Written by: Michael Kravshik.
The fight against discrimination is certainly a noble cause. Ensuring that people of all genders, colors, religions, sexual orientations, etc. have equal rights and opportunities is something that is integral for the betterment of society. Defeating discrimination can only really be seen as successful if it occurs in the hearts and minds of the people, but government can also help that process along. It is my belief that in certain situations the government does have a responsibility to conduct aspects of this fight to ensure equal rights and opportunities for all (laws, regulations, etc.). That being said, I have commonly disagreed with some of the methods of its implementation. The methods I am referring to are given labels like affirmative action, employment equity, or positive discrimination. However, reverse discrimination (as I like to call it) is not a way to solve the injustices of the past. These methods are linked to what I call ‘ancestors’ guilt’; a phenomenon I have written about previously and believe should not exist. I will argue that reverse discrimination is not only nonsensical from a historical perspective, but more importantly, it is racist in its own right.
A dictionary definition of discrimination is as follows: treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit.
I could end this piece right there and it would likely be enough to make my point. A decision does not need to be entirely based on skin color, ethnic origin, religion, etc. for it to be discriminatory. If these factors influence a decision in any way then it’s discrimination. To me, it doesn’t matter who the victims or beneficiaries of this system are—when discrimination exists, it’s wrong. Historical injustices are always given as the reasons that necessitate these policies. However, if white Christian males made a mistake by implementing these discriminatory policies in the past, I can’t understand how anyone would believe that doing the exact same thing back to them is any less of a mistake. What about that age-old cliché, ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’?
In a recent post I discussed how endowing land rights to a group of people based on their national identity (common ethnicity, language, culture, religion, or history) is entirely unreasonable from a historical perspective. I discussed how many different groups occupied slices of land at various times, and therefore, one group claiming perpetual ownership really isn’t historically honest. So many different tribes, clans, nations, and governments have passed ownership back and forth over the past few thousand years that reconstructing ‘true’ ownership of tracts of land is quite an onerous and completely unrealistic endeavor. The exact same is true for historical injustices. Do we really think we can track historical discrimination and rate who had it the worst? Is it right to compare historical travesties against each other and decide which was better or worse? Was slavery worse than the Holocaust? Was discrimination of Latinos worse than that of the Native Americans? Then again, Latinos themselves discriminated against Native Americans throughout South and Central America. What do we do about people with mixed heritages? What about when these persecuted groups discriminated against each other? Can we really figure out some fair system of determining how bad each group had it, and compensate them all at the expense of White people accordingly? Most importantly, can a system like that ever be fair?
My answer to all of those questions is, quite simply, no. We absolutely cannot and should not rate the hardships of countless generations of people who were discriminated against. Not only is it impossible (and extremely egotistical) to believe that we can somehow rate these moral travesties against one another, but even if we could, we certainly wouldn’t have enough reliable data to do so. Much more importantly, we shouldn’t want to. Not only does it not solve any problems, but it’s also blatantly racist. Harking back to my previous post, people should not be held accountable for their ancestors’ sins. If a white kid loses his spot at a university to someone who deserves it less solely because he is white, that’s plain old discrimination no matter how you rationalize it. That kid didn’t steal Native land, or enslave African Americans. He’s just a random teenager who is being discriminated against based on the color of his skin. And it is not just those who are victimized by that system who should be outraged. People who benefit from the system should be equally upset because a) it’s wrong, but b) it may also perpetuate the lie that they are some how incapable of these achievements on their own.
One story I recently came across really exemplifies the injustice of reverse discrimination using a familiar celebrity. Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson and his extremely wealthy divorcee have a child who is ½ Latino, ¼ Black, and ¼ Samoan. Does their child deserve an advantage over a Caucasian child from a small town whose parents make less annually than the Rock pays in monthly child support to his millionaire ex-wife? The answer is obvious to me.
People from certain communities sometimes do have disadvantages, but the solution is not to artificially raise their opportunities at the expense of others who deserve those opportunities based on their merits. I can’t tell you what the best solution is, but I can assure you it has more to do with changing their environment than with discriminating against people who, in some cases, have it just as bad. I believe that merit is the only fair way to decide these issues.
Historical injustices can never be set straight, since the past cannot be re-written. We have to focus our efforts on destroying all forms of discrimination, no matter who the victims or the beneficiaries are. We shouldn’t forget historical injustices, but we do need to look past them. I certainly don’t want a future where we will look back on 2012 and, once again, try to make up for the same mistakes we thought we were fixing.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
This is my opinion. What’s yours?
Special thanks to Dorothy Charach for her editing advice