Discrimination is Discrimination

April 30th, 2010

In the workplace, you can't discriminate against an employee because of their race, religious beliefs or gender. I mean, not legally. We all know it still occurs. But morally, most of us would agree it's wrong. So how can anyone deny equal civil rights to people based on their sexual orientation?

Thankfully, many forward-thinking companies and even some states have recognized that simple truth and given same-sex couples the same benefits that hetero-married people like my wife and I receive. As far as I know, those businesses haven't suffered and the sky hasn't fallen yet in states with civil unions.

Yet look at Arizona, which is now being boycotted for its law targeting illegal aliens -- foreigners, in other words. More specifically, foreigners from certain countries south of the border. I doubt any white European visitors will be questioned by police on the grounds of "reasonable suspicion" that they might be illegals. Arizona is already losing convention business and tourism dollars thanks to their attempts to legalize racial and ethnic discrimination.

Imagine if Hawaii tried to impose a law that gave police the power to question anyone who might look like an illegal foreign worker! Ridiculous, right? The majority of people in this state would be considered suspects in Arizona. Yet where are the Tea Party protesters when it comes to protesting about the loss of liberty in this instance? Nowhere, because "foreigners" are convenient scapegoats for lost jobs -- jobs most of us would not want to do. In Hawaii, we're blessed to have a multi-cultural society that has assimilated immigrants from many countries. I'm not ashamed to embrace the rainbow as a symbol of what these islands represent.

I bring these issues up because apparently none of the other Advertiser bloggers or journalists over at CivilBeat.com want to go there. And also because there are very real economic impacts associated with discriminatory practices, whether it's based on race or sexual orientation.

Travel industry professionals know the gay market is a highly desirable demographic for any visitor destination. On average, they make more money and spend more money. Also, they tend to dress nicer and have better manners than a lot of the yahoos who applaud Arizona's closed door policies for people of a certain color or language accent. I suggest those folks should bypass Hawaii (too many foreigners!) and spend their vacations in Arizona, since that state is going to be losing mucho dineros in tourism revenue.

On the other hand, if Gov. Lingle truly cares about helping improve our state's economy, she would be wise to sign HB 444. We could use a boost in tourism not just from gay travelers -- but all foreigners and Americans who still believe this country was founded on principles of equality and fairness for all. It would also show Hawaii is still a place that welcomes diversity.

It's not just a matter of doing what is morally right. It makes good economic sense to practice what we preach. "Live Aloha" shouldn't just be a saying on a bumper sticker.

Today's relevant link:

Awhile back at the Star-Bulletin, I wrote this piece about diversity and the upside of being "different." Here's my column on The 10 Percent Theory ("We're Here, We're Weird, Get Used to It").

17 Responses to “Discrimination is Discrimination”

  1. Scott:

    The Arizona situation is where ideology is in a battle with practical solutions. I applaud the Arizona lawmakers. The majority of Americans support this bill and I imagine other states will follow. I imagine I'll be called a racist, liberals like to brand people racists when we simply want our countries borders secured. Anyway, I live and grew up in Central California, where illegals flourished and brought down the quality of life for many hard working Americans. Yes, they pick fruit, but so do many many LEGAL Mexican immigrants. I welcome anyone who comes to this country legally. California is in the crapper largely because of the expansion of programs that require we pay for illegals, and their medical problems and offspring. Their many, many offspring.

    The rest of your post is very well written and I support the civil union bill, but I'm sure Lingle will veto it.

  2. Rich Figel:

    Scott -

    How is Arizona's law "practical" in any way, shape or form? Just apply logic and look at Hawaii. Can you tell me who "might" be illegally here or not down in Chinatown or in any of our Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, American restaurants or shops? Do we need better immigration laws? Yes. But even Arizona police aren't sure how to define "reasonable suspicion."

    Those words sound "suspiciously" similar to terms used to round up and intern Japanese during WWII, and a lot like McCarthyism. California's problems aren't just because of immigrants -- it's a lot more complicated than pinning budget shortfalls on one group of people.

    As for your claim the "majority" of people support Arizona's law, well, there was a time when the majority supported slavery and banning interracial marriages.

    Anyhow, I stick by my main point which is discrimination is bad for our economy and it will hurt Arizona's finances -- which are already hurting, btw. They should be careful for what they wish for: if all the illegals leave in droves, I believe their economy will lose more than it gains in the long run. I'd like to see an objective economic analysis of the impact that law will have.

    And of course, Lingle will veto HB 444.

  3. Scott:

    What are we talking about here, Arizona or Hawaii?? Your second sentence directs the conversation (big time apples and oranges) back to Hawaii.....as for Arizona's finances.....I understand many many illegals plan to leave the state, which will invariably reduce the financial burden they place on social services. Not to mention the money spent on fighting crime resulting from drug offenses. I'm sure the money lost from good old San Francisco's conventions will be a drop in the bucket. Again, I appreciate your point of view, but to quote the nut bar Michael Savage...language, borders and culture are what define nations. Arizona just took a big step towards securing the borders. Bravo!

  4. Political Junkie:

    The law is designed to protect the citizen of Arizona as well as the undocumented immigrants. If an illegal reports a crime or requests police help they will not be prosecuted under this law.

  5. Rich Figel:

    Scott -

    You brought up "other states" may follow Arizona's example. I'm pointing out how futile that would be, especially in trying to define "reasonable suspicion" in relation to who is a legal or illegal immigrant. But aren't you one of the people who want LESS government intrusion and LESS government spending? Seems to me what you're proposing would require massive spending to build gigantic walls along our borders and hire armed mercenaries to patrol them 24/7.

    As for the burden on our health system, yeah, if we had universal care for all LEGAL CITIZENS, then we wouldn't have the same problems we're having now -- that is, if we made it easier to become legal citizens, which is your point of contention, correct? Legal citizens would pay their fair share of taxes, and would be entitled to equal benefits.

    But it's not really about making them "legal" citizens is it? It's about keeping out foreigners... which is odd because I didn't know all those white people in Arizona were descended from Native American Indians. In fact, I wonder how many real Native Americans in Arizona will be picked up on "reasonable suspicion" because of their skin color.

  6. Scott:

    Rich-those "massive walls" have been built in many parts of the border and have been very effective for decades. Those "mercenaries" are called...the Border Patrol and they've been around for decades. I'm all for government expansion if the goal is to get rid of illegal immigrants (you call them foreigners). In summary, your passion is admirable, but try living here on the mainland and you'll likely be less sympathetic to the plight of the illegal alien. The fact that your last post revealed you don't even know there are existing walls and border patrol show me you have the passion for the topic, but lack the substantive information.

  7. Rich Figel:

    Scott -

    How effective are those walls and border patrols if there's such a huge problem, as you say? I lived in Jersey and was a reporter back in the late 70s, and the same debate was going on back then about "migrant workers" being used in the farms there. As the farm owners explained, people want cheap food -- but they couldn't find many "Americans" who would do the same work for that kind of pay.

    What I'm saying is the current approach is not working to control immigrants, legal or illegal. If it was easier to enter the country and become legal citizens, wouldn't it be much easier to track them, tax them, and make sure they're not abusing our health care system as you say?

    As for drugs, the chief reason we're having so many problems is our crazy War on Drugs approach that has actually fueled the black market for Mexican drugs. They sell it in the U.S., because we're the number one consumer of illegal drugs! Again, if we legalized and regulated drugs the same way we do with alcohol, we would cripple the drug cartels because it would undermine their profits.

    Oh, one other thing about comparing Hawaii to Arizona: under the Constitution, it's still discrimination. Isn't it funny how people love to cite the Constitution when it comes to their "right" to carry guns or use hate speech, but when it comes to certain civil liberties, they don't want the federal government interfering with "state rights." Wouldn't you agree there's a bit of a double standard there?

    Anyhow, I agree something has to be done about immigration reform. But Arizona's law doesn't address the underlying problems. I hate to say this, but I'll give credit to Bush for at least trying to do something about it... and even Jeb Bush thinks Arizona's law is a bad idea. From a political standpoint, it's not gonna help the GOP win over more Hispanics and minorities either!

  8. Scott:

    Agree about the drug issue. I haven't gotten high since I lived in England 8 years ago, and given the lbs. I've put on from drinking beer since then, I'd welcome an alternative mind altering substance.
    Plus, like Biden, I love paying taxes because it's the patriotic thing to do.
    Have a great weekend Rich.

  9. Rich Figel:

    It's all related -- War on Drugs, economy, immigration issues, crime. I think sane discussions that focus on rational long-term fixes is what is needed... not knee-jerk reactions to problems that have been around since the first immigrants landed on America's shores.

    BTW, meant to ask, do you honestly think you could pick out illegal aliens from legal immigrants in California, Texas or Arizona? I bet it will be a legal nightmare that winds up costing Arizona big bucks in court cases they will lose.

    Anyhow, have a great weekend, Scott. And let us know how the new job is going!

  10. Arizona Citizen:

    Arizona lawmakers have approved changes to the state's controversial law cracking down on illegal immigrants. The changes were designed to answer charges made by protesters that it will lead to racial profiling by police. The original law stated police can conduct an immigration status check during any quote "lawful contact," if they have reasonable suspicion a person is an illegal immigrant. It replaces "lawful contact" with "lawful stop, detention or arrest," clarifying police may not stop people without cause. The revised law also removes the word "solely" from the phrase "The attorney general or county attorney shall not investigate complaints that are based solely on race, color or national origin." Read the new Arizona Immigration Law

  11. Rich Figel:

    Okay, so the lawmakers are acknowledging the original wording of the law left the door open for racial profiling. So please tell me how they will define "reasonable suspicion"? What are the grounds for probable cause to conduct investigations into a person's status or nationality? Someone can just call the police and say, "I think Jose So-and-so is an illegal" and make up reasons for their suspicions. No proof is required to trigger an investigation.

    Furthermore, are you telling me that if a white person dressed and acted exactly the same way as a laborer of Hispanic or Latino or Asian descent, that the white person would be investigated if someone contacted authorities and said they "suspected" the white person was an illegal alien? BTW, in many cities there are illegal aliens of European descent too so that's not merely a hypothetical question.

    In effect, under the revised Arizona law, EVERYONE is now equally suspect of being an illegal alien if no one can be targeted on the basis of race, color or national origin. Correct? If so, that means every single person in Arizona must begin to carry papers proving they are in this country legally -- maybe that should be the next law they pass: ALL Arizona residents must carry their birth certificates with them at all times. But that would seem pretty ridiculous, huh?

  12. Scott:

    Here's an example of reasonable suspicion:
    Cop stops a car that ran a stop sign. There's a bunch of people in there action really nervous. Cop asks "are you all in this country legally?". Heads down, still nervous. Cop asks the same question again. No answer. Maybe one tough guy wants to be smart. Cop asks "what courthouse was your swearing ceremony?" Smart guy gives a false answer. Investigation begins!

    If they are here legally, they show the cop their ID's. If they don't have ID's on them, they can sort it out at the police station. It happens all the time (trust me....)

    That's a pretty good example, don't you think. Btw, I didn't mention nationality of the car residents, didn't I? Could have been a car full of Scots wearing kilts for all we care!

  13. Rich Figel:

    Scot - So you're suggesting Arizona cops ask EVERYONE they stop for whatever reason if they're a legal citizen or not? I can't tell if you're being facetious or not. But since we know it's pretty easy to get fake IDs, won't the police have to check the IDs too? Again, not just for certain nationalities -- everyone, since they cannot selectively target suspects by race.

    We all know Arizona colleges are pretty notorious party schools. In your scenario, if a car load of drunk frat boys get pulled over, the cops have to ask them if they are legal citizens, make them show ID, and if they can't because they're too wasted -- or they give fake IDs because they are underage -- the cops then have to initiate an investigation because under your definition of "reasonable suspicion" they haven't proved they are legal citizens.

    Do you see the logistical nightmare of enforcing the law if it has to be applied to everyone? As for the drug dealers/illegal aliens angle people keep bringing up, the cops already have plenty of reasons to bust them even without the new law.

    The real problem is there are immigrants who have been here, working hard and staying out of trouble, who would like to become legal citizens and pay their fair share of taxes, but as it stands now, they can't -- they'd be deported if they tried to do the right thing. Make them legal citizens, and they'd probably be among the first to cooperate in identifying the drug dealers and gang-bangers who terrorize their families and communities too. Nobody wants those kind of elements around, including immigrant families.

  14. Scott:

    This is a crappy situation born out of the extreme violence on the Mexican border. I read that in Cuidad Juarez (near the border) many thousand have been killed in the past 5 years. That's unbelievable. This is an issue that will persist long after I'm dead, and I just turned 30!
    I agree, what would present day illegals do if they were deported back to Mexico? They'd either live a long depressed life, or find their way back to the U.S.
    This AZ law was a real wake up call that immigration needs to be reformed. Where it goes from here, who knows.

  15. Rich Figel:

    When I was writing for the Star-Bulletin, I got to interview Judge Jim Gray from conservative Orange County, CA. He now believes in legalizing certain drugs like marijuana, and thinks it would put a big dent in the illegal drug trade spilling over from Mexico. Not only that, he says it would save billions in prison and court costs (prison unions don't like this though) while generating millions in tax revenue... Of course, Hawaii could benefit greatly if pakalolo was allowed to be grown and taxed as a crop. So would California.

    All I know is if I lived in Mexico and had a family, or was a young person, I'd be trying to enter the U.S. one way or the other myself. But if American companies built factories in Mexico and offered decent paying jobs so they didn't have to cross the border, you can bet Lou Dobbs and Glen Beck would be complaining about U.S. jobs being "exported" or outsourced!

    Anyhow, in Hawaii we should be thankful that the biggest threat to our way of life is same-sex marriage or civil unions, apparently. Crazy, huh?

  16. Michael:

    I am not worried about illegal immigrants from Mexico coming here. They can't swim by crossing the Ocean as they can with the Reo Grande. Neither do I care what goes on in the United States. This issue should not have been allowed to this point. Cheap labor but with no end and control. Give an inch to such people and they take a mile.
    Now those who are illegal in America have rights. Rights? I go to Philipines or Mexico do I have the same rights as the people who live their. Hay no, yet they come here with Rights? At one time many Koreans who were allowed to work here complained about their rights with the International Market place. Rights?

    I am worried more of sponsored workers who come here but lose their jobs. Doesn't losing their job make them illegal immigrants if here in Hawaii without a Job? Without a work visa or permit?
    How many Filipinos and Mexicans and other South East Asians people are sponsored but lose their jobs? Shouldn't they be deported back to their home countries? How does Hawaii know who is who?

    They don't and is why we have our Census but many fail to mail in, afraid that they will be found out that they are illegally here. During census many move out of Hawaii and come back when it is over. Where is those people's visas or passports? Who checks? Definetely not the airlines. Every year I know some Filipinos who go back to the Philipines for a month or so and then come back. Why? It seems they are avoiding something each year. Several families to a house? What is the legal amount of people in one house? 12? 4 people or so to 1 room in a 4 bedroom house? Don't fit build extensions?

    There is also those who come from Territories of United States. Special privelages are given to them. American Samoa, Micronesia other numerous names. Not Mexicans or Filipinos. These two countries are not territories of United States. I recently heard that Puerto Rico may become the 51st State. The way it looks to me, I always thought Philipines was a territory of United States but American Miltitary were chased out of the Philipines in which Filipinos still come to America to work. What's with that? They act if they come and go as they please.
    Who cares what I think? Talk is cheap when in a gang but cry babies when caught alone.

    Legal should be if one lives here for more than 5 years should become an American citizen and give up their original citizenship or become dual citizens. If one does not want this, I can suggest they go back home and work there. I am not worried about laws in Arizona but Laws in Hawaii. Unless I move to Arizona which I might for the weather, I don't care what goes on in Arizona. As if they who live there care about Hawaii.

  17. Michael:

    Correction on spelling: Rio Grande