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The Difference Between an Opinion and Discrimination

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at VCU chapter.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where discrimination is often written off as merely an opinion. One of those things (discrimination) is, in fact, punishable by law, even though the state and federal courts do not always stay true to that fact. Let’s take the time to learn the difference between an opinion and discrimination: an opinion is a view that someone forms about something, while discrimination is the prejudicial treatment of different categories of people. It’s quite simple actually, but people still seem to get them mixed up all of the time.

Here’s a few popular examples of discrimination that are often written off as opinions:

1. I don’t believe in gay marriage.

To some people, this may sound like a well-formed opinion. To anyone else, this is outright discrimination. You cannot disbelieve something that exists – gay people. You also cannot believe that a certain category of people shouldn’t marry based on who they are without being discriminatory and homophobic.

2. I don’t believe that trans people should be able to use the bathroom of their choosing.

Trans people are people, too, and by saying that they should not be able to use the bathroom of their choosing, you are stripping them of bathroom rights, which are literally basic human rights. This is outright discrimination, not an opinion. It is also transphobic and dehumanizing.

3. No one is going to hire someone with an afro.

This isn’t an opinion. If you believe that a hairstyle that only exists within a certain demographic (Black), is unprofessional, then you are being not only racist or anti-Black, but you are also being discriminatory.

4. I don’t want undocumented immigrants to come into our country and steal our jobs.

Multiple studies have been done to show that undocumented immigrants are not taking jobs away from Americans. There are even studies that show how they would actually contribute to the economy. Making a statement like this is xenophobic and discriminatory either way.

5. I just think being the president of the United States is a man’s job.

By enforcing a gender role when it comes to things that could be done by anyone, you are not “just giving your opinion.” You’re discriminating. You’re also being sexist. Ideals such as these only contribute to the universal patriarchy that will continue to exist if comments such as these do not come to an end.

6. Welfare is for lazy unemployed people.

Most of the people on Welfare do, in fact, have jobs being that it was mandatory to meet a certain hourly requirement before being allowed. Otherwise, people on Welfare are often on Welfare because of a disability that left them unable to work. Even if that isn’t the case, it’s really no one’s business and a comment like this is not only discriminatory and classist, but it also promotes ableism.

Now that you’ve educated yourselves on the difference between discrimination and an opinion, you can educate others when they make a comment like the ones above. An opinion should not oppress anyone. There is a different name for one that does.

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Erica Dabney is a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University. Some of her favorite activities include discovering new music, tearing down the patriarchy and dining out at black-owned restaurants in Richmond. She plans to graduate with her bachelors in journalism in 2019.
Keziah is a writer for Her Campus. She is majoring in Fashion Design with a minor in Fashion Merchandising. HCXO!