Thoughts on Various Forms of Discrimination

Discrimination has many faces. It doesn’t discriminate itself without help from people.

When you think of discrimination, what pops into your mind immediately? Most people think of racial discrimination and rightly so. But what about other forms of discrimination that are experienced every day? The LGBTQ community has had to fight discrimination for a very long time and even though things are changing, there is still a mindset in many circles that one’s sexuality defines a human being. That’s not true. Just because a person isn’t heterosexual does not mean that they are one label. There are many people who are not just LGBTQ but pansexual and a few other types of labels if you must label them. This doesn’t define who they are. They are gender fluid and are more accepting than many who are heterosexual.

I can say this because I have a lot of friends in the LGBTQ community. No I’m not gay or bi. I don’t fall in any of the labels for LGBTQ but I do believe that everyone should not be penalized based off of sexual preference, age, gender, disability, or race. Nor do I believe that discrimination of any kind is acceptable.

I’m now in the age bracket of dealing with age discrimination. I’ve been passed over for certain jobs because I was considered “too old”. No offense to those potential employers but a person’s age range has no clear indication on how well a person could do in the job. I went for a job with a car dealership when I was in my thirties. I was told that I was too old. Then I went for a job with the city. I was told that they were looking for someone with better qualifications and yet I met every single one of the qualifications that they stated they wanted. When I went back to check on the position, I did a little undercover work. Turns out that they hired a really cute, bouncy, blonde who looked really good and couldn’t have been a day over 21. Talk about discriminatory. When I asked her about how long she had been there, she said less than a month and she said she didn’t know how she got it because she wasn’t qualified for the job. Keep in mind I had interviewed around the time she got the job. Want to know the worst part? The man who interviewed me was her new boss and all he could seem to focus on was how “perky” she was. It’s amazing what some hair dye and make up can do. Now I see the appeal of Undercover Boss.

A very good friend of mine is in her thirties. She went for an interview to get an apartment. Another friend of hers had recommended her to the landlord and she thought it would be a good fit. The landlord was her friends boyfriends parents. So, everything was in order. The references got checked and then the landlord called my friend. She said she didn’t think it would be a good fit. Now, my friend was really confused. She was offering three months rent up front, references and has a steady job. She also was able to present references from former landlords. She met with the woman and was told that her husband wanted a senior citizen to live in the apartment. Keep in mind that there was never any mention of that prior to that conversation. My friend was discriminated because of her age.

Sometimes we show discriminatory behavior without even realizing it.

Then I have another friend who has a physical disability. He has a compilation of issues and gets penalized for those disabilities every day. He’s been like a brother to me for decades. He had a stroke in his mother’s womb. He had seizures almost every day until he was twenty. He had a surgery to remove half his brain and it stopped the seizures. It will be 29 years in February, as of today he’s marking his 10,367 days that he’s been seizure free but he’s had bosses who refused to promote him saying that he couldn’t do higher work. This is a man who worked in banking for years and can put a lot of people to shame with numbers. He beat the odds. He’s been able to inspire so many with his faith and determination. There’s nothing he can’t do. Oh sure, he has to adapt a little differently to do different tasks. He has limited ability on his left side and his left hand is almost always clenched but he doesn’t let physical impairments derail him. He’s not alone. There are so many people who get discriminated against just because of a disability. Years ago, he went to a local McDonald’s for a cashier job. Do you know the manager actually had the nerve to tell him after looking at his hand that they weren’t hiring even though they had Now Hiring signs all over their property? Really? He came home deflated and frustrated because no one would give him a chance.

Then there are other folks in my life who tried to get ahead but because of their appearances, no one would give them a break. It didn’t matter that they couldn’t afford nicer clothes because they didn’t have money. It didn’t matter that they were hungry for work and no one would give them a chance. All that was seen in some of the places was the color of their skin and the fact that they were obese. Blatant discrimination. But unfortunately, it happens every single day.

Don’t forget discrimination in churches. Yep. I’m going there. Too many churches have a cliquish mentality. If you aren’t following the flock, then you are to be shunned. Let me be clear. Kiss my grits. There’s nothing more cynical than Christians who are Christians in name only. You can quote all the bible verses in the world but if you don’t live what you preach, you are hypocritical. I can’t tell you how many times I go on Facebook and see all these Bible quotes from people and yet when it comes to practicing what Allah, Yahweh, God, whatever name you praise, that they don’t back up what they preach and they discriminate people in the congregation. If you dare to challenge them, they throw a temper tantrum and try to turn everyone away from those who are different. This is why Christianity gets a bad rap. I’m a Christian. I make mistakes and I don’t always follow the bible the way I should. I couldn’t quote you most of the passages out of the bible but I choose to live my life the way that I think God would want. I try to treat others the way I would want to be treated. When people have wronged me, I don’t hold a grudge. I just back off. It’s the way I am. I can’t change others. I can only change me and I don’t have the right to discriminate against anyone. When I see a homeless person, it gets really hard not to judge a person because there are a lot of people who are acting homeless when they aren’t. It angers me when I think a homeless person is being helped only to find out that someone is pretending to be homeless just so they don’t have to get a job. It takes away from those who are truly in need. That angers the hell out of me. Those who are truly homeless are just trying to survive. They don’t need someone faking it just to make money. It gets hard not to discriminate. But we have to find ways to push through our initial discriminatory mindset. Every once in a while, we are amazed by those who stand out.

Let’s talk about monetary discrimination for a moment. The elite are rarely seen with anyone below their social standing. And if they are, it’s usually for a chance encounter. Snobbery and elitist often go hand in hand. I’ve had quite a bit of personal experience with this. My parents sent me to a prep school with my college tuition. I had to work my way through Burger King from the time I was old enough to get a job. The prep school kids wouldn’t eat lunch with me. They didn’t want to associate with me. I tried hard to fit in but I felt like an outcast. I didn’t run in their circles. My parents didn’t belong to a country club. They worked really hard for everything we had. If you don’t fit in certain social statuses, you can become a prime target for monetary discrimination. When I went to the mall, the clerks would watch me like a hawk. I wasn’t going to steal. I’d walk in wearing jeans, t-shirts and sneakers and would feel the scrutinizing glare from those who watched me as if I were a peon to be discarded. I hated high school. I was never so relieved to graduate as I was from there because I hated feeling like nothing I would do would ever be right.

I have so many friends who have health issues who are discriminated against in job searches. FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) is supposed to have prevented some of the discrimination but it isn’t enough. Some of my friends are severely depressed and have been let go from jobs for various different reasons but it boiled down to their conditions. Instead of getting them the help they needed, they were let go and created a more dangerous environment for one of my friends. Depression isn’t just something you can wish away and severe depression is dangerous. People commit suicide every day because of depression. When a person gets discriminated against, it leads to so many negative emotions. It’s very difficult to not battle depression and anxiety.

These are just a few of the incidents that I’ve encountered. I’m sure you all have your own stories and I could go on about more occurrences. The point is that we all have experienced discrimination of some sort in all of our lives. If we learn from it, we are less likely to continue the detrimental patterns. If we don’t learn from our ways, we are conditioning ourselves for more resentment, hostility, depression, anxiety and fear of trying. There’s a lot more power in lifting each other up than tearing each other down. I hope that we can all remember that everything we do in life can be perceived as forms of discrimination. We just have to be a little more mindful of our actions and continue to show kindness. After all, a kind gesture can help defeat discrimination of any type when the weapon of love and compassion is used.

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