COMMENTARY | A year ago, audiences flocked to see the movie “42,” about Jackie Robinson making it to the major leagues. People watched as several folks on the screen displayed racist attitudes that you found sometimes in 1947, even teaching racism to their kids. But thankfully, these were a noisy minority whose time would fade. Now we look at those who discriminate and shake our heads at the jerks. We wouldn’t go back to those times, would we?
Sadly, several states are thinking about legalizing discrimination, in the name of religious freedom of all things. Arizona, Kansas and others are debating whether or not to allow people to discriminate against gays if their religious beliefs tell them it is okay to do that.
I think it’s hard for people to appreciate discrimination, because many never faced it. I don’t mean teasing, good natured ribbing, or even mild bullying. I mean someone hating you for who you are, or who they think you are.
I was discriminated against. In a town I moved to, I called around, trying to find a place that would cut my hair. After getting my name, the hair cutting places told me they couldn’t work me in. Ever. Sorry.
So finally, for the final name on the list who turned me down after hearing my name, I told them that everyone else in town had turned me down for a haircut. “Then where I am I supposed to get a haircut?”
“Why don’t you go to one of those nigger salons?” the voice on the phone replied.
I have to admit being stunned. You see…I’m white. My name does sound very Hispanic, but I’m not. So I went to a discount haircutter place, with white and black people who cut my hair. They did a good job, so I’ve gone there nearly every time.
By the way, I went back to the barber (who told me to go to the “nigger salon”) once with a $10 bill and didn’t tell him my name, just to see what he would do. He cut my hair without a problem. In his eyes, I was white.
A lot of the state discrimination laws are reacting to a lawsuit, where a gay couple sued a photographer who wouldn’t take pictures for their wedding. But there may be even a better solution to discrimination: economics.
In the movie “42,” a gas station attendant tells Jackie Robinson they can’t use his bathroom. He tells his teammates that they will go purchase the 99 gallons of gas somewhere else, so the attendant wisely relents. Discrimination is economically inefficient.
I’ve calculated by discriminating against me, the barber lost $1,872 in potential haircuts from me over the years. Hope it was worth it.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga.