I think the most important thing to consider, before even what should have governed Cash's actions, is what DID govern his actions. He himself essentially states that his lack of intervention was due to his close friendship with Strohmeyer and the fact that what occurred were, "someone else’s problems." However, there's many other aspects of the situation that could have contributed to his mindset. Firstly, Iverson was a young black girl, he was a white man. It's not unreasonable to conclude that he did not feel very much kinship or care towards her to begin with given their different backgrounds and the backdrop that is American history. Furthermore, it's important to remember that perhaps he really was afraid of Strohmeyer attacking him, and they were both acting illogically due to the influence of alcohol. Now, I'm not writing this to defend their actions, as others in this thread have written, such as FlyingCelestialDragon, I'm simply stating these motivations to give context as to what he could- and should- have done differently. Cash has no right to absolve himself of any blame that should be placed on him using any of the above statements, but they can help us understand the why of the situation. To begin that, I would say that it's difficult for me to imagine that in any scenario Cash would have done anything differently, partially due to apparent shortcomings on his part, and partially due to societal pressures. Cash should have been governed by basic ideas of compassion and right-and-wrong, in a similar vein to the beginning of Martha $tewart's post. It really is just basic human decency to step in to help a young girl who is the victim of extreme assault, and clearly Cash is not an exemplary example of a compassionate individual. In addition, however, each and every violent act committed against African Americans from 1619 to the modern day is also an offense to basic human decency, and it is highly likely in my view that such a history of racial discrimination influenced Cash's lack of action. The first step towards acting compassionately is recognizing another as human. Essentially, Cash's behavior has underlying societal connotations, and I'm sure that for many who stand by- especially when they are the only one present besides the victim and perpetrator, as we know from "Nightmare on the 36 Bus" and "The Bystander Effect in the Cellphone Age" that when there are many present people assume another will act, though societal ideas can affect bystanders here too- the reason is more based upon ideas of who deserves help than upon who needs it, as it should be.
Thus, what should one do when faced with a situation like Cash's, or that of the bystanders of Kitty Genovese's rape and murder? Well, there should only be one question to answer, as we know from those who do act: Does another human need help? If yes, one should try to do something. Yes, that something will vary based on situation, personal physical or circumstantial ability (i.e., if someone needs a doctor and you aren't one, try to call for one, don't try to perform a surgery), but something is leagues better than nothing. The key to looking past the filters that I mentioned in the above paragraph is not one I can really provide. We can only use them as ways to check our own biases, and try to learn from them to make better decisions. If we would prioritize our friends now over another if they were hurting another or committing a crime, have a think on that. It's not the best choice if they are hurting someone else, no matter the manner or reason. At the end of the day, there is no easy solution to overcoming biases and just thinking about helping another, but as stated in "The Trick to Acting Heroically," "heroes don’t just do good — they do good instinctively." That is the kind of response we should all strive for.
Now I would like to discuss what these wrongdoings we are responding to are- what is the standard for what is something to act on? I think there really is just one requirement: if an action hurts another, than one should step in and stop whoever is the perpetrator from hurting the victim. That should be the basic principle. As I see it, that is what compassion- which I stated before is at the core of making the decision to do something- is. However, I do believe there are exceptions to this rule. If acting to save another puts others who one cares about in danger, there is a choice that one can make- I believe- without judgement, on who they wish to save. This is the reason I do not blame, for example, citizens of North Korea for not overthrowing the Kim dynasty or even just protesting wrongdoings, because the actions of one family member can lead to all of the others' demise. Therefore, I believe that in, for example, the legal case for an instance such as the murder of Sherrice Iverson, bystanders who could have intervened without risking the lives of a non-perpetrating friend or family member, for example David Cash, should receive some degree of punishment, which could take many forms depending vastly on the situation.
In summary, because I realize this is a very long and disjointed post, I believe the first thing to do when considering the Cash case is what may have influenced him in making the decision he did. From here, we can examine what should have governed his actions but didn't: compassion, and recognition of all as deserving of help, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, age, or any other factor, and why we should use those principles to help anyone in need of help. That is, of course, unless doing so puts people very dear to one in serious danger, in which case it is reasonable to try and protect them as well, if one is unable to protect or assist everyone.
I'd like to end with a quote that keeps coming to mind in the context of the Strohmeyer-Cash situation:
"Nice people made the best Nazis."
- Naomi Shulman