Discrimination–it’s the right thing to do–get over it!

Posted on July 18, 2014 by


Ok, the title line is intended to shock you a bit.  But the point is culturally the left has taken a bad thing biblically (treating people badly solely on account of race) and extended it to mean that any unequal treatment of anybody for any reason is bad.  And that is preposterous.  Not only is it preposterous, but everyone discriminates all the time, and that is necessary for a successful life–it’s called prudence.  So let’s hit the motivation for this blog post, and then I’ll review the logic for why discrimination is often (but not always) good.  Fellow Berean Marc Clauson just wrote about the case involving Gordon College and its exclusion of sexual behaviors outside heterosexual marriage.  As part of that controversy, Patricia Maguire Meservey, president of Salem State University, was among those who spoke out against the religious leaders’ letter; she said:

“As a university president, as a strong supporter of the LGBTQ community here at Salem State, the city of Salem and beyond, and as a person who believes that discrimination is wrong in all circumstances, I am deeply troubled by this request and the potential ramifications if approved,” she wrote. “And while I can understand a religious organization’s wishes to uphold their core religious values, I do not believe those values trump the basic human right to be treated equally and fairly. If the history of Salem has taught us anything, it is the destructive power of intolerance.”

Note the bold text (emphasis added).  Now I can assure you that Patricia Meservey does not believe this–as I will demonstrate in a thought experiment below.  But what she really believes is in effect this:  I am a person who believes discrimination that goes against my value system is wrong in all circumstances.

So now to the thought experiment.  I discriminate today on who I will let take my daughter out on a date.  I will not let someone who is a sexual predator that has been convicted of rape three times take my daughter out.  But let’s go back to Ms. Meservey.  I know nothing of her family situation.  But assume she has a 10 year old daughter. If she has an out of town male guest show up at her home, she will not allow that man to sleep in the same bed as her daughter.   However, if Ms. Meservey’s hypothetical daughter has a girl over for a sleepover, she will not think twice about having them sleep in the same room.  You may say, Haymond, that’s obvious but that is not the point she is making.  But that is precisely my point–she is explicitly making a blanket statement that is preposterous when one thinks about it.  We discriminate because of the perceived risks of making a bad choice (and associated consequences) and the costs of information search.  For instance, if I see a large pit bull looking at me and growling, I am not going to wait until I know more facts as to why (maybe he thinks I’m going to steal his bone)–I am going to beat feet it out of there.  I will discriminate against (treat differently) the pit bull from a miniature poodle.

Assessing risks and information costs can be politically difficult.   Jesse Jackson caught a lot of flack in 1996 when he was quoted as saying (do a google search):

“There is nothing more painful to me … than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery, then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”

Now this case is much closer to the nub of the problem.  Clearly Mr. Jackson doesn’t think African-Americans are inherently inferior (and they are not!); but he does recognize that the statistics about crime show that far more crimes are committed by blacks than whites.  And the cost of being wrong in some situations can be very high.  If any of my readers think this is totally wrong, consider this:  You are walking down the street alone in a city at night, and you hear footsteps behind you.  You look back and notice several young males (doesn’t matter the color).  What is your feeling?  Is that wrong?  Now all of sudden, the young males break out in song, singing Amazing Grace.  What just happened to your stress level?  We know that young males are much more likely to engage in crimes, and know that when they’re out late at night in a group, it can mean they’re up to no good.  So everyone of my readers would get a bit of adrenaline rush when they see the young men coming behind them. And most of my readers would also give a huge sigh of relief when they hear Amazing Grace sung–its not nearly as likely that Christian young men are going to harm you.

The real issue is not discrimination (and I could come up w/many other examples of legitimate discrimination), but what is our rationale for discrimination, and it is it grounded in Godly values?  Obviously racial discrimination of treating someone different solely because of their skin color is wrong.*  When I discriminate against those that would take out my daughter, I am acting in my role as protector of my daughter.  I don’t care about how I might hurt someone’s feelings by assuming that they might do harm to my daughter (simply because they are male) when they really wouldn’t.  This is prudence in action, and this kind of discrimination is not wrong. Now back to Ms. Meservey, she says its wrong to discriminate in all circumstances, but the circumstance she is concerned about here is anyone saying that homosexuality is wrong.  In her value system, it is ok.  The question is, why should her value system saying homosexuality is good be allowed to trump those whose value system  says that homosexual behavior (not inclination) is bad?  Well the way she (and others on the left) say her values should be accepted over others is to cloak her values in another overarching value.  In this case, redefining discrimination away from what almost all Americans believe is wrong (racial discrimination) to include treating people differently for any reason.    And notice her closing line; by equating this as a human right, rights “trump” preferences.  So your religious preferences are illegitimate when they conflict with human rights.  Make no mistake, language matters, and its why you see the left perverting the original meaning of words to shape debate.

Bereans know and believe that every person is created in the image of God, and worthy of the dignity and respect inherent in being a child of God.  However, we also know that many behaviors are wicked and in rebellion against God’s standards.  So we will stand against ungodly behaviors–yes, we will discriminate between biblically endorsed behaviors and biblically condemned behaviors.  We must.  Get over it.

*Even in the case Mr. Jackson referred to he was talking to and about young blacks; if he would hear footsteps and turn and see an elderly black lady, he would not have had any concern.  This issue was not solely skin color.