Ethics and courage: Partners but not necessarily exclusive!

03 Sep

I recently have had a situation occur that has tried both my ethical beliefs and my courage. It is still on-going, so I do not know yet what is going to happen or how the story ends.

A person I know has done something egregiously wrong. They have denigrated and attempted to humiliate two young women who they have power over. When the offended parties complained to others further up the food chain their complaint was ignored. The young women then came to me for advice, which I gave and they followed. It resulted in a half-hearted and obviously insincere apology. The young women, tired of the stress involved decided to drop the issue, although they were far from satisfied.

Recently, due to circumstances whose origins are still cloudy i.e. the threat of publicity, the situation has resurfaced and further investigation of the incident has been conducted. It is still uncertain whether or not the accused party–the offender–is going to be found guilty and punished or if the event is going to be whitewashed.

This is not the first time I have confronted the dilemma of knowing something is wrong, but knowing if you speak out against it that it may well cost you. I have always considered myself to be a person who will speak up for the wronged no matter what, however, I have never gotten to the point where the person doing wrong seemed to be getting away with it without any consequences.

Adding to the issue is the fact that the person who was reportedly abusive is black, as is one of those who complained.  Adding even more  she is someone I neither respect nor like, which complicates matters more. There have already been several local issues in the newspaper about black educators and coaches and their lack of ethics or their failure to do the right thing. Is it appropriate to want yet another black person to be publicly taken to task? Is my personal animus going to cloud my judgment, impact my decision? Should it?

I do not know, but it certainly seems unfair if what she is accused of doing was actually done. I have very good reasons to believe that she is, indeed, guilty, having been told so both by the young women and another trusted person who was present.

What kind of lesson are we teaching our young people if such things go unpunished? If it is not your ethics and professionalism we judge you on but whether or not we like you?  If there is, indeed, some punishment due to fear the incident will become public  rather than the nature of the offense itself what kind of lesson does that send? You can be abusive and go unpunished unless the public finds out about it?

The final dilemma is that I have the power to make things public, to raise quite a ruckus, but it would be at some personal and professional risk. I will hold out for a week or so to see if the right thing is done by those who should do it. Then the tough decision will have to be made. Stay tuned, and in the interim ask yourself ” What would I do?”

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Posted by on September 3, 2011 in Uncategorized


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