Saturday, November 19, 2016

Why Discrimination is a Big Deal

When I was attending a conservatory in New York, I was so busy working to pay my way through school that I barely had time to socialize. I also lived an hour and a half away from the city, but one day, my roommates and I decided to join the regulars at their regular bar. 
It didn't really work out because they wouldn't serve my two roommates. There were all kinds of issues, but in the end, we concluded that it was because they were black. I left with them but everyone else stayed. Our other white roommate didn't see what the big deal was. She said it was the only chance she had to hang out with them. That was more important to her. I understand that discrimination isn't as important of an issue to some as it is for me but the thought of patronizing that bar sickened me.

When I worked as an office manager at a recruiting firm, I remember recruiter's straight say to me, "my client won't hire that person because he doesn't like blacks or middle easterners." This happened often. Even though it goes against the 14th amendment, it still happened and no one batted an eye. Yet, being one of those people who despise racism, I held my tongue and took my anger out on a log of "office racism" which is stored in some floppy drive somewhere. I don't work there anymore. I may post this log one day, if I ever get to finding it.

Recently, the issue of race relations, discrimination against women and negative stereotyping against Latin American and Muslim immigrants and even any immigrant not of European decent has been brought up. There have also been a handful of bloggers who have said, "what's the big deal? Its not that bad." I've heard this many times in my life from people who have accepted that discrimination is a fact of life. There are always those who will try to segregate, insult and keep down anyone who is different. So what's wrong with me? I had to look at myself and ask, "am I wrong to think that discrimination is wrong? Is it a big deal?"

I'm reminded of a passage I once read in Ghandi's autobiography where he was segregated from being able to ride in the nicer part of a ship because he was dark skinned. This was when he was in South Africa. He was so appalled by this and ended up doing a lot of work in South Africa to help end segregation. However, the first reaction his friends had was, "its okay. That's the way things are here. Its their culture. What's the big deal?" Still, Ghandi didn't back down. He started huge social movements to end inequality and is credited with freeing India from England without having to go into war. 

When Rosa Parks refused to sit in the colored part of the bus because she was black, everyone kept telling her, "What's the big deal? Why don't you just accept your place and sit where you belong?" The thing is, sometimes it is a big deal. There will always be a tipping point where people who are oppressed just because they look different will rise up. History has proven this time and again. Had Martin Luther King Jr. not started a civil rights movement, very similar to what he learned from Ghandi, a civil war between blacks and whites in the United States was eminent. Already, riots were breaking out all over the country over civil rights and the war. Members of other black organizations such as The Black Panthers were gearing up for all out war. White supremacists such as the KKK were doing the same thing from their side. But MLK's movement, like Ghandi's movement  managed to overturn segregation without starting a civil war which would have devastated this nation.

Yet, what if civil war didn't break out? Overtime creating a culture of hate towards a particular race, whether they rise up or not will lead to no peace. Look at the Holocaust and the atrocities enacted by German Nazis when Hitler declared that the Jews were no good. He appealed to the country's suspicions against the religious minority who immigrated to Germany, looking for peace. This focus on hating who is different lead to a great war to wipe out Jews and anyone who was "not like them." The most destructive and horrific  world war in history got started because a man who's slogan was "Make Germany great again" decided to lead a country by focusing on people's natural fear and hatred of those who were different.

When the founding fathers of this country decided to withdraw from English rule, they wrote in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The founding fathers made equality and fairness the main function of our government and ingeniously set it up in order to make America safe from laws and leaders that would pass laws which favor inequality.

The sad thing is that many laws that go against this fairness and against our very Bill of Rights and Constitution have been voted in by the people. This is no surprise as discrimination is not uncommon. If it weren't part of human nature, it wouldn't exist but over time, many of these laws have been shut down by the supreme court due to them being unconstitutional and dangerous to everyone's equal right to the pursuit of happiness. 

One of these laws was the search and seizure law which was passed in New York after 9/11, making it okay to do random searches on anyone without a warrant. While some people felt the law kept them safe, what it did was target innocent Blacks and Latinos. 
Also, this law goes against the sixth article of the our county's Bill of Rights:
The right of the People to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. 

Eventually, the law was put down by the courts, but this didn't stop Donald Trump for stating that this law is what we need to enforce on the inner cities when asked, during the debate, how he would improve race relations. Already, relations with cops in the inner cities are mired due to unreasonable searches and excessive force. Riots and shootings have already broken out because of it. How would passing this law, which goes against our bill of rights and constitution, help create peace? It would only increase the civil unrest that is already happening. It's a discriminatory law that will hurt this country. 

When I moved this country, I was put in public schools or the first time. I was in Catholic school up until then. I was very surprised to learn that there were other religions and I was honored to go to school with people who shared different cultures. I had so many questions for the Jews, Muslims, Protestants etc. I was open and wanted to learn. I made friends with people of many religion and ethnic diversities. My parents are not white but they are citizens of this country and are college educated. My father is a true American who always talks about and believes in the precepts of this country. He carries a pocket copy of the constitution with him at all times. Both my parents pay their taxes and have been very active in their community as I have as well. 

When I read blogs from people and read tweets by Donald Trump saying things like ALL immigrants are morally debase, rapists, criminals or whore out their daughters, I'm appalled. My Dad didn't even let me date till I was eighteen. People always say, "oh no, I wasn't talking about you." But they were. I'm an immigrant and they said ALL immigrants. 

Trump has tweeted that most criminals are Black or Hispanic. This is not true. I have so many good friends who are black and Latino who have never broken the law. I know people who are not black and Latino that have been in jail for criminal activity. Similarly, there are many blacks and Latinos who have been falsely put in jail just because of the color of their skin. Can we please look past our superficial need to profile and stereotype people and give everyone their constitutional right to pursue life, liberty and happiness and to remain innocent until proven guilty?

To quote the constitution:
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

I know that discrimination is popular, that many laws have been voted in by the people that do discriminate. The Gay Marriage law is one of them and I spoke out against the law. In fact, after I released my blog opposing the law (which also got me kicked off Facebook) it was taken to court and deemed unconstitutional. You can read the blog here:

Why Same Sex Marriage is a Civil Right

By speaking out, I'm protecting my little utopia. I live in a city where people of all ethnicity's get along. I'm often invited to events in other churches, temples and mosques. I once had a cab driver tell me how weird and wonderful it is that he is best friends with someone who should be his enemy if he were back in his old country. When people speak foul towards gays, women, immigrants, blacks or other religions, they're speaking foul about my friends and family. Such talk spews hate, hurt feelings, thoughts of war and violence where there was once love, openness and solidarity. 

Discrimination is a big deal, because war and hatred is a big deal. Preventing laws that go against our inalienable rights is our way of keeping peace in our world before things get out of hand.

1 comment:

  1. it is very good advice to keep a pocket copy of the Constitution on you. they legislate bills which oppose our rights, and the bills pass if there's enough fear going around to convince the constituents the legislation is necessary. then law enforcement has a field day with the new powers they are granted. but if people become aware of what they sacrificed, they may know better going forward. thanks for trying to help people understand