It has troubled me for decades, troubles me still, and I know it troubles others. How can the double standard of prejudice and discrimination so often embraced by various minority groups in the United States continue to be respected and tolerated? To me, this not only seems self-evidently wrong, but also inevitably destructive. You may not gain my support by cautioning me against favoring members of groups that I belong to, and yet openly discriminate against those same groups on behalf of your own.
I raised this issue back in 2011, when Christiane Amanpour, then the host of ABC’s Sunday morning public issues show, brazenly led three male-bashing female guest commentators in a discussion of how much better the world would work with more female leaders who were not addled by all that testosterone. I wrote, and none too happily,
“An all-male panel smugly talking about how “Estrogen really is a problem” and how decisions made in the throes of PMS are inherently untrustworthy would guarantee a feminist march on ABC headquarters, blogger and op-ed fury, NOW declarations of war and the rolling of network heads.When he was president of Harvard, Lawrence Summers was run out of his job by faculty and feminist fury when he suggested that it was possible that differences between the genders might be part of the explanation for the under-representation of women in the worlds of science and mathematics. Yet I just watched the host of a mainstream news program aggressively participate in a stacked and rigged discussion that began with the unchallenged presumption that men—not just Weiner, or Dominique Strauss-Kahn, or some men, or many men, but men as a monolithic, homogenous, stereotyped group—-are fatally handicapped by their hormones and brain-wiring when it comes to leadership and management.”
You know what? I don’t like groups that stereotype and discriminate against me.
But this was hardly the most egregious example, nor the most recent. Consider:
Case study #1: Pro-Gay Bigotry In D.C.
In a front page news story headlined “Catania perplexes gay D.C. Democrats,” the Washington Post discussed a supposed “dilemma” facing gay Democrats:
As [ David Catania, an openly gay D.C. City Council member] gears up his independent run in a predominantly Democratic town, insisting on a “race of values” and not a “race of labels,” his candidacy puts gay Democrats in a tough spot: Vote for the contender who would be the city’s first openly gay mayor — and one of the first gay mayors of any major American city — or remain loyal to the party that has backed major advances in gay rights, in Washington and nationally? In the close-knit community of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists immersed in local politics, the question of Catania vs. [ Democratic mayoral candidate Murial Bowser] is more than a political choice. It is a balancing act of sexual and partisan identities.
No it’s not. It’s a test of whether one votes on the basis of merit, ability and qualifications, or on the basis of bias and bigotry. What would a heterosexual voter who refused to vote for the nominee of his or her party because that candidate was gay be? A bigot, that’s what, and gays would be the first to label him so. Yet gays can do exactly the same thing and bask in the belief that it is ethical? No. This is hypocrisy. The result of this mentality is not necessarily to encourage a “tit-for-tat” response, as in “You discriminate against me, so I’ll do the same to you,” but simply to harden barriers between groups. Treat me like this, and I won’t trust you. Why should I? I won’t respect you either. You don’t deserve to be trusted, because you are preaching equality and equity while acting at variance with those values.
Case study #2: Western Washington University’s Shame
In a questionnaire sent to members of the campus community, Western Washington University asked, “How do we make sure that in future years ‘we are not as white as we are today?’” Wrote WWU’s president Bruce Shepard on the school’s website, “In the decades ahead, should we be as white as we are today, we will be relentlessly driven toward mediocrity; or, become a sad shadow of our current self.”
In the resolution of a case I wrote about over a year ago, a D.C. court just ruled that Gallaudet University, which in 2012 fired Angella McCaskill as its Diversity Officer after her name turned up on an anti-gay marriage petition, did not break the law and did not violate her rights. That she isn’t protected by the law is something of a technical fluke, but ethically, I think (and am happy to say that I wrote, because I had forgotten and had to check) they were on firm ground. I wrote:
“While McCaskill has a right to her opinions, she does not have a right to serve in a position where her responsibilities appear to be contradictory to her publicly stated beliefs. This creates an appearance of a conflict of interest, and a situation that is not conducive to trust. She was the first deaf African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. from Gallaudet, and has worked in various capacities there for 23 years. She should certainly not be fired for this lapse in judgment, given her connections to the institution. She should not and cannot continue as diversity chief, however.”
I would apply the same principle to the president of WWU: he needs to go. He just told the white students at his school that they are not welcome, that he wants to make sure that as few of their brothers, sisters, children and grandchildren as possible can attend the school, and there is no way, no way, he can continue to lead the institution. I don’t know what the logic is to saying that if the number of white students isn’t reduced, the school will be driven to mediocrity, but it is unequivocally racist as well as certifiably stupid. If my son were a student there, I would pull him out, even if he had to spend the rest of a semester or more shoveling solid waste.
Seeking to have a society where every individual has an equal opportunity to succeed on his or her merits, experience, achievements and the content of his character is a critical goal. Distorting that goal by using quotas, bias, prejudice and discrimination only prolongs and complicates the challenge of achieving it for real.
Graphic: Campus Reform