Yes, We Should Apply Today’s Moral Standards to Past Behavior
Saying otherwise is moral relativism and makes you sound stupid
The lengths to which some will go to downplay America’s history of racism or other forms of injustice never ceases to amaze.
For instance, consider those who insist that we “shouldn’t judge people from past eras based on today’s moral standards.”
You’ll often hear this said about those who enslaved others, like many of the nation’s Founding Fathers, or those who supported or went along with segregation.
So too, those whose overt sexism and homophobia would have been typical not long ago but would now be viewed more harshly.
According to this reasoning, people should be judged by the standards that were widely accepted during their time rather than with the benefit of moral hindsight.
But this is a monstrous standard that would turn notions of right and wrong into perpetual moving targets.
Accepting such an ethically barren conception of morality would mean that the photo accompanying this essay — from the national lynching memorial in Montgomery, Alabama — should provoke a shrug rather than the revulsion more appropriately called for.
According to [some], people should be judged by the standards of their time rather than with the benefit of moral hindsight. But this is a monstrous standard that would turn notions of right and wrong into perpetual moving targets
After all, during the periods in which the lynching of Black people was common, it was “acceptable” to many.
That’s why participants in this barbarism and the crowds who gathered to watch the spectacle were never prosecuted.
Because it was “OK back then.”
But so what?
If you would minimize the depravity of racist murder simply because it was once common (thus, socially acceptable in certain quarters), you’re no different than the monsters who gathered beneath the swinging bodies and laughed as Black people…