Saturday, November 22, 2008

Discrimination and Hurt Feelings

Bob Jones University, the finest fundamentalist cow college in the world named after Bob Jones, has apologized for having banned interracial dating as recently as 2000 CE:

Though no known antagonism toward minorities or expressions of racism on a personal level have ever been tolerated on our campus, we allowed institutional policies to remain in place that were racially hurtful.
I'm intrigued with this idea that BJU's racism was "hurtful," as though the extent of the damage done was to the feelings of particular non-white and white people who wanted to go a-courtin'. This implies that BJU's ban on interracial dating* would have been acceptable, and nothing to apologize for, if the parties affected by the ban experienced no hurt feelings over it -- if they had been, for example, so thoroughly inculcated in the school's brand of batshit fundamentalism that interracial dating would never have occurred to any of them, or if it had, it would have struck them as repulsive.

But surely this is the wrong way to look at it; surely there is more involved in discrimination (race-based, sex-based, age-based, eye-color-based, whatever) than hurt feelings. Rather, the wrong of discrimination lies in the way it parcels out rights, privileges, opportunities, and protections based on arbitrary, non-chosen characteristics. It creates in-groups and out-groups, higher and lower tiers of persons, and does so for bad reasons. If this is right, then discrimination is unjust and wrong whether or not anyone is moved to complain about it, whether or not anyone's feelings are hurt by it, indeed whether or not anyone perceives it as discrimination as opposed to, say, the way things have always been.

BJU should therefore be apologizing for the injustice it perpetuated, not for the feelings the injustice gave rise to.

* BJU's discrimination and its characterization of it is by no means exceptional; I highlight it because BJU is intrinsically risible and because I like writing "BJU."


libhom said...

They still require parental permission for interracial dating, which effectively is an interracial dating ban. The reasons parents send their kids to BJU is to prevent interracial dating.

Dale said...

libhom, why am I not surprised that interracial dating is still a closely-monitored activity there at BJU, even after their broad-minded lift of the ban in 2000 CE?

Oh, wait, never mind, I figured it out myself: because they're batshit fundamentalist racist twits.