Discrimination: What Does It Really Mean?

discriminationby Rebecca D. Pitocco, Guest Contributor

[su_dropcap style=”flat”]D[/su_dropcap]ISCRIMINATION. It is a term commonly used and is defined as the process by which two stimuli, differing in some aspect, are responded to differently (Merriam-Webster). You may be thinking that doesn’t sound like the correct definition. It is correct, however, it is not the correct context of discrimination we are accustom to experiencing in our day-to-day lives. While discrimination is a term used widely in the scientific world, as previously defined, it also has another meaning. This meaning is more familiar and recognizable throughout the world. A synonym to the term discrimination, in the social form, is the term prejudice, well defined as a preconceived judgment or opinion. An initial prejudice usually precedes the act of discriminating, meaning, in its verb form: to distinguish, often with a negative correlation or categorization (Merriam-Webster). Discrimination is a term with many correlations and can be applied to several situations.

Discrimination is one of the few terms that’s meaning can be applied to nearly every era of planet Earth’s existence. Over 245 million years ago, for example, or the Mesozoic era, also known as the “age of the dinosaurs”, was filled with acts of discrimination. Dinosaurs and creatures alike discriminated species differing from their own, fighting for power and survival. Even cells, the smallest units of life, practice discrimination, ganging up on their weaker or injured counterparts, eliminating and conquering. Considering that all life is made up of these tiny life units, it can be noted that we are surrounded by discrimination, and have been since the formation of the first living organism. A cells practice of discrimination, however, is necessary to protect the organism as a whole. Among humans, both past and present, discrimination is abundant. It is practiced both consciously and unconsciously around the globe.

Discrimination-1The term discrimination frequently evokes thoughts of race, gender, or disability. These three examples of discrimination-prone categories are prevalent in America and in many other countries. Businesses in America have anti-discrimination regulations that have grown to be quite strict and regulatory in the last decade. The United States Securities and Exchange Commission, which mandates employment regulations, has strict anti-discrimination laws, also known as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the EEOC. These regulations prohibit discrimination during job screening. Specifically they state that no person shall be discriminated based on his or her: “Age, color, genetic information (protected), disability, national origin, race, religion, or sex (excluding pregnancy and childbirth)” (EEOC). These are the set regulations for employers; however, people still find ways to selectively hire.

A person who is obese in appearance, for example, is likely to be discriminated because of the preconceived judgment that he or she is lazy. While that may not be true it is discrimination because of the negative assumption and distinguished label. We as humans make assumptions all the time, more frequently then we are aware. They are not always negative, but often lead to a negative judgment, a discriminatory thought. Ellen DeGeneres speaks of discrimination often through comedy, “You should never assume. You know what happens when you assume. You make an ass out of you and me because that’s how it’s spelled” (DeGeneres). While she is poking fun on a serious matter, it actually helps the point be established and remembered. It’s possible that a world free of social discrimination could be troublesome. Some people may not gain the drive to accomplish the great feats we are all conscious of. DeGeneres explains, I learned compassion from being discriminated against. Everything bad that’s ever happened to me has taught me compassion. Of courses her largest hurdle has been the discrimination she endured after she revealed that she is a lesbian on her late 1990’s sitcom, Ellen. If the harsh discrimination she received from the press and her sitcom viewers hadn’t occurred, it is possible that she would not have gained the intense motivation for promoting change that she did. DeGeneres proclaims on her talk show; “my haters are my motivators”. Discrimination appears in many forms.

Discrimination can be the product of many scenarios. Age discrimination, for example, is lessening in America, but is still very prevalent in many regions of the world. The usual age discriminations consist of a judgment that the person is too young (naive), or to old to carry out tasks. This discrimination is not always direct nor is it always a conscious act. DeGeneres, who is fifty-four years of age, wears makeup that aids her to appear younger. It is believable that people may not be so trusting of her if her wrinkles were showing. Age should imply wisdom, not incapability. It all goes back to a preconceived judgment, an assumption.

Discrimination has a scientific encoding; it is our nature to practice it. While the act of discrimination itself is most often negative, it can sometimes render positive outcomes. Some discrimination, such as discrimination among cells, is essential for proper function and continuation of life. People usually do not like to be discriminated against by others, but for some, like Ellen DeGeneres, it has become a prevalent part of their life, or even a motivation to work harder, to accomplish goals. Discrimination, in its simplest definition and verb format, is to distinguish (Merriam-Webster). Distinguish wisely.

[message type=”custom” width=”100%” start_color=”#F0F0F0 ” end_color=”#F0F0F0 ” border=”#BBBBBB” color=”#333333″] Editor’s Note: Rebecca PitoccoRebecca D. Pitocco is a Guest Contributor and a Student at Appalachian State University pursuing a BFA in Studio Art.[/message]


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