On the Ancestry:
I agree the question's reference to the ethnic group was eyebrow raising (In fact I am partially through my grandmother part of the ethnic group that was referred to in the post so these things affect me personally).
However, I do not think that author was being racist in this case. In fact because this case is not clear cut I actually even asked author why should that ancestry matter/how is it possible to know it (I wanted to see the answer to judge what the intent of the user was). The author defended it on basis of thinking this will help to identify the person (the question was a reference request to a video about economics of healthcare). For full disclosure in this case I think such ancestry is very poor identifier and agree with you it did not add much to the question but some people are open about their ancestry so it is potentially an information that could narrow down the search for the reference.
For example, even Wikipedia has a page on list of economists of such ancestry. I honestly do not think Wikipedia is being racist here. And so reference to such ancestry can help narrow down search. The author is also user with decent amount of rep on other stacks so it does not look like a troll. Furthermore, the author did not written anything in the post that would indicate any prejudice toward that ethnicity or even stereotype of any way. Lastly, I also have said ancestry and although that remark felt on the nose I did not feel that user is being racist toward me (although other people might disagree). I think in such cases it is best to give people presumption of innocence rather than guilt otherwise it can lead to more harm than good.
This being said I am not trying to defend the person. If even mere reference to ethnicity violates CoC then it should be gotten rid of. Stack Exchange is private site they can set their own rules. Hence I think it would be best to just flag it and have moderators decide if it violates CoC and needs to be edited out or the user should be punished in a way that is appropriate in this case (I would suppose warning not to do it again would be appropriate in my opinion).
On the Economics of Slavery:
I do not think that we should shun discussing the economics of slavery or even race etc.
There are several reasons for that:
- In this case the science is actually on the side of abolitionists from societal perspective. So in this case even science shows that slavery is not really good thing.
So why should we stay silent about that? Which world do you think will be better place? World, where people know that slavery is both immoral and inefficient or just place where people know it is only immoral? I think the former is the case.
- It can be argued that economics profession got bad rep because it does not pay enough attention to economics of race, slavery etc.
In fact the American Economic Association (AEA) which is currently quite strict on stamping out racism and promoting diversity officially stated the following [emphasis mine]:
We encourage all economists to seek out existing scholarship on race, stratification economics, and related topics. To get us started, our AEASP and CSMGEP colleagues and students are compiling a reading list on racism and the experience of Black Americans. ... We look forward to the development of new scholarship by economists to better understand racism, a word that rarely appears in our professional journals, and how to end its impact on our economy, and encourage submissions to the AEA journals that address aspects of racism and economics.
Hence according to the main professional body of economics in the world discussing these issues helps to combat racism. Sure we can debate whether AEA is correct but I think you would be hard pressed in finding anyone who would say that AEA is conservative - in fact it has become quite progressive in last 10 years.
- Of course, the debate on these delicate issues has to be very sensitive. However, it should not be shunned in my opinion. We just need to be extra careful that in these instances debate is conducted in factual, science based manner, and in a manner that is not purposefully provocative.
Responding to Edit:
- If someone posts clearly provocative question - some might remember that there was some short lived question about whether using bullets during holocaust was economical - such questions should be clearly closed and promptly deleted as they in my opinion are trolling not good faith questions.
In my opinion it is possible to discern question sincerity from the style of writing and also from the effort put into it. In the above mentioned holocaust question the style of writing was clearly purposefully provocative, and it had other hallmarks of trolling (low rep account, style of writing similar to known troll on this site, no references to proper research etc).