Bioethics Blogs

Trust, Communities, and the Standing to Hold Accountable

by Thomas Wilk 

ABSTRACT. During the 2016 US Presidential campaign and in the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump, many of us have tried to hold friends, family, and acquaintances accountable for their support of a candidate and campaign that we judged to be racist, xenophobic, sexist, transphobic, ableist, and authoritarian. Even when our friends and family avowed, for example, anti-racist norms, our attempts to hold them to those norms were often met with rejections of our standing to do so: What gives you the right to call me out for my vote? In this paper, I argue for the regrettable conclusion that these challenges to our standing to hold are, in at least some cases, justified on the grounds that the targets of our holdings have little evidence that we would allow ourselves to be reciprocally held accountable. As such, recognizing our standing to hold them accountable would be a threat to their agency. I conclude by arguing that we now ought to engage in a project of rebuilding the kinds of communities in which the mutual trust that is foundational to our moral practices can be rebuilt.



Who are you to tell me what I should do? What gives you the right to order me around? How dare you call me a racist!? Many of us have heard these refrains over the course of the 2016 US Presidential campaign and since the election of Donald Trump. We try talk to Trump supporters—family, former classmates, hometown friends, and online acquaintances—about the racism, xenophobia, sexism, transphobia, ableism, and authoritarianism that some of us have judged to be endemic to his campaign and nascent administration.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.