Discrimination in America is as prevalent today as it was in the early 1900′s. Some people may argue against the previous statement; saying that America has made huge improvements in civil rights and equality in the last one hundred years. In some ways those people would be right, but in many other ways they would be wrong. First off, when you think that the underlying causes of discrimination are based off immediate impressions such as: age, clothing, attractiveness, verbiage, heritage, cleanliness, etc. you begin to realize that this assumptive nature lies within all people and is used to judge all other people. In other words, discrimination can and is used against every nationality, age, sex, religion and every category in between. When these assumptions or stereotypes become hugely exaggerated or start to negatively impact the people they are being used against, that is when harmless judgment changes to the much more severe issue of discrimination. Because of the extreme historical disadvantages faced by African-Americans in our countries past, the little progress that we have had in addressing discrimination can be largely contributed to the leaders of the civil rights movement. True, a major improvement in the last century did occur when the American people became conscious of the need for equality and demanded government intervention. The government responded by passing the civil rights act of 1964 which, among other things, allowed prosecution for the following actions:
o harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age;
o retaliation against an individual for filing a charge of discrimination, participating in an investigation, or opposing discriminatory practices;
o employment decisions based on stereotypes or assumptions about the abilities, traits, or performance of individuals of a certain sex, race, age, religion, or ethnic group, or individuals with disabilities.
- Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Pub. L. 88-352) (Title VII)
The above laws were created to ensure that people are given equal opportunities in the workplace and would be protected from retaliation when confronting individuals whom discriminate. Then why do I argue that discrimination is still apparent in America? Mainly because I personally have been impacted by the negative affects of discrimination at my workplace and was subject to a bias resolution. No, I am not African-American, female, homosexual or disabled and yet I still experienced discrimination with just as severely of consequences as an individual from any of those sub cultures which are often in the news for being the victims of discrimination. In fact, it seems that because I do not fit into any of those sub-cultures, I am not taken seriously with my complaints or concerns. Are some forms of discrimination more acceptable than other forms? I think not; discrimination is discrimination, no matter what context it is in or how small or large the person is affected by it. Don’t get me wrong; I am, by no means, attempting to say that I am a “victim” of the newly coined idea of “reverse racism”. Reverse racism is the idea that affirmative action has led to the over-protection of minority groups and has resulted in the majority group being disadvantaged as a result. In fact, reverse racism and the need for the civil rights act of 1964 are result of the underlying issue at hand.
The underlying issue that spawns discrimination and inequality is; anyone and everyone can fit into a stereotype held by another individual and will therefore be subject to some form of discrimination or prejudice in their lifetime. Because everyone can be discriminated against, does that mean that everyone also partakes in discrimination? To some extent, yes, I believe that everyone uses snap judgment and stereotypes to quickly asses a stranger’s personality. The ability to judge based off appearance is a natural ability that is vital in our species survival; but the intensity of this judgment separates innocent appraisal from an illegal injustice. When you think about it, almost any aspect of your personality, appearance, ideals, beliefs, wants, needs or desires can be looked at in a negative light and is therefore subject to appraisal; which in turn creates a positive or negative appearance which in turn can be a means for discrimination.
So, what can be done to help counteract discrimination? First, we need to understand that there are multiple forms of discrimination. There is an unconscious application of discrimination where an individuals’ (lets say a manager for example) personal beliefs and ideals contributes to an overall negative view of a certain person(lets say an employee). This subtle discrimination will inadvertently lead to a lessoned willingness for the manager to present opportunities to that employee, either consciously or unconsciously. This form of discrimination often goes unnoticed, making it much more difficult to asses. To help resolve this problem, I think that the media could attempt to bring the issue into the public’s conscious. If people are made more aware of this taking place; either the individuals who are unconsciously discriminating against people will become aware of it and attempt to change their actions or people around them (say coworkers) will report the discrimination to authorities. Another form of discrimination is the conscious / apparent form of discrimination. In this form of discrimination, an individual purposefully tries to belittle another person, sometimes maliciously. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was made for people like this. As we saw above, passing laws is somewhat effective but, up to this point, has only been able to protect members in minority groups. However, for people with malicious intentions, I think that the best form of rehabilitation would be through government interaction.