24 votes

Three stories of people fired after being accused of racism

23 comments

  1. skybrian
    Link
    From the article:

    From the article:

    Cafferty was punished for an offense he insists he did not commit. Shor was punished for doing something that most wouldn’t even consider objectionable. Wadi was punished for the sins of his daughter. What all of these rather different cases have in common is that none of the people who were deprived of a livelihood in the name of fighting racism appear to have been guilty of actually perpetuating racism.

    12 votes
  2. [14]
    nothis
    Link
    The real story: This article is on The Atlantic, not some fringe alt-right site collecting poorly sourced horror stories.

    The real story: This article is on The Atlantic, not some fringe alt-right site collecting poorly sourced horror stories.

    10 votes
    1. [13]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      It's anecdotal and we already saw an article about one of these stories, though I can't find it now. Still, it seemed worth sharing as a warning that Internet outrage can sometimes be unjust and...

      It's anecdotal and we already saw an article about one of these stories, though I can't find it now. Still, it seemed worth sharing as a warning that Internet outrage can sometimes be unjust and this has consequences.

      7 votes
      1. [5]
        cfabbro
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Not only is everything written about here one sided and anecdotal, but it should also be noted that this article also has some curiously missing information as well. E.g. Emmanuel Cafferty...

        Not only is everything written about here one sided and anecdotal, but it should also be noted that this article also has some curiously missing information as well. E.g. Emmanuel Cafferty originally claimed he was "just cracking his knuckles" and made absolutely no mention of the other driver allegedly soliciting him into making the gesture like he is now claiming happened in this Atlantic article. That's not to say he isn't telling the truth, but his story has changed over time, and it seem strange for the Atlantic author to leave that fact out. So either the author didn't do their due diligence on the subjects/incidents before writing this, or intentionally left certain facts out that might potentially undermine his premise, neither of which helps the credibility of this story's narrative that all these incidents are the result of "anti-racism run amok", IMO.

        13 votes
        1. [2]
          kfwyre
          Link Parent
          You bring up some important context, but I want to run for a moment with the idea that each of these stories is genuinely and completely true. Let's assume for a second these are all examples of...

          You bring up some important context, but I want to run for a moment with the idea that each of these stories is genuinely and completely true. Let's assume for a second these are all examples of overreaction and harm done to innocents in the name of anti-racism. I'm doing this specifically because I think there's an important point to be made about "the narrative" here: even if all of these show that anti-racism has genuinely run amok in certain circumstances, that doesn't mean that racism doesn't exist or that anti-racism is the "real evil". Acknowledging the former doesn't automatically yield the latter, though there are certainly many encouraging that kind of thinking. They'll likely be successful should we not deliberately interrupt this line of thinking.

          In short: we can acknowledge any genuine harms done here without negating or overshadowing much larger harms elsewhere. Furthermore, in discourse that heavily relies on a "narrative", we can have presence in that story by reinserting that which we find absent from it.


          The above is a bit abstract and not necessarily intuitive, so I want to expand a bit on what I mean here, and in doing so I'm going to have to wade into some difficult territory. I'm going to try to do the best that I can to be fair, intellectually honest, and centered in my values.

          What follows is a broad generalization which I don't love doing, but it's unavoidable for me in talking about this concept, so I'm just going to go ahead with talking about the "right" and "left" as opposed monoliths for a moment.

          Too often I see a sort of grappling for "the narrative" where people will be forced into absurd positions because to concede a point or acknowledge a wrinkle makes it feel like capitulation to the other side. In this instance, "the narrative" of the right says that racism isn't a real issue and anti-racism is the real harm, and so when faced with situations where anti-racism has contributed to overreactions and has done genuine harm, many people on the left will ignore or cast doubt on them because they don't want to feed into the right's narrative.

          This is the wrong counter, IMO, because it sets us up for rhetorical and ideological failure. On the ideological side, it makes us look like we're arguing in bad faith and often creates instances of "hypocrisy" can be used against us. We can see another example of this in how unions, which have largely been treated as unconditionally good by the left to avoid bolstering the right's anti-union positions, are now being critiqued harshly by the left for their role in contributing to police brutality in the US.

          Meanwhile, on the rhetorical side, in playing defense, we're essentially allowing others to set the terms of the debate in the first place. There isn't anything wrong with acknowledging that anti-racism has, in these instances, run amok. In fact, doing so bolsters our ability to highlight racism, because if someone's outrage about innocents being harmed is activated by these stories here, then it speaks volumes about their biases, blind spots, and prejudices if that same sense of outrage isn't activated by the harms done by racism itself. In hot take Twitter-speak: If people getting unfairly fired from their jobs grinds your gears, wait to you hear about people unfairly dying.

          If our radar for injustice is one-sided, it means that justice isn't an ideal we hold but a sport we hope to win. People can use this against us by hyper-focusing on certain examples that are detrimental to our side and then revel in our discomfort as we grapple with whether to acknowledge them. Some of these are made up, which is its own issue, but in instances where they're genuine, we're falling into a trap by treating them as "sided". The trap is that, when they lob those amplified examples, we return the volley instead of refusing to play in the first place. The truth is that sometimes we are overzealous in our pursuit of justice. Sometimes we do cause harm to innocents. Sometimes there is collateral damage to our policies. Sometimes we do genuinely bad things. All of these do actually happen, but the message about them, provided they're genuine examples, shouldn't be to sweep them under the rug and make it look to everyone else like we have something to hide, nor should it be to cast doubt about them in the first place as a way of not having them stick.

          Instead, we can acknowledge the issues but contextualize these volleys as a way of redirecting focus to the larger injustice at play. Proportionality is key. Assuming the volley is truthful and not fabricated, we can speak through terms of recalibration rather than denial. Yes, these people losing their jobs is an outrage, and I get even angrier when I think about people who have lost family members and friends. That's why it's so important that we address this. Someone who's willing to amplify outrage but is uninterested in pursuing solutions isn't interested in justice but in winning. Someone who's view of injustice is limited to group membership isn't interested in justice but in winning. Responses to this kind of messaging is an easy way of outing people interested in winning and highlights either the limits of their empathy or the bad faith of their rhetoric.

          Harm does not erase harm, so we should not ignore the harm we do, even if it is from our own "side". In fact, our pursuit of justice as an ideal demands that we address it. However, it is equally if not more important that we push back when someone overstates its scale and reach, which happens frequently as a way of pulling focus from other greater harms. It is intellectually dishonest on their part, but if we are intellectually dishonest in return, they've beat us at their own game -- a game not even worth playing in the first place.

          You'll note that I began speaking about left and right but I deliberately moved away from that as I progressed because I do not believe this is limited to those roles or this particular topic. Treating justice as sided is detrimental no matter where you stand, and the rhetorical and ideological vulnerabilities it opens up apply no matter where you stand. This is not an equivocation of harm but an acknowledgement that it's counterproductive to treat the pursuit of justice as a sport rather than a struggle. We are doing a disservice to those that need justice when we miscalibrate our meters for it.

          23 votes
          1. super_james
            Link Parent
            I really think a cleaned up and edited version of this take should be an article in its own right.

            I really think a cleaned up and edited version of this take should be an article in its own right.

            8 votes
        2. skybrian
          Link Parent
          Yeah, in a way it just proves the point that many facts are not simple to establish. This is one reason why courtroom proceedings are so expensive and slow, and yet they often get it wrong too.

          Yeah, in a way it just proves the point that many facts are not simple to establish. This is one reason why courtroom proceedings are so expensive and slow, and yet they often get it wrong too.

          5 votes
        3. mrbig
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          It’s not uncommon for people to re-elaborate or reassess their memories with time. Memory is unreliable. I think it’s a bit excessive to assume bad faith due to such imprecision.

          It’s not uncommon for people to re-elaborate or reassess their memories with time. Memory is unreliable. I think it’s a bit excessive to assume bad faith due to such imprecision.

          2 votes
      2. [7]
        mrbig
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Calling an article "anecdotal" is not compelling criticism. Articles are most frequently anecdotal and that is not really an issue. With the exception of some scientific articles, they are not...

        Calling an article "anecdotal" is not compelling criticism. Articles are most frequently anecdotal and that is not really an issue. With the exception of some scientific articles, they are not meant to be taken in any other way.

        What you can do is verify the accuracy of the anecdotes and ascertain if they support the conclusions.

        2 votes
        1. [6]
          skybrian
          Link Parent
          I don't think it's a bad article (or I wouldn't have shared it) but I wanted to add some perspective. It's a common pattern for a news article to combine anecdotes with some kind of statistics...

          I don't think it's a bad article (or I wouldn't have shared it) but I wanted to add some perspective. It's a common pattern for a news article to combine anecdotes with some kind of statistics showing that there is a trend, but apparently they aren't available in this case.

          That's certainly understandable (who would collect them?) but it also means we don't know how common this problem is.

          1 vote
          1. [5]
            mrbig
            Link Parent
            Yes of course. But why make this particular observation about this particular article?

            Yes of course. But why make this particular observation about this particular article?

            1. [4]
              skybrian
              Link Parent
              This is a controversial issue that people have strong feelings about, and I hesitated about whether posting the article would cause unproductive debate. There is a danger of getting caught up in a...

              This is a controversial issue that people have strong feelings about, and I hesitated about whether posting the article would cause unproductive debate. There is a danger of getting caught up in a binary debate over whether this is a good or bad article based on whether you think the problem is important or ignorable. I wanted to avoid that.

              1. [3]
                mrbig
                Link Parent
                That’s actually quite reasonable. But may have sent a different message than the one you intended.

                That’s actually quite reasonable. But may have sent a different message than the one you intended.

                1. [2]
                  skybrian
                  Link Parent
                  Yeah, I think many people these days people automatically try to classify comments as either pro or con, and sometimes when I say something not easily classifiable, it's confusing to read. But...

                  Yeah, I think many people these days people automatically try to classify comments as either pro or con, and sometimes when I say something not easily classifiable, it's confusing to read. But maybe it was confusing to you in a different way that I missed?

                  1 vote
                  1. mrbig
                    Link Parent
                    Oh I’m always confused don’t worry about me hahaha

                    Oh I’m always confused don’t worry about me hahaha

                    1 vote
  3. [3]
    Sand
    Link
    The root of this problem is really America's terrible labour laws. You can get fired for any reason as long as it's not illegal.

    The root of this problem is really America's terrible labour laws. You can get fired for any reason as long as it's not illegal.

    10 votes
    1. skybrian
      Link Parent
      That's the theory of "at-will employment," though in practice a company will want to make sure there is a paper trail in case they get sued for discrimination.

      That's the theory of "at-will employment," though in practice a company will want to make sure there is a paper trail in case they get sued for discrimination.

      4 votes
    2. NaraVara
      Link Parent
      And yet the root of our policing problem is that the terrible labor laws don't extend there, and they apparently can't get fired for whatever reason, including for behavior that's illegal.

      The root of this problem is really America's terrible labour laws. You can get fired for any reason as long as it's not illegal.

      And yet the root of our policing problem is that the terrible labor laws don't extend there, and they apparently can't get fired for whatever reason, including for behavior that's illegal.

      1 vote
  4. [5]
    Icarus
    (edited )
    Link
    These are all extremely heinous but the Shor example really bothered me. Calling out others as concern trolling, jaq'ing off, sea lioning, etc., is so intellectually lazy. I actually lose quite a...

    These are all extremely heinous but the Shor example really bothered me.

    After a progressive activist accused Shor of “concern trolling for the purposes of increasing democratic turnout,” a number of people on Twitter demanded that he lose his job. Less than a week after he tweeted the findings of Wasow, who is black, Civis’s senior leadership, which is predominantly white, fired Shor.

    Calling out others as concern trolling, jaq'ing off, sea lioning, etc., is so intellectually lazy. I actually lose quite a bit of respect for people when they use these terms to end the discussion and pass a judgment on the other's intent if its not painfully clear through repeated behavior over time. On the outset of a minor disagreement. its lazy and ignorant. Don't get me wrong, there are people out there that are definitely deserving of ire and hate for their long-standing behavior. But I will never accept that an internet mob is the ideal form of justice for these people, due to the consequences that are laid out here.

    So I have to ask, what justifies the intent to cause harm and inflict suffering on others for retribution when these same people are being punished for causing harm and inflicting suffering? Do we not believe that we should have a criminal justice system that rehabilitates people? Do we believe in an eye-for-an-eye, and aren't these the same arguments on why we shouldn't have capital punishment?

    We have to understand what outcomes we want and why we want them. The decisions that we make should not be hypocritical and should be enacted based on wholesome, moral ideas. We should have compassion for others and allow people the ability to be forgiven and to grow. Otherwise, hate in the face of hatred will just create more hate. And the cycle of suffering will continue.

    6 votes
    1. [4]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      I largely agree, but I'll point out that the justice system isn't in charge of whether to fire people or terminate a lease. People at businesses make these decisions. Sometimes they aren't good...

      I largely agree, but I'll point out that the justice system isn't in charge of whether to fire people or terminate a lease. People at businesses make these decisions. Sometimes they aren't good ones, particularly when made under pressure.

      We can point to cases where hiring and firing decisions seem to be unfair but it's not that easy to figure out how to make it fair.

      1 vote
      1. [3]
        mercury
        Link Parent
        Is there no enforcible law (in US or otherwise) which pressures companies to fire employees that are involved in "obvious" forms of bigotry (racism / sexism / and what not regressive elements of...

        Is there no enforcible law (in US or otherwise) which pressures companies to fire employees that are involved in "obvious" forms of bigotry (racism / sexism / and what not regressive elements of our society)?

        1. patience_limited
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Anecdata: This isn't uniform among companies, even in "at-will" states. Having been through firing an employee (not my hire - inherited from a team which had its own toxic leader) who was actually...

          Anecdata: This isn't uniform among companies, even in "at-will" states. Having been through firing an employee (not my hire - inherited from a team which had its own toxic leader) who was actually creating a hostile work environment, it's amazing how much work I had to do to document his pattern of malfeasance to the satisfaction of lawsuit-shy HR and Legal departments.

          Telling racist and sexist jokes and sharing toxic memes at work, in the presence of Black, Latinx, and female co-workers, wasn't nearly enough to discharge him. I also had to document that he was incompetent to perform his duties, was claiming others' work as his own, was actively sabotaging team tasks, etc., and let him have a 60-day performance improvement period. If other managers and clients hadn't backed me with their own observations and complaints, he'd still be there.

          It's wholly a matter of corporate culture and convenience.

          8 votes
        2. skybrian
          Link Parent
          Not a lawyer but my understanding is that it's against the law to base employment decisions on race, religion, sex, national origin, and so on. Also, creating a "hostile work environment" is...

          Not a lawyer but my understanding is that it's against the law to base employment decisions on race, religion, sex, national origin, and so on. Also, creating a "hostile work environment" is something that comes up in lawsuits.

          I haven't heard of any law about having to fire people for something they did when they're not working.

          2 votes