Sunday, January 15, 2012

Making things right (part one)

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.


  1. It starts in the heart. The need to belong. Colour, sex, nationality are secondary.
    I live in a street, my neighbours and I are one 'group.' Further down the road is another 'group.' We are not 'them' simply because we are 'Us!'

    Whether a street, a town, a nation a colour, religion or anything else it is the 'group' that 'we' belong to that matters. If things go wrong or 'they' try to change things we can blame them, and class, colour, sex etc then come into it.

    Usually people with differences can get along fine, until something bad happens then blame is offered.

    Do you follow?

  2. You ask so many questions, any attempt to answer them is going to end up like a post in itself.

    As far as I can see, any discrimination is wrong. I can't at this moment think of and instance where it might be right. Reverse discrimination is supposed to put right some of the wrongs but I'm not sure that it doesn't cause more problems in itself.

    I suppose nationalistic discrimination comes in with trade tariffs and such, rather than letting the market dictate. Difficult. I can understand that better.

    On a more personal level, I don't think a government has any hope of ending discrimination but they should point the way. If someone really wants to discriminate they can always find another excuse unfortunately.

    I don't know that I agree with Adullamite that people with differences can get along fine until something bad happens. Well, they CAN, but often don't especially where the differences are visible. It's too easy to form an opinion on anything perceived as "different" and therefore alien or at least "them" rather than "us". Fear of the unknown is a major factor in discrimination.

    If a group is avoided because of a perceived difference, the prejudice is going to be reinforced because that group will continue to be unknown.

    I'd better stop before I write a long rambling essay.

  3. I've always been an advocate for treating people based on who, not what, they are. I don't want to be part of the problem.

    Government can (a) penalize individuals or companies with policies that clearly discriminate materially or visibly against some subgroup or (b) force integration in some environments where mixing of groups is not happening (as with the controversial busing).

    If there were down sides to these efforts made by the government (as most ham-handed efforts have at least some issues), I think they were, overall, good. The advancement made by people of different cultural backgrounds since the sixties to here is far greater, in my opinion, than the century before.

    Is it done? No. Discrimination against races, sexual orientation, gender, wealth status, religious differences, etc. still go on. But I'm not sure the government can do more than it has and some policies, including busing and some quotas, have likely outlived their usefulness. On the other hand, government imposed discrimination, like precluding same sex marriage, can be eliminated.

  4. Interesting questions and comments. I see validity in parts of all. I just read an article that touched on this subject: We Are Not All Created Equal by Stephen Marche. In it he states,

    "More than anything else, class now determines Americans' fates. The old inequalities — racism, sexism, homophobia — are increasingly antiquated [fig. 1]. Women are threatening to overwhelm men in the workplace, and the utter collapse of the black lower middle class in the age of Obama — a catastrophe for the African-American community — has little to do with prejudice and everything to do with brute economics. Who wins and who loses has become simplified, purified: those who own and those who don't."

    I'm not sure if I necessarily agree with all of Mr. Marche's essay, but it did make for interesting reading.

    I guess I would like to have a government that protects the inalienable and unalienable rights of all its citizens whether they be of a different race, religion, sexual orientation, age, condition and so forth.

    But I definitely do not want a government legislating my personal morality.


  5. @A. - I'm glad when you write an essay. You are so thoughtful. Now I must think about what you said and make another post.

    @Stephanie Barr - Too much to absorb right now. Can governments force people to like each other? I can see the goal of equal rights and opportunity, but what is achieved by forcing the mixing of two peoples who don't want to be mixed? No, I think you have busing wrong. It was to bring blacks to better schools, not to experience whites. I may be wrong.

    @Red Dirt Girl - All of you have such good points, and all of you raise even more questions.

    I did go to your link and read. I must admit I don't think anything at all like the author of that article. I'm not willing to accept that we now have settled into rigid classes, and I am not ready to believe poor people can't become much, much more than they are now, simply by taking advantage of the opportunities living in this country offers. Education and hard work still work. Of course, this is only my opinion and that author has given his opinion to the contrary.

    Government won't legislate your morality if you don't let it. Our government has already decided what values to push though, and make laws to protect and condemn. So be vigilant. :)

    I am optimistic, believe it or not.

  6. I think, and it's just my opinion, that segregation perpetuates the problem. If you mix them up, some people will still hate, true, and you can't regulate it away. But I think it's *harder* when you come face to face every day to see someone as a "something." It can be done, but, if even a few people come out thinking, "Wow, she's really not that different than I am," you've done a good thing.

    Everyone who starts seeing individuals instead of labels makes the situation better.

    I think.

  7. @Adullamite - A lot of this is what is in the heart, to be sure. I just don't think that's where it starts. And I am not sure it is a desire to belong to a group or gang, either. Not directly, anyway. I still believe there is something to do with "You are different than I am."

  8. @ Stephanie Barr - You are right in some instances. When the government just throws people together through no choice of their own, there is often resentment and a hardening of the hearts rather than acceptance. I remember when the government relocated a bunch of Vietnamese fisherman somewhere on the coast of Texas. The local fishermen didn't take kindly, since they were not making a decent living to start with. I don't know how you can do it though, except by the government forcing it. Otherwise people don't seem to get together forever.



Related Posts with Thumbnails