Saturday, June 16, 2007

Doubletalk and Civil Rights

Is right or wrong to discriminate against people on the basis of race? It used to be that most people would answer that question with a simple yes or no. The racists said yes. Civil rights leaders and those who were inspired by such leaders said no.

These days, however, it seems that a lot of people can't give a simple yes or no answer to that question. Their answer: It depends. On what? On the race or ethnic identity of the person who is the object of the discrimination, of course.

Most people continue to argue that it's wrong to practice racial discrimination if the person who is harmed by such discrimination is black. Strangely, however, a lot of those very same people seem to believe that it's perfectly permissible to practice racial discrimination if such discrimination benefits black people and hurts white people. In other words, the ends justify the means. According to such a worldview, there is no such thing as objective right and wrong.

The justification for such unprincipled doubletalk is usually that it is necessary to temporarily suspend principles in order to remedy problems caused by past acts of discrimination. The trouble with that utilitarian view of ethics and morality is that it undermines the idea that racial discrimination is inherently wrong. In the name of civil rights, there are those who would attack the philosophical foundation which made the civil rights movement possible and credible in the first place.

And it isn't just about black and white anymore. It's gotten to the point that some people believe that all racial and ethnic minorities are entitled to special treatment, regardless of whether or not there is any history of discrimination against them in the United States.

Affirmative action which amounts to discrimination in favor of black people might be (and is) unprincipled, but at least there is some type of tenuous connection between affirmative action programs for black people and very real injustices suffered by such people in the past. Not so with some of the other groups which are now claiming that they, too, are entitled to benefits which would be awarded to them in a discriminatory fashion, solely on the basis of the fact that they belong to minority groups.

For example, consider an article which recently appeared in the 6/14/2007 issue of New City (a free newspaper which is distributed in Chicago). The article is entitled "Baghdad On The Lake". On the surface, the article appears to promise a balanced look at how the many Iraqis living in Chicago are coping with the war in Iraq. Unfortunately, the article doesn't live up to that promise. In my opinion, the writer disproportionately represents of the views of those Iraqis who oppose the war in Iraq, with only a passing nod to other Iraqis who do not. But that isn't the part of the article which I find to be the most disturbing.

The following paragraph, which deals with the subject of discrimination, sounds like something straight out of George Orwell's book 1984:
Hanania notes that discrimination also affects Iraqi-Americans' economic standing on a more official level. Since the city government does not consider Arabs or Assyrians a "minority," they are not eligible for many support programs, grants and services. If they are struggling financially, their only option for public assistance is to enter the general welfare program.
In other words, their only option is to be treated the same way that economically disadvantaged white people are treated! Evidently, that constitutes a tragedy in Ms. Schenwar's opinion. According to her, failure to discriminate in favor of Arabs and Assyrians (by making them eligible for race-based "programs, grants and services") constitutes discrimination against them. I don't understand the logic of that argument. Saying that failure or refusal to discriminate constitutes discrimination sounds a lot like saying that day is night and night is day.

Thanks to political liberals in the United States, we now live in a world in which virtually all minority groups in this country think that they are entitled to special treatment, no matter what injustices may or may not have been perpetrated against them as individuals by the United States government or by the citizens of this country.

Discrimination against white men, on the other hand, is considered by some people to be the very essence of justice. Never mind that the particular white men who are discriminated against in the name of justice may not have done anything whatsoever to harm people belonging to other racial or ethnic or social groups. It's all about group identity these days. White men always wear black hats, according to liberals who can't seem to grasp the idea that white men are not all alike.

Either racial and ethnic discrimination is wrong, or it's not. You can't rationally have it both ways. You can't rationally say that it's OK to discriminate in favor of black folks or Iraqis or members of almost any other racial or ethnic group, and then turn around and say that it's intrinsically wrong to discriminate in favor of white folks. If you do make such a claim, you forfeit moral credibility. The reason that racial discrimination is wrong is that it is based on presumptuous and often false assumptions about the people who are put at a disadvantage as a result of such discrimination. Individuals, regardless of skin color or ethnic background, deserve to be treated as individuals, not as undifferentiated members of particular demographic groups.

Early civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King claimed that all they wanted was equal treatment and a fair chance in life. I believed them, and that is why I supported their agenda and their goals in spite of the fact that I was a white male. I believed that they were principled people, not unprincipled people who were acting primarily out of self interest.

Not so with their alleged heirs. Somehow, things gradually got turned around until America came to a point where many people could say with a straight face that it was discriminatory to refuse to discriminate. How bizarre!

People forfeit credibility when they fail to practice what they preach. When people forfeit credibility, they forfeit the right to expect respect from others. It's not about color. It's about character. Isn't that the very essence of Martin Luther King's dream?

It's time to take a stand against all social programs which show preferences for members of certain racial or ethnic groups at the expense of members of other groups. Only by practicing our principles with consistency can we hope to eventually escape from the divisive and harmful effects of our nation's sordid history.

1 comment:

bottomyellow said...

Glad I found you and good to see you posting :-)