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Sunday, March 27, 2016

DISCRIMINATION: WHO DESERVES PROTECTION?
by Gary K. Clabaugh, Ed. D.

America has an appalling history of racism. Yet geneticists assure us that there is only one race — Homo sapiens. Scientifically speaking, distinct races literally do not exist; though racism does, because race is a social, not scientific, conception. Insisting there are races requires cramming people into scientifically spurious categories such as black or white. But cram them we do, often with savage results.**


The Lynching of Rubin Stacy,
July 19, 1935
Fort Lauderdale, Florida.


From
Strange Fruit: Biography of a Song
   -- David Margolick, 2001.

What is more, “race” is not the only characteristic that can trigger discrimination. Disability, gender, LGBT, and religion are old reliables. Plus you can be too pretty, too smart, too poor, too ugly, too short, too fat, lack “good breeding, and so forth. People are surprisingly resourceful when it comes to excluding and mistreating others.

Affirmative action aids some victims of discrimination — those who have enough political muscle to have their plight recognized by lawmakers. Tactics are then adopted that improve their opportunities. But too often this is accomplished at the expense of others, for example, middle class “white” males, who find they are being treated unfairly in order to make America “fairer”

The nation’s plutocrats are safely above all of this. They can simply price out “undesirables.” And their kids attend exclusive private schools where they need not mix with the great unwashed. Then, as “legacies,” the crème de la crème can even end-run the admissions process at the nation’s most prestigious universities. This particular kind of discrimination, while absurdly unfair, is perfectly legal.

Remember, too, that there are secret societies in these exclusive universities that occupy the very peak of the social pecking order. Yale’s particularly exclusionary Skull and Bones, for instance, offers a lifetime of advantages. Yet there are absolutely no legal strictures on this kind of discrimination.

Now let’s get back to race. In the 1960’s, when African-Americans were demanding their civil rights, an ugly racist “joke” was circulating in the South where I lived at the time. It went like this: “What do you call a good looking, 6”4” black guy with a Ph.D. in nuclear physics?” The meanspirited answer: “A nigra.”

The point of this bigoted “humor” was that no matter what an African-American’s attributes and accomplishments, he or she was nonetheless "inferior" to the most unattractive, ignorant, White person. Race trumped everything.

The table below invites you to consider whether race still trumps everything. The left column combines “whiteness” with a non-“racial” characteristic that invites discrimination. The right column combines “blackness,” with that characteristic reversed.

Which would you rather be:

WHITE AND UGLY or
BLACK AND GOOD-LOOKING?
A WHITE KID FROM AN AWFUL FAMILY or
A BLACK KID FROM A LOVING FAMILY?
OBESE AND WHITE or
TRIM AND BLACK?
WHITE WITH NO INHERITANCE or
BLACK WITH A $10M INHERITANCE?
WHITE AND STUPID or
BLACK AND INTELLIGENT?
A 5’4” WHITE MAN or
A 6’4” BLACK MAN?
A FLAT CHESTED WHITE WOMAN or
A VOLUPTUOUS BLACK WOMAN
WHITE AND A KLUTZ or
BLACK AND GRACEFULLY ATHLETIC
A 64-YEAR-OLD WHITE WOMAN or
A 24-YEAR-OLD BLACK WOMAN?

Now let’s put some of these together. For instance, would you prefer being an ugly, bald, 5”4”, white guy without an inheritance, or a good looking, 6”4” black guy who just inherited $10 million?

Now imagine you are the 5’4” poor white guy and your teenage daughter just failed to get a desperately needed scholarship because it was awarded to the “disadvantaged,” 6’4” wealthy black guy’s daughter. What’s the problem here? That there are a lot of ways to classify people besides “race.”

There is only one race — the human one. But we’re so hung up on black, white, and so forth, that we lose sight of the complex range of human differences and instead institutionalize racism.

Diversity takes many, many forms. So let’s quit cramming people into racial categories and recognize that each and every individual is unique. That is what is wrong with present affirmative action attempts to achieve “diversity:” their abject failure to honor individual differences.

In Fellowship, GKC
________________________________

NOTES

**For a detailed explanation of how this cramming works see Reification: Conjuring Up Spirits

See, also, E Rozycki, Philosophy, Race and Language