I just finished an interesting online live chat with AOL Jobs about gay rights in the workplace. One of the participants espoused the view that all discrimination laws are bad and that corporations shouldn't have to spend their money defending against discrimination claims. I was the only old lady on the chat, that is, the only person old enough to remember the bad old days when discrimination was legal. Trust me. We don't want to go back there.
I hear white guys complain about anti-discrimination laws all the time, and I understand that it's tough to have the top-banana spot taken away, especially when it wasn't based on anything like merit. But if you think about it, discrimination laws benefit everyone, including white guys.
Here are the top 6 ways I can think of that white guys benefit from discrimination laws:
1. Short guys: Anyone who remembers the bad old days remembers that cops had to be big burly guys. When women joined police forces, height requirements were used to exclude them disproportionately. Disparate impact laws threw out height requirements, and replaced them with physical agility tests. Who benefited besides women? Short guys. Suddenly, height discrimination went out the window, and even smaller guys can be cops.
2. Skinny guys: Along with those old height requirements were minimum weight requirements. Only burly white guys could be cops, firefighters, and some other professions that required physical work. Now, skinny guys can prove they can do the job through physical agility tests.
3. Single guys: Back when white guys ruled, there was lots of pressure on men to get married. Single guys were looked on with suspicion. Were they gay? Guys with families to support were favored in many ways over single guys. Now, it's okay to be single.
4. Jewish, Muslim and Atheist guys: When white guys ruled, it was really only Christian white guys who got the big offices. Discrimination against Jewish, Muslim and other religions was rampant and legal. Now, even white guys can be whatever religion they want, or no religion at all. While there's still discrimination, it's illegal.
5. White as Minority: There are cities and counties in the U.S. with white minority populations. Payback's a bitch, but it's illegal. Imagine how bad the payback would be when the tide turned if race and national origin discrimination were not illegal. As more cities become majority black, Hispanic or Asian, white guys should be glad for the legal protections.
6. Less Financial Pressure: In the old days of legal discrimination, women had to stay home, so all the financial pressure was on men to support their families. Now, women can share the financial load. Less pressure equals better health and better chances of surviving a financial crisis.
I'm sure there are other ways white guys benefit from anti-discrimination laws. Can you think of any I've left out? I'd love to hear them. Personally, I'm glad the bad old days are gone. More people in the workforce means we are more competitive, have smarter people at the top, and are more likely to make the innovations that keep our country great. We still don't have a person to waste in this country. I hope we get to the point where all employees are judged on their abilities alone.
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