Saturday, February 9, 2008

Words – Part Two – Discrimination

Growing up in America we are taught two things while we are very young. One is discrimination is a bad thing and the other is everyone does it.
The moral dilemma that imbeds itself in our psyche creates a sort of Jekyll and Hyde partition in our brains. It sets us on our road of multiple personalities and in effect allows us to interact with the rest of society. Naturally we learn early on that the rest of society also has partitioned brains and inevitably we gravitate toward like-minded groups of people.
But there are many types of discrimination and not all are bad. We discriminate every time we go shopping for clothes or buy a book. We discriminate when we go out to a restaurant or pick a movie to see. In fact we discriminate nearly every second of our lives whether or not we realize we are doing so. We live in a Discrimi - Nation.
Everyone assumes that the word has only one meaning and that one concerns race. While I agree that the race issue is quite the ‘hot button’ topic, especially these days it is not the only one that gets the blood boiling. Naturally religion must be added into the mix. And let’s not forget social status.
Oddly the word was originally meant as a term showing a higher class of taste. Its first use, according to Merriam-Webster can be traced back to the year 1628 and all of the meanings were positive and upbeat. Terms such as ‘good judgment’ and ‘distinguish for merit’ were used in its presence. (
This meaning and use of the word is still found although it is not quite as prevalent. Wines and luxury items are often advertised with undertones of snob appeal by saying they are for those with discriminating tastes.
But it did not take long for the negative side of society to hijack the word. Discrimination was first used, according to the same source in 1648 to describe preferential treatment based on race. (
The first syllable of discrimination has morphed into today’s slang “diss,’ a term meaning to disrespect someone or something. Fittingly the term originated in African American Vernacular English. The word also means to criticize or find fault with.
I find fault with it as well because to criticize does not necessarily mean to ‘diss.’
Critics do not always put down the movies or books they review even though they seem to get more fun out of doing so.
So while discrimination has been given a bad name words can and do hurt people. Use discretion before discussing topics that could cause conflict. Make sure the inferred meaning of your words is the meaning you intended.
Personally I feel anyone who reads my blog has discriminating taste and I welcome your opinion. But please don’t diss me, bro.


Anonymous said...

I have no experience with this, being a white, male, jewish, middle manager

mug guy said...

Right - We have our own problems, you shouldn't know from!