Friday, December 03, 2004


The Reason blog ( ) recently posted:

The number of unincorporated one- or two-person social justice advocacy
operations out there is beyond count. If you’ve noticed an absence of "No
Latvians Need Apply" notices at local businesses, you can thank either the
Latvian Truth Fund, which defends "the legal and civil rights of persons
born in Latvia or of Latvian descent," or the American Latvian Association,
which "defends the interests of Latvian Americans."

This made me think of when I lived in California and had trouble finding an apartment in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale (sandwiched between Pasadena and Burbank) because I wasn't Armenian. Apparently, Glendale has the largest concentration of Armenians in the world outside of Armenia itself.

Sometimes, when I would inquire about an 'Apartment for Lease' sign, the landlord would ask me, "Are you Armenian?" When I said no, the answer was always, "There's no apartment available."

I was mostly surprised, having not expected to find ever myself, a white American male, the victim of racial discrimination from Armenians. I didn't think about it as a political issue, no "reverse discrimination" lawsuits entered my mind. It's so hard to find an apartment in LA that I just catalogued it with all the other things keeping me sleeping on someone else's floor.

But I'm wondering, not so much legally as morally, under what circumstances is discrimination morally wrong and when isn't it? For example, on feminist blogs I have seen feminists dismiss the complaints of men who say they are discriminated against in the female-dominated nursing profession. Now, on a societal level, I can agree that the widespread and persvasive discrimination against women is a much more urgent problem than men being discriminated against in nursing, and that therefore society's limited resources and efforts should be directed towards ending the oppression of females than the isolated cases of women discrimimating against men.

But these feminists take it a step further and declare no sympathy for the men who are discriminated against in the nursing industry. That's something different. To say that women are more in need of our help in ending discrimination than male nurses is simply a statement of reality and the best application of resources. But saying that men being discriminated against by women are simply whining and that the overall power of males in society as a whole makes them unworthy of our sympathy as victims of discrimination is something entirely different. It is saying that discriminating against individuals whose class happens to be in power is all right, since others of that class have acted in a discriminatory manner.

Is that morally supportable? I'm not so sure. One thing that occurs to me is that it opens equal rights supporters to charges of motivated self-interest if they are in the class they are seeking equal rights for. That is to say, it would allow men seeking to maintain patriarchy to say to female rights activists who are women, "You don't really care about equality at all! You just don't like being discriminated against yourself. Since you don't care about others who are discriminated against, I would say that you would support patriarchy if you were man. You're only against it because you are a woman." It takes away the moral high ground from the supporter of equal rights.

Also, if this is really a fight for every individual to have the same rights as every other individual, how can we denigrate the suffering of any victim of discrimination without our judgment really being another form of discrimination itself?

Once again, to be clear, I do not think that society's time and effort should be redirected from efforts to end racial and sexual discrimination against minorities to white guys being discriminated against by Armenians or men being discriminated against in nursing. In the cost/benefit analysis of where our efforts can do the most good and who is in the most need, it is not white male apartment hunters in LA nor male nurses.

But, morally, don't we have to condemn such discrimination in order to avoid being self-interested hypocrites? Can we write off that we should have any sympathy for the male nurse and still be on the side of right?

Consider and discuss.


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