CWP Wk 8

Discrimination vs. Discrimination

Discrimination is defined as “recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another.” This is not a bad thing. When you order something off of the menu in a restaurant, you are discriminating between foods. However, in modern culture, the word “discrimination” is taken to mean unjust treatment of certain people based on their lifestyle, religion, or appearance. Unfortunately, these two definitions can be easily confused.

Let’s start with a classic example of perceived racism. Your car has broken down and you need a ride. There are two people about to get into cars and you must ask one for a ride home. The first person is a young, clean-shaven, white man in a suit. The second is a tattooed, pierced, black teen whose pants sag to his knees. Most people would obviously choose the white man in the suit. Why? The easy answer might seem to be “because he is white” but this is not the case at all. If we reverse the skin colors of the men, most everyone would immediately choose the black man in the suit. The preference of which man to approach has nothing to do with skin color but how the men present themselves. This demonstrates how perceived racism commonly has nothing to do with natural appearance but how the individuals act. A specific set of features also indicates a certain culture and it is this culture someone may find unsavory, not the color of the person’s skin.

Now let’s introduce a bit of perceived sexual discrimination with a second example. Imagine an average-sized man and an average-sized woman who are both applying to the job of firefighter, where there is only one open position. Unless he’s completely incompetent, the man would generally be the preferred choice. Why? When comparing a male and female’s bodies, the difference in size and muscle mass are obvious. Unless a man is considerably smaller than average, he will have an easier time carrying a man out of a burning building than a woman will. The decision to hire the man is not sexist, it’s purely based on a clinical observation of who would be more suited for the job. Specific jobs, such as firefighting, which requires strength and endurance, require people with specific physical aspects. Men, women, whites, blacks, smaller or larger people, disabled, fully functioning…etc.

Discrimination, meaning “recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another.” is good. Without it the firefighter who rescues you may be unable to carry you out of the burning building. Before immediately assuming someone is a racist jerk, take a moment to understand the difference between the two definitions and see if there is a reason they are catching a ride with one man or the other.

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