The Beginning of the End of Discrimination

Posted: April 14, 2012 in rules
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Marital status.

National origin.



Sexual orientation.

These are sometime the basis for unlawful, socially harmful discrimination.

I’ve been discriminated against. When I was a teacher,  I remember one of my students looking me in the eye, glaring and saying, “You’re not capable of understanding.” Then I knew what it felt like to be on the receiving end of racism.

For me and for most of us, discrimination is something we think of  other people doing.  They are racists, bigots, fanatics, the unjust. But it is a symptom of the disease of unlawful or harmful discrimination not to see it in ourselves. With our “they” we  poke out our own eyes.

To actually experience condescension in our own voices, say when speaking to a sixteen-year-old or an eighty-seven year old or a disabled person, is harder.

We may also experience it in our silence. I noticed at one point that I spoke less to my daughter’s friend who can’t speak, than to her other friends. Why? He can’t speak back, so I felt awkward. I decided to change. Why shouldn’t he receive my attention as much as any of her other friends. It’s been a nice change for me. I have my own “way” with him now. We laugh a lot, together.

I know a young woman who in her twenties looks ten years younger. When she asks for help while shopping for clothes, store clerks sometimes ask her where her mom is or direct her to the “younger department.” She knows what it’s like to experience age discrimination, and while one might easily defend the clerks as having no way of knowing, such situations bring to light how easily we slight others and don’t  know it.

It’s subtle. I have felt a distancing going on in my mind as certain people have approached me. An observation of size or disability or age has  sometimes shot a small dose of fear or repulsion into me. I hate having to admit this, but my first impressions have sometimes been based  completely on superficial and  automatic distinctions.  And I don’t always catch on to the fact that I have done this.

Sometimes our racial or social distinctions seem to us to be  wise notations of  differences. We think of ourselves as understanding. We make a capability clarification or a  role clarification; we see our discrimination  as a necessity that reflects physical reality.  “There are differences between men and women.” As such, our discrimination begin disguised as enlightenment.

I remember in my younger days thinking that I wouldn’t go to a church that was pastored by a woman. I based this on an interpretation of scripture. I based it on no experience. I had none. I based this on my own insecurity. I based this on what other men and women that I knew said they believed.  Now I would gladly go to a church pastored by a woman, and now I can present a strong scriptural basis for this and now I am surrounded by other people who affirm this. It is so important to be able to change, to be able to shed former boxes of constricted and harmful thinking.

I have had to grow into the realization that different should not be disallowed. I have had to flight past social taboo and come out free to accept as women as equals and their contribution as enriching.

The truth is that we too often hide our “put downs”  in religious mandates, governmental programs, institutional values and herd mentalities.  “They can’t” or we “must not” or “God doesn’t want'” can be simply disguises for insecurity, fear and selfishness.

Discrimination often functions within social expectations and rules.  It is better to hear than to sign. It is better to see than to be blind. It is better to be light-skinned than dark. It is better to be rich than poor. It is better to be educated than not.

What is needed is a definition of what it means to not discriminate.

To not discriminate is to experience someone different from you and to not see them as less than you.

To not discriminate is to hire a person who is in some way the opposite of you,  and not compete with or intimidate that person. It is when an extroverted leader hires an introverted leader to enrich the emotional depth and quality of the organization.

To not discriminate is for a man to see a woman as his equal, fully empowered, taking her place in the family or the organization and being treated as in no way inferior or lesser or weaker or more emotional. It is for her not to be dominated and controlled or put in a limiting box.

To not discriminate is to treat the school smart daughter the same as the daughter who is in special education and to affirm them both, equally and to see that smart is not better it is just different and kind is not better either it is just a quality that some have more than others.

To not discriminate is to see a court case where the one charged is Hispanic and the one dead is black and to not see this as a brown versus black issue but a right or wrong issue that must be given a process that has as its goal the truth and justice and love.

The truth is that it is always a fight for the truth.

And the truth is that it is hard not to discriminate, that we all tend towards it, and that maturity and personal growth always involve movement toward loving other people more.

The beginning of the end of discrimination?

Think of it as something that you, not just “they” struggle with.

  1. Hi,
    Your comments are definitely something to think about. Here in Sweden, a country that says it is the least discriminatory country in the world (can be true concerning Gender discrimination), probably discriminates the most in the other areas (age, religion, race, etc.). I myself have been working for 15 yrs trying to change the attitudes in the workplace.

    If more of use express our views against discrimination in any form, the world my become a better place.

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