Overcoming discrimination?

Published 6:26 pm Monday, April 9, 2018

By Joe Bass

One of our challenges today involves the myth that government can enact enough perfect laws that will result in a perfect society. This framework of thinking overlooks several obvious facts. For example, for a variety of reasons many choose to violate laws. Another fact is that in a free society, there are many ways to get around the intent of a law without violating it.

A major problem with this myth is that some people continue to promote passage of more laws, unnecessarily restricting freedoms, while doing nothing about real challenges. To overcome problems, it is necessary to recognize there are limits to the effectiveness of legal action and recognize additional approaches are needed.

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Discrimination based on race, ethnicity or religion is an example of a problem that too many attempt to overcome only through passage and enforcement of laws. The Fourteenth Amendment became constitutional law on July 9, 1868, and yet there is still discrimination today. It should be clear that more than laws and enforcement are needed to overcome this problem.

Of course, discrimination against others is a complicated issue that involves a variety of factors. This and future editorials discuss some of these factors and hopefully point the way to effective, non-legal approaches to overcome the challenge.

Factors discussed include stereotyping, attitude of those discriminated against, respect and self-respect, double standards, non-productive attitudes and behaviors, elimination of character-building challenges, and so on.

Negative stereotyping of groups during Jim Crow and the slavery era were supposed to be overcome through the 1964 Civil Rights Act. During these historic eras, negative, racial phrases were commonly expressed. The most negative of these characterized black Americans. These phrases were found in newspapers, seen in movies and heard on radio.

Unfortunately, efforts to enforce the Civil Rights Act and assess its effectiveness continue to support discrimination through stereotyping. Data gathering in virtually every research project is one-dimensionally based on race and ethnicity. This ignores Dr. King’s dream of judging people based on character.

A recent National Geographic magazine focused on race. It included a two-page spread on social negatives with all data being based on race and ethnicity. Black citizens were at the bottom of all data groupings such as fragmented homes, single-parent homes, poverty, educational and employment achievement, rates of incarceration and so on.

Presentation of one-dimensional data provides false pictures of reality. For example, it perpetuates a stereotypical view that all black Americans grow up and live in poverty, in fragmented, single-parent homes, have a criminal record, have bad character, and so on. That, of course, is untrue. Today, many minorities are successful, well-educated, politically powerful, wealthy Americans.

Shouldn’t research focus on the character of people that succeed and those that fall behind? Isn’t it probable that the characters of those that do well, regardless of race and ethnicity, are much the same? Isn’t it probable that the characters of those that do not well, regardless of race and ethnicity, are much alike?

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at ABetterSociety1@aol.com.