The fig leaf argument excuses a greater evil by bringing up a lesser evil. Like if your mother caught you taking five cookies from the cookie jar, you point out that your brother took one. Or if there is a plank in your eye you point out the speck in your brother’s eye.
It is a common sort of argument used by white racists. Like excusing the millions upon millions of people killed by whites in racist genocides in Europe, North America, South America and Australia by pointing out the Rwandan genocide which killed fewer than a million.
Some whites seem to honestly believe in this argument (“Africans took part in the slave trade!”, etc), but in practice it is more a derailment than anything.
It is a good way to derail almost any talk by blacks of the evils of white history. Let them say whatever they want about slavery, genocide, lynchings, institutional racism and blah, blah, blah, blah. Just wait your turn and then bring out some statistic about black street crime. Blacks will then feel the need to defend themselves against the lesser charge and forget about the greater one against whites.
That is the unserious use of the argument. It does not require personal belief in it – it is just a cheap trick to derail an argument. It works well for those who care more about winning an argument than in trying to understand the truth of things.
Arguably it is also a white racist defence mechanism – a way for whites to avoid facing up to the truth about themselves.
At the serious level, though, whites have committed evils on a scale way beyond those of blacks. Because whites over the past 500 years have had vastly more power than blacks. It is not even close.
Take murder, for example. In 2009, according to the FBI, blacks in America killed 245 more whites than whites killed blacks. If you extend that back to the day the slaves were freed, that comes to something like 36,000 murdered white people.
But that is just street crime. What about all the blacks who died in the slave trade? What about all the blacks who were worked to death on purpose? That comes to 27.3 million dead black people. The African Diaspora (of which Americans are a fourth) will need more than 25,000 years of street crimes just to catch up.
Maybe if we throw in black genocides against whites that will help to speed things up – except that there have been none! At least none that have killed over a million whites. The same goes for whites who died because of the black slave trade. Or who were worked to death by black slave owners. And so on.
If we made a fig leaf that was 1/25,000th the width of the human body it would not even be as wide as a hair.