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Discrimination Defined

February 25, 2015

What is discrimination?  The Merriam Webster Dictionary provides us with three meanings:

1 : the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people

2 : the ability to recognize the difference between things that are of good quality and those that are not

3 : the ability to understand that one thing is different from another thing

There are two problems with the word discrimination that should be sorted out. Problem number one:

If we trace any atrocity from the most minor to the most egregious back to its origins, we will find discrimination at its roots if not the very seed.  Sometimes the seed is misunderstanding or false information, but from there discrimination may be born.  A world without discrimination would be a world without atrocities, or at least far fewer.

A common response to the above statement is that we need discrimination.

The answer is usually something like because without discrimination we would not be able to make choices.

This is true but only for definitions number 2 and 3.  The word discrimination is similar to a homonym in that the first definition, unfair treatment, is not 100% equivalent to the second and third definitions.  It ironically appears, however,  that discrimination is needed to discriminate between the definitions of the word discrimination.

The discrimination focused on here is of the first definition.  Even though the word is spelled the same and pronounced the same, it is significantly different.  To get rid of unfair treatment and to advocate for such does not also imply to advocate for the inability to understand the differences between two things such as how an apple is different from an orange nor does it imply advocating for the inability to tell the difference between a good decision and a bad one.

To advocate for fair treatment is to call upon good decision making.  It is also to call upon seeing the sameness in all others, despite our differences.  It does not ask someone to be incapable of seeing the differences.  It simply asks someone to also be capable of seeing the sameness.

Problem number 2

Discrimination is subtle, often hidden from us by our own cultural beliefs and upbringing.  For example, the very definition of discrimination contains discrimination of the first definition within the first definition.  Can you spot it?

: the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people

Key word:  ‘people’.  When we do not include animals in this definition two things happen.  The first is, quite obviously, animals are discriminated against.  Some are pets.  Some are food. Some are lab experiments.  If we do not include animals in the definition then the atrocities committed to animals cross over to humans.

When we feel people deserve no rights we refer to them as ‘animals’.  And since an animal is not part of the definition of discrimination, people may conveniently lump anyone they see as less deserving into the definition of an animal and out of the definition of discrimination to justify the discrimination of those people.  If animals cannot be discriminated against then this would be the convenient thing to do so that the mind may justify violent acts against others.  But this is not the way to peace and we know this because as soon as someone refers to us as an animal and assigns less rights to us as a result, we see clearly that this is wrong.

The discrimination spoken about in this blog is the word as represented by the first definition:  the practice of unfairly treating any living being or group of living beings differently from other living beings or groups of living beings.








From → Journal, My Journal

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