EQUALITY INSTEAD OF
All reasonable persons seem to agree that human beings
should not be discriminated against on the basis of their
nationality, race or ethnical identity, while the most obvious
discrimination on the basis of sex has become equally unpopular.
Yet, racial and ethnical equality often does not go much further
than the absence of legal discrimination. When it comes to the
appointment or election to the better or best jobs and positions
members of racial or ethnic minorities (or sometimes majorities)
are often very much underrepresented. And people may
conceive of members of these groups as equal citizens and equal
partners at work, to have them as friends (that is, persons with
whom they spend leisure time together), as neighbors or as
in-laws is but too often viewed as something different. The
reason why they may not want to get too close with other ethnic
groups may partially be that they do not feel at ease with
aliens or in an alien environment; partially it is the fear and
dislike which result from misconceptions and inadmissible
generalizations. The fact that somebody belongs to a certain racial
or ethnic group may at a certain place and time (under the
conditions as they have been so far) be correlated with
sometimes unfavorable factors.
If this correlation is not a product of the imagination, it is still a
purely statistical relationship which does not characterize any particular
person of the group in question, but when generalizing, the unfavorable
(nondoctrinal) quality is
automatically projected onto each individual member of the group.
Such does not only happen to races or ethnic groups but also to the sexes
and to all other groups of society distinguished on the basis of a
ground-world quality and not
treated as equals in some way.
Even when and where men and women are formally considered equal citizens,
they have still been discriminated against all over the world in many
other respects (also in the law of the land).
That the legal discrimination of women is on the way to extinction, does
not mean that they would not remain extremely underrepresented in
(the higher-level or better-paid) official positions. Also when
women are considered suitable for a number of jobs (especially
those in which men do not have to be their subordinates), they
may be the first, if not the only, ones to be held responsible
for the housekeeping and the upbringing of the children. (In
sexist dictionaries homemaker is not person managing a
household but one who manages a household (especially) as a
wife and mother.)
On the other hand, a number of jobs may not generally be considered very
masculine, and men were, or still are, the first, if not the only ones, to
be held responsible for the maintenance of the family and the defense of
the country or community (against other men, that is).
The traditional differentiation between the functions of females and the
functions of males all over the world has degenerated into a system of
roles female human beings have to play and roles male human beings have to
play in order to achieve the highest possible, or just some, status in
This cultural division into roles goes far beyond what can be explained
from the natural features which define whether one has a male or female
(The or is most likely to be an exclusive or in the
From a purely biological standpoint it is not less preposterous to suppose
that the excellence of the behavior of men and women would lie in their
aggressiveness or arrogance, and in their weakness or affectedness
One unfavorable factor engendering the underrepresentation
of a race, ethnic group, sex and in particular a social class in
the higher positions, is the lack of education among members of
such a group. This is reflected in its disproportional representation
at the medium and higher levels of education, especially
at the university level. Such a negative disproportionality can
be a result of many factors, like:
- the financial inability to pay for a higher education
(which in itself is a sign of socioeconomic inequality)
- the fact that no-one tries to arouse the intellectual
interests of such a group or to encourage its members to
continue their study, coupled with the belief of a substantial
part of the general public that the group in question lacks
the skills for doing so
- the fact that within the family the intellectual interests
of the children, or exclusively of the girls, are not aroused
either, combined with the parents' belief that education leads
to estrangement from the children's family and/or community,
or from the role the girls will later have to play in family life.
All these and other factors demonstrate that it is relatively
easy to bar discrimination by the government, by corporations or
by individual citizens, but that it is far more difficult to
establish a state of equality in which a group formerly disadvantageously
stereotyped or otherwise discriminated against is no longer
underrepresented in social and political life. However, it does not
follow that a group is discriminated against when it is
underrepresented in a certain respect, because it may on the average
have, for example, fewer qualified people, or fewer people who
aspire to a particular (type of) position, even when all forms
of discrimination are, and have been, absent.
We cannot divorce the discrimination of one particular group from the
discrimination of any other particular group, whether this group is
distinguished on the grounds of physical factors such as skin color,
family membership, sex, sexual orientation or age, or on the grounds of
nonphysical factors like language, social class, wealthiness or ideological
(political, religious, nonreligious) convictions.
However much the groups discriminated against may seem to differ, they all
suffer from one and the same attitude: the exclusivist attitude.
A community or individual discriminating on the grounds of any of the
factors mentioned or not mentioned is likely to discriminate against or in
favor of more groups on the basis of more factors, if not avowedly, then
possibly in a hidden way, since the one exclusivism contributes to and
reinforces the other exclusivism.
Only the fundamental conviction as portrayed by the inclusive attitude to
stay away from all forms of discrimination, whatever physical or mental
factor is involved (with the exception of exclusivisms themselves), can
save any particular group from the continuous threat of being discriminated
against, from being ignored, from (irrelevant) unequal treatment and from
(unjustified) underrepresentation in certain sectors of society.
It is erroneous to assume that the attitude of a group which itself is, for
example, unfavorably stereotyped or withheld equal opportunities would be
inclusive because this group tries to put an end to its own state of being
In fact the attitude of this group might be more exclusivistic than the
attitude of the (other) discriminators.
This may express itself in misconceptions and generalizations with regard
to those not belonging to this group, in a tendency to keep exclusively to
themselves and thus to estrange themselves from the rest of society, in a
preferential treatment of fellow-members, in a desire to distinguish
themselves from the rest of the public by a purposely provocative behavior
and appearance, or in other beliefs, feelings and actions of this kind.
The exclusive interest in their own emancipation, and the lack of interest
in the liberation and equality of other groups which are ignored,
stereotyped or withheld equal opportunities may be part of this
Because of the fundamental discrepancy between inclusive beliefs, feelings
and thoughts on the one hand, and exclusive beliefs, feelings and thoughts
on the other, the discriminatory subordinating or superordinating
treatment of any particular group is correlated with all other exclusive
convictions, sentiments and opinions on the side of the discriminators and
with all exclusive convictions, sentiments and opinions on the side of
those discriminated against or in favor of.
Neither discrimination in general, nor any particular form of
discrimination (sexism, racism, and so on) can ever be fully overcome, if
we do not attack the principal attitude which is behind it in all fields
and among all parties.