Disparity and Discrimination
Discrimination is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “The action of discriminating; the perceiving, noting, or making a distinction or difference between things; a distinction (made with the mind, or in action)”.Discrimination has existed both in the United States and throughout the world for as long as records have been kept. In fact, it was religious persecution (discrimination) that led the first colonists to our shores. Within 75 years of their arrival, the colonists had begun to institute the practice of slavery in order to maintain their agricultural production in a fashion that would eventually enrich those who owned the largest, most fertile tracts of land. This in turn created a financial disparity not only between the land owners and those (non-slaves) who worked the land on their behalf, but every other colonial functionary (i.e.; the butcher, baker, and candlestick maker). Within years of the initial adaptation of this practice, more disparity could be seen between the more profitable plantations that used slaves and those who did not, therefore allowing the wealthier, more profitable landowners more and more access to the political powerbase within these new territories. It was around this time that the land owners used this disparate access to power to institutionalize discriminatory policies against the native peoples who inhabited the desired land. As our nation grew this practice continued well beyond even the abolition of slavery.
Even as the emancipation of the slaves signaled a marginal change in our moral outlook as a nation, it did not change the way the landowners looked upon their former slaves. In their emancipation, the former slaves experienced absolute social disparity relative to their former status as slaves, and economic disparity relative to their ability to obtain gainful employment outside of the lowest level manual labor. Public policy of the time forbade them access to any political remedies to such disparity. All of these policies were based on racist views not held by all citizens, but maintained by those who were able to exploit disparate access to political power, therefore thwarting the efforts of those who would try to change the situation.
Even as the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 70s produced remedies to some discrimination and disparity they exist today as part of our national fabric. They no longer exist within the actual policies, but in the personal outlook of those affected by these former policies.
Today, although we have laws to address the discrimination experienced in past years, they have in no way abated accusations of discriminations of all types. Whether actual or perceived, discrimination and the conflict that it cultivates continue to be part of our nation’s daily rhetoric.
Disparity, defined by the Oxford English...