Ethics Quote Of The Week: Heather MacDonald [Expanded]

Swan Lake

“The destruction being carried on in this post-George Floyd moment cannot be overstated. Everything in the West’s cultural inheritance, whether in music, literature, or art, is coming down….Visual and kinetic uniformity in a corps de ballet was an aesthetic ideal; it, too, had nothing to do with race. Yet that uniformity must now fall so that no individual ballet dancer feels that her precious diversity currency is devalued.”

Social commentator Heather MacDonald, in her depressing report, “Beside the Pointe:
Diversity and bias obsessions come for ‘Swan Lake’

It’s a fascinating case study of how the George Floyd Freakout, combined with ruthless determination of minority activists to exploit that tragedy to grab power, and the utter failure of sniveling organization leaders to demonstrate the requisite spine that any institution requires in its leadership, is resulting in cultural carnage with few countervailing benefits.

The iceman cometh late for the weird world of classic ballet, as MacDonald, obviously a fan (I am not) points out:

Classical ballet has largely escaped the revisionist destruction that hit the opera and theater stages years ago. Amazingly, audiences could still see Swan Lake and La Bayadere as their choreographers and composers intended them, with all the conventions and costumes of nineteenth-century fairytale intact…. the adolescent politicizing that has been inflicted on defenseless operas has been absent from the ballet stage. That immunity has undoubtedly now ended. Expect to see classical ballets wrenched awkwardly into dumbshows about social justice.

Oh, I do, I do. She relates a race controversy from two years ago, when the Staatsballett Berlin mounted “Swan Lake,” in which white body paint has traditionally been used on the ballerinas to create the illusion that the dancers are swans. The company’s ballet mistress told the company’s one black dancer to use the body make-up like the rest of the dancers. When she protested that she’d never look white, the mistress responded, “Well, you will have to put on more than the other girls.”

Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Month: Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers

“While we do not have all of the details yet, what we know for certain is that he is not the first Black man or person to have been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or our country, We stand with all those who have and continue to demand justice, equity, and accountability for Black lives in our country.”

—Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers (D…naturally) in a statement following an officer involved shooting in Kenosha last night, before any investigation has occurred, knowing that the rioters were already gearing up to cause violence and destruction.

And, of course, violence and destruction is what he got.

Police have not commented on what led to the shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  He was taken to Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee after being shot multiple times, in the back, as he appeared to be entering his car and perhaps reaching for something. (I’m no expert, but doesn’t the fact that more than one cop reflexively started shooting suggest that there was  a reason other than “Oh!Here’s an uarmed black man: let’s shoot him”?)

At this point, the important facts are not known, just irrelevant facts injected into the story to make the police look like villains. Blake was apparently shot in front of his kids. Irrelevant.  It is said that he was trying to break up a fight between two women—he’s a peacemaker!—which is what precipitated the police call. Irrelevant. What is relevant is why the police fired, and what action Blake was engaged in or appeared to be engaged in immediately before the shooting. That is not clear in the video. Continue reading

Another Unarmed Black Man Is Shot And Killed By Police In Atlanta, And Facts Don’t Matter [UPDATED!]

As Samuel L. Jackson says (repeatedly) in “Jurassic Park,” “Hold on to your butts!”

An unarmed black man was shot and killed in a confrontation with police last night in Atlanta, and protesters are already gearing up. The Atlanta Chief of Police quickly resigned, which is either smart or cowardly, I’m not sure which. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms already called for the officer who fired the fatal shots to be terminated—no investigation, no due process. This is the procedure Colin Kaepernick favors.

What happened? Oh, nobody knows for sure, but that doesn’t matter any more, right? It’s a black man, shot by police, so there is a presumption of racism. We’re still in the middle of the George Floyd Freakout, so the incident is automatically part of the same narrative. Facts don’t matter, logic doesn’t  matter, fairness and consequences don’t matter. Activists are looking for an excuse to protest, or worse. See the photo? The only facts anyone cares about is that a black man was shot by police. It wouldn’t matter if he were rabid and tried to bite the officers like the zombies in “World War Z.”

Last night’s incident began about 10:30 p.m. outside a Wendy’s  on University Avenue. Wendy’s employees called the police after receiving a complaint about a man asleep in his vehicle in the Drive-in line, which forced other customers to go around his car to get their food at the window.  Responding to the call was the police’s first mistake. They should have asked if the man was black, and upon receiving an answer in the affirmative, should have told Wendy’s, “Sorry, you’re on your own.  We’d deal with it if the guy was white, but we can’t afford any situation these where a black guy might get gets hurt. Let him sleep it off. ‘Bye!” Continue reading

The Ethics Mess That Is U.S. Race Relations, Chapter IV: Prof. Henry Louis Gates Has Learned Nothing

A recent interview in the New York Times Magazine reminded me once again of what an arrogant, race-baiting, self-deluded and toxic presence Harvard Prof. Henry Louis Gates is on the American society landscape. It was Professor Gates, you will recall, who provoked a  racial incident with a white Cambridge , Massachusetts police officer who was investigating a report that an African American male  had broken into Gates’ home. The  African American male was Gates himself, who had returned from a trip to find his door jammed, and jimmied his own front door.  When Cambridge  police Sgt. James Crowley arrived at Gates’ abode to investigate a 911 call that said that two African American men had broken into the house,  Gates answered the door and immediately accused the officer of racially profiling him. He eventually flashed his Harvard ID, then demanded the officers name and ID number as well. The officer asked him to come outside for that information, and Gates came out onto his porch, again accused him of racial bias, shouted over his words and insulted him. The officer, who was a trainer in the area of avoiding racial prejudice, asked the professor to calm down Gates continued to shout, and a crowd was  gathering. After warning Gates that he was disturbing the peace, and would be arrested if he didn’t go inside—Gates kept saying it was his porch and he’d stay outside if he chose to—Crowley took the Harvard professor into custody.

Charges were quickly dropped, but Barack Obama, in a pattern that continued throughout his Presidency, weighed in on an event he know little about, and pronounced the white officer the villain of the  episode. (Gates was a friend of the President’s, and, of course, the African American.) Obama was properly criticized for his knee-jerk reaction by many, including me. (My multiple articles about this mess are still trapped on the old Ethics Scoreboard, currently off line because the hosting company messed up.) Embarrassed, as he deserved to be, Obama pulled a transparent public relations stunt of inviting the white cop and the black scholar to the White House for a so-called “beer summit.”

In a word, “Yecchh.” Continue reading

The Ethics Mess That Is US Race Relations, Chapter II: Playing Rosa Parks

I don’t understand why this story should even be news, but the fact that it was treated as news, and worse, promoted as news by an NAACP official, is significant , disturbing, but, sadly, not at all surprising.

Sherrilyn Ifill,  the president and director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in New York, was returning to Baltimore from New York on Amtrak last week  as she often does. She was sitting in a general-admission area of a largely empty passenger car when a female junior conductor asked her to leave her seat and move into another car  because she had “other people coming who she wants to give this seat.”

Now as it happens, I was once asked to move to another Amtrak car. I had no idea why, but assumed there was a good reason, and the inconvenience was negligible.  Maybe a large group was getting on at the next stop. It was, simply, not a big deal. I’ve been asked to change seats on airlines, too, sometimes with an explanation, sometimes not.

But then, I’m not a high official with a civil rights advocacy organization with an interest in exacerbating racial disharmony in order to sat in business. . Ifill tweeted, “When I was laying [the junior conductor] out to the conductor, at one point, I said, ‘I can sit where I want,’ and I thought, ‘This isn’t 1950.” Continue reading

Your Ethics Reading Assignment: “The Cost Of America’s Cultural Revolution”

I swear, when I wrote the recent post about the lawsuit against the use of the standard college admissions tests, I had not read nor was even aware of Heather MacDonald’s superb essay on the topic of the manipulation of higher education in pursuit of ideological domination. (Thanks and gratitude to Instapundit for the timely link.)

Here is a taste:

The social-justice diversity bureaucracy has constructed a perpetual-motion machine that guarantees it eternal life. Minority students who have been catapulted by racial preferences into schools for which they are not academically prepared frequently struggle in their classes. The cause of those struggles, according to the social-justice diversity bureaucracy, is not academic mismatch; it is the lack of a critical mass of other minority students and faculty to provide refuge from the school’s overwhelming bigotry. And so, the school admits more minority students to create such a critical mass. Rather than raising minority performance, however, this new influx of diverse students lowers it, since the school has had to dig deeper into the applicant pool. The academic struggles and alienation of minority students will increase, along with the demand for more diversity bureaucrats, more segregated safe spaces, more victimology courses, more mental health workers, more diverse faculty, more lowered standards, and of course, more diversity student admits. And the cycle will start all over again.

And another…

The ultimate social-justice solution to the skills and behavior gap is to remove the competition entirely. From the moment children enter school, they are berated for their white heteronormative patriarchal privilege if they fall outside a favored victim group. Any success that they enjoy is not due to their own efforts, they are told; it is due, rather, to the unfair advantages of a system deliberately designed to handicap minorities. Teachers are now advised to ignore white male students, since asking or answering questions in class is another mark of male supremacy.

Please read it all, here.

There will be a quiz.

Eureka! Here’s One Way To Guarantee Diversity In College Admissions: Eliminate Objective Standards

Oh, it can’t be you! It’s always the test.

A group of students, advocacy groups and a primarily black and Hispanic California school district filed suit against the University of California last week,  alleging that  the SAT and ACT college admission tests discriminate  against black and Hispanic students and demanding that the school stop using standardized test scores in its admissions process.

The theory that the tests are biased against poor and mainly black and Hispanic students concludes that the system illegally discriminates against applicants on the basis of their race, wealth or disabilities, thus denying them equal protection under the California Constitution. This battle has been fought before, of course. There was a time, decades ago, when foes of standardized testing could point to test questions referring to yachting and Western philosophers, baking in a bias that handicapped students fromracial and ethnic  sub-cultures in America. Those prejudicial questions have been purged, but the long-time disparity between the test scores of white and Asian applicants on one side and black and Hispanic students on the other continues. Continue reading

Once Again, The Unwarranted Presumption Of Racism

“What’s that kid doing up there?”

If something undesirable happens to an African American, the culture is pushing the norm that the misfortune ought to be presumed to be the result of racism until decisively proven otherwise. Similarly, if a white individual is responsible for a black citizen’s plight, deserved or not, the white individual’s motivations are also presumed to be based on racial animus.

Both presumptions are nothing less than sanctified bias and prejudice, as much so as racism itself.

A case study from Washington, D.C.:

About a hundred seventh and eighth-grade students from Shelton Intermediate School in Shelton, Connecticut were visiting the nation’s Capital last week. The group was supervised by twelve chaperones, and the itinerary included the usual museums, monuments and landmarks, including the newest attraction, the Smithsonian’s  African American Museum.

While touring the museum, a male student leaned over a balcony and drooled or spit down on the visitors below. His saliva struck one of them, and the victim was black.  As a result of the incident, the entire group was ejected from the museum. Continue reading

A Jury Gets An Unarmed Black Victim Cop Shooting Right, But The Reasons Why Are Significant

From the AP: “A white former Dallas police officer who said she fatally shot her unarmed, black neighbor after mistaking his apartment for her own was found guilty of murder on Tuesday. A jury reached the verdict in Amber Guyger’s high-profile trial for the killing of Botham Jean after six days of witness testimony but just a handful of hours of deliberation. Cheers erupted in the courthouse as the verdict was announced, and someone yelled “Thank you, Jesus!”

I am surprised at the murder verdict; I expected a manslaughter conviction, and thought that prosecutors may have over-charged.

Nonetheless, a guilty verdict was necessary. It must be remembered, however, that few of the factors typically present in cases where cops have been acquitted for shooting unarmed black citizens existed here. The victim, Botham Jean, did nothing to justify his shooting, indeed nothing to justify having a confrontation with police at all. He didn’t resist a lawful arrest or threaten the officer. Amber Guyger was absolutely and completely responsible for his death in every way. She may have thought her life was in danger, but she was ridiculously wrong, and even if Jean had threatened her, he had every right to do so. She was, to him, a home invader.

In such circumstances as these, none of the usual sympathy that juries have for police officers and their dangerous duties while protecting the public applies. Guyger wasn’t trying to protect the public; she wasn’t even on duty. A jury would naturally sympathize with the victim; if a confused cop could barge into his home and start shooting, it could happen to any juror. Did race play a part in the verdict? I hope not. Whatever the verdict was, there was no evidence to suggest that Jean was killed because of his race.

It will be interesting to see what sentence the jury recommends. I feel sorry for Guyger: she was badly trained, she may have been exhausted from an over-long shift, and there is no reason she wanted to kill Jean, or anyone. Yet with power comes responsibility, and with responsibility comes accountability.

I just re-read my post from a year ago about this case. You might want to read it again too. I’ve re-posted the whole essay below.

I could easily put this story in the Ethics Alarms Zugzwang file, because I see no analysis or result that won’t make the situation worse.

A white off-duty police officer named Amber R. Guyger  entered the apartment of  Botham Shem Jean, a 26 year old accountant, and fired her service weapon twice at him, killing the St. Lucia immigrant. She claims that she mistakenly entered the wrong apartment after returning home from her 14-hour shift and believed  Jean, who is black, was an intruder.

Indeed, her apartment was directly below his. She had inexplicably parked her car on the 4th floor, where Jean’s residence was, rather than the 3rd floor, where hers was. So far, there is no indication that the shooter and the victim knew each other. Guyger had a clean record. Other facts are in dispute. The officer told investigators the apartment door was  ajar and then fully opened when she inserted her computerized chip key. That seems possible but unlikely.  Lawyers for  Jean’s family say the door was closed. How could they possibly know that?  Guyger said in court documents that when she opened the door,  she saw shadows of someone she thought was a burglar, and shouted commands before shooting. Lawyers for Jean’s family have elicited testimony from neighbors that they heard someone banging on the door and shouting, “Let me in!” and “Open up!” before the gunshots.  Why would the officer do that if she didn’t know Jean, or if she thought it was her own apartment? They also said they then heard Jean, say, “Oh my God, why did you do that?”

Boy, that sounds like an awfully convenient exclamation to be remembering now, don’t you think? But who knows? Maybe it proves the two knew each other. (Why didn’t Jean say, “Who are you?”) Maybe it is another “Hands Up! Don’t shoot!” lie for cop-haters and race-baiters  to adopt as a rallying cry.

Surprise! Jean’s family is being represented by Benjamin Crump, the same lawyer who represented the relatives of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and managed to manipulate media accounts and public opinion into the narrative that those shootings were motivated by racial hate. If nothing else, Crump is diligent and zealous in creating an atmosphere that maximizes the opportunity for civil damages whether they are warranted or not.

Crump is referring to Jean’s death as an assassination. Of course it is! After all, Guyger’s a white cop, and they live to oppress, brutalize and kill unarmed black men for no reason whatsoever, except to protect white power in a racist nation. Dallas’s black citizens and white activists do not believe the officer’s story, because they presume racism. (Similar impulse: progressives and feminist believe Brett Kavanugh’s accuser, because they want to,)  Protesters chanted and disrupted a City Council meeting last week. There have been escalating  threats against the police. Officers say they believe Officer Guyger’s version of events, as weird and inexplicable as they are. The same bias is at work: they want to believe her.

Things don’t work when they are hemmed in by biases and agendas like this. Let’s say that an investigation yields no clarification. An innocent man was shot in his own home by a police officer who lived beneath him for no discernible reason, and the cop’s only explanation is that she was tired, confused, and made a mistake. What is the ethical course at that point?

There are a few easy calls. The police department has civil liability, and it is high time to put the same kind of limitations on police shifts that airline pilots must abide by. The accident, if it was an accident, may have been caused by unethical working conditions. It would also be sensible for apartment and condo complexes to be required to make all floors recognizably distinct. I have tried to enter the wrong hotel room, apartment, condo unit and dorm room at various times, in addition to walking into ladies rooms and the occasional closet. Luckily, I don’t carry a gun. However, my own experiences make me at least willing to consider that this might have been nothing but a terrible, tragic accident.

Obviously, Officer Guyger’s career is over no matter what the truth is, and should be. Thus I agree with the argument that she should be suspended without pay or simply fired. Off-duty cops are required to carry guns, and once a cop makes this kind of “mistake,” she can’t be trusted. I wouldn’t want her wandering around my neighborhood.

Beyond that, however, what is Dallas supposed to do? The race hucksters want to protest and exacerbate racial divisions. Guyger will be painted as a cold-blooded racist killer, and typical of all police. Any result that doesn’t have her sentenced to prison for a long time will be condemned as proof that the white fix is in. The city has a duty to prevent riots and deaths, but not to squelch protests, no matter how cynical and unfair. Should it indict and try Guyger for murder rather than manslaughter, knowing that over-charging could result in an acquittal?  This was Baltimore’s approach in the Freddie Gray case, and now police passivity has made the city a runner-up to Chicago as U.S. Murder Central. What if the investigation suggests that this was indeed an accident, and no more? Is it fair to try Guyger at all, then? Will jury members concede that she has lost her occupation and her reputation, and that imprisoning her is cruel—that she has suffered enough? Or will Guyger really stand trial not as an individual, but as a symbol of all cops who shot unarmed black men and escaped accountability?

Not only do I see no satisfactory ethical outcome, I can’t even decide what an ethical outcome would be.

I do know this, however. Bias not only makes us stupid, it makes fairness, justice and law enforcement impossible.

 

The Shooting Of Justine Ruszczyk: How Mindless Tribalism Makes Justice Impossible

The shooter and the shot.

Former police officer Mohamed Noor  was sentenced last week to spend 12 and a half years in a Minnesota prison for shooting Justine Ruszczyk, an unarmed woman he killed while on patrol in 2017. I don’t see how anyone could read the facts of the case and not conclude that Noor was guilty of negligent homicide. I don’t see how anyone could rationally complain that his sentence was excessive, either.

 Ruszczyk, who was white—unfortunately this fact is relevant—and  soon to be married, called 911 twice to report what she thought was a sexual assault going on in the alley  behind her Minneapolis home. Officer Noor and his partner responded  to investigate.  Ruszczyk  came out to the darkened alley to meet them, presumably to explain what she heard or saw,  and was soon dead of a single shot, fired from the  open patrol car window by Noor.  At the trial,  Noor said he feared for his life when he  saw Ruszczyk approaching his cruiser and fired. “She could have had a weapon,” he said .

The reported crime, sexual assault, the officers were investigating  did not involve a weapon. If Noor’srationale was enough to justify shooting Janet Ruszczyk, presumably an officer could justify shooting anyone, at any time.

Prosecutors argued that Noor acted unreasonably by  firing at unknown  figure out his window without shouting a warning,  and that it amounted to third-degree murder.  Well, of course it did. He was convicted by a jury in April . Twelve years for recklessly killing an unarmed woman who was trying to be a responsible citizen is not an unreasonable sentence, and is within the sentencing guidelines for the crime.  Continue reading