-educated.  NBC reporter Ken Dilanian opined on Twitter after Kavanaugh was confirmed that…

It may not happen in our lifetimes, but the idea that North Dakota and New York get the same representation in the Senate has to change. “Senators representing less than half the U.S. are about to confirm a nominee opposed by most Americans” https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/10/06/senators-representing-less-than-half-us-are-about-confirm-nominee-opposed-by-most-americans/ 

To begin with, quoting that Post piece is signature significance for a partisan media hack.  “Most Americans” have insufficient information to oppose or support Kavanaugh on a substantive basis, and uninformed opinions are worthless at best. If “most Americans” opposed him, it was because they were misled, propagandized and fear-mongered into ignorance and bias. This is why we don’t elect Supreme Court justices. The complaint about the Senate that Dilanian glommed onto can be translated as “The Senate is the Senate.” It was designed not to represent the population as a whole, but the states, their interests and their cultures. “It may not happen in our lifetimes” is a statement of ignorance of what it would take to fundamentally change one of the three branches of government from its original form. I’d suggest to Ken that he try reading the Constitution, especially the formula for amending it. The chances that two-thirds of the states will accede to a new Senate construction that lets the big states dictate to the small ones are exactly zero, or essentially the same as the chances that the Electoral College will be abolished.

Dilanian is NBC’s intelligence and national security reporter and frequently appears on MSNBC, and now we know that the network’s intelligence reporter doesn’t understand his own country.

3. Be proud, Democrats! A Democratic Senator I had been blissfully unaware of  until the Kavanaugh nomination stepped up during the  hearings to reveal herself as exemplifying the ugly side of the partisan divide. Hawaii Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono said that the fact that Kavanaugh was conservative was all she needed to determine that he was lying, for example. She’s a virulent bigot. Yesterday, she was asked twice by CNN’s Dana Bash about whether she thought harassing Republican senators in restaurants was inappropriate. She wouldn’t say “Yes,” sending a clear message that her real position is “No.”

Here’s the exchange: Continue reading

29 Comments

Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Science & Technology, Social Media

From The Ethics Alarms “NOW What The Heck Are We Supposed To Do?” Files: Our Values-Addled Colleges

The cultural and societal chaos that has descended like a crazed raptor on America can be traced to, among other things, the deterioration and corruption of our elite educational institutions, which have abandoned their mission, education, for indoctrination, and their obligation, opening young minds, for the opposite: closing them. One of my alma maters, Harvard, has declared that it will punish male students for off-campus associations, and arrogantly insists that its policy of discriminating against Asian Americans for the benefit of African Americans is fair and necessary.  Another, Georgetown, absurdly asserts that there is nothing inappropriate about employing a professor who proclaims her violent bigotry against men, whites, and those with whom she disagrees on political matters. At USC, a dean has announced that sanctions must be taken against a professor who remind students of basic principles of justice, such as the ensuring that those accused have due process and the presumption of innocence.

These are not cherry-picked anomalies. These are typical of what American higher education has become. I got another reminder while being stuck in an airport yesterday, which afforded me the opportunity to read the literary review “The New Criterion.” The October issue included an update on the ridiculous controversy at Yale, where a professor and his wife, a lecturer, were driven out of their jobs and the school because she opined that students needed to lighten up in their political correctness fanaticism regarding Halloween costumes:

Yale University quietly bestowed a Sterling Professorship, its highest academic position, on the sociologist and medical doctor Nicholas Christakis this summer. Many readers will remember the Christakis Affair. It unfolded early in November 2015 when Christakis, then the Master of Silliman, a residential college at that super-rich bastion of privilege and self-satisfaction, had the temerity to defend his wife Erika from an angry mob of students. Her tort? Suggesting in a public memo that college students be allowed to choose their own Halloween costumes…

An amateur video of the confrontation between Nicholas Christakis and that angry mob of students went viral. It is worth looking up. Christakis is a model of desperate restraint. In soft, reasonable tones, he explains that an academic community depends upon good will, and patience, and respect for alternative points of view. The trembling mob was having none of that. They shouted and swore and berated Christakis, exploding in a manufactured fury that was both alarming and contemptible. “I apologize, I’m sorry,” Christakis wailed at one point. Too late.

…The Christakises resigned from their position as heads of Silliman College. Erika left off teaching at Yale altogether. Nicholas, a highly decorated academic, took a sabbatical. Then Yale bestowed its “Nakanishi Prize” on two of the student ringleaders, Alexandra Zina Barlowe and Abdul-Razak Mohammed Zachariah—potential employers take note—for … “exemplary leadership in enhancing race and/or ethnic relations at Yale College.”

…Peter Salovey, the spineless president of Yale, responded to related student demands (made around midnight at his private residence) by shoveling $50 million to various “diversity” initiatives. Yale dropped the title “Master” because some illiterate students thought the word had racial rather than scholarly overtones. Salovey also convened (again, you cannot make this up) a Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming and a Committee on Art in Public Spaces to scrutinize the names of things at Yale and the university’s publicly displayed art for signs of political incorrectitude. Calhoun College, named for the U.S. Vice President and Yale alumnus John Calhoun, was changed because Calhoun not only owned slaves but thought slavery was a good thing. (So did Samuel F. B.Morse, for whom another Yale college is named, but Shh! don’t tell anyone.) Stained glass windows depicting slaves working in the fields were vandalized, others were hustled away for safekeeping, as were various sculptures: a bas-relief at the Yale Library, for example, which depicted a Pilgrim carrying a musket.

….Surmising, no doubt correctly, that the public appetite for outrage had moved on, Yale decided it was time to make amends to Nicholas Christakis and offer him the tasty sop of a coveted professorship. After all, deep down, Christakis was one of them, a paid-up member of the progressive brotherhood. He had been unexpectedly blindsided by an event that no one could have foreseen. Quietly, quietly, then, he has been rehabilitated and given an extra pat on the head. He is “deeply honored,” of course, and “eager to make [him]self useful to Yale’s mission.”

The worst and most frightening part of the tale is the ending. Christakis’s groveling capitulation, stating that he is deeply honored, and “eager to make [him]self useful to Yale’s mission” is the exact equivalent of the final line in “1984,” in which Winston accepts that he loves Big Brother. Continue reading

36 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Education, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, U.S. Society

Ethics Hero: Kwame Anthony Appiah, a.k.a. “The Ethicist”

In the past, I mostly visited the New York Times Magazine “The Ethicist” column to take issue with the succession of ethics amateurs and ethicist wannabes the Times employed as its ethics advice columnist. Once Kwame Anthony Appiah took over, this wasn’t as much fun, and I admit I don’t even check the column that often. Appiah is a real ethicist, and knows what he’s doing. I sometimes disagree with his conclusions, but he reaches them using valid ethical analysis, and seldom employs bias or rationalizations.

A recent column, however, deserves special praise. The inquirer asked what the ethical course would be to handle historical artifacts that reflected racist attitudes and artwork, like the card pictured above. The writer concluded her question…

I offered it to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. I never heard from them, so it moved with us. My husband thinks I should throw it away, but that feels wrong. I feel it is history that we should acknowledge, however painful and wrong. Your thoughts?

“The Ethicist’s” response is note-perfect, even with my intentional omission of its best and most surprising section. I’m doing this so you will hit the link and read the full column. Appiah wrote in part,

I am not a fan of the intentional destruction of historical artifacts….It’s a familiar thought that we need to understand our past, not least in order to help us avoid repeating the worst aspects of it. So your impulse to offer this souvenir card to a museum seems right. Of course, the sort of document you describe is well represented in collections already, and this may be why you didn’t hear back. But who knows whether there isn’t something about it that a historian might find useful in unpacking some detail of the history of American racial attitudes?

So if you think this card does have historical value, and you can’t readily find an interested archive or scholar, you could just put it up for sale on eBay, say, where it will join a large assemblage of racist artifacts. You can’t guarantee that you’ll approve of the motives of the buyer, but someone who is willing to pay for it is most likely to preserve it.

Given that your motives are honorable, I don’t share your worry about profiting from the sale. Selling an image isn’t endorsing its message. And my guess is that most contemporary collectors of such items aren’t motivated by racism. Still, if you want to avoid profiting, there’s an easy solution. Just send the proceeds to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. That’s an offer they won’t turn down. Continue reading

14 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Race, U.S. Society

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: The ‘Racist, Sexist’ Cartoon”

Occasionally I request a comment from a regular reader who has special expertise; for example, I have asked “Curmie,” a drama teacher, director and superb blogger when he has the time, to weigh in on theater and casting ethics controversies. (And I just remembered that the last time he commented, he submitted a Comment of the Day that I neglected to post! Arghhh! I’m sorry, Curmie…it will be up today.) This time, the surprisingly lively debate over the allegedly racist Serena Williams cartoon prompted me to send out a Bat Signal for the reactions of King Kool, aka Jeff H., who is a long-time reader and a cartoonist himself. (His submission for “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” periodically appears in the Ethics Alarms header.) He answered the call, and did so superbly.

There have been some new developments. The cartoonist, Mark Knight, has suspended his Twitter account because of all the hate coming his way.  Knight said he was amazed at the reaction to his drawing. “I drew this cartoon Sunday night after seeing the US Open final, and seeing the world’s best tennis player have a tantrum and thought that was interesting,” he said. “The cartoon about Serena is about her poor behavior on the day, not about race.”

Popular Australian Broadcaster Neil Mitchell, among others, defended Knight, saying, “This shows an awful misunderstanding of Mark Knight and this country. I looked at that cartoon and it didn’t even cross my mind it was about race. It was a sports bully, a petulant child throwing a tantrum about losing…I drew her as an African-American woman. She’s powerfully built. She wears these outrageous costumes when she plays tennis. She’s interesting to draw. I drew her as she is, as an African-American woman.”

As I have explained elsewhere on the Ethics Quiz thread, the reason I made the issue a quiz rather than an ethics  position post is that Knight’s  cartoon struck me as racially provocative.

I believe it is racially insensitive, but I am not certain that in the field of opinion cartooning racial sensitivities should be ignored. If a white, male player who behaved like Williams—it is astounding that so many pundits are defending her—a mocking, tough cartoon, showing ugly conduct  by portraying its perpetrator as symbolically ugly would be appropriate. I do  not think it is fair or healthy for special immunity to be granted to a similarly misbehaving player, especially a repeat offender like Williams, because of her race and gender. This why my vote in the poll accompanying the quiz was the somewhat tongue-in-cheek, “Whatever it was, she deserved it.” 

That response has gleaned 13% of the votes, with over 72% voting for the position that it’s just a cartoon. Against the 85% that are inclined to support Knight (all old white men who are constitutionally unable to recognize sexism and racism, according to one unbiased, unbigoted commenter), 14% agree that the cartoons is “racist.”

To its credit, Knight’s paper, the Herald Sun, took the remarkable step of devoting its entire front page to Knight’s defense, which you see above.

Here is Jeff H.’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Quiz: The “Racist, Sexist” Cartoon:

One of the reasons I didn’t pursue doing political cartoons is because… no matter how much I practiced at it, I am absolutely awful at caricature. I tried drawing John Kerry dozens of times, and could never get it down. (Not that it ended up mattering.)

The image of Serena Williams has been called ‘something out of 1910,’ which I think it an exaggeration. However, the large lips, even the ponytail pointed straight up… to me, it does invoke some insensitive imagery of old caricatures and similar things. Maybe even the pose itself, her being completely in the air, maybe that is bothering some people for possibly comparing her motion to that of primitive man, or even that particular animal that racist jerks compare persons of color to. But that might be a stretch.

Again, that’s just my interpretation. I am not ascribing blame or intention. All I’m saying is… if the cartoon looked indubitably like Serena Williams, people would have a lot less to complain about, even if you could focus on part of it and say it parallels older racist art.

If it were me drawing this cartoon, I would have had Serena facing away from the ‘camera’ if I couldn’t make it look like her. The whiny facial expression isn’t important visually. We see her stomping the racket to pieces and the pacifier. The intention is clear. And thus, now that face is all we’re talking about. Continue reading

33 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Professions, Race, Social Media, Sports

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/11/18: As They Read The Names Of The Twin Towers Bombing…

Sad morning….

1. Serena ethics updates An indignant Facebook friend appeals to authority by telling me that  Chris Evert and Billie Jean King are defending Williams, and that they know more about professional tennis than I do. That’s a classic appeal to authority, and a very lame one. What a surprise that female tennis superstars have each others’ back! Chris and Billie Jean sure aren’t ethicists. I’d love to interview them. “So you believe that coaching from the stands, even though forbidden by the rules, should be allowed? Do you think that an unknown player who behaved like Serena did would have been treated any differently? Do you think that anyone would be supporting her if she were penalized? Since the record shows that Ramos does not treat men any differently than he treats women on the court, doesn’t Serena owe him an apology? Can you comprehend why calling a ref, whose reputtaion depends on being regarded as fair and unbiased, a “thief” is worse that calling him a “four-letter word”?

I can play the biased expert witness game too: here’s Martina Navratilova’s op ed, which is comparatively ethically astute and tracks with my post in many respects.

The polls about Mark Knight’s “racist and sexist” cartoon has these results:

85% side with Knight. I’d love to hear the explanation of the one voter who said the cartoon was sexist but not racist.

The reason I made the issue an ethics quiz is because I’m really torn in the issue. Yes, cartoons of blacks employing exaggerated features naturally evoke Jim Crow and minstrel show racist images. But political cartoons exaggerate features, often in unflattering ways. That’s the art form. Does this mean that blacks are immune from ever being portrayed cruelly in a political cartoon? I think that’s what the anti-Knight contingent is arguing.

My view is that double standards are destructive and unethical. By the by, were Jimmy Carter’s lips that big?

Continue reading

62 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Race, Rights, Sports, Workplace