Advice Goddess Blog
« Previous | Home | Next »

A More Discriminating Look At Discrimination
Discrimination is one of those knee-jerk words. Discrimination/Bad! ...right? Well, maybe not. I came upon a very interesting article by a guy named William Scott Dwyer, who goes a little deeper:

Discrimination is bad! We hear it from the pulpit, from the media, from our moralists and especially from our “civil rights” leaders. Discrimination is bad, immoral, indecent and downright un-American! Individualists even argue that discrimination is collectivist -- that it is wrong to discriminate on the basis of group membership, such as by offering price discounts to seniors or free drinks to women on “Ladies Night.” We even have laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, age or disability

But is discrimination the evil that everyone says it is? My answer is: No. It depends on the kind of discrimination one is talking about. In fact, discrimination can be a good thing and even something worth promoting. If that shocks you, then you need to pay close attention, for I will be defending the very evil that is everyone’s favorite whipping boy!

Let me begin by noting that racism is due not to the presence of discrimination but to its absence. We condemn the racist because he fails to discriminate among different members of the same race. Instead, he lumps them all together indiscriminately on the basis of group membership, when they’re really unique individuals with different characters and abilities. We call his action “discrimination” because he discriminates between members of his own race and those of another by judging the former as individuals but not the latter. But observe that what we really object to in the racist is his lack of discrimination. What we find offensive is that he is not sufficiently discriminating – that he does not discriminate enough among individual members of the same race. The cure for racist stereotyping is more discrimination, not less.

...Furthermore, much of what passes for racism -- for judging people indiscriminately on the basis of race -- is really an example of the opposite -- of discriminating among members of the same race.

Consider the oft-cited example of cabbies passing up blacks who are waiting for a cab. Do the cabbies pass up elderly black women? No, they pass up young black men. They discriminate, not on the basis of race, but among members of the same race according to age and gender. Is this kind of discrimination rational? Considering that eighty-five percent of the six felonies committed every day against cab drivers in New York City are by black men between the ages of sixteen and forty, it is eminently rational. Yet cab drivers who refuse to pick up young, black men as passengers are routinely condemned as racist.

In reality, in order for the drivers’ behavior to be classified as racist, they would have to exhibit a failure to discriminate among members of the same race, by lumping all blacks together and treating them as undifferentiated members of the same group, which they are obviously not doing. They are discriminating among blacks by passing up only certain individuals within that group.

And they are doing so out of concern for their very lives.

As one cabbie put it, "Cab drivers have only one effective way of protecting themselves against the murderous thieves who prey on us. And that is to exercise experienced discretion in whom we pick up [i.e., to discriminate against young black men]. . . . Half of New York's cab drivers are themselves black, and act no differently from white drivers."

Later in the piece, Dwyer writes of an SF supervisor, Willie Kennedy, who was furious that he was refused a delivery from Domino's. Apparently, his "predominantly black" neighborhood is less-than-safe. Charles Augustine, a black Bay Area publisher responded:

"Well, let's get real. Why won't [Domino's] go there? Have you ever heard of a merchant not wanting to make a buck? The answer is "no." The reason they do not want the business is because thugs rob, beat up or intimidate service people. Now why won't blacks deal with the real problem -- that is, getting people in the neighborhood to realize that if we allow thugs to bother service people, we will not be able to get service. It drives me crazy when I have difficulty catching a cab or have to wait forever for a bus. Do we expect people to endanger themselves?"

Well, yes, in the case of the SF Board of Supes, who passed a "pizza delivery law," making it illegal to refuse to deliver a pizza to dangerous neighborhoods in SF.

Responding to this absurd legislation, one San Francisco resident had this to say: "Refusing to make deliveries to extremely dangerous parts of town reflects more common sense than unfair discrimination. Restaurants are in business to make money; having goods stolen and drivers injured is not a profitable method of operation for any business. How many of the supervisors would honestly want to deliver a pizza to the Sunnydale or Bernal Heights projects after dark?" What he should have said is that not making deliveries to extremely dangerous parts of town is indeed a form of discrimination, but one that is entirely legitimate.

The point is not that all discrimination is legitimate (obviously, such things as separate facilities for blacks and whites are not), but rather that there are many forms of discrimination which are justified, but which civil rights activists denounce as "discriminatory," thereby making no distinction between rational and irrational forms of discrimination. The kind of discrimination that cabbies and pizza deliverers engage in is eminently rational -- indeed, required for their health and safety. It should not be condemned as immoral, much less made illegal.

via Wendy McElroy

Posted by aalkon at October 25, 2007 11:09 AM

Comments

I wonder if anyone will notice what is unfolding right now in southern California. The football stadium in New Orleans was a nightmare after Katrina. The one in San Diego, a relative festival. And if it is noticed, what will people say is the reason?

Posted by: Radwaste at October 25, 2007 2:31 AM

The Dominos thing is just another version of you can't sit at this lunch counter -- and I'm sure those diner operators made the very same arguments to justify their hate. There's frankly a growing hatred in this country that's more based on the color green than anything else. Pick on the poor, the goddamn leeches. With little realization that if not for the working poor the rich and privileged would not be enjoying their comfortable, entertaining lifestyles. And, sadly, when it comes to hating the lack of green, that still encompasses the majority of the people of color.

Posted by: Donna at October 25, 2007 4:48 AM

Donna, are you serious? You think it's picking on the poor?

There are constantly news stories about pizza delivery drivers being assaulted and robbed. When it happens multiple times in one neighborhood, refusing to deliver there (or refusing to deliver in that neighborhood after dark) is one of the most common responses from the company.

An article about the danger (and one's company's way of dealing with it): http://www.pizzamarketplace.com/article.php?id=2590&prc=145.

Posted by: jenl1625 at October 25, 2007 5:25 AM

"I wonder if anyone will notice what is unfolding right now in southern California. The football stadium in New Orleans was a nightmare after Katrina. The one in San Diego, a relative festival. And if it is noticed, what will people say is the reason?"

Yup, they're certainly noticing Radwaste.

On the PBS BBC news last night (USA-slanted news, produced by the BBC), the Washington correspondent Matt Frei was starting to get snidely excited about the comparison - saying SoCal was clearly "the place to be" for a natural disaster in America, was it not, and that this was the chance for the federal authorities to finally get their act together after Katrina.

Frei's coverage of Katrina was biliously anti-American (i.e. that race and income pretty much defined disaster response here). At the time of Katrina, the BBC was taking its cues from The Guardian paper (leftie) which ran the never-retracted banner headline 'Katrina death toll to reach 10,000'. (I think the final official figure was slightly under 1,000).

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at October 25, 2007 5:39 AM

All that the absurd law requiring pizza delivery everywhere in SF will lead to is the eventual curtailment or end of pizza delivery in SF. It's similar to what happened when (AIRC) SF passed a law prohibiting ATM fees within the city. Banks closed up ATM's right and left.

Exactly who does such a law help? That is, other than helping those who passed it feel good about themselves. Otherwise, no one is helped.

Posted by: cpabroker at October 25, 2007 5:49 AM

"I wonder if anyone will notice what is unfolding right now in southern California. The football stadium in New Orleans was a nightmare after Katrina. The one in San Diego, a relative festival. And if it is noticed, what will people say is the reason?"

Of course people are noticing! And, the reason for the difference between the disaster that was Katrina and the current situation with the fires in SoCal is that the people are different. Like it or not, there it is. The whole mindset of the one population versus the other is like night and day.

Posted by: Flynne at October 25, 2007 6:12 AM

"Exactly who does such a law help?"

I think if the supervisors were really worried about pizza deliveries, they would start a business delivering to the affected areas. Donna could be one of their drivers.

This is purely a political action to gain support. Liberal politicians are forever tossing goodies to their supporters, be they Blacks, American Indians, illegal immigrants, convicted felons, etc.

I call it looting.

Posted by: doombuggy at October 25, 2007 6:13 AM

William Scott Dwyer writes:

"Consider the oft-cited example of cabbies passing up blacks who are waiting for a cab. Do the cabbies pass up elderly black women? No, they pass up young black men. They discriminate, not on the basis of race, but among members of the same race according to age and gender"

Huh? Although he makes some good points, he's just plain wrong about this. Cabbies don't pick up blacks, elderly or young, male or female, because they don't want to go to the black neighborhoods. While it's certainly true that an elderly black woman is less threatening than a young black man (or at least less threatening than that young black man is perceived to be), the cabbie is concerned about what's going to happen when he gets to, say, Bedford-Stuyvesant. New York cabbies don't like to pick up elderly black women any more than they do young black men. Blacks who could in no way be perceived as threatening or dangerous are routinely denied service by New York cabbies for this reason.

Dwyer quotes a cabbie as saying "Half of New York's cab drivers are themselves black, and act no differently from white drivers."

Again, I've got to ask "what the heck?" If Dwyer is talking about yellow (legal, medallion) cabs, almost none of the drivers are black. Or white, for that matter (assuming that "black" is defined as being of African ancestry and "white" is defined as being of European ancestry).

I know whereof I speak. I spent three years driving a New York City yellow cab.

Posted by: LMM at October 25, 2007 6:56 AM

Yes indeed, the word "discriminate" has been stolen, redefined and dumped back into the dictionary and the damage is probably permanent. I see a lot of office cubicles in my work and I often see a page of "Affirmations for Black Women" one of which is about dealing with "discriminating supervisors." I would have thought a discriminating supervisor would be a good thing but I know what she means.

Donna, you may not realize it but you are making a vulgar slur against poor people. I have been poor and I may be poor again before it's all done. Being poor is a measure of my wallet, not who I am. I give a lot of time, money and sweat to my neighbors on the condition that they demonstrate an understanding of the law of holes: When you are in one, stop digging.


"I think if the supervisors were really worried about pizza deliveries, they would start a business delivering to the affected areas. Donna could be one of their drivers."

Donna, please explain in detail any fault with doombuggy's suggestion. You wouldn’t even have to be the driver; just look your drivers in the eye as you send them on their way.

Posted by: martin at October 25, 2007 7:51 AM

Discrimination? I discriminate all the time. I prefer to stand upwind of - or just avoid - people that smell bad. Just don't like to be around people that have poor personal hygiene. Sure, I could start an "affirmative-action" campaign for them...enforce quotas so they get jobs in food service even if they make people hurl, or demand that my local government divert tax dollars so that they're given government-supplied soap and deodorant. Ooo...that might be a bad idea, though, as that might not show enough respect for their stinky lifestyle choices. Damn.

Can't stand stupid people, either. I wish they'd all go back to Stupidia where they came from.

Earlier this year, a pizza delivery driver was carjacked by kids that lived right across the street from me. No one was hurt, car was recovered, and the teens were prosecuted (i.e. wrist-slapped). No one stopped delivering pizza in my neighborhood, but I wouldn't have blamed THEM for doing so. The blame would have rested squarely on the shoulders of the idiots across the street that thought it'd be fun to carjack the delivery driver.

Posted by: Jamie at October 25, 2007 8:10 AM

"The Dominos thing is just another version of you can't sit at this lunch counter -- and I'm sure those diner operators made the very same arguments to justify their hate."

LOL Yeah, we all remember the newspaper headlines of the 1950's --- "Crack-Addled Crips Slaughter Five In Gravy Dispute At Local Diner" --- too funny.

Posted by: Gog_Magog_Carpet_Reclaimers at October 25, 2007 9:15 AM

Judge not, lest ye be judged, but descriminate to your hearts content.

Posted by: Jim H. at October 25, 2007 9:35 AM

As Cathy Seipp said, when accused of making "value judgments":

"I have values, therefore, I make judgments."

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 25, 2007 9:44 AM

As Cathy Seipp said, when accused of making "value judgments":
"I have values, therefore, I make judgments."


I don't think I'll ever get tired of hearing that quote. Everyone makes judgments. People tend to have favorite friends, family members, foods, recreations, booze, and many other things. Those are all value judgments.

I'll use an analogy of restaurants instead of people/race/gender/hot-button crap.


You went to a restaurant and received lousy service.

Some are too intellectually lazy to deal with things on a case-by-case basis, so they make blanket judgments that they apply with a broad brush. They decide that because this restaurant gives lousy service, all restaurants must give lousy service. One would call this sort of person "Restaurantist."


Some are too cowardly to admit that they make judgments, so they are quick to point out other people's bigotry, even if there isn't any. They feel the "pain" of the vacant restaurants, and lobby to force people to patronize restaurants regardless of how lousy service may or not be. Donna?


Then you have those who make fair judgments on a case-by-case basis, and are honest and unashamed. They realize that either the specific server sucked, and avoid them in the future, or simply attend another restaurant, knowing that just because one sucked, they don't necessarily ALL suck. That doesn't make them restaurantist, just making an informed, logical, value judgment.



I just got back from lunch, still have food on the brain.

Posted by: Jamie at October 25, 2007 10:18 AM

My personal favorite is people who say "My opinion's worth just as much as yours." On some subjects, perhaps. But, on subjects I spend all day reading and thinking about, and even on some I don't, my opinion's worth a lot and theirs isn't worth a shit.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 25, 2007 10:52 AM

My personal favorite is people who say "My opinion's worth just as much as yours."

Ah, yes, that one's really infuriating when it is used by a person who is really saying "well, yes, you have FACTS to back up your opinion, while I don't, but that minor little detail doesn't change my right to my opinion."

Posted by: jenl1625 at October 25, 2007 11:12 AM

Exactly. There's a girl in my French class who does flower arranging for a living who has THE definitive truth about global warming. Me? I almost never post on it, except to air some of the disputes, because climatology is extremely complicated, and I don't understand it enough to make determinations that I could stand behind.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 25, 2007 11:21 AM

My personal favorite is people who say "My opinion's worth just as much as yours."

They have every right to that opinion that their opinion is worth as much as mine. They certainly have equal right to their opinion as I do, and their opinion (no matter how they came by it) can also have equal weight as mine - as evidenced by a large number of people voting purely based upon the little "D" or "R" next to a candidate's name. Even so, I have every right to the opinion that my opinion is superior, and the opinion that they are a moron. And it's worth just as much as their opinion that they're not...making them at least half-moronic.

Posted by: Jamie at October 25, 2007 11:24 AM

Again, that opinion is not based on fact. If I spend three weeks going over data from a study, and consult a researcher friend of mine three times to make sure I'm getting the numbers right...my opinion is worth a hell of a lot more than yours, because it's not my emotionally-driven idea of the way it would be nice for things to be, but my opinion, based in good data.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 25, 2007 11:35 AM

Sometimes this blog seems like it's overrun with conservative lunatics... who are honestly just as tedious as left-wing lunatics. It's enough to turn one away from matters of public opinion for good.

Posted by: Lena at October 25, 2007 12:06 PM

"Pick on the poor, the goddamn leeches." Um last I checked no Vanderbilt ever delivered pizza for a living. The not delivering pizza into free fire zones helps the poor and/or struggling much more then us evil wealthy bastards.

Posted by: vlad at October 25, 2007 12:38 PM

I like to think I attract all kinds, because I'm not politically one thing or another.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 25, 2007 12:59 PM

Again, that opinion is not based on fact. If I spend three weeks going over data from a study, and consult a researcher friend of mine three times to make sure I'm getting the numbers right...my opinion is worth a hell of a lot more than yours, because it's not my emotionally-driven idea of the way it would be nice for things to be, but my opinion, based in good data.


I'm agreeing with you (that an opinion based on fact is far more worthwhile than not), but I'm going to quibble over that regardless.

"Worth" is subjective. "Value" is subjective. Your opinion that your opinion is worth more because it's based on fact is not necessarily based on fact, but that you personally value opinions based on fact, correct? If someone else hears your discussion, they are going to make a judgment based on their values, as to whose opinion has more merit. They should base it upon who did their research and who backs it up, but quite a few will base it purely upon who they "feel" best about - or who happens to agree with their opinion.

Posted by: Jamie at October 25, 2007 1:13 PM

We can descend into French philosphy mode here, or we can talk sense. An example: Your opinion of what will happen, based on your belief that the newspaper horoscope Sagitarius is correct, has little objective value, since there's no evidence that astrology is anything but a big steaming pile.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 25, 2007 1:39 PM

"I wonder if anyone will notice what is unfolding right now in southern California. The football stadium in New Orleans was a nightmare after Katrina. The one in San Diego, a relative festival"

Um, the fact that the folks in San Diego are receiving free food, drink and entertainment, while the folks in New Orleans were left with no food or water for several days?

Posted by: JoJo at October 25, 2007 1:40 PM

We could, and I like philosophy. But I get the impression you're not wanting to go there.

And I agree with you that an opinion based on one's horoscope is a big steaming pile.

My only point is that "value" itself is subjective. It's a fact, and cannot change. Value is something that is not a constant, and tends to not be objective.
It would be ideal if everyone held to the idea that opinions are valued solely by their basis on fact, verifiable science, and other purely rational things. They don't. If they did, you wouldn't be seeing so many purely faith-based arguments from people, or they'd be immediately swayed when faced with data and logic. They aren't. Where I say that a moronic opinion has relative value (to them) is that they base their decisions (such as voting) upon those opinions - regardless of where they come from - and frequently those choices have impact upon other people - and thus have weight. Even if it's a pile o' poo.
I'll get off my soapbox now, because I'm sure I'm sounding kinda pedantic pursuing something that was initially just an interesting mental exercise - playing devil's advocate.

Posted by: Jamie at October 25, 2007 1:55 PM

> It's enough to turn one away
> from matters of public opinion
> for good.

NNNNE-VAH!!!

Posted by: Crid at October 25, 2007 2:32 PM

Picking on the poor

There's so many poor that if you can get them all to give a penny, you'll have enough to make a difference to a few rich people. It makes more economic sense to tax the poor a little than tax the rich a lot. Unpleasant but true.

Had a conversation with a sociologist today, about the money value that can be placed on a person's life. Came to the conclusion this is a human blind spot, like statistics and improbable events.

Hope that makes sense to someone. Too much whisky to continue. Must ... press ... return ... key ...

Posted by: Norman at October 25, 2007 3:52 PM

I am aghast to find that being deprived of free food and water for several days produces roving gangs of thugs and widespread criminal behavior. No doubt each of you would engage in such if it happened to you.

-----

There is a corollary to the discrimination issue which is being missed:

The keystone of every benefit we get from the protections of the Constitution is individual rights. Individually, we have the right to speak, select the groups with which we associate, and so forth. Each and every measure which treats a class of people denies that this concept exists. By extension, this does two things. It permits unequal treatment under the law, in that individual circumstances are not fully investigated, and it allows members of an artificially identified "class" to be treated the same, denying individual qualifications.

Posted by: Radwaste at October 26, 2007 6:56 AM

Leave a comment