Digest of terms

discrimination

negatively, evaluation and treatment of others in a way which involves branding them as morally dubious; positively, the process by which we come to recognise and appreciate individuality and difference. For instance, on looking at a meadow, or even a large lawn, it may appear to be just that - one mass of the same green grass. Closer attention, however, will likely reveal that it comprises several different grasses, along with daisies and mosses. This 'appreciation of difference' meaning of discrimination is here referred to as discernment, which applied to human beings is a morally significant and desirable skill.

The discrimination which is highly questionable morally involves attitudes and actions towards others which are not based on real and relevant differences. They are based instead on independently arrived at preconceptions. In so far as real differences are recognised at all, they may be used as a pretext to treat the 'others' in ways which are demeaning of their common humanity. For instance: "some gypsies living in caravans make a mess and some are involved in petty theft, therefore all gypsies should be treated with disdain and every possible discouragement found to keep them away". This form of discrimination is identifiable as prejudice, and offends against principles of justice or fairness.

This distinction is important. Discernment involves proper appreciation. It discriminates between the behaviour of particular gypsies and gypsies more generally, with their preference for a nomadic life-style. It therefore provides the basis for making a moral challenge to prejudice against gypsies. In the same way, discernment is a sure means for challenging false impressions on any front.

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