Saturday, June 27, 2009

Worship of another flawed hero

The TV is all Michael Jackson, around the clock. Iran, health care reform, the economy pushed off the news. What is it about our culture that makes us worship talented anti-heroes like Jackson? In sport, only the Giants fans worship Barry Bonds (but worship him they did); only Dodger fans are likely to cheer Manny Ramirez when he returns. Bot Jackson's appeal wasn't limited to ahome crowd. People from all over want to canonize this deeply unethical man.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sotomayor, New Haven, Affirmative Action, and Ethics

The hubbub over the Sotomayor nomination, and over her support of New Haven's action in the firefighter case, got me thinking about the ethics of affirmative action. It was surely right for New Haven to not base firefighter promotions on a race-biased test, and surely right to grant Mr Ricci, the dyslexic firefighter, a promotion after he had studied hard and passed the exam.

But the city couldn't do both right things. Ethics is more often a struggle between right and right, than a straightforward choice between right and wrong.

My ideal affirmative action is the path the National Football League chose several; years ago. The owners saw that they headed an organization in which most of the players were balck and all the coaches were white. Their solution? They mandated for themselves that they would interview at least one black candidate for every head coaching vacancy.

A virtuous circle ensued: Since they had to interview a black candidate they started to think about who was the best to interview. They found that--in some instances--the black candidate was the best, and they hired him. In the ten years since the policy was implemented the 32 NFL teams have hired ten black coaches.

What's the lesson? Simply that the owners--mostly people of good will--decided that they didn't want to have an organization that was all white at the toop and mostly black at the bottom: it wasn't ethical. And they fixed it with outreach and without lowering their standards or favoring hiring anybody because of race.