I haven’t been good at maintaining this blog. It had some good days when I was doing the reading challenge.. and in the days leading up to the challenge. But for the past 2 years, I have written very little. Part of the reason is that Facebook takes up most of my time, and for good reason, because most of my readers are on Facebook. I had a good community on WordPress when I started out, but we all drifted apart on different platforms. Now, I don’t have that kind of support on WordPress anymore, so I choose to put my thoughts on Facebook instead, where people will at least read it. I tried writing on WordPress and posting links to my blog; but it doesn’t work as well as Facebook, because that extra click to follow to WordPress is enough to dissuade people. So, I was stuck on the endless scroll-hell that is Facebook, anxiously awaiting a reaction to what I have posted. But a few days back, my friend Tejas told me about how he has started blogging again and has decided to stay away from Facebook so that his creative energy doesn’t get dissipated and he can focus on his writing (my words, not his :P). I liked that idea and when he gently suggested that I should write too, I was only too eager to take the bait. The community I had earlier is not there now, but there is Tejas, who I can keep bugging to read my stuff and I hope in the days to come, there will be more. Thanks for reading this, now back to my post.
A few days back, I came across an intriguing article about the “Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission” case at the Supreme Court in Washington, U.S. (screenshot shown above). In the article, the author was trying to guess whose side Justice Kennedy is going to take, based on what he asked and what he said during the hearing. This case is being considered a ‘landmark case’; one that will decide how similar future cases might be treated in the courts of law. The expectation is that either Justice Kennedy will side with the baker, while trying to quash anti-religious bias (weird thinking, but whatever floats his boat I guess), or he might side with the gay couple, in an attempt to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation (and hence, by extension, discrimination based on race, gender, caste etc.)
This question has bothered me for quite some time now, since I come from a Muslim family (and have faced discrimination because of our family religion). The most recent such experience was when we were trying to find an apartment to rent in Mumbai and were constantly turned down. So common is this experience for Muslims (and other non-Brahmin and non-upper caste Hindu families) that in Law College, one of the first cases of discrimination that we study about, is that of a landlord refusing to lease his apartment to a Muslim because of their religion. The Constitution of India is quite clear on this and expressly forbids anyone from discriminating on any grounds whatsoever.
However, like most anti-discrimination laws (and blanket laws in general), this law is not effective at all. This is because nobody ever discriminates openly or leaves evidence showing that they have done so (disclaimer – in my limited experience in India). When we were refused apartments, the landlord would simply say that they had changed their mind about letting the apartment or that they had already let it to someone else and we just missed them. Those who discriminate are too smart to actually say why they’re doing it or indicate their bigotry in any way that is admissible as evidence in court. Discrimination is often couched behind technicalities and sometimes, personal preferences. That is where these laws bother me, because they don’t take into account personal preferences. Not that I’d like State to control my preferences, but just that these laws are ineffective because personal preference trumps everything else and must be protected.
Justice Kennedy, in the case mentioned above, tries to take into account personal preferences of the baker and might actually end up upholding them (because U.S. is so obsessed with free speech). I’m looking forward to the final judgement in this case and I’m hoping that the judge allows the baker to discriminate against the gay couple. I’m not saying this because I hate gay people (maybe for being so effortlessly fabulous, but not really :P), but because I feel that better than having such ineffective legal ways to deal with discrimination (the baker could’ve just said that he’s overbooked and gotten away with it) we shouldn’t have any, because weak laws are as good as no laws at all. In my opinion, weak laws are even worse than no laws, because they give the semblance of some protection being there when there is none. Instead, I want people to be able to discriminate freely and be bigots in the open, so we can see who they really are.
I support the right to discriminate.
Let me quickly wrap up by explaining that controversial statement. I support the right to discriminate because there will always be discrimination and no matter how hard law tries to catch up with them, discriminators will find ways to get ahead of the law. There will be silent gentrification, ghettoization and under-handed bigotry (as we experienced in India). It is frustrating to be at the receiving end of that because you know that the law has provisions to deal with it in its rabid and explicit form, but no way to deal with it when it is done insidiously. If bigots are allowed to come into the open, society will deal with them. I get the feeling that society is moving ahead with morality and will only move forward from here. More and more people understand bigotry and oppose it. If businesses and individuals discriminate, there is a good chance that they will face backlash from society for it; they will be boycotted. By sheer force of economics in this doomed capitalistic society, people will be compelled to be nice to each other to get more business; because the bottom-line is all that matters. Even if that doesn’t happen, the marginalized will move on and seek other avenues instead of wasting their time, money and energy in trying to work a system that is extremely ill-equipped to help them and is populated by people who have no empathy for them. Whatever happens, I’m sure that a society where people are free to discriminate will be a free-er society because even those who have been discriminated against will be able to discriminate back.