The Moral Argument Against Employment Equity

equityThe Employment Equity Act gives preferential treatment to “women, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities” when applying for jobs that are federally regulated.

In other words, preferential treatment is given to anyone who isn’t a white male.

While there is a moral argument to be made for employment equity for persons with disabilities, the Employment Equity Act violates one of the most basic principles of justice: that everyone should be treated equally and not be discriminated against.

The Employment Equity Act is founded upon a premise which is impossible to prove: that economic inequality between different groups in society is primarily due to discrimination. This discrimination is often labelled as institutional racism: unconscious biases that people in power have against minority groups.

While there are no doubt instances where someone in a position of power has a bias against minority groups, there are many other factors that lead to economic inequality including the place a person lives, their education, work experience and work ethic. Because economic inequality is caused by much more than just discrimination, the Employment Equity Act needs to be changed.

The Act’s provision for persons with disabilities is just. For many jobs, a person with a disability can be at a natural disadvantage when competing with an able-bodied person. Consequently, they have more limited job opportunities. As long as a disabled person is qualified for the job they apply for, giving them preferential treatment is a reasonable form of equity.

The problem with the Employment Equity Act is it suspends the Charter right of white males to be treated equally under the law. Giving preferential treatment in hiring to four designated groups results in discrimination against white males, excluding them from job opportunities.

The legislation is founded on the logical fallacy that two wrongs make a right and that the ends justify the means. It tries to remedy the supposed injustice of economic inequality by legalizing another injustice: reverse discrimination.

A double standard is “a rule or principle which is unfairly applied in different ways to different people or groups.” The Employment Equity Act is founded on double standard: Discrimination is unjust but discrimination against white males is not unjust.

A white male seeking a job is not responsible for the historical injustices of the past, or any institutional racism that exists today. If a white male is denied a job for no other reason than the colour of his skin, he is being punished and made a scapegoat for someone else’s crimes. Women, aboriginals and visible minorities who believe they have been discriminated against should seek remedy through the courts, not by being given preferential treatment when applying for a job.

The Employment Equity Act is Orwellian legislation. In the novel Animal Farm, George Orwell wrote, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” The Employment Equity Act makes women, visible minorities and aboriginals “more equal” than white males. In a just society, everyone should be treated equally under the law.

Notes

  1. Canada, Justice Laws Website. “Employment Equity Act,” http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/e-5.401/page-1.html
  2. Oxford Dictionaries, s.v. “Double standard,” accessed February 25, 2018, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/double_standard
  3. George Orwell, Animal Farm (Markham, Ontario: Penguin Books Canada Ltd., 1987), 90.

This essay was originally published in The Post Millennial.

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Shunning Someone You Disagree With

ExclusionTo shun is to “persistently avoid, ignore, or reject (someone or something) through antipathy or caution.”1 Shunning is a demonstration of intolerance toward another person, often because of something they said or did. While shunning may be necessary to safeguard one’s physical or mental health, it is usually not justified. Shunning is a way to punish someone you disagree with, can be a sign of hatred and contempt, and leads to contradictory behavior.

Shunning is common behavior among celebrities. On January 24, 2017, Ewan McGregor refused to do a television interview with Piers Morgan because of his comments about the women’s marches against Donald Trump.2 Instead of speaking directly to Morgan, McGregor tweeted, “Won’t go on with him…”3

When a celebrity shuns someone, they may rationalize it as a form of protest. However, if a celebrity wants to “protest” someone’s words or actions, all they have to do is exercise their right to free speech. Shunning is not required.

In reality, shunning is not about protest. It is a form of punishment. Its purpose is two-fold: First, to make the person feel the pain of rejection and social isolation. When you shun someone, you want them to pay a price: to become a social outcast for their words or actions.

The second purpose of shunning is to deter people from similar behavior. If a celebrity shuns another celebrity for their words or actions, it serves as a warning to society: If you speak or act this way, you deserve to be a social outcast too. Thus, shunning is a strategy to control people’s speech and behavior. It puts social pressure on an individual to change and conform.

The problem with shunning someone because of their words or actions is it often results in contradictory behavior. If you shun a person you disagree with, then you become obligated (by your own moral standard) to reject anyone whose words and actions are equally (or more) offensive.

As a case in point, consider Ewan McGregor. He refused to be interviewed by Piers Morgan, yet he made the film The Ghost Writer with Roman Polanski, a director who drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl,4 was found guilty of “unlawful sex”, and fled the U.S. to avoid going to prison.5 In shunning Morgan for his words, but not Polanski for his actions, McGregor is guilty of a double standard: “a rule or principle which is unfairly applied in different ways to different people.”6

Although shunning is usually not a virtue, there are situations where it may be justified. For instance, if a person has threatened you, or physically assaulted you, then you should stay away from them, and if necessary, get a restraining order against them.

It may also be necessary to shun someone who is verbally abusive. No one should have to tolerate a person who continually insults them. Shunning is justified when it is for your own safety: to protect your physical or mental health.

The dark side of shunning is it can be a demonstration of hatred and contempt for another human being. If you shun someone, you may view them as inferior to you, morally or intellectually. In such cases, shunning is evidence of pride and self-righteousness.

When you shun someone you disagree with, you are unable to separate that person from their words or actions. The alternative to shunning is to love people unconditionally, to treat them as you would want to be treated, even if you disagree with what they say or do.

You don’t have to be close friends with a person whose actions or words you find objectionable. But if that person is no danger to you, and is not rude to you, then there is no reason to shun them. Instead, be brave enough to tell them the truth about their behavior. If you speak the right words, you could impact their life.

Notes

  1. Oxford Dictionaries, s.v. “shun,” accessed January 28, 2017, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/shun
  2. Alex Ritman, “Ewan McGregor Cancels Appearance on Piers Morgan’s U.K. TV Show After Women’s March,” Hollywood Reporter, January 24, 2017, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/ewan-mcgregor-cancels-appearance-piers-morgans-uk-tv-show-womens-march-comments-967925
  3. Ibid.
  4. Andy Lewis, “Roman Polanski Rape Victim Unveils Startling, Disturbing Photo for Book Cover,” Hollywood Reporter, July 24, 2013, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/roman-polanski-rape-victim-unveils-591015
  5. “The Slow Burning Polanski Sage,” BBC News, September 28, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/8278256.stm
  6. Oxford Dictionaries, s.v. “double standard,” accessed January 28, 2017, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/double_standard

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