Author: Catreece MacLeod
Why Is Discrimination Bad?
Well, that’s obvious! It just… is. Right?
The question’s a bit odd, though, because most people know these things are wrong these days, yet so few people actually understand why. The average individual just assumes they know why, but rarely do they sit down to reason out what the problem is.
And this is how it becomes alright to be racist against white people, or sexist against men.
“There’s no such thing!” I hear you cry. Really. Then this is the article for you, because clearly you have failed to grasp the most basic premise behind why these things are wrong in the first place and are mindlessly following along with the crowd.
How We Learn
Before we get into the whole dealie with breaking apart discrimination in general, we first have to learn where it comes from and what it really is.
To start with, discrimination is actually a completely natural response. It’s part of what keeps you alive, and without it, you probably wouldn’t live to be ten years old.
Yes, I said it, discrimination, in and of itself, is not actually bad. Aaaah! Pause there, before you go quote mining, there’s more to it than that.
See, the way we learn is that when something happens to us, be it either a major, large event, or repeated smaller events, we store it away. Our brains are excellent at storing massive amounts of tidbits of information and then correlating them against each other.
This is how we’re capable of things like art, like speech, or even conscious thought in general. Without the capacity to compare two or more pieces of data and evaluate if they’re related somehow, we simply couldn’t have this conversation in the first place.
The thing is, our brains are so remarkably good at correlating data that sometimes we make false correlations. Actually… it happens pretty often.
Ever seen a face in wood or a stucko ceiling? How about pictures in the clouds? Ever dreamed? Had a mental image? Ever paraphrased someone? Spoken something in your own words without quoting someone else 100% word for word?
That’s your brain’s capacity to blend different pieces of information together and compare them at work. Sometimes it goes a little overboard, however…
The virgin Mary appearing in a muffin is the same concept as seeing pictures in the clouds or, oddly enough, racism. Huh, that’s kind of odd.
See, racism, sexism, any other ism you can think of that exists as discrimination is what happens when your brain makes a correlation of data with a specific group.
As stated previously, you learn by either experiencing one major event, or several smaller ones, and then your mind looks for similar traits across these events, and tries to earmark them as important details to remember.
This goes doubly so for dangerous events that either harmed you, or which triggered an adrenaline response. Your brain goes into overdrive checking for any and all information which may be even slightly related so that it can not only handle the situation at that given moment, but it also remembers it vividly later on so that you can utilize those details to prevent you from getting into that same situation again.
So, for example, if you get bitten by a snake, you’re probably going to be scared of snakes from that point on unless you actively quench that fear with knowledge. A snake handler, for example, would learn which snakes are venomous or otherwise dangerous, how to handle snakes, or how to keep them from getting scared or angry enough to bit the handler.
If, however, you don’t have that knowledge, you’ll simply be afraid of snakes and that’s it. Congratulations, you’re now a snakeist. You’re discriminatory against snakes.
The same thing happens all the time, even in smaller events. If someone does something a bit rude to you, you probably assume that individual is a rude person. If they continue to be rude to you, you over time build up a mental belief that the individual is kind of an asshat. Which they probably are.
Here’s the thing though, your brain doesn’t stop at the individual level. Let’s say that individual was a black woman. Then you’re walking down the street and another black woman says something rude to you. A few months later, yet another black woman makes a snide comment towards you.
Your brain will automatically see the correlation between these events and go “Hey, black women are asshats!” and just assumes that all black women are asshats until proven otherwise.
If, however, you happened to also know several black women who were perfectly kind towards you, this counteracts the correlation usually, allowing you see it as just individuals who are being asshats, rather than “all black women”.
This oddly enough only works if you’re actually exposed to such in advance… what happens if these black women are rude to you, and then, afterward, you run into a kind black woman?
Here’s a hint: your brain doesn’t tend to make the correlation that she’s nice so they might have been erroneous. Instead, your brain already has a stereotype in place at this point and now tries to fit whatever this kind black woman is saying to you into the same stereotype which has been crafted.
In this case, your mind will go out of it’s way to try to twist anything she has to say into a hostile action. A friendly smile can be suddenly mistaken for a sneer. A kind word assumed to be a backhanded compliment. A happy hello viewed as arrogance or contempt.
In this manner, your self-preservation system is acting much like an allergy – rather than attacking hostile forces, it’s overreacting against innocuous and harmless events.
With fear of snakes comes safety from getting bitten from a snake. With fear of black women comes safety from being emotionally harmed by anything they might say that’s mean to you, in the example above.
It’s a self-preservation system set up to make quick, rapid decisions based on past experience for how to experience the world around you right now.
Your brain interprets everything through the lens of experience; this trait is used by stage and street magicians all the time; it’s how they trick people into believing things which can’t possibly be true. From optical illusions to card tricks, it’s all the same.
Without the capacity to make rapid, snap judgments on instinct tempered by experience, we’d never be able to exist at all. We’d be too bogged down in endless details over tiny things, such as stopping to see whether the snake is a poisonous snake or not is probably going to take too long and you’ll get bitten while you try to figure it out.
In the same way, stopping to see if a black woman in the above example is going to be friendly is to open yourself up to emotional attack.
Or… is it?
Obviously not all black women are asshats, nor are all snakes dangerous. So sometimes these instant reactions may not be that helpful to us, and may make us recoil away from even something as friendly as a simple wave and a hello.
This is where things begin to break down – when we make generalizations without running it through the lens of logic, and simply allow our experience and instincts to run the show.
When All You Have Is A Hammer…
So we see how the same principles can save us from being killed by a snake bite can also turn you into a hateful, misogynistic racist. It’s the exact same set of mechanics being employed by your brain, except that it’s being channeled into a less than useful application.
If you live in a ghetto, and you see a huge thug of a black guy coming your way, it’s discriminatory to move out of the way… but it might very well save your life. If you’re at war and see someone in the enemy’s uniform, it’s probably better to shoot first and ask questions later. If you see a man on the street at night, digging around in your purse for your pepper spray, right?
Well… no. No it’s not. At least, not on that last one.
Part of the problem with why these reactions are problematic, is that they begin to apply into situations which are highly unlikely to occur.
When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If all your life you’ve been told that all men are Schrödinger’s rapist, that the rates of rape are absurdly high through the roof, that the risks are immense, you had better be scared!
Except… that’s not the case.
The rape statistics have been mangled in such a way that it’s hard to really believe, but it was based off this very same issue: everything that the people doing the research found was viewed through a lens of sexist ideology.
If a man offers a woman a drink, for example, and she declines, and he leaves her alone after that, the Mary Koss study listed that as “Attempted Rape”, because she was correlating absolutely all data of any kind with men = rape, no matter how innocuous.
The continual and constant barrage of “men are rapists!” rhetoric that’s been slung around haphazardly has created a generation of women terrified of men, who then took the idea of offering someone a drink to be equivalent to sexual assault, which then took the idea of sexual assault to be equivalent to actual rape, who then inflated the numbers over and over and over until we get an absurd number like 1 in 3 women will be raped in their lifetime.
The actual number…? Closer to 1 in 50.
Still much higher than it should be, but it’s a lot easier to feel safe with the knowledge of a 2% rate of incidence than it is to feel safe with a 33% rate of incidence.
The fact of the matter is, that guy on the street is almost guaranteed not going to rape you. In fact, you’re looking at under a 0.01% chance. Even if he was a rapist, the chances are excessively unlikely that he would rape you then and there. If you even so much as present yourself with confidence rather than fear, you’re pretty much safe.
Like the standard saying that if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, if all you have is patriarchy theory, then everything’s going to look like men are out to get you. By it’s very nature, it’s discriminatory.
Let’s look at a simple example:
A man holds open a door for a woman. Under normal circumstances, she sees he held the door open for the man in front of her as well and thanks him for being kind. If a woman opened the door for her instead, she’d thank her as well.
Under patriarchy theory, he’s claiming she’s weak and incapable of holding a door open for herself so she screams at him. If another woman opened the door for her, she considers it solidarity.
This is what sexism looks like – the tinting of perception based upon the gender of the individual involved in an action.
Power, control, none of it matters when it comes to discrimination. Even if men were ruling the world, which they’re not, but even if they were, it’d still be possible to discriminate against them because discrimination isn’t about rational thought or explanations – it’s about trying to force-fit people’s actions into a preconceived framework or narrative of what you expect them to do, and when they fail to perform as expected, your mind tries to bullshit up an excuse for why.
There is no population in the world which hasn’t committed atrocities at some point in history, no civilization, no gender, no group in general. The Native Americans went to war with each other quite often before the Europeans arrived, and were quite adept at performing some rather horrific deeds. The same goes for the African slaves who did much the same thing.
The reverse is also true; any population who has oppressed others has also been oppressed. The British? Hell yes. Seriously, check their history. English as a language is so fucked up because the British Isles were essentially a revolving door of conquerors for over one thousand years. You practically had to work full time to keep up with who the oppressor of the week was. The Nazi’s? Yep, go back and read the details of the Bitchslap of Versailles; Germany was fucked over so hard after the first world war it wasn’t funny. When you bring a shopping cart to the store to buy bread because you literally need to fill it with money to pay for a single loaf, you can kind of start calling that third world.
Again, power has nothing to do with discrimination, nor do past acts. These are simply the excuses used to hate people in the present because you’ve already decided to hate them.
Discrimination isn’t rational by definition. We try to rationalize our excuses for why we’re acting irrationally, but that doesn’t fix the fact that the core belief system is a mangled form of correlation of data.
Anyone can be discriminated against, regardless of who they are, or what groups they belong to, and no matter what supposed acts their group may or may not have performed. All that matters is that someone has created a lens by which to view their actions which distorts everything that individual does. No matter how kind or pleasant they are, the narrative must always be withheld, and everything that happens will always be slanted to be hostile, no matter what.
Due to this, discrimination will never end on it’s own. It doesn’t matter how many acts of compassion or reparations are provided, it’ll never be enough for the discriminated party to ever remove the discrimination as their actions will forever be viewed as further acts of aggression, no matter what.
So… Why’s It Actually, Yanno, BAD?
The actual answer to this is a bit different than you might expect.
Discrimination, in and of itself, as stated earlier in the article, is not “bad”. Without it, you’d die to that snake bite due to a lack of fear. Without discrimination, you’d put yourself into horribly dangerous situations and probably get yourself killed. You need discrimination to survive.
As such, the fact that it exists isn’t enough of a reason… so what is? Why can discrimination sometimes turn into an awful thing?
The short answer is because the narrative overrides the actions of individuals.
The long answer is a bit more messy, but essentially holds the same concept at it’s core.
The individual is not responsible for the actions of anyone but themselves. The individual is not at fault for things they have not done. The individual is, well, an individual. They’re capable of being completely different from their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or whatever other group you try to lump them in with.
The problem with discrimination isn’t that it exists at all; a quick set of reference points with which to quickly interact with the world is not a problem. If you’ve met 50 white people and they were all assholes, it’s within your best interest to assume all white people are assholes. It’s simple self-preservation.
The actual problem is that the human mind doesn’t use discrimination for what it is – a tool. Instead, it uses discrimination as an absolute value.
All whites are evil.
All men are rapists.
All Jews rule the world.
All women belong in the kitchen.
You see where I’m going with this?
The problem isn’t even that “some men are rapists”, it’s that all men are rapists, and there’s never going to be anything any man can ever do to prove otherwise.
Discrimination doesn’t allow for non-absolute values. If you’re a member of X group, then you embody 100% of all aspects of that group, and no individual can ever surpass it. They are forever locked into being only what your discriminating brain wants them to be.
There’s a simple, easy test to see if someone’s ruled by discrimination.
Do they deal in absolutes for others, but specifics for themselves?
If so, you have a bigot on your hands.
Patriarchy theory cites that all men oppress all women, but not all feminists are like that.
Congratulations feminism, you’re a bigoted movement.
The problem is that we can see ourselves as individuals with individual reasons. When it’s people we like, we can understand their motivations most of the time, or at least make an effort to. When it’s someone we’re discriminatory against, however, we stop trying to understand their motivations as they see them, and instead apply our opinions of what their motivations are by our own discriminatory ideology says their motivations should be.
In this way, we can always see the good in ourselves, no matter how atrocious the acts we commit may be, yet we can never see the good in someone we discriminate against.
This prevents the individual from ever interacting with us on a level playing field, because the discriminated against will forever be held to a set of impossible standards.
The reason why discrimination is bad, is quite complex, yet also quite simple as well: it’s a communication breakdown. When you put your words into the mouth of someone else, when you place your motivations upon their actions, when you put your ideas in their head, without ever bothering to check if you’re correct or not, you’ve removed all capacity to communicate or interact with that individual.
Without communication and understanding, we can never get along. Without these things, we turn to hostility, we turn to war, we turn to malice and hatred.
The cure to hatred is communication – understanding why people do the things they do.
So long as you’re a bigot, you will never cure any of the world’s ills.
Note that this goes for members of the MHRM as well. It’s commonplace that we fall into the same situation as the feminists and the social justice warriors – we can’t allow this communication breakdown to occur.
Communication absolutely must be a two way street if we’re ever to solve any of the problems any of us face.
Discrimination is, in the end, a tool to be utilized. When you fail to use it as a tool, but rather as a one-size-fits-all that can never be wrong, you become a bigot.
The MHRM has no room for bigots, and we have to not just police others on this matter, as they prevent all progress, but to also evaluate the actions of our own selves on a constant, continual basis.
Are you being a bigot? Are you letting the individual you’re arguing with actually showcase their opinions, or are you holding them to an unrealistic set of standards that they can never live up to?
We’re all in this together, and we’re all individuals. We aren’t the hive mind collective. Not the social justice warriors, not the MRAs, not the feminists.
Bigotry must be removed from all sides before true communication can be enacted, and before we can ever hope to solve our problems.
If you see it, point it out. Hell, reference them to this article. Reblog it, retweet it, repost it; this is the first step to solving any social problem for men and women, minorities and majorities the world over.
But more than that, listen to the individual and what they say, not what you feel they should be saying. Don’t fall into the same trap the others have. You can’t necessarily solve anyone else’s problems, but you can solve your own, and that’s as good of a place to start as any.
A bit about the Author:
She is a writer, a video game writer, an animator, transgendered, Lithuanian, female, bisexual, and, interestingly enough, legally blind without her glasses. And none of that matters. What matters is she’s passionate about men’s and others’ human rights.
7 thoughts on “Why Is Discrimination Bad?”
Odd, it won’t let me reply directly. Well, whatever.
Evolutionary psychology is pretty handy to have as a rough idea if nothing else, and as a thought experiment, it’s rather helpful for trying to piece together why we do the things we do. The concept of “the selfish gene” applies to memetic concepts as well – what lets you survive gets carried on as either a genetic predisposition, or as a cultural trend.
The problem is, we’re having to backwards engineer these concepts by seeing what the end result is, and then trying to guess what it was that made it happen. Sometimes it makes clear, logical sense and is probably fairly accurate. Other times… well, sometimes even something that makes logical sense doesn’t mean it’s true, otherwise we wouldn’t have quantum physics just in general. =P
Anyway, I don’t disagree that Evo-psych can be greatly beneficial, but the key thing to remember is that it’s not guaranteed, no matter how reasonable it seems at the time. In the article above, it makes perfectly rational, logical sense, and explains a great many things. It lines up with what we do know about the brain, and learned behaviours. For all intents and purposes, it would make for a great thesis paper… but I do hazard that there’s always that tiny chance that it may be absolutely 100% bullshit, and I’m the one who wrote it. =P
Always challenge your beliefs, and be critical of even the things which seem plainly obvious. If someone can bring me a new, updated model that makes more sense than what I have there, I’ll change it. I don’t think it’s likely, but you never know. I’m open to evidence to the contrary.
I just have to hazard people on this kind of thing since people in general have this nasty tendency to deal in absolutes, kind of like what the whole article was about in the first place. XD
Agreed. Absolutes and our tendency towards forgetting about the scientific method when it suits us are seemingly universally intractable barriers betwixt humanity and truth…
True, we have to at least be willing to ask what the truth is. Even if we don’t like the answer.
Especially if we don’t like the answer.
We didn’t want to hear that the Earth wasn’t the center of the universe… and fought tooth and nail against the facts because it was an ideological belief.
Unfortunately, we have learned nothing since then. We have the same issues today with topics that are taboo to even so much as question. Are women less than perfect angels? Is rape really a 1 in 3 case of likelihood? Are transgendered people genetically defective? Does your race play anything at all in your overall intelligence? Are there differences between the sexes at all?
Some of these things we know the answer to already but refuse to speak to that answer because it’s not what we wanted to hear. Others we refuse to even ask in the first place out of fear of what the answer may be.
The truth simply is. It doesn’t care what you want to believe, and it doesn’t care whether you like it or not, it just is what it is.
Even if we don’t want it to be true, the truth is what gives you the capacity to change that truth as well. Only by knowing the rules in play can you use those rules to your advantage. Only by knowing the truth can you alter what the truth is. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s also the death of progress.
We’ll never cure the ills of the world if we don’t even know what they are because we’re too afraid to ask.
Even if we don’t like the question, and even if we don’t like the answer, those are the very questions that are most needed to be asked, because they’re the answers that will let us change the world for the better… but only if we first are willing to ask what we don’t want to hear.
Heh, one of those got me thinking, but not along the lines of “You can’t ask that”… When you asked if transgendered people are genetically defective, I was surprised at my profound lack of angry denial of the question. Instead, I just saw it as a poor question in and of itself. Are people with red hair genetically defective? What about diabetes? The question implies there is any kind of order or meaning to our genes. Any given mutation could be the key to our survival, or doom us all, or just make more redheads happen, but defective implies… Design? Specific purpose? Anyway, this is the kind of blind alley we go down when we ask seemingly profound questions. Sometimes the questions aren’t very good, and the answers we can provide to them can’t be all that great…
Like the one in three lie. If it really was one in three, and all men doing it, I’d wonder if that meant that we’d taken a part of our nature and decided it was evil arbitrarily. Seriously, I don’t personally know if, here in Sydney, the last few generations of gay men have even reached a one-in-three likelihood of having been assaulted for being gay. Which is awesome, and begs the question: If it’s gone from entirely passe to completely taboo to attempt to reorder others sexualities through blunt force trauma within my own lifetime, why would something as blatantly evil as rape be somehow increasing?
I think in the end I’d like to pimpslap the douchebags who wrote that one famous line in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident…”. Nothing is that. Everything is questionable, doubly so if it’s been seen as taboo to question. So, thankyou for your test questions, even a year ago a few of them would have made me despair and rage, so I’m thanking you for proving to me that I’m moving in directions I feel are positive 🙂
Nicely put. Evo-psych can tell us a lot about where we overstep the mark that separates a helpful process from insanity 🙂
Yarr, I’m a little cautious on getting too overboard with evo-psych, but it has some really useful tools for understanding why we think the way we do. Or at least, it often makes logical sense as a framework.
As with everything, though, be careful not to hold to it with such rigidity that you can’t see flaws in the argument =P
Oh, I agree, evo-psych is far more an interesting series of thought experiments than any sort of rigid science. If anything, I was mentioning that because of the great things evo-medicine has been doing, like in relation to fever. Fever was always seen as a horrible symptom, whereas we now know it to be an awesomely effective defense mechanism that rarely goes overboard and causes more harm than good. So, rather than automatically “treating” fevers, we now allow them to progress, but keep an eye out for it going overboard. Your article reminded me very much of this general concept, so I wondered if, in this instance, evo psych might be applicable as a thought experiment. After all, discrimination is a generally helpful thing, far moreso when we weren’t the intelligent beings we are now… See funny looking tribe, funny looking tribe throw stuff at you, always attack funny looking tribe first is perfectly valid. Go on a few thousand generations with that as a helpful strategy, and the environment has changed drastically. Throwing things at funny looking people is counterproductive now.
I look at a lot of evo-psych stuff through that lens, it makes a lot of the crazier things about humanity at least make some kind of historical sense…