Ethical Implications of Victim Blaming in Cases of Police Brutality

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STUDENT VOICES 

By Emily Jenab, M.A.

Another black man has been shot and, subsequently, another case of character assassination post-death has begun.  Alfred Okwera Olango, 38, was killed as he pulled out “a three inch long vape” and allegedly pointed it at the police of El Cajun, California. The shooting of Olango, an “emotionally disturbed” man who was shot after his sister called 911 for help, has already resulted in justifications of why he deserved to die. Yes, he was holding a vape, but why did it look like a gun? Why was he standing like that? Why did he hold his vaporizer between his hands? Efforts to legitimize another murder, and state implicated violence, will be taken. The cycle repeats and ethical and emotional discussions surrounding these murders, along with the issues embedded in police systems, will continue to be ignored.

Respectability politics are pertinent for people of color, and for marginalized persons, the respectability of their very identity is questioned when they are victims of police misconducts. There is, for our cultural purposes, no “good” black man; if he is unarmed, as Eric Garner was, he still deserves to die and his murderer will not be charged. If he is armed in an open carry state, as Philando Castle was, it is asked why he even had a gun, or what he was doing prior to being pulled over. These men – employed, fathers, worthwhile members of their communities – are reduced to “thugs” in the wake of their deaths. As the horrific deaths play across screens, the feeling of inequality and shame arises in some while others choose to dehumanize and delegitimize the lives of victims. Even one’s commitment to serve his or her country is ignored, like the case of Anthony Hill, a veteran of the US Air forces who was killed in Georgia. There is no shield from pervasive racism, even serving our country, something that is normally highly venerated.

Perhaps “bad cops” and those who support them unwaveringly are engaging in some form of culturally disseminated ‘gaslighting’. The methods behind this tactic, normally perpetrated by domestic abusers, can be used to warp reality for the masses. As Shea Emma Fett notes, “every time an obvious hate crime is portrayed as an isolated case of mental illness, this is gaslighting. The media is saying to you, ‘What you know to be true is not true’.” The media, police departments and their ardent supporters present the same message: a victim of police violence becomes a criminal; a father becomes a criminal, a teenager becomes a man and a boy like Tamir Rice, barely 12, becomes a threat.

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Jailing for Dollars: The Federal Government Takes Steps to Eliminate a Moral Stain on Justice in the US

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The United States has become the world’s leading jailer with 2.2 million people in jails and prisons across the country.  With a combination of government and privately run facilities, the nation faces the moral issues surrounding the prison-industrial complex.  As reflected in a recent New York Times article, the U.S. Justice Department has announced plans to phase out the use of privately run facilities, citing less safe conditions than their government run counterparts.

In the Obama administration’s continuing efforts to address inequities in the criminal justice system The U.S. Justice Department announced plans to phase out its use of privately operated prisons, calling them less safe and a poor substitute for government-run facilities.  According to Celia B. Fisher, Director of the Fordham Center for Ethics Education “this is a welcome step toward addressing the inequities produced by a public-private system that incentivizes high incarceration rates with devastating effects on poor and minority communities.

Fordham University Center for Ethics Education brought attention to this issue in a conference on “Jailing for Dollars: The Moral Cost of Privatizing Justice” featuring Cindy Chang, Los Angeles Times, Scott Cohn, NBC, Thomas Giovanni, Brennan Center for Justice, Judith Greene, Justice Strategies and Michael Jacobson, Vera Institute of Justice. Speakers explored pressing moral questions about the prison-industrial complex, including dangerous overcrowding, unsafe work and health conditions and its consequences on individuals, families and society at large.

To watch the video of this conference, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to play.

Celia B. Fisher, Ph.D. is the Fordham University Marie Ward Doty University Chair in Ethics and Director of the Center for Ethics Education. Fisher’s  Decoding the Ethics Code: A Practical Guide for Psychologist, is now in its fourth edition from Sage Publications.

RETI Fellow Examines Intersectional Stigma for HIV-Positive African American Women

Dr. Faith Fletcher, University of Illinois at Chicago

While bearing the disproportionate burden of HIV/AIDs in the US, African American women also face multi-level stigma at social, community and institutional levels, which is exacerbated by their HIV-positive status.

Fordham University Center for Ethics Education HIV and Drug Abuse Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute (RETI) fellow Dr. Faith E. Fletcher, an Assistant Professor in Community Health Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, recently addressed this issue using her dissertation research in an article titled, “She Told Them, Oh That Bitch Got AIDS”: Experiences of Multi-Level HIV/AIDS- Related Stigma among African American Women Living with HIV/AIDS in the South” published in AIDS Patient Care and STDs.

Dr. Fletcher interviewed 42 African American women with HIV/AIDS living in South Carolina. She found that “HIV/AIDS stigma permeated many dimensions of women’s lives, including the research process.” Using narrative data and the Social Ecological Model, Dr. Fletcher’s findings demonstrate the need for an enhanced understanding of multi-level stigma experienced by HIV-positive African American women to inform innovative and tailored approaches.“Settings that are generally regarded as safe spaces for most individuals are not necessarily safe for HIV-positive African American women due to the intersections of stigma in places where women “live, work, love, play, and pray,” Dr. Fletcher explained.

Although many women in the study identified their homes as safe spaces to complete interviews, several participants completed interviews in Dr. Fletcher’s car to enhance privacy. Dr. Fletcher contends “ethical challenges in the research process emanating from additive, layered stigma can limit the availability of invulnerable research spaces.”  Dr. Fletcher shared that her research and training at RETI has offered her a strong foundation to identify and address ethical issues that may arise while engaging communities in the HIV research process.

Please click here for more information on the Fordham University HIV Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute (RETI).

Citation: Fletcher FE, Annang L, Kerr J, Buchberg M, Bogdan-Lovis L, Philpott-Jones S. “She Told Them, Oh That Bitch Got AIDS”: Experiences of Multi-Level HIV/AIDS- Related Stigma among African American Women Living with HIV/AIDS in the South. AIDS Patient Care and STDs. 2016 Jul;30(7):349-56. doi: 10.1089/apc.2016.0026. PMID:27410498.

Fisher describes innovative approach to research involving vulnerable adolescents at OHRP conference

 

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Fordham University Center for Ethics Education Director and Marie Ward Doty University Chair in Ethics Dr. Celia B. Fisher gave the keynote address this morning at an Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) conference, entitled “Vulnerable, Marginalized and At-Risk Participants in Research.”

In this address, Fisher describes her innovative approach to giving vulnerable adolescents and their families a voice in ensuring the responsible conduct of research. Her work illuminates the importance of fitting research ethics protections to the real world lives of LGBT teens, pediatric cancer patients, and ethnic minority youth in ways that reflect their values and merit their trust.

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My Fair Trade Journey: Evaluating Personal Responsibility and Consumerism

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STUDENT VOICES | CHYNN PRIZE FIRST-PLACE WINNER 

By: Tiffany Melillo

Every day, regardless of what I do, I use forced labor.

No, I am not a plantation owner in the South during the Civil War, nor am I a current factory owner in Asia. Rather, I am a 21-year-old Fordham student from the Bronx. I grew up in a loving, middle-class family with happily married parents, a brother, and a cat. I do not fit the stereotype of someone who uses forced labor, but I assure you that I do.

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Ethics & Society 2015 Year in Review

Starting with a national discussion on vaccinations, public health and autonomy, and ending with widespread reflection on yet another mass shooting, 2015 had no shortage of ethics-related news and events.

Here are a few highlights of the work of Fordham University Center for Ethics Education faculty, staff, and students from 2015:

Dr. Celia B. Fisher Contributes to National Discussion on Ethical Review & Oversight Issues in Standard of Care Research

Common clinical practices might lack a robust evidence base if there have not been empirical interventional research studies to compare an array of available routine or standard treatment options. Fordham University Center for Ethics Education Director Dr. Celia B. Fisher, an internationally renowned expert on empirical research on research ethics, recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in an Institute of Medicine (IOM) workshop aimed to inform practice and policy of regulated research studies involving standard of care interventions. Read more here.

 

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Faculty Voices Against Hate Speech on College Campuses

In light of recent events on college campuses across the country, we are reminded of the seminar organized three years ago by the Fordham University Center for Ethics Education where members of faculty offered their perspectives on hate speech on college campuses. This seminar focused on faculty responsibilities toward students, especially those who face systemic discrimination, to acknowledge and address their experiences of marginalization on campus and to support and facilitate open discussion about these themes, both in and outside of the classroom.

Watch the video from the Fordham faculty discussion here

Students at Fordham are encouraged to make your voice be heard, and join in the national discussion on creating equitable and inclusive university environments. Please consider submitting your thoughts on these recent events to Ethics & Society, particularly in the context of social justice, cura personalis, and ethical obligations to fellow students and other members of the university community.

Fordham University students, faculty and staff are also invited to attend a seminar next week exploring faculty responsibilities towards students in distress. It will take place on Wednesday, November 18th from 12:00 – 1:15 p.m. in Keating 124 on the Rose Hill Campus. Please read the blog post on the event for more information, including how to RSVP.