Ante Up

America has an uncomfortable relationship with discrimination. Our national discussions are peppered with real and perceived slights, guilt over practices long-abandoned, and how to address the question of righting past wrongs and ensuring the same doesn't happen again. There are the economic, cultural, and educational divisions and just about every combination of race, creed, color, sex, and national orientation comes into play. In short, there is no single "race card", but a whole damn deck of cards consisting of equal parts jokers and aces.

Because it's such an emotional issue, it's sometimes hard to separate the real from the perceived discrimination.

If a white male is chosen over a black male for a job, is it discrimination? What about if it was a white female over a black male? Or, how about an Asian male over a black male? Or, a black male over a black female?

All of these scenarios suggest there is some sort of discrimination hierarchy at work. The conventional theory is that if two identical candidates compete for the same opening, it is automatically discrimination if the white candidate ends up with the job. The problem is that no two candidates are ever identical. Each one has a unique set of qualifications. All candidate selections are subjective. It is a person looking at multiple people and weighing each pro or con, in a subjective way, to come to a conclusion. One person might decide to chose a younger, less experienced candidate because an older, more experienced candidate costs more. The next might go for the older candidate precisely because of that experience. That doesn't make either case discrimination, except in the sense that the hiring person places different values on different attributes.

Another example of murky discrimination is crime. Imagine a minority person who robs a liquor store. Mid-robbery, the cops arrive and order the suspect to lay down their weapon. The robber refuses and raises the gun as if to shoot. The cop decides in a split and emotional second to fire before being fired upon and kills the robber. Within hours the grieving family appears on the evening news and wails that their kid shouldn't have been killed by the evil, out-of-control cop.

How many of you pictured a white cop, black male robber, and extended black family in the throes of grief? The paragraph said nothing about those attributes, but I'd wager most people - minority or not - envisioned it that way. Does that make you a racist? What about the cop's white family? There's rarely a picture of them mourning their dead husband and father on the evening news. And what about the kid who was shot? Should he be absolved of responsibility because he's poor and black? He robbed a liquor store at gunpoint. Does that change the calculation?

There are abundant quantities of discrimination in this country and regardless who it is directed against, it is wrong. We must continue to find ways to address it and ensure a fair chance to everyone. Discrimination will continue to be a problem until we can remove some of the emotion from the process. As long as white people go blithely along ignoring or justifying discrimination and minority people perceive it as being the root of all trouble, it will never diminish. We all need to step back and look at things on a case-by-case basis rather than immediately jumping to a conclusion that may be wrong - or right for that matter.

We'd be a much stronger country for all, if fewer "race cards" were played - regardless of who the dealer is.

Ante up.

The Poobah is a featured contributor at Bring It On!

And, sometimes dispenses wisdom at Less People Less Idiots

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Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Wednesday, January 03, 2007

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