Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Thoughts About Discrimination

with 11 comments

Happy Labor Day, folks!

My mother suggested today’s topic, which is simply this: discrimination. Who faces it, what can we do about it, and why are we still having to talk about it in 2015?

Look. Most of us have faced some form of discrimination in our lives. Some face far more than others, including African-Americans, Latinos, LGBT individuals, and the disabled. Women are often discriminated against in subtle ways, even in the United States, even when able-bodied; straight men sometimes get discriminated against because of their race, ethnicity, creed, or religion.

It is a rare individual indeed who’s faced no discrimination whatsoever in this life.

So why is it that politicians make so much hay pointing one group against another group? Do we not understand that every single one of us is likely to be discriminated against for one reason or another before we die?

Again, some of us face this discrimination every day. One of my earliest friends, an African-American viola player in high school, used to tell me that when she’d show up at auditions, conductors would give her a surprised look. (This quickly went away, as she was a very fine player.) Another of my friends, who is Japanese-American and disabled, has faced so much discrimination in her life, it would be harder for her to find a day where she didn’t deal with any discrimination than the reverse.

I, too, have faced discrimination. I’m disabled — I walk with a cane and wear braces on my hands on bad days due to carpal tunnel syndrome, and these two issues are very hard to camouflage. Plus, I’m not a small woman by any stretch of the imagination; as I’ve told people in the past, people come in all shapes and sizes, and my size is definitely curvier than most.

This might be one reason I have a great deal of sympathy for those currently facing overt and systematic discrimination. (Though just being human should do it, many people cannot put themselves in someone else’s shoes unless they’ve actually been there.) I think people should be judged on what they say, what they do, rather than what they look like or whether or not they need a wheelchair to get around.

And lest you think discrimination is a newfangled idea, it isn’t.

Most of us know about Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. He fought hard for civil rights, for labor unions, and for the dignity of the individual. But did you know other groups of United States citizens have been systematically discriminated against in the past?

My grandmother was of Irish descent, and grew up in Chicago. She told me about the signs she used to see, when she looked for employment in her teens — “No Irish Need Apply.”

And before the Irish were discriminated against, the Italians were discriminated against. Then the Poles. The Finns. The Swedes. The Norwegians. And on, and on…for some reason, the newcomers to the U.S. always seem to see this.

Then, usually, it settles down.

(Why it hasn’t settled down for African-Americans, Latinos, GLBT individuals, or the disabled is something I can’t answer. But I digress.)

All I know is this. We have to do our best every single day. Whether we’re gay, straight, bisexual, gender-fluid, Christian, Wiccan, Buddhist…whether we’re able-bodied or disabled…no matter what the color of our skin, the content of our character matters far, far more — just as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said.

I urge you to become acquainted with people of different backgrounds. Get past your personal prejudices. Try to see others as individuals. And see where common ground might be found.

Who knows? You might just make a new friend.

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 7, 2015 at 6:04 pm

11 Responses

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  1. Barb, as a Male, I have “Male Privilege” so it’s OK to discriminate against me.

    As a White, I have “White Privilege” so it’s OK to discriminate against me.

    Since I’m Straight, it is OK to discriminate against me.

    Since I’m a Christian, it is OK to discriminate against me.

    Since I’m a Conservative, it is OK to discriminate against me.

    Certain people (not you personally) talk about the evils of discrimination, they aren’t talking about what shit their “protected groups” do or say about people like me.

    Of course, I try to treat everybody I met by their internal qualities but too many Liberals expect me to treat others according to the “groups” the others are in. IE treat a black special because he’s black and so on.

    Hey! Where did that soap box come from?

    Oh, to certain people (not Barb), I’m not whining. I’m just tired of the whines of people who are actually better off than me but whine about discrimination because of their “protected groups”.

    Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    September 7, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    • Paul, that’s exactly why I wrote this blog. Too many of my friends feel alone, and maybe even friendless, and they are facing discrimination.

      It seems to me that human beings, as a whole, need to realize that most of us have faced some form of discrimination. It’s not good that we have, mind; I wish I could personally put a stop to all of it. But we’re all different in one way or another, and that difference is what makes us interesting.

      It’s also what causes us to be discriminated against.

      Paul, even the very wealthy sometimes face discrimination, of an odd sort. So you just can’t get away from it. (Note that the poor, of which I am a member, definitely face discrimination, too. Much more than the very wealthy. But just being very wealthy does not keep you from being discriminated against — that’s just the way it is.)

      Author Octavia Butler once wrote that humans are hierarchical — this was in one of her trilogies (“Imago” was the last one in that cycle, I think). Maybe that’s why every single last one of us feels different and has faced some form or another of discrimination in his/her life.

      Barb Caffrey

      September 7, 2015 at 6:36 pm

    • Oh, one more thing, Paul — you might get a kick out of this.

      My husband was convinced he had run into discrimination in San Francisco, because he wasn’t gay (or bisexual, either). And after hearing the stories he’d related, I believed he was right…this despite the fact that he was disabled (walked with a cane)!

      Barb Caffrey

      September 7, 2015 at 6:38 pm

      • Like!

        Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        September 7, 2015 at 7:13 pm

  2. Every single one of us not only faces discrimination every day, but we engage in it as well. And, IT IS A GOOD THING!

    Let me say that again, IT IS A GOOD THING. Most times we never realize we’re doing it. Based off our experiences we make choices. We choose this store instead of that one. We walk down this street instead of this other one. And so it goes. Why? Because we’ve built up a day to day knowledge base that ‘if I go here, I’ll likely get better service’, or ‘people who are of a certain age who act/dress that way are more prone harm me than if I walk by these other folks who act/dress this other way’. Discrimination is only bad if it’s hitting on something that can’t be changed, such as your skin color, ethnicity or sex. Discriminating based on how people act is what keeps us safe in most cases.


    September 7, 2015 at 10:45 pm

    • Interesting assessment, Kamas. 🙂 And yes, there is a lot of truth in what you say.

      Barb Caffrey

      September 7, 2015 at 11:00 pm

      • It annoys the heck out of me when people complain about the police ‘profiling’. Profiling is just the collection of data and applying it to determine the likely outcome (usually in the form of personal experience, sometimes in formal training). When you see someone do this, that, and another thing, chances are pretty good that they are doing activity X instead of activity C. Call it profiling or call it discrimination, it doesn’t matter as long as it’s based on something the individual has chosen to do.


        September 7, 2015 at 11:14 pm

      • In big cities, Kamas, profiling can be a bad thing. (Even in medium-sized cities like Racine.) We’ve had people like the deputy superintendent of schools be pulled over, in this area (this was at least twenty years ago, but no one has forgotten). My long-time Assemblyman (Wisconsin’s lower house) was African-American; he was also a long-time Alderman in the City of Racine, so he never seemed to have this problem. But if you were “driving while black” and had a nice car in Racine, you were almost certainly going to get pulled over for a long, long time.

        Now, we have an African-American chief of police, and many more African-American police officers. So that’s changed.

        Anyway, profiling can be good or bad. But if you live in a big city, the word “profiling” mostly means “driving while black.” (Note that when the deputy superintendent of schools got pulled over, it was big news in the pre-Internet era. I guess that’s progress?)

        Barb Caffrey

        September 8, 2015 at 1:47 am

      • Barb, I’m somewhat a skeptic about “driving while black” mainly because I’m not sure how much people (cops or otherwise) notice the “race” of the drivers of other cars.

        I suspect that most of the time, cops notice *how* the car is being driven more than “who is driving”.

        Not saying it *never* happens.

        Of course, I still remember the campus cop who basically got “into trouble” for the “crime” of asking somebody why he “prowling around that house” late at night.

        The person, because he was black, was more interested in telling the campus cop that the cop was racist than providing the cop with the info that the house was his residence.

        The cop was doing his job and the black professor decided that the cop was a bigot. [Frown]

        Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        September 8, 2015 at 8:17 am

      • Usually someone does say, “This is my house,” and will go get an envelope or something to show that you’re getting mail there. (You might not have a deed, or if you do have one, when you’re upset, you may not be able to find it.)

        In this case I discussed before, it definitely was a case of “driving while black.” The Deputy Superintendent was one of the most learned men in the community and had a high profile. (That’s why it was such a scandal that he got pulled over; he wasn’t speeding, wasn’t driving recklessly. He had a nice car, because he’d earned the money to have a nice car, and thus he got pulled over.)

        I think right now that tempers are inflamed in a wide variety of ways. And people are ornery critters at the best of times; we do not always act in a way that is logical and sensible.

        Now, in the case of the policeman on campus asking the black homeowner for proof that he lived there — a policeman might ask a white homeowner the same question, or might not. I don’t blame the black man for getting upset, but he should’ve just produced the envelope or whatever he had showing he lived there, and then told the policeman, “Thanks for your care and concern” while the policeman apologized for any trouble. That would’ve been a win/win, and no one would’ve felt bad about the outcome…instead, everyone’s upset — the policeman, the homeowner, the police association behind the policeman and the NAACP (or whomever else) behind the black homeowner.

        We’re going to make mistakes in this life, and we have to realize we will do that. The trick of living, it seems to me, is in getting out of your mistakes with the best grace possible.

        Barb Caffrey

        September 8, 2015 at 5:28 pm

  3. […] ago, here at my blog, I wrote a piece about discrimination. At the time, my mother had urged me to write it because I was frustrated at the amount of […]

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