Well, the answer’s obvious! It just … is, right?
The question is a bit odd, though, because although these days most people know that discrimination is wrong, few actually understand why. The average individual just assumes they know why, but rarely do they actually reason it out.
And this is how it becomes all right 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.
How We Learn
Before we break down discrimination in general, we first have to learn what it is and where it comes from.
Discrimination is actually a natural response; it helps keep you alive. Without it, you probably wouldn’t live to be ten years old.
Yes, I said it, discrimination, in and of itself, is not bad. Aaaah! Pause there before you go quote-mining; there’s more to it.
You see, the way we learn is that when something happens to us—be it one major event or repeated smaller events—we store it away. Our brains are excellent at storing massive amounts of information tidbits and then correlating them against one another.
This is how we’re capable of art, speech, and even conscious thought, among other capabilities. Without the capacity to compare two or more pieces of data and evaluate if they’re related, 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 see a face in a wood or stucco ceiling? How about images in clouds? Ever dreamed? Had a mental image? Ever paraphrased someone? Spoken something in your own words without quoting someone else 100% verbatim?
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’s face appearing in a muffin is the same concept as seeing images in the clouds or, oddly enough, racism. Huh?
You see, racism, sexism, and 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 mentioned, you learn when your brain stores information about events you experienced—whether large or small—and then looks for similar traits across these events to try to earmark them as important details to remember.
This goes doubly so for dangerous events that either harmed you or that triggered an adrenaline response. Your brain goes into overdrive, checking for any information that may be even slightly related so that it can not only handle the situation at that given moment but can also remember it vividly later on so that you can use those details to prevent you from getting into that same situation again.
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 quash that fear with knowledge. A snake handler 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 bite 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 discriminate against snakes.
This brain process happens all the time, even with smaller events. If someone does something a bit rude to you, you will probably assume that the individual is a rude person. If they continue to be rude to you, over time you build up a 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 the individual was a Black woman. A little later 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 to you. Your brain will automatically see the correlation between these events and just assume: “Hey, Black women are asshats!” until proven otherwise.
If, however, you also happened to know several Black women who were perfectly pleasant to you, this evidence usually counteracts the correlation, allowing you to see it as just individuals who are being asshats rather than “all Black women.”
This only works, however, if you’re exposed to such contrary evidence in advance. What happens if these Black women are rude to you and then, afterwards, you meet a pleasant Black woman?
Here’s a hint: Your brain doesn’t tend to make the correlation that she’s nice so the others might have been erroneous. Instead, your brain already has a stereotype in place and now tries to fit whatever this pleasant Black woman is saying to you into the same stereotype it has already crafted.
Your mind will go out of its way to try to twist anything she has to say into a hostile action. A friendly smile can suddenly be mistaken for a sneer. A kind word is assumed to be a backhanded compliment. A happy hello is viewed as arrogant or contemptuous.
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.
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 that 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. We’d be too bogged down in endless details over tiny things: stopping to see whether the snake is poisonous 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 pleasant is to open yourself up to an 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 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 them through the lens of logic and simply allow our experience and instincts to run the show.
When All You Have Is a Hammer …
So now you can see how the same principles that save you from being killed by a snakebite 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 group of thugs 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.
And if you are a woman walking along a street at night and you see a man walking toward you, you start digging around in your purse for your pepper spray, right?
Well … no.
Part of the reason with why these reactions are problematic is that they begin to apply to situations that 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 rate of rape is absurdly high, 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 they are hard to really believe, but the mangling was based on this very same issue: data that the researchers gathered and analyzed was viewed through a lens of sexist ideology.
If a man offers to buy 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 Koss 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 has been haphazardly slung around has created a generation of women who are terrified of men and who took the idea of offering someone a drink to be the equivalent of sexual assault, which then became the equivalent of actual rape, which 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 knowing it’s a 2% rate of incidence rather than a 33% rate of incidence.
In fact, it’s almost guaranteed (under a 0.01% chance) that the guy on the street is not going to rape you. Even if he was a rapist, the chances are excessively unlikely that he would rape you right then and there. If you even so much as present yourself with confidence rather than fear, you’re pretty much safe.
If all you have is patriarchy theory, then everything’s going to look like men are out to get you. By its 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 thanks him for being kind. If a woman opened the door for her instead, she’d thank her as well.
Under patriarchy theory, she thinks he’s claiming that 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 explanation—it’s about trying to force-fit people’s actions into a preconceived framework or narrative of what you expect them to do. When they fail to perform as expected, your mind tries to bullshit up an excuse for why.
There is no population in the world that hasn’t committed atrocities at some point in history, no civilization, no gender, no group. The Native Americans went to war with one another 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 Nazis? 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 full of money to the store to buy a single loaf of bread, you can kind of start calling that Third World conditions.
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 beliefs 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 that 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 its 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, Yunno, BAD?
The answer to this question is a bit different from what you might expect.
As mentioned, discrimination, in and of itself, is not “bad.” Without it, 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 its core.
The individual is not responsible for the actions of anyone but themself. The individual is not at fault for things they have not done. The individual is, well, an individual. The individual is 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: we all need a set of reference points to use to interact quickly with the world. If you’ve met 50 White people and they were all assholes, it’s within your best interest to assume that 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 test to see whether someone is 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 what 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: 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 applies to 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 we face.
Discrimination is, in the end, a tool to be used. 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 only police others on this matter, as they prevent all progress, but also evaluate our own actions on a constant, continual basis.
Are you being a bigot? Are you letting the individual you’re arguing with actually voice 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, refer them to this article. Reblog it, retweet it, repost it; this is the first step to solving any social problems for men and women, minorities and majorities the world over.
But more than that, listen to the individual and what they have to 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 a place to start as any.