CRF Blog

What will future generations condemn us for?

by Bill Hayes

Writing in the Washington Post, Kwame Anthony Appiah asks: What will future generations condemn us for? He points out that we condemn the practices of other times, such as slavery, that make us ask: “What were people thinking?” Surely, he suggests, practices of our times will be condemned in the future. He singles out three signs that a practice will be condemned in the future.

First, people have already heard the arguments against the practice. The case against slavery didn’t emerge in a blinding moment of moral clarity, for instance; it had been around for centuries.

Second, defenders of the custom tend not to offer moral counterarguments but instead invoke tradition, human nature or necessity….

And third, supporters engage in what one might call strategic ignorance, avoiding truths that might force them to face the evils in which they’re complicit. Those who ate the sugar or wore the cotton that the slaves grew simply didn’t think about what made those goods possible….

Appiah goes on to suggest four current practices that future generations will condemn. This article could lead to a great civil conversation in the classroom.