We can't legislate end to racism
Laws will never solve America's problems with discrimination.
Legal protections for racial, ethnic and religious minorities are critical to ensuring some element of protection for these groups, but laws such as the Civil Rights Act and Affirmative Action only serve to remind us we are not beyond our prejudiced past.
Because we have these laws, Americans tend to feel like we are going above and beyond in looking out for the equal opportunity of minorities, but the laws are nothing more than an unsightly bandaid that covers the wounds caused by discrimination. We should not think of equal opportunity as the solution to prejudice. Prejudice goes much deeper than opportunity, it is rooted in how we view and value people different than us. When someone sees a difference – particularly one that affirms the belief that someone else is beneath them – they are showing a prejudice.
If you think discrimination is not alive and well, take a handful of recent incidents into consideration.
This week the National Basketball Association banned Donald Sterling, the owner of the L.A. Clippers, for life for derogatory comments he made about African Americans.
The major outrage was over comments Sterling made to a woman about how he disapproved of her spending time with African Americans. But the worst, most telling comments came when referring to the team's players and he said "I support them and give them food and clothes and cars and houses. Who gives it to them?”
He gives these things to them? Are they fortunate to work for him or is he fortunate to employee a dozen professional athletes that fill an area every night to make him a billionaire? He may be arrogant enough to say these things about anyone, but the fact is he showed his racism, then presented his employment of African Americans as a sort of charity.
This outrage was a week after rogue Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy opened his mouth one too many times and shared his feelings on the plight of African Americans. He explained they were better off as slaves picking cotton than they are today as unemployed, welfare recipients dependent on the government.
Such bigoted comments are not confined to the filthy rich or out of touch, as U.S. Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin tried to explain the plight of the inner-city poor by saying it was a, "tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value of work."
He tried to carefully back out of the comments, but they showed his true belief, and that's where the problem lies in America.
We harbor these deep-seated stereotypes that many can't – or won't – let go of. How are we to see African Americans, or any other minority, as being equal until we erase the preconceived negative stereotypes?
True equality is not about saying no one is lazy, it is about judging laziness by the actions of a particular individual, not by first glance because they fit a stereotype.
No, discrimination – based on race, religion, gender and sexual orientation – are as alive as ever in the United States, we have just made ourselves feel better by establishing laws against it.
We can legislate against discrimination until we are blue in the face, but all that does is prove the problem is as prevalent as ever. The day we no longer need protections that guarantee opportunity, or guard against hate crimes will be the day we have defeated discrimination. Until then, don't confuse laws with solutions. The solution will be found in how we think, or perhaps stop thinking, of the differences in human beings.