As I toil away as a blogger, the tone and fervor of posts and comments has led me to ask a pretty basic question – are racism and sexism OK? I always thought that the answer was absolutely no and that the civil rights movement and the women’s movement had made huge strides to eliminate bias. As I listen to the debate I am increasingly confused by the rhetoric.
As with many things, this may come down simply to definitions. I define racism as “any action which discriminates against or singles our for benefit one race over another – all people, regardless of their perceived “race” should be treated equally.” I define sexism as “any action which discriminates against or singles our for benefit one gender over another – all people, regardless of their gender should be treated equally.” It would be pretty hard to argue against the fact that many folks in America’s past (and even today) have been subjected to racism and sexism using these definitions – in my humble opinion that is wrong and should not be tolerated in our society.
To “counteract” these forms of discrimination a number of government programs have been created and laws passed that in and of themselves are sexist and racist using my definition. “Affirmative action” allows preferences in the admission into schools or hiring for jobs based on race. Employment termination laws are unequally enforced in Orange County (and California) in ways that benefit certain races and gender at the expense of others. There are government programs set up to benefit MBE (Minority owned Business Enterprises) and WBE (Woman owned Business Enterprise) at the expense of those that do not categorize themselves as MBE or WBE. There are private groups everywhere that have exclusionary policies and names such as “The Women’s _____ group,” “the Latino ______ group,” and many others.
The funny thing is that NONE of these government actions define “race.” As far as I can tell, my family was in the United States and Western Europe for most of the last 2 1/2 millenia and yet there is nothing in any of these goverment schemes that would stop me from indicating that I am “black” or “latino” or “eskimo.” There is no defined level of of skin color or time from separation from someone’s country of origin that qualifies or disqualifies anyone from membership in any of these racial classifications.
I put three questions to you, the loyal reader:
1) Are these government programs and private actions racist or sexist?
2) Are programs like these necessary to counteract past discrimination?
3) Does there come a time when these poilicies stop counteracting past discrimination and start being racism and sexism in and of themselves?