I wrote this last summer and forgot to post it. Here it is now:
How big a difference do racist origins make to the present moral status of an institution?
For Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, it seems to depend on politics.
Carson condemns Planned Parenthood on the basis of the racist views of its founder, Margaret Sanger:
“Well, maybe I’m not objective when it comes to Planned Parenthood. But you know, I know who Margaret Sanger is, and I know that she believed in eugenics, and that she was not particularly enamored with black people. … I think people should go back and read about Margaret Sanger, who founded this place – a woman who Hillary Clinton by the way says she admires.”
Indeed, Sanger had racist views. But Carson seems a bit inconsistent and selective when he turns around and praises the Founding Fathers as “courageous men of principle and faith,” and quotes Thomas Jefferson and James Madison favourably.
Surely Carson is aware that Jefferson, Madison, and many other Founders owned, bought, and sold black people as slaves; that Jefferson regarded blacks as “in reason much inferior” to whites, and “in imagination … dull, tasteless, and anomalous”; and that Madison held that “the physical peculiarities of those held in bondage … preclude their incorporation with the white population.”
If Planned Parenthood is evil because it was founded by a racist, why doesn’t being founded by a passel of racists make the United States evil? I have a hard time seeing how Carson can have it both ways.