First, thank you for a respectful reply. I appreciate it. So, here we go:
I think the problem with that approach is that morality is decided by the population - and changes with time and place.
Here, you have pinpointed the fundamental difference between us and really highlighted my argument.
Morality is not decided by the population, morality is decided by who has power
in the population. When I said conventionality is not morality, I was quoting Charlotte Bronte, a female writer who was being criticized for breaking tradition and writing about the female experience in her work. You would look back to her time and say "well, that's how culture was, the population defined morality like that" and that's not true: women are part of the population, their voices were not taken into account, and morality never reflected their voices, despite it being clear that they should also be able to write about it.
And I am sorry, but a 13 year old growing up in Northern Ireland after the war and who had no contact with anyone other than white people, did not choose to turn off his TV. You might have an argument with the adults who broadcast and acted in the show, but what did I do that was immoral? Are you saying I can not be exculpated for choosing to listen? Is there no forgiveness in your code of morals?
(Where you might have an argument, though, is that I just checked and incredibly, the "Black And White Minstrel Show’ actually ran on the BBC until 1978. By that time I had long since left the UK and my opinion of the morality of such a show would have changed drastically).
It's very important that you understand who I quoted and the context, because I quoted someone talking about her experience being in the losing end of society's power structure: you fail to ever see this argument from the oppressed perspective. Your 13 year old self never thought twice about watching the show because society told you it was ok, but you only knew that society thought it was ok because you fit into the society so seamlessly, you never had to think critically about your actions because being "you" and following society's course is the natural way to be. That is called privilege.
And I don't want to get hung up on watching the TV show scenario here, I am speaking broadly. In your question about forgiveness, once again, you put yourself at the center of the process. It's not up to me to forgive you for anything, it's not up to you to forgive yourself. It's about who was wronged in the situation, and those are the people who you always ignore in your calculus. As Bronte said again, self-righteousness is not religion, you can't use your own rationalization for why you "sinned" as absolution, you don't have that power, there were people who were affected and they need to come into the process.
It seems like you "understood" the minstrel show was wrong when you "moved out of the UK," but pay attention to what you wrote. It seems to me like what changed your view of the show was moving to a new place and following its moral code, which happened to be against shows like that, INSTEAD of understanding that it was ALWAYS
wrong, because racism has ALWAYS
been wrong, and people said it was wrong and they protested and if people in power (i.e. you) LISTENED
and took what they said into account it would have been a very different situation.
For example, try telling the Saudis that beheading is morally wrong. They would reply that it is morally correct in their culture...
Your example of beheading is not a good one, as it is a policy affecting the country as a whole. Now, women not being able to drive there for so long is a better example since it's the powerful (men) oppressing a particular group (women). As you said, "they would reply that it is morally correct in their culture," but like I explained above, you don't think critically about who "THEY" are
. You accept the dominant voices that comprise THEY and ignore who they are shutting out.
But I have no doubt that in 50 years or so, when, say, all ‘hamburger meat’ is plant based, people will read an old McDonald’s menu and gasp "they ate what"? Are you moral enough to stop eating animals now, because 50 years from now it will be immoral?
Apples and oranges, or rather, humans and animals. I am talking about fundamentally human-human interactions.