SC’s Market Ethics and Moral Vacuum

Charleston, South Carolina in just a few months has forced the state and the nation to witness the racial injustice of law enforcement and the horror of violent racism, but these incidences that reflect a larger culture of violence and racism in the U.S. have spurred media and political insult in the form of denial.

The Wall Street Journal, as examined by Scott Eric Kaufman, declared an end to systemic racism:

“The universal condemnation of the murders at the Emanuel AME Church” demonstrates that — Walter Scott notwithstanding — “the system and philosophy of institutionalized racism identified by Dr. King [in his response to the Birmingham bombing] no longer exists.”

And SC governor Nikki Haley continued her refrain reaching back to her campaign mantras:

“What I can tell you is over the last three and a half years, I spent a lot of my days on the phones with CEOs and recruiting jobs to this state,” Haley said. “I can honestly say I have not had one conversation with a single CEO about the Confederate flag.”

Conceding that South Carolina had suffered an image problem in the past, Haley asserted that the state had moved beyond those days.

The mainstream media and elected officials reflect that—despite claims of the U.S. being a Christian nation and the South being the Bible Belt—responses to the racist massacre at the AME church in Charleston exposes we are a people existing in a moral vacuum, we are a people shackled to market ethics.

Governor Haley believes that CEOs outside of SC have the power to determine for the people of the state what is or isn’t offensive. Her comment is a stark testament to her political commitments—but Haley is also a typical if not universal embodiment of politics-as-market-ethics.

And the media share poll after poll—a sort of perverse popularized market-democracy—as well as measured debates of “both sides” to entrench further that those sides have equal moral weight.

Moral imperatives are above market forces, above democratic mechanisms, above debate.

The market and even democracy remained, at best, often silent during all sorts of assaults on human dignity; U.S. slavery, women’s equality, civil rights, marriage equality—all of these existed with the market and popular opinion in support of (and often depending on) denying fellow humans their humanity.

Moral imperatives require leaders with integrity, open eyes, open ears, and open minds for human dignity.

Many people have lamented that after the mass shooting of children at Sandy Hook Elementary, we failed to let go of the death-grip on our sacred guns. And many have gone further to admit that the mass shooting of nine blacks in church is doomed to the same failure to see, to confront, and to act.

These are not cynical responses to horrors; these are admissions of our moral vacuum.

Just as the racist murderer of people gathered in their place of worship is not some isolated incident, the WSJ and Haley are not isolated examples of tone-deaf media and politicians.

The WSJ and Haley are who we are.

The market has spoken.

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