I would like to think that I have a pretty sound moral compass.
My parents and a Catholic school upbringing drilled the concept of right and wrong into my head, which has been a constant pillar in my life.
That being said, there’s a certain topic that you don’t need a religious or strong family upbringing to get on board with.
No matter your economic status, race, creed or gender, the idea of discrimination is something that everyone should oppose.
For clarification, Webster’s Dictionary defines discrimination as “the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people.” St. Thomas continuously states in the student handbook that it has a zero-tolerance policy for any form of discrimination. The United States has a Constitution with a Bill of Rights and amendments passed throughout its history stressing equality and abolishing discrimination.
It seems painfully obvious that our society not only strives to move past, but also opposes blatant forms of discrimination as morally wrong … or at least that is what I thought.
Last week, the state of Arizona was in the national spotlight as it faced a moral controversy involving a proposed state law. The law proposed, SB 1062, would have allowed businesses to refuse service to customers based on sexual orientation. Lawmakers argued that the bill fell under the First Amendment’s freedom of religion, with many protesting that it was obvious anti-gay discrimination.
In the end, with large corporations like Delta Airlines and Major League Baseball strongly opposing, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill, saying it “could result in unintended and negative consequences.”
I am happy to see Gov. Brewer take a stand against anti-gay discrimination, but looking at her track record raises a big question for me.
How can one form of discrimination be bad, but another be OK?
The black sheep that I am referring to is the Arizona law SB 1070, commonly known as the “papers please” law.
Approved by Brewer in 2010, the law allows law enforcement to stop and request identification from any person that is “reasonably suspected” of entering the country illegally. The bill also created fines for immigrants who did not carry their identification papers at all times.
Many believe that the bill uses obvious racial profiling discriminating against the Latino community in Arizona. In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down four provisions of the law that allowed for warrantless arrests of immigrants without legal permission and required immigration-status checks by law enforcement in certain situations. Later in 2012, an Arizona district judge allowed for the requirement to question immigration status while enforcing other laws.
I’m not going to say that I can fully understand the feelings of frustration and trouble caused by immigration in southern border states. I’m the furthest possible distance from that situation. Those feelings are real, and in many ways, justified by those trying to uphold a broken immigration system.
Let’s be clear. Discrimination is a destructive mixture of hate and ignorance.
I don’t have the answers for solving the problems with immigration, but I do have a moral responsibility to take a stand against discrimination. You don’t have to fully agree or believe in open borders or gay marriage to know that discrimination is wrong. We were all raised better than that, and we’ve all learned from the struggles of the past. From women’s suffrage and the civil rights movement to the discrimination that our ancestors faced when immigrating to the United States, we’ve supposedly learned from these mistakes, so why not prove it?
One hundred years ago, the Irish immigrants took the brunt of the scrutiny. Now, we pin it on our neighbors to the south as we boast what percentage of Irish we are on St. Patrick’s day. The National Park Service estimated more than 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island alone. Today, with a horrendously tedious and unrealistic path to citizenship, the New York Times estimates that there are 11.7 million immigrants living in the United States without legal permission.
On the Statue of Liberty, one of our nation’s greatest monuments, an engraving reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” That message is why our ancestors came from across the sea. We take pride in famous immigrants like Albert Einstein and the Von Trapp family who came seeking refuge from violence. Many escaping South and Central America seek the same. Why are they different?
We are all the product of progress. Though we may be culturally, ethnically, economically, sexually and religiously diverse, we have all overcome obstacles to be here. So why hold each other back?
Discrimination is anti-American, and everyone deserves better.
Alex Goering can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.