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Discrimination a harsh reality

David Hachen | Tuesday, January 19, 2010

 Much has been said about the cartoon that was published in the Observer last week, but one important topic has not received enough attention. The publishing of the cartoon was an act of discrimination because it hurt and harmed members of a minority group, gay and lesbian members of the Notre Dame community. The issue is not whether the creators of the cartoon and those who allowed the cartoon to be published intended to hurt and harm gays and lesbians. In all likelihood they did not — it was a cartoon and not a manifesto. But the reality is that publishing the cartoon in a paper that is widely distributed and read on this campus (and elsewhere) did harm and hurt some gays and lesbians, not in a physical fashion but in a psychological and emotional way.

It is hard for many of our students (and many of us) to comprehend the harm felt when discriminated against, because many of us have not really experienced discrimination. So what is important for all of us to learn about and remember is that these acts, intended or not, do cause harm.
Gays and lesbians feel demeaned, violated, marginalized and afraid when confronted by homophobic acts and expressions. Understanding this simple fact — discrimination whether intentional or not is harmful — can have a profound effect on how people interact with those who are different from themselves because most of us believe that causing harm to others is bad.
David Hachen
Associate Professor
Dept. of Sociology
Jan. 18