Discrimination is obviously not a moral evil

To show that discrimination is wrong, one must show that it is unjust, and nobody does this. Hence, there is no ex-ante reason to assume claims of discrimination have any real moral weight.

Discrimination by itself is clearly not morally wrong. Consider the following examples:

  1. A bartender refuses to serve a black customer but agrees to serve a white customer because the first is black and the second is white.
  2. A bartender refuses to serve a 13-year-old customer but agrees to serve a 21-year-old customer because the first is 13 years old and the second is 21 years old.
  3. A bartender refuses to serve a drunk customer but agrees to serve a sober customer because the first is drunk and the second is sober.

All three of these, unambiguously, are discrimination—i.e., the bartender is discriminating between two people based on some difference in characteristics between them. Further, most people would say that the first is certainly immoral, the second is certainly licit, and the third is almost certainly licit. So why on earth do people seem to think crying “discrimination!” shows that a moral evil has occurred? Some other examples of discrimination that is obviously fine:

  • A wife will not consider it sexual harassment if a male who is her husband calls her beautiful but will consider it sexual harassment if a male who is her coworker calls her beautiful.
  • A country will allow its own citizens to enter without a visa but will not allow another country’s citizens to enter without a visa.
  • The police will arrest people who are suspected to have committed crimes but will not arrest people who are not suspected to have committed crimes.

What is my point here? The reason why some discrimination is clearly fine, and other discrimination is clearly not fine, is because some discrimination is unjust—i.e., the discriminator fails to render unto that person what they are owed—whereas other discrimination is not unjust, and it is the injustice—not the discrimination—that is immoral.

In the above examples, a 13-year-old is not owed the right to purchase alcohol at a pub (indeed, it is actively inappropriate for them to do so), and so the discrimination is not only allowed but appropriate. But a black person is owed the right to purchase alcohol at a pub, and so the bartender’s failure to extend that right to them is unjust.

The reason I raise this is because The Discourse™ seems to think that merely identifying that discrimination has occurred is sufficient to show that something morally wrong has occurred. Obviously, it is discrimination for the state to allow vaccinated people but not unvaccinated people to attend large social gatherings—but is this discrimination unjust? Obviously, it is discrimination when only natal females are allowed to compete in female sport—but is this discrimination unjust? Obviously, it is discrimination when men who have sex with men are disallowed from donating blood—but is this discrimination unjust? On the basis of the arguments put forward in The Discourse™, I have no idea, and more importantly nobody else seems to have any idea either. All anyone seems to be able to identify is that discrimination has occurred, not some substantive conception of justice under which the discrimination would be unjust. So, trivially: to show that discrimination is wrong, one must show that it is unjust, and nobody does this. Hence, there is no ex-ante reason to assume claims of discrimination have any real moral weight.

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