This tweet churned up some thoughts:
Of course, slavery was once the norm (in terms of people keeping other groups slaves) and yes, in the US, we often soft peddle just how cruel and brutal it was.
But, were I born to a wealthy white southern slave holding family, would I have become an abolitionist? I am sure that I would have…IN MY FANTASIES. But the reality opposing such measures, in that time and immersed in that culture, would have required not only an unusual amount of moral insight but also an unusual amount of moral courage, none of which I seem to display in my current life.
That is why I just roll my eyes when I see rather average people talking about what they “would have” done back then. If they have that much character (an outlier level), why is that not showing up now, IN THIS LIFE?
If I am more moral in some ways than my ancestors, it is because I’ve been taught better and because I live in a society that allows for it.
And from this, I’ll pivot to this article, which I got via Steven Pinker’s Twitter account.
This is the same principle. And yes, yesterday’s heroes (or heroines) were flawed people. Clarence Darrow was right about race relations and science but totally wrong about women’s rights (he opposed women’s suffrage). William Jennings Bryan was wrong about science but right about women’s suffrage. Both of these men did good for a lot of people, but were critically wrong about a key issue.