Friday, July 30, 2010

Discrimination is not always bad

Communicating ideas effectively and accurately can be a difficult task. We have been trained, in our sound-bite culture, to have an automatic reaction to certain words. Words like "rights", "equality", and "tolerance" are considered good in all circumstances. Whereas words like "discrimination", and "intolerance" have wholly negative connotations regardless of context.

I believe by treating language this way, we do ourselves a great disservice. Intellectual inquiry is stifled as we become obsessed with simplistic tests of morality. We fail to dig deeper to find the real answer and instead rely on keywords to help us make decisions.

The word I will focus on today is "discrimination". This word is almost universally considered bad. However, the word itself is neutral. In fact, discrimination is often a very good thing.

A hospital will discriminate against bad doctors when it is hiring. I will discriminate between various people to determine who will be my friend and who will not. We all discriminate when it comes to a restaurant that gives good service and one that does not. These are all cases of discrimination.

Discrimination becomes a bad thing when it is done completely arbitrarily. If I refuse to speak to black people simply because they are black, that is bad discrimination.

A big topic these days is gay marriage. Wherever gays cannot marry, they claim it is discrimination. However, as shown above, discrimination simply means making a decision on a particular topic. Marriage has a definition, that is the union of one man and one woman. Therefore to claim that anyone outside that category is being discriminated against by not being allowed to marry is technically correct, but it is not a matter of unjust discrimination.

The decision is based on the fact that the defintion does not include possibilities other than a man and a woman marrying. This law, by its very nature, discriminates against all non-heterosexual marriages. It discriminates against a brother and sister marrying. It discriminates against mother and son marrying. It discriminates against a sober person and a drunk person marrying.

People like to toss around the word "discrimination", and it has such a negative connotation that people automatically declare that it must be wrong. However, discrimination is a very important part of a good society.

1 comment:

  1. i pretty much agree, thanks for helping with my ethics&philosophy coursework!