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Hazie Thought #5: Legality vs. Morality

There is right and there is wrong. It would be nice to think that what’s right or wrong would be as simple as black and white, but it’s not. Right or wrong is seen through the eyes of the person who gets to be the decider of morality.

Morality differs for us all complicating the question of who gets to decide exactly what is right or wrong. This is where our laws come into play. The law or what we deem as legal ends up superseding any case of morality.

The United States is a prime example of this, up until the civil rights act of 1964 it was “legal” to discriminate against black people in public spaces and employment. Discrimination was wrong way before 1964, yet people engaged in it for hundreds of years. Not only did they engage but evolved going from the heinous acts of slavery to the somewhat more respectable forms of humiliation that occurred during Jim Crow.

The Civil Rights act of 1964 has come to be seen as maybe the most important legislation that took place during the civil rights era, and ultimately United States history as a whole. The legislative work that began under John F Kennedy and was finally signed into law under Lyndon B Johnson didn’t change the morality of the millions of white people in the country but it did make their morality now illegal.

So why or rather who gets to choose when legality is important and when morals are? Like with most things in this country - race, income and gender are the determining factor.

In the story of defense attorney Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. who also is the faculty director of the Harvard Criminal Justice Institute and the Harvard Trial Advocacy Workshop all these factors have come to a head when it was reported in January by the New York Post that Sullivan had planned on joining Harvey Weinstein’s legal counsel.

According to thecrimson.com there were student demonstrations, op-eds and letters calling for the removal of Sullivan as a faculty dean.

Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced former media mogul current net worth is estimated at $50 million. A man worth $50 million would be able to afford himself the best legal counsel in the world that money can buy. With Sullivan now part of the legal team I don’t think it’s an unfair assumption to make that he’s a very good lawyer, dare say one of the best.

Why then is Sullivan being held under public moral scrutiny for trying to exercise the power of our legal system (legality) ? Unless those students demonstrating against Sullivan are making a greater point about our legal system. Because if not, what would be the issue with a defense lawyer defending a “reprehensible” man is the reason their jobs exist.

But then again I think about how morality works it makes sense. They know exactly how this all works, how morality intersects with legality and they’ve just decided their name can’t be associated with this.

Maybe like beauty morality is in the eye of the beholder.

Stay Hazie !!!

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