Sunday 5 July 2020

Students Give The Right But Unrealistic Answer To Professor’s Question About Their Hypothetical Stance On Slavery As A White Person In The South In The Early 19th Century

Robert P. George, a Princeton University professor, recently asked his students what their position would have been if they were white and living in the South before the abolition of slavery in 1865. Of course, the students said that they would be abolitionists.
So, they would have all been against the state of culture, society, and politics of the time, namely against slavery, claiming that they would have worked tirelessly to oppose it.
However, Prof. George doubted such an answer. And he explained why in a 5-piece Twitter thread that has since gone viral. 

One of the main tactics of teaching students is asking them challenging and thought provoking question

Image credits: UC Davis College of Engineering (not the actual photo)

So, Princeton Professor R.P. George asked his students a hypothetical: what would their stance be as a white person in the South before the abolition of slavery?

Their answer ended up being the right thing to say, but not one that would be likely given the context

Image credits: McCormickProf
Professor Robert P. George is an American legal scholar, political philosopher, and public intellectual serving as the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University who lectures on constitutional interpretation, civil liberties, philosophy of law, and political philosophy.
His doubt in his students’ claims was based on considering the context of the times. Prof. George explained that it was very likely that many of them would have gone along with the established system, and, in fact, would even happily have benefited from it.
That was because when someone goes against that which is considered the norm, they immediately become an outcast. This comes in the form of becoming unpopular among peers and even being abandoned by friends, being loathed by the influential figures and powers of the day, and even being denied professional opportunities.

The thread sparked a healthy discussion, with some sharing how they do an analogous exercise

Image credits: McCormickProf
Image credits: LibertyJen
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Image credits: bluepointfish

Others discussed the question, its nuances, and shared their thoughts on the matter

Image credits: MulierCare
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Image credits: upthere4thinkin
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Image credits: DerekJensen63
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While it’s easy to claim what one would have done, it’s not so easy taking on that claim and the risk, and even danger, that comes along with it. After all, it was quite likely that nobody would risk their well-being, their loved ones, and even their lives if they can just live through it as neutrally as possible until it’s no longer a thing.
The thread gained a significant amount of attention online, garnering over 6,000 retweets and nearly 22,000 likes on Twitter, and sparking a discussion in the comments section among those who also tried asking an analogous question. The tweets also found themselves on Imgur where they got another couple of thousand upvotes with 127,000 views. 

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