By Pierre Lemieux
Non-discrimination can easily come to mean discrimination. Suppose a law bans discrimination against individuals of Group 1. If that means the interdiction of imposing special obstacles or constraints on individuals of Group 1, it is pretty clear what non-discrimination means. But suppose that non-discrimination against Group 1 means giving privileges (in terms, say, of affirmative action) to individuals who are part of that group. The consequence is to directly harm individuals of Group 2, who will resent being discriminated against for non-discrimination reasons. With this slip in the meaning of non-discrimination, discrimination has just been shifted from Group 1 to Group 2: the latter is now discriminated against in the name of non-discrimination against the former.
A Senate vote of last week illustrated that, as editorialized by the Wall Street Journal (“A Revealing Vote on Anti-Asian Bias,” April 25, 2021). The occasion is a hate-crime bill that cleared the Senate with 94 votes against 1. But a Republican amendment to the bill had been defeated along party lines by 49 votes against 48: