Discrimination

Discrimination is often defined by experts as referring to overt actions or policy that either unfairly advantage or disadvantage one or more groups relative to others - and not simply to attitudes, beliefs or speech.For most lay people, however, this distinction does not apply - with beliefs, attitudes and speech also frequently labeled “discriminatory.” For some on the left, discrimination is one of the greatest problems facing humanity. From class to race to gender to sexual orientation, the differences around which discrimination happens are everywhere to be found. Despite claims of improvement in this regard, it’s increasingly common to hear about the great amounts of work that still remain.   

For some on the right, the insistence of discrimination as driving differences in outcomes across marginalized groups (e.g., rates of suicide and mental illness, education, employment, incarceration rates) has grown wearisome and problematic. While still acknowledging the presence of inequities across minority groups, conservatives are more likely to attribute those inequities to individual choices and values, such as valuing education, working hard, taking proactive health measures, avoiding risky behavior and respecting lawful authority.  

Thus many conservative-leaning Americans see accusations of discrimination as fueling grievance, animosity, and over-sensitivity - rather than legitimately reflecting real problems. For example, in the context of sexual orientation, when progressives label conservative concerns about religious freedom as merely “discrimination in disguise,” conservatives see the same accusations as reflecting a fundamental misunderstanding of the First Amendment.Progressive-leaning Americans, by contrast, see such accusations of discrimination as recognizing and getting to the root of problems that they believe are impossible to solve otherwise.

QUESTIONS TO PLAY WITH:  

  • Do you think discrimination is being over-applied and over-used, or under-recognized and under-seen?
  • Have you ever seen something labeled as “discriminatory” or “discrimination” in a way that you think was unfair or inaccurate?
  • Have you ever felt discriminated against? Did anyone question your feeling?
  • Have you ever heard someone say they were discriminated against and didn’t agree with their characterization of what happened?   
Contributors: 

Jacob Hess, Mikhail Lyubansky

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