Dr. King once famously said he dreamed of a day when a man was judged not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character.
Speaking for myself, I can't remember a time when I "judged" a person by the color of his skin upon first meeting the person. Of course, sometimes the person's character becomes evident the minute they open their mouth and speak, or when you read the writing on his T-shirt, but I have never said to myself, "Here comes a black man. I know what he's going to be like."
Of course, I grew up in the north and MLK experienced what he experienced in the south and formed his opinions about white people and black oppression from his own experiences there. He was right. On the other hand, just because blacks living in the north in the late 1950s or early 1960s didn't have the police set dogs on them or get sprayed with high pressure fire hoses when they tried to eat at the Woolworth lunch counter didn't mean they didn't suffer humiliating treatment or otherwise experience racism. Surely, sometimes the "quiet racism" of smiling white liberal Christians must be nearly as exasperating as police dogs. That's just my personal observation; I don't have any way of knowing for sure.
So, I ask myself where "prejudice" started in the first place. Way back at the beginning of mankind, was there racial conflict back then? Because it sure doesn't seem like it started in recent history. If this weird desire to not be around each other (it probably works both ways) DOES go back for thousands or tens of thousands of years, then maybe it had its roots in some sort of instincts back then. Just speculating.
What if humans have ALWAYS had this uneasiness inside them that made them be wary of ANYTHING new, anything different than themselves. A survival mechanism. Whatever. At the very root of it all, isn't that what "discrimination" or (insert your own hate-word here) is defined as? "You are different than I am. Let me slowly and carefully check you out and see if you mean to hurt me or not."
It's a good instinct to have if you meet a bear or a lion. Perhaps it's good to be a bit wary when you meet a new person, too. Especially if that person in some way looks different than you. Maybe that's why little children when they are "shy" take a while to warm up to a stranger and make sure there is no danger before they get too friendly. In today's world, good for them.
But, after being around another group of people for hundreds and hundreds of years, it would seem only natural that you would not be wary anymore. Not at first, at least. There is obviously much more than initial instinct at work here. Modern racism is obviously (to me) learned behavior.
Is racial discrimination wrong? Always wrong? Political discrimination? Religious discrimination? Nationalistic discrimination?
The dictionary I am reading says discriminate means to recognize distinctions; to differentiate; to perceive differences between.
Then it goes on to say in another meaning it means "to make an unjust or prejudicial distinction in the treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, sex or age."
Obviously it is the last definition this post is talking about.
Thesaurus examples include: be biased against, be prejudiced against, treat differently, treat unfairly, put at a disadvantage, single out, victimize.
Is it possible for a government to discriminate in that sense? Is it possible for a government to correct or remedy discrimination in it's society? Is it possible to discriminate against a majority? -- or only against a minority? (Sometimes the minority has the power.)
In places like colonial India, or apartheid South Africa, where people treated unequally were in the vast majority, was that still considered discrimination?
What is "reverse" discrimination? That one seems a bit convoluted.
What should be done by a government to combat discrimination in the private day-to-day interactions of people? Or is that beyond the scope of government?
A government can't change minds but it can force people to do certain things. Apparently, when government is involved, the object is to create a level playing field rather than change people's minds? (That's a question.)
Today is MLK's birthday, and tomorrow will be the corresponding national holiday, so that's why I was contemplating this subject and wondering how far we've come and what we have really accomplished with regards to racial equality in this country. Have we simply driven racism underground for the most part? Not even that? We continue in our polarized parallel societies, it seems.
A person who believes in God, in the traditional way, has often been taught in his religion that God "always was and always will be." It is easy enough to accept that God always will be. Apparently the human mind can see that as reasonable. However, the other part, the part about always having existed, is something that we can't wrap our minds around, and must take it "on faith."
What is the universe? I don't know, but two of the properties the universe has, it seems to me, are all-encompassing and endlessness. I mean, everything that exists must be "inside" the universe, and (2) there is no such thing as the "far edge" of the universe. Again, we face the same paradox as we did with the nature of God: we can somehow believe (or accept) that every single particle that exists is somewhere in the universe, but that there is no "end" or "edge" to the universe takes a bit more work. It's not something our human minds can explain logically. Maybe we have to take that on faith too.
With God (or the universe, for that matter) we can accept that it has no end, but EVERYTHING has a beginning, right? Somehow, someplace, sometime. The logic problem with the universe is a bit opposite from the God paradox in that we have trouble believing it is endless. Our minds tell us that if we travel fast enough and far enough and long enough, we are going to reach the far "wall" of the universe. We seem to believe everything has boundaries. But if there is a wall, then there is something on the other side of that wall.
If it is not a wall, but some sort of Star Trek "barrier" or "force field" and we step outside the universe a couple of steps, then return... where were we?
Maybe nowhere. Maybe we were just at the library with our head resting on the table asleep until the bell rings.
"Although strong emergence is logically possible, it is uncomfortably like magic. How does an irreducible but supervenient downward causal power arise, since by definition it cannot be due to the aggregation of the micro-level potentialities? Such causal powers would be quite unlike anything within our scientific ken. This not only indicates how they will discomfort reasonable forms of materialism. Their mysteriousness will only heighten the traditional worry that emergence entails illegitimately getting something from nothing."
—Mark A. Bedau, 1997
"The ability to reduce everything to simple fundamental laws does not imply the ability to start from those laws and reconstruct the universe.The constructionist hypothesis breaks down when confronted with the twin difficulties of scale and complexity. At each level of complexity entirely new properties appear. Psychology is not applied biology, nor is biology applied chemistry. We can now see that the whole becomes not merely more, but very different from the sum of its parts."
I always wondered what happened to Moe. We had shared a piece of plastic in the rain at Woodstock. Moe seemed to have such big dreams. I knew he would go far. I sensed I was in the presence of greatness. I half-expected to see him become president one day. He had all the answers, or so I thought at the time.
He didn't become president though.
Moe was older than me by several years. He had already been in college for 5 years then in the dark, rain coming down. Or said he had. I don't remember where. Not New York. He spoke with a thick California accent and said words like "hassle" and "right on" a lot.
I saw Moe the other day. I'm sure it was him, even though I had only shared a sheet of plastic in the rain for a few hours. He didn't remember me, of course. I dropped a buck and he flashed me an ancient peace sign I had long forgotten.
It was raining this time, too.
Moe was part of the Greatest Generation. He survived the brown acid at Woodstock.