Discrimination in Any Form is Wrong

I-200 would correct basic inequities in laws


Editorial By: Michael F. Pellegrini


Next November, voters in Washington State will have an opportunity to balance the scales and put an end to discrimination based on sex or race. The passage of Initiative 200 would ban race and sex-based preferences in public education, employment and contracts.


The basic issue in question is whether it is necessary or appropriate to give women and ethnic minority candidates an extra edge in applying for education, jobs or state contracts.


At their inception in the sixties, race and sex based preferences were implemented to help correct the effects of hundreds of years of past discrimination. Swept in with the tide of the civil rights movement, the measures were perceived as a pro-active way to immediately address and correct the past injustices. In theory, by moving limited numbers of minority and women candidates to the head of the line before better qualified white males, we could in part correct the past inequities, and come closer to achieving the proportionate balance of the sex and ethnic representation which would have occurred absent past discrimination.


That the discrimination existed is not an issue. No one can contest the horrible injustices ethnic minorities and to a lesser extent women, have suffered in our society. It is hard to understand how the United States could have ever allowed segregation, much less slavery - concepts and practices which are despicable, maleficent, and abominations.


Discrimination in employment and education is more insidious and therefore harder to correct. And at the time the Civil Rights laws were enacted, this sort of discrimination was quite common.


But in the thirty-odd some years since these laws were enacted, our country has fared much better. While race and sex-based discrimination may not entirely be a thing of the past, it is certainly far reduced. And it's safe to say that the prevailing attitude of the nation has moved much closer to the sort of ideals held by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


With this in mind, it's hard to rationalize why race and sex preferences should continue. Because these preferences are discriminatory, do indeed hurt people, and are counter to the ideals championed by Dr. King.


While there has been a lot of politically correct neo-Orwellian doublespeak aimed at proving how such preferences do not violate anyone's rights, clearly this is not the case.


One argument raised is that since employers often make use of subjective factors in hiring decisions, and since the use of these subjective factors is widely accepted, then giving a preference to a candidate of a particular ethnic background is also acceptable - because this is just another subjective criteria.


Thus, using this logic, if it is legitimate to hire a lesser-qualified candidate the employer may like more, for whatever subjective reason, then it is equally legitimate to hire a less qualified female or minority candidate to increase the diversity in the workplace.


This is specious reasoning. Because no matter what justification, no matter what rationales are tossed about, hiring a candidate based on sex or race is discrimination. A rose is a rose is a rose ... And discrimination, of whatever stripe, is morally wrong.

Certainly, many factors such as an applicant's grade point average and whether the person establishes a rapport with the interviewer are criteria employers may lawfully use in determining who they will hire. And there are no laws that say employers cannot set minimum standards.


For example, there is no law which prohibits an employer from hiring only persons who graduate with at least a 3.0 GPA. Nor is there any law which says an employer has to hire the best-qualified candidate. But there most definitely are laws that prohibit discrimination based on sex or race. It's just that for the last thirty years, they haven't been enforced as they apply to white males.


And that is the crux of the issue: thirty years following the advent of the Civil Rights laws, white males are still the whipping boy of the masses; under the doctrine of the politically correct, white males are still very much viewed as the bad guy.


The opponents of I-200 argue that even though race and sex‑based discrimination have been illegal for thirty years, the effects are still being felt, to the undeserved advantage of white males. The principle of affirmative action, they say, does not assume that all white males are guilty of racism and sexism per se, but it postulates that white males benefit, some even without fault, from the effects of racism. That being the case, they surmise it is unfair to allow white males to continue to profit from these unearned advantages.


The lingering effects of racism are not something that can be quantified. It's all well and fine to speculate on what the world would be like if such and such had not occurred, but that's all it can be - speculation. The fact of the matter is that discrimination is illegal and that conditions have improved enormously in the last thirty years. And certainly, racists and sexists still exist, but thankfully they're far in the minority.


The real question is how long white males are going to be punished for the transgressions of their forefathers; how long they'll be forced to carry this burden of guilt and shame, which was foisted upon them simply because of the circumstances of their birth.

How long is enough?


To some extent, it may be true that white males as a class have profited from the past racism, but it is unfair and morally reprehensible to single out certain white males, virtually at random, and punish them for actions and a heritage they had absolutely no part of and no control over.


Because the white male who is passed over is in fact punished by this overt and presently legal form of discrimination - in the case of the job applicant, the person may lose thousands of dollars of pay; in the case of the college applicant, his entire future career may be imperiled or put on hold. Simply because he had the misfortune to be born a white male.


As we approach the millennium, we need to think less about extraneous factors such as race, ethnicity and sex, and more about how we are all really alike. And when we can discard these extraneous factors from our decision-making, then perhaps we are closer to achieving a color-blind, more mature society, where people are truly judged on the basis of who they are, not by where they came from.


Therefore, the basic issue is whether or not race or sex-based discrimination is legal, moral or proper. The only possible answer, is that discrimination for whatever reason is wrong. I-200 should pass. If it is illegal to discriminate because of sex or race, then that prohibition should apply across the board, not only to minorities and women. Some people should not be more equal than others.