Ethics Case D: “Hot” Gifts

Rose Stone moved into an urban ghetto in order to study strategies for survival used by low-income residents. During the first six months of research, Stone was gradually integrated into the community through invitations (which she accepted) to attend dances, parties, church functions, and family outings, and by “hanging out” at local service facilities (laundromats, health centers, recreation centers, and so on). She was able to discern that there were two important survival tactics used by the community residents which she could not engage in: the first was a system of reciprocity in the exchange of goods and services (neither of which she felt she had to offer), and the second was outright theft of easily pawned or sold goods (clothing, jewelry, radios, TVs, and so on).

One night, a friend from the community stopped by “for a cup of coffee” and conversation. After they had been talking for about two hours, Stone’s friend told her that she had some things she wanted to give her. The friend went out to her car and returned with a box of clothing (Stone’s size) and a record player. Stone was a bit overwhelmed by the generosity of the gift and protested her right to accept such costly items. Her friend laughed and said, “Don’t you worry, it’s not out of my pocket,” but then she became more serious and said, “Either you are one of us or you aren’t one of us. You can’t have it both ways. “Stone’s Dilemma: Suspecting that the items she was being offered were probably “hot” (e.g., stolen), she was afraid that if she wore the clothes in public, or had the record player in her apartment, she would be arrested for “accepting stolen goods.” At the same time, she knew that “hot” items were often given to close friends when it was observed that they could use them. Still, this implied that there would be reciprocal giving (not necessarily in kind) at a later date. So, should she accept or refuse the proffered gifts?

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60 Comments

60 thoughts on “Ethics Case D: “Hot” Gifts

  1. This case is a bit more tricky than the others because by accepting the gift, she is doing something wrong but by not accepting it, she will be considered an outsider and lose everything she has worked for since she moved in to the neighborhood. I think that refusing the gift outright would not be right because it would not only jeopardize what she is doing but also hurt the friend. She can either come up with a way of refusing the gift without hurting the friend or she can accept the gift and make amends for it in another way. The friend seems to be testing her in this situation to see if she can trust her or not. Technically, she does not really know that the items are stolen. They could be from a shelter or something and not stolen. She can accept the gift and not use it. Instead she can turn it in to the police anonymously.

  2. Tamar’s responses sounds reasonable. However, to accept the gifts for the reasons stated (motive to become an accepted member of the community that is being studied), may in fact change the outcome of the study itself. To put aside one’s moral compas (accepting items believed to be stolen) to gain acceptance into the community that is being studied seems like a manipulation of conditions. I sm not sure any of the information gained from the study is trustworthy. Interesting situation.

    • Seems like a test of sorts…giving stolen goods to secure acceptance? What kind of “gift” is that? I know that if I had some buddy giving me stolen stuff, I’d be wondering about the point of all that! I think you are right, either way, accept or don’t accept, you as the researcher are influencing the process.
      Good point.

    • I agree with Dean that “to put aside one’s moral compass (accepting items believed to be stolen) to gain acceptance into the community that is being studied seems like a manipulation of conditions” and would put the entire study’s findings in question. I think you are dead-on Dean. However, I would, as VanderNoor (2012) always says, “like to dove-tail” off of your comment. Ms. Stone is a researcher! She is there to study. And while I understand that doing studies of this sort often require a researcher to gain entrance or acceptance into the community, I do not think this would require her to lay aside her “moral compass”. She has gained entrance into their community and attends dances, parties, church functions, family gatherings, etc., and so she has already been accepted. If her friend had not told her the items were stolen (which she did), I think she could possibly take the items; but the fact that her friend told her “don’t worry, it’s not out of my pocket” and then followed up with the veiled threat “Either you are one of us or you aren’t one of us. You can’t have it both ways” seems like a non-issue for me. I would in both a polite and direct manner let my friend know that I would never accept any stole goods. Further, I would ask my friend not to give me any gifts in the future that were stolen. Again, is a research study worth laying aside our morals? Could this jeopardize the entire study? Possibly, but I doubt it. In fact, she might find that those in the neighborhood respect her even more for her stance.

      • It’s an interesting situation…we could really over-think this and wonder why the researcher appears to be going the covert route… And (just being the devil’s advocate now) what about the message that she is sending to these “friends” of her’s in the study? My friends know not to come by my house and give me stolen goods (not that I’m the moral compass of the neighborhood…but you know what I mean).

  3. After reading the case, and the comments both Dean and Tamar made, I am wondering how much Rose Stone revealed to the friend about the research she was doing in this community. Timothy Perper, who made a reader response to this case study, suggests that using the “gifts” as an opportunity to “learn more from the giver” would be the most ethical, and possibly the best strategy to use, and I tend to agree. I think Perpers advice that “Here Rose Stone must be honest, and say that where she comes from such things don’t happen much, and she’d like to know more about it, and so on. Never–if I may offer advice–try to hide the fact that you are interested in how people live; if you do, you are a liar, and you will be detected. Meanwhile, the clothes and the record player sit on the floor and slowly become something to `talk about.’ Then, Rose Stone can decide if she wants them or not.” Rose stated there were two survival tactics that she would not engage in, “reciprocity in the exchange for goods and services, and outright theft. Already she has proven that she is ,as her friend stated, not ” one of us”. Rose has to decide where ethically and morally to draw the line. I am making the assumption that Roses’ honesty has given her “access” to the research findings she has attained thus far; therefore, like Perper suggests she should continue using her honesty with her subjects. If she just accepts the gifts, what information would she gain? By using the gesture as a conversation piece and desensitizing it, she may be offered even more insights into the survival strategies of these low- income residents.

  4. My colleagues bring up great points. I find it interesting the conversation between the friend and Rose never contained information about the research that was being conducted. I wonder if this fact been mentioned and the act of taking gifts is unethical as a field researcher would pressure to take gifts still be an issue? Either way, with the facts presented as they are it is unethical for several reasons to take the gifts. Being a researcher on an assignment, receiving stolen property, and reciprocity are all reasons to not accept the gifts being offered. Furthermore, if not receiving the gifts jeopardizes the field research project then it was meant to unfold that way. If I were Rose I would make sure and document all of the conversations and actions of these events, in the event this whole gift giving process unfolds negatively.

  5. Yes…you have to accept the “gift.” As a researcher who has done your homework, you should know that this type of thing may happen. If you can’t deal with that, then don’t do the research. If it makes you feel better, donate the stolen goods…but then you are going to make someone mad when you don’t wear the clothes. I would deny the record player. Who needs one of those? Maybe for a paper weight. I would think that this is some type of “test” and if the goods are turned away, a certain researcher just got kicked out of the research study! Maybe Becky has the best method…make the act of giving/receiving the gift a topic of discussion. Perhaps the study subjects will give more respect then knowing that you don’t “roll like that…” Tough choice here. And how do you reciprocate something like this? Do you go out and steal something? Is this like an initiation into the “gang” where you will be accompanied to some random house where you will be expected to pull off some type of robbery? How will you draw the line? What will you expect from the study subjects in terms of how they view you and what it will take for you to gain that coveted rapport?

    • Hello Troy,

      I like your answer. I agree that if you do not accept the gift and refuse it outright, you will be denied information that might help your research but you need to ask yourseld how far you are willing to go in order to get answers. I think that is the ultimate question.

    • That is right Troy, to continue the research she might need to accept the gifts to show that she is not judging the culture or their behavior as bad. If she can’t deal with the decision, Angrosino says that she should not be doing the research.

      Maybe this is a situation where there might need to be a more defined role as a researcher and less as part of the community?

    • I appreciate the variety of perspectives and the openness of the responses, although I disagree that the only options for Rose are to accept the gifts or not do the research.
      The friend’s statement is manipulative. “You’re either one of us or you’re not” is tantamount to a guy saying, “If you love me, you’ll sleep with me.” The friend wants Rose to believe that the only way to fit in with the group and earn their trust is to act as they do. The statement is designed to evoke feelings of pressure, guilt, and obligation. The statement is a test of boundaries and of whether Rose will give in to the group pressure. She does. Rose falls into the trap of believing the statement is true when it isn’t. There were other ways to fit in and show herself as one of the group to elicit the information she seeks to collect from them.

      What Rose should know after six months of being immersed in black culture, or the “urban ghetto” culture as it is described here, is other cultural norms that she can call upon. For instance, one cultural norm in the urban ghetto is the respect for personal conviction. It stems from the black church, a central theme woven throughout the fabric of the culture. Rose already has been exposed to the black church. Calling upon a religious conviction could have given her a credible, ethical out. Taking a personal stance makes a clear statement about what is acceptable for you and what is not. The statement could have been something as simple as, “Can’t do it. It’s against my religious conviction” or she could have redirected the behavior by saying something like, “You know, Mary around the corner was just saying she needed some things like these. Why don’t you swing these over to her?” In “urban ghetto” vernacular, the statement might have been more like, “That’s not how I roll, but if you want to roll like that, cool. Knock yourself out.” The statements still show Rose as still a part of the culture while firmly establishing her personal ethical boundaries. It takes power away from the friend and the group, and places it firmly in Rose’s domain without offending the group of giving an air of superiority or judgment.

      Not accepting the gifts was an option. It could have been something she simply chose not to do, affording her both independence and group identification. She could, however, do other things to establish herself as part of the group, such as finding other ways to offer “quid pro quo,” such as the child sitting and driving other people around.

      • Evelyn, I really enjoyed reading your intuitive response that addressed and criticized both sides of the fence, while providing outstanding ethical solutions to the dichotomy that Rose was exposed to. Good job.

  6. I like our style Troy. But, there are some real hard decisions to make. I do not think the research project is worth the risk.

    • Tough decisions…no doubt. But when I read some of these other studies and people are getting shot and hacked up with machetes…I think I’ll deal with a cup of coffee and some stolen clothes (keep the record player).

  7. I agree that this feels like a test for Stone and I wholeheartedly agree with Dean. To put aside one’s moral compass for any reason is not acceptable. Accepting the gifts just because it is common practice calls into question just who the researcher really is as a person. This type of scenario is a hot-button issue for me. No one should compromise themselves for any reason. Added to this are the ethical considerations involved due to her position as a researcher. Stone must figure out a way to say thanks, but no thanks, and move forward. If this compromises her study, so be it.

    If the person were to leave with gifts in hand, yes, she would be considered an outsider for a time but eventually, after she continued to participate in the community, she would be added back in the fold by many. A researcher is studying life in this community; some people do stand up for themselves even in this type of community and face such obstacles. That would then be her perspective for continuing her research.

    • I agree Jessica. Stone needs to find a way to say thanks but no thanks. However, if her moral compass is telling her that the culture is doing something she is against and that their practices are wrong then she might need to think about leaving the study.

  8. For this case I would do as Angrosino said to do. Angrosino mentions that if the researcher finds that the culture or a practice of the culture is offensive or immoral then they should step away from the research. It seems like Rose finds the exchange of these stolen gifts to be wrong, and because of this of course she should not accept the gifts but she also needs to step away from the research. Angrosino suggests that a researcher needs to view a culture and its practices as neither good or bad. Of course this is a hard situation because the property is stole and the researcher could get in trouble for accepting gifts she knows are stolen.

    • I am just finding it hard to accept the fact that everyone is assuming the gifts are stolen. There is a slight possiblity that they may not be stolen and I think it hurts the research and the community that is being researched to just assume that the items are stolen because it is “the acceptable thing” to give away stolen goods. I think the researcher has a duty to find out where the gifts really came from before jsut assuming that they are stolen. Stone should not just decline them without further investigating the source of the gifts. To do so would be like throwing away the research project without even giving it a second change. Just my opinion.

      • I can see what you’re saying, Tamar. However, there are too many “ifs.” What if only one item was stolen? What if both were? What if it was from some type of charity? What if, What if, What if… The point is, if she is unsure and knows that exchange of stolen goods is commonplace, why would she even bother putting herself in that situation? I don’t believe there is a duty to find out if these things were stolen. How would she even begin to do that? If she begins digging around and the goods are not stolen, how many people would she have alienated by that action?

      • I think the fact that there is doubt in her mind, and that she feels the gifts might be stolen is the key here. Maybe they are not stolen, but Rose is doubting that and that is what has put her in this situation. If she feels the gifts are stolen maybe she doesn’t want to risk going to jail, but even if she didn’t go to jail she is already allowing her feelings about the situation to interfere with her research.

      • I get the concern about making assumptions. It seems that there was a culture that the researcher identified of giving stolen goods. Most of us know when our buddies come rolling up to the house and start giving us stuff for no apparent reason. The comment (by the friend) about not coming out of their pocket and then the additional, “You’re either with us or against us…” comment pretty much affirms that the stuff is red-hot.

    • Excellent point Gabriel. I tend to think there needs to be some direct questioning, “Why are you giving me these gifts?, I have nothing for you.” may help clarify. If the answer is vague or unclear and there is a defensive response then I would feel like something is wrong with this picture. If there is calm, confidence and clear evidence that this is a genuine offer of a gift it might “feel better” but does that make it right? Does that change the research? Are you putting aside your standards of behavior. I don’t feel like I would be comfortable with this as a researcher and I would probaly have to opt out.

    • I think she can continue with the research and still not take the gifts. We don’t know that Rose finds this behavior offensive or immoral. She just may not agree with it. If she states that she’d rather not accept such a generous gift with valid reasons why, she can continue. This is just one person, not the whole community.

    • I appreciate the line Angrosino draws and the “out” he gives, but I don’t think this situation rises to that level. It is not that cut and dry, not an either you do the requested act or you don’t do the research. What is happening here is that we are falling into thinking there is “one best way” to approach a situation when there are, in fact, many. You just have to think outside the box, asking yourself, “How do I meet the underlying need in the request being made and remain within my ethical parameters?” That question has not been asked. rather, the only question pondered is, do I take the goods or not? The better questions are, how are the many ways I can show that I am a part of the community? What are the other cultural norms and what other cultural capital and currencies can I use? I think the mark of an above-average researcher is the ability to think beyond the scenario to synthesize something new — new options. Maybe this is an opportunity for the researcher to introduce a different type of currency and observe the reaction to that.

  9. I have been in this same situation…..just kidding. I would take the gift and not wear them just in case; or wear them with a long trench coat. Either way, like Gabriel said, her feelings are getting in the way of her research. Either go with the flow, or back out.

    • I agree. Her feelings are getting in the way and she needs to decide what her next steps are going to be. She either needs to stop the research and leave or she needs to figure out a way to decline the gift without insulting her new friend. I still think that the fact that she is not a 100% sure about the fact that the gifts are stolen should make her continue her research. If she feels guilty or fear, she should find a way of finding out the source of the gifts without insulting or alienating the new friend. I think it is possible if she takes her time and gets to really know her new friend.

  10. If you take the gift even unknowingly if it is stolen or not, you are now possible subjecting yourself to and some could say engaging in criminal activity. I am still convinced her only option is to use the clothing and record player as an opportunity to learn more from the giver by using the gifts as talking points. I do think this will still take some skilled verbal maneuvering, but it seems like her best option.

    • I completely agree with your approach Becky. I think that it is essential to not accept the gifts because it would be morally wrong to put aside one’s morals for the sake of a research study. I like your suggestion of using this opportunity to discuss the situation with her friend. This could lead to more insights into the community and a greater understanding of the reasoning behind the behaviors. If taking this route impacts the study by placing the researcher as an outsider, then the researcher should end the study. No research is worth changing one’s moral to “blend-in” with a community. Once one begins to change their morals, it can become a “slippery-slope” until ideal of morality are changed. To me, the biggest concern that I have is that it seems as though the participants are not aware of her role as a researcher. Without the participants being well informed and giving informed consent, is the overall research project ethical?

  11. I appreciate Becky’s strategy, especially the point of explaining why she cannot accept the items. I believe it is important to make sure no judgment is attached and simply state that she cannot accept the items. The feeling that the items are stolen is enough reason to refuse. I agree with Jessica, trying to investigate would probably be most harmful.
    This case reminds me of the Ruby Payne conference I attended about five years ago, where she had participants take surveys of the “hidden rules”. (I don’t remember now which of our professors spoke about Payne not using research to guide her “findings”, but the exercise was insightful to me at the time.) Everyone was able to complete the survey of the average person with high confidence. Questions focus on items such as would you know how to sign up your child for Little League and obtaining a library card are easy. Next was the survey about the hidden rules of surviving poverty. I was unable to answer many of the questions, although I had experienced financial hardship as a child. So, I am thinking that being able to refuse suspected stolen goods might be a good survey question for Payne.
    http://www.asanet.org/introtosociology/Documents/Hidden%20Rules%20of%20Social%20Class.htm

    • But where would the survey question go? What if you can check items on all three? Okay, not the rich people’s survey. Like you, I grew up in poverty as a child so I was familiar with some of the poverty strategies… but now I’m supposedly middle class, which I can also answer some of those survey questions… Middle class feels poor. Back on topic now…I think I’ll go with what some of you are saying. If I can’t handle the guilt of receiving stolen shirts and an outdated (albeit stolen) record player, then maybe I’ll find another profession (or hobby).

  12. I’m with Dean and Becky on this one. She should not violate her own moral compass for the sake of the research. However, she may be able to gain more insight into her research by opening lines of communication about this type of gift giving in the community. I also found the point about being covert or overt in her research interesting. Is the community aware that she is studying them, their values, and their culture? Or is she doing this on the “down-low?” Interesting case study, nonetheless.

    • I agree with you that she shouldn’t involve herself if she would be unable to participate fully in the community. If she was aware that she might come into a situation that would conflict with her morals or beliefs, then she shouldn’t try and research there. On the other hand, she needs to separate herself and her beliefs from what she is observing in order to achieve the best outcome from her research. If she is letting her morals influence her actions in the research then the results may be skewed.

  13. I can’t help but to think of people in criminal justice (police officers, FBI, CIA) who often engage in criminal activity in order to infiltrate suspected criminals. We don’t question their morality because we know that what they are doing is for the greater good. In a much lighter note, isn’t Rose’s work for the greater good? Shouldn’t it be acceptable for her to take the possibly stolen goods in order to become an accepted member of this community? If she is unable to accept the goods, then she shouldn’t do the research. The information that she gathers from this study has the potential to provide important insight into the lives of this community and offer useful recommendations to improving their quality of life. It is evident that engaging in stolen items is a survival necessity and any hope of changing that will not happen without the work of researchers such as Rose. Ultimately, she needs to decide if this is the kind of research that she can handle.

    • Hana,
      I agree with you. The thing is that since Rose is not stealing anything and is not really committing a crime, I do not think she is changing her morals. I think she can justify accepting the gifts if she does not keep them and maybe donates them to a good cause. In that way, her conscience would be clear because she did not keep the gift and it will allow her to continue with her research. I also understand that she might be doing this for the greater good and in the end she might be able to help people with what she finds. I guess I can see this like a Robin Hood thing; he stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Was it wrong to steal? Yes, it was. Do I think Robin Hood was a bad person because he stole from the rich and gave to the poor? I am not sure that I do. I think we need to look deeper into things than just saying something is wrong or unethical because it looks that way on the surface. I am not saying it is ok if the friend stole the gifts, what I am saying is that Rose is not necessarily doing something wrong by accepting them. She might be sacrificing for the greater good. Just my two cents.

  14. Totally agree Val. Maybe you shouldn’t be engaged in research that doesn’t reflect your morales, ideals, etc. Just a though.

  15. I think that in order to study survival strategies used by low income residents, as was her research goal, she accepted a certain amount of risk — or at least should have foreseen a certain amount of risk involved with this type of research. It is no secret that lower income neighborhoods have higher crime rates. And if she was not willing to possibly witness crime, then she probably shouldn’t have taken on the research in case she was forced to stop by her unwillingness to fully participate in the community. I don’t think her choice was as dichotomous as either accepting the gift or not accepting it: I think she could have accepted it and maybe found a way to return it to local police or something, anonymously, so the gift giver’s identity was not compromised. While this in itself is covert activity, I don’t think it would be harmful to the gift giver, for her identity would ideally be anonymous; and she would not be subject to much risk. I think this would be the best moral strategy, because by Stone’s seeing it and not reporting it, the victim of the possible theft would never even have a chance to get her/his stuff back. At least if Stone covertly returned the items, the victims would have a chance to get their stuff back.Therefore, if Stone refused the gift and put her research at risk, she would be losing the chance to help the neighborhood via her research and simply ignoring a possible theft when she could covertly return the gift without, hopefully, exposing the gift giver.

    • I also think that she should have known the possible risks associated with her research and accepted that she might run into a dilemma like this one. I agree with you that she should take the gift in order to fulfill her role as a participating observer, but she should try and find a way to take it to the police without involving the person who gave it to her. I believe that if she gets the gift giver involved with the police it will discredit her position in the community and her research will suffer for it. She needs the community to be able to trust her, so if she gets one of them in trouble they will not be willing to involve her in their community anymore.

  16. She should refuse the gift but in a polite way. She doesn’t want to offend anyone by declining but accepting could be morally questionable. Refusing the gift will likely make her distrusted by the community. She has to be very careful in the way she refuses. Accepting could jeopardize her career because she could be arrested for theft and it could be on her conscious. What she could do is refuse the gift and later give him a gift (not stolen) to show that she is okay with giving and not receiving. I think just refusing the gift but not making amends with the community could hinder her research and giving a gift will not have as negative of an effect as receiving a stolen one. I wonder if she knew that she could possibly encounter this while conducting her research. Could she have approached this before it was brought up to her?

  17. To be honest, she should go with the flow of her research and accept the gifts. And if she still feels that these gifts that are “hot” she could just donate them to someone else in another neighborhood and make up a story as to why she gave them to someone else. I feel that if she does deny the gifts, the person who is giving her the gifts will suspect her as an undercover cop or something to that nature. Even the woman said it herself “Either you are one of us or you aren’t one of us”. Rose Stone needs to remember that her research is based off the study strategies for survival used by low-income residents. By this incident that is occurring she is missing the big picture of her research. Not only is she being presented with “hot” items but also the ultimatum “Either you are one of us or you aren’t one of us”. I feel that Stone’s mortals are being tested but also at the same time needs to remember that she is a participant observation. She mostly did everything within the community to be apart until now. To me this is some kind of final initiation into their neighborhood in a way by the “hot” items by helping one another in a sense.

  18. I can relate very well to the circumstance that Stone has found herself in. At times like these, it is important to put a few things into consideration. First of all, Stone must carefully weigh the pros and cons of her option. Secondly, it is her self-continence that can cause serious long-term mental stress if the wrong decision is made. The final thing to consider will be giving into immediate satisfaction by simply accepting the items without contemplating or foreseeing unwanted outcomes that may occur thereof.
    Weighing the pros and cons of her decision can be difficult knowing very well that not accepting the gifts will cause immediate disproval from her friend. However, accepting the items may lead to future unwanted complications. In my experience, I have dealt with issues similar to this before and keeping a clear head is probably the best thing to help guide me in my decision making. As people of habits with a need for companionship, it is easy for us to want to qualm the situation there and then. However, the rational mind goes against this survival instinct. To me, it will be simpler to do the right thing. Regardless that this is part of the culture in which this subgroup of society functions around as mentioned in the article, one’s integrity can be used to come to a sound conclusion. I have always lived by a simple rule while growing up. That is, “Do to others as you would want them to do onto you.” As common as this saying may be, it can be surprising as to how often we fail to put it into practice. It is obvious that the items have been stolen, which means that someone somewhere is coping with this loss. How would I feel if this person was me? This very thought would be the decisive reasoning for me to refuse the items. After all, if this person was my true friend, he or she would respect my decision regardless if it goes against the norm of the community.
    In every situation, self-continence should also be at the forefront. Though it is true that no one may be aware of my involvement in this, the most important person who does know is me. Coming to this realization imprisons my continence in such a way that having to live with myself becomes unbearable. Simply put, friends come and go but the one person who I need to live with is myself. Once again this will pull me away from accepting the gifts. A personal experience pertaining to this occurred to me once while I was shopping at Target. I was in the process of checking out at the register when I noticed that the cashier has failed to scan a blue ray move that I had the intention of purchasing. In her attempts to open the security casing, she has bagged it without scanning the item. Not wanting to take advantage of this, I brought it to her attention. Again, I could have walked out with a free blue ray movie, but how would that make me feel? Every time I watch the movie, it will surely bring back this negative memory. In the end, I need to ask myself if the twenty five dollars that I saved worth harboring this memory? Though we may all justify this differently, I for one would not have been able to cope with this memory.
    As human beings, we sometimes give into that immediate satisfaction. That immediate gratification has the tendency to get the best of us all of us. Out of the three points stated before, this is probably the most difficult to come to terms with. Call it an animal instinct if you wish, it is oftentimes difficult to let go of the materialistic things that are within reach. Again, one’s self continence can play a vital role in justifying the right thing to do. Another story I would like to share, relates to this concept very well. This event occurred several years back when my children were still very young. My daughter who was only four at time found a wallet while we were walking from the store to the parking lot. For most of us, finding a wallet on the ground is not an everyday occurrence. The first thing that came to my mind was, this was going to be a perfect opportunity for me to show my daughter the right thing to do. I picked up the wallet and we both went back into the store. I asked for the store manager and explained the situation to him. He took the wallet and assured me that more than likely, the owner will realize that it is missing and will retrace his steps back to the store. This act of good will brought an extremely gratifying feeling. Better yet, my daughter was able to see her father make the right decision which I know had made a positive imprint on her.
    Stone does face a hard choice but I feel that with the right mindset, she would be able to steer herself away from certain temptations. All it really takes are solid morals, ethics, and values and anyone can make that right decision for themselves.

    • Guilt seems to play a vital role in American society, a guilt best described as a tarnished delight.
      The way I see it is, most of us have probably purchased something that was stolen and the stolen item may have been sold and resold so many times that nobody knows that its stolen. Raise your hand if you have ever purchased an item on ebay, craigslist, at a yard-sale, the swap-meet? All are Black market hubs. The Black market is one of the few markets that survived the Great Depression. In fact, if it were not for the Black market, many would have starved during the Great Depression. Today many segments of society rely on the black market for survival. I believe everybody should have the right to eat, even if it means stealing, or trafficking.
      I guess my question is, who has the right to judge and say the gift is stolen?

  19. As an Ethnographer, it is their job to get in with the crowd they are studying, coming from a “hood” very representative of this, It would be a dilemma if she did not accept the gift and the gift giver may think of it as a sign that Stone can not be trusted. Stone is there to study and understand the culture, not try and improve it or change it in any sort of way but to understand why they do what they do, it is a means of survival and I’m pretty sure if the neighborhood had another choice, they would not all be involved in theft. Stone should accept and next time give her a gift, doesn’t necessarily have to be from a back of a truck but it will prove to the community she is one of them and not a snitch. If she refuses, things can get even messier, like the community turning on her or even target her to rob next time around, because she wasn’t able to connect with them on their level. They might see stone as stuck up after that, news will spread she cannot be trusted and she will be outed in many events.

  20. To study a certain group, you have to to be accepted into the group first and gain their trust. If Stone were to not accept the gift, it could’ve jeopardized her study. If Stone was there to really study the culture in that particular place, I would think she would have had to accept the gift. Even if its stolen items, she would have to take into account that that is their culture – to gift stolen or non stolen items. It is also their culture to reciprocate so even if Stone feels like she doesn’t need to, she should because its their culture and she decided to study their culture so she has to at least take part in it. If she doesn’t, she may lose her friend’s trust and then her reputation may be tarnished in that area, thus jeopardizing her whole study.

  21. I think it is similar to eating was is given to you, and participating in ceremonies you might not otherwise participate in. It is a little more risky, given that accepting stolen property is against the law and punishable, and if it were like taking drugs, that might not be the best way to be a participant observer. It is definitely a little challenging to be accepted into a group if you don’t “do as the romans do” but that has to be something that is a personal choice. Maybe there is a way to be a nonparticipant observer without threatening the authenticity of the study? Hard to say

  22. Rose should refuse the gift and face whatever repercussions that may come with that. What happens if she’s out in the community wearing the stolen clothing and the previous owner sees her? Or as the article points out if the stolen record player is traced back to her?

  23. She doesn’t need to wear or use the hot gifts, she can easily give them back to the community, like forwarding the gift to another member or give it away as a donation, and thus preventing her use in stolen goods and still have the communities trust.

    • I feel like their would be an issue with forwarding the gifts to someone else. Re-gifting can be a real jerk move in some communities-Even if the gift is not hot.

      • I do agree with several students: you have to take the gifts. In order to be accepted you have to be a full participant in this culture. Sometimes the best thing to do is remain amoral, have an absence of judgement and opinion and simply be like the people- a survivor.

  24. She says she is worried about being seen wearing the clothing in public. Just how rare and exclusive is this clothing? If I was out in public and saw someone wearing the same piece of clothing that was previously stolen from me, I wouldn’t assume that they were in possession of that clothing because they stole it from me. More likely, they bought the same Thing I did. And the record player? What are the chances that the hypothetical person it was stolen from will be make their way to Stone’s place and eventually discovery her “thievery”. So it’s not either of those two excuses for why she won’t accept the “gifts”. That means the real reason for caution in acceptance of the gifts is guilt as Ken mentioned in a comment somewhere above this one. Why should stone feel guilty? After all, the “theft” already occurred and can’t simply be undone. For the sake of developing further trust and bond strength with the people she should accept the gifts. She can Lock them away and only bring them out for the gift givers occasionally to let them think she appreciates their gifts if that helps. Reciprocate with a gift that isn’t stolen and is relatively inexpensive of course. She’s not stealing anything herself and could claim ignorance in the highly unlikely instance she is caught be law enforcement.

  25. In the end, Rose is left with a choice, “Either you are one of us or you aren’t one of us. You can’t have it both ways.” At this point in her research, she can’t afford to risk her data because of her morals because at the moment her morals means nothing. It may be unethical in her part, but either accept the way of their culture or start all over and choose a different research topic. The research is to study the survival tactics in the low-income community and gain information on that matter. If accepting “hot” gifts is part of that study then there is no way to deny that part of the research. It may be vital in the research she is conducting. She may lose the integrity of her studies. Rose should have known what she was getting herself into when she did the study. After 6 months of immersing herself in the community, Rose should have enough knowledge of how things are being done in the community.
    On the other hand, if she rejects the gifts she may be subjected to being alienated within the community and her research may be compromised. She will probably lose her standing in the community and lose many friends resulting in her research being cut short.
    You either go for the Gold or settle for the Bronze.

  26. After reading a lot of these comments I see such great points being made and truthfully it’s hard thinking of something original and worthwhile mentioning. The arguments for and against taking the “hot gifts” both contain valid points and can either further the research or potentially halt community alliances and end all further research. My comment goes back to Dr. Mullooly’s Ethics video, where he makes the point to keep one’s ethics in line comes to discretion of the individual. In this case it really just comes down to Stone on what she can live with and what feels comfortable doing. The risk assessment may vary from individual to individual and ultimately it is in the hands of the researcher. Personally I would politely decline the gifts and find a tactile way to explain to “my friend” why I can’t accept the gift and hope my part does not end there.

  27. If I were put in this situation I would be torn between my research and doing what I believe to be right. There is a divide in Stone because if she rejects the gifts it is essentially rejecting her research. There could be a way out of keeping the stolen gifts, perhaps she can just turn them into the police station anonymously if she is torn between telling the truth and having an “in” with the community members she is trying to connect with. That could be an option but ultimately if she is not comfortable and does not believe accepting the gifts is the right thing then she should not do it. The solution would be to find away to say no to the “hot gifts” because if she were to accept it would only start a cycle. The cycle would involve giving and taking more and more “hot gifts.” If she truly does not want to participate in the community practices of gift exchanging then she should not accept the gifts. In the end she could compromised her own integrity and self being by going against what she believes. On the other hand if she could care less then go for it take the gifts but she should know she is going to have to pay for them some way or another.

  28. This one is a difficult scenario to answer to me. The reason why is that the ethical thing to do would be to say no to the “hot” goods. Another part of me though is telling me that it is a gift and it would be rude not to accept. Also if I were to get caught I could easily just say I did not know they were “hot” and that it was a gift to me from the person who gave it to me. This means that I could get away while at the same time putting the person who stole the items in the first place maybe behind bars. This means that I can be safe and I can probably relocate without anyone knowing because as the saying goes: “snitches get stitches.” That is my opinion, but since this is about ethics the right and ethical thing to do would be to not accept the gifts because if she is fearful that she may get found out then she should go with her gut feeling and try to find a way to decline, while also maintaining an active membership within the community. Also this study does not mention how long the study was going to be. Did the study finish already? I do not know because it does not say so if she was done already then she could essentially leave without harming her study.

  29. This is a scenario that happens far to often when researchers are trying to build a kinship with those who they observe. Going into an environment such as this one that carries a variety of ethic choices that have to be done by the research are tasks that challenge the study on so many different levels. If the researcher refuses to accept the gift there could be a backlash of disconnecting herself with the individual and ultimailty from the community while missing out on the opportunity to fully engage with the individuals. At the same time accepting the gift will create a chain of effects that will lead to more and more similar delinquent activities to be committed that could spiral out of control. At the end of the day Rosa still has her choice to do what she thinks is right and ethically correct. If I was in her situation I would not accept the gifts on the peer level that I could be the one that faces legal consequences. Finding more subjects and communities like this one would be not be hard to find and if the choice was one that ended building further kinship or observations then moving on with different subjects would be the next step. Overall all it is important for a researcher to never lose their integrity in what they belief in and while they could witness acts of crimes and report on costumes that the “researcher” does not agree on, they will always have the choice to do what they think is right.

  30. Stone is in for a treat. Accepting gives her a sense of belonging and declining gives her a sense of rejection. She can accept the gift and then says they were stolen and she can throw them away. She has to choose and I feel that any of her choices will be wrong. There will not be a right answer because the thought of having something stolen will stay in the back of her mind for forever. Rejecting the gifts would result in dislike from the whole community. Something she spent six months building and I am sure those six months were not easy. I really do not know what she could do, unless she ends her research early, leave and never return. She can also accept and keep the goods in hiding, but how long can she keep that up? Or straight tell the friend she does not want the gifts because it goes against her morals and hope the community accepts her for who she is.

  31. In the Deaf culture, we have a key value that is called “reciprocity.” A favor is given and returned at a later time. However, it is done with good intentions and a sincere heart; based on the skills (or as we call it “the inherent wealth”) of the person giving of themselves. In this case, the items that are being “given” are “hot” and for some that poses a moral dilemma. At the same time, the acceptance of these “hot” items has been deemed a “rite of passage” and in essence the epitome of the extension of trust. The person offering the items very clearly stated “Either you are one of us or you are not.” Therefore, the ethnographer, in the desire to “do what Romans do” needs to accept this offer of trust and accept the “hot” times; forgoing any potential consequence (negative or positive). If the ethnographer were to decide to not accept the items, then the study would need to stop as the trust has been breached and then the issue of harm toward subjects begins to escalate and poses a violation of our role as educational researchers and our commitment to “do no harm” per IRB practices. A challenging case indeed!

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