Even though I am a white male religious heterosexual, I feel that I too have been a victim of discrimination on several occasions during my life.
Non-Discrimination Discrimination (originally termed Reverse Discrimination) became the law of the land in 1978 when the Supreme Court of the United States upheld Affirmative Discrimination. Too bad for me that there was no Affirmative Action provision for being born a middle child (#7) of a large poor family (14), being born with a 4 part birth defect, being born in the middle of the highly competitive Baby Boom, being Asperger spectrum and never having had a good financial mentor. Back when I was young, dumb and naïve I believed that old “you can’t keep a good man down” saying. I suspect that particular chauvinistic saying has now been largely canceled from polite discourse. I only list it here to help demonstrate how fast and how far our United States of America society has come in its altruistic fight for equality.
The vast majority of discrimination that I endured was not discernable. I simply wasn’t chosen and no explanations about why was given. A good example of that was when I was working intermittently for the FSIS (Food Safety & Inspection Service) as a kill-floor Inspector. At that time I was hurting for a decent paying fulltime job, had a B.S. in Agriculture (majoring in Animal Science, meats) and possessed a good bit of meat industry work experience. After having driven 100 miles on two separate occasions to take an USDA Meat Inspector aptitude test, and receiving no feedback whatsoever, I called to try and learn my test scores. I was immediately informed that I would not be given my scores on either test and that I would have to hire an attorney to try to learn them. Given the facts that most Lay Meat Inspectors do not have more than a High School education and little to no previous meat industry work experience, I conclude that Veteran’s and demographic preferences had once again successfully discriminated against me.
I graduated college in 1980. At that time many of the meat plants in the Cincinnati area were closing due to meat industry consolidation into big plants located in the more remote areas of the West and South. And, nationwide economic times were then very rough to boot. So, I tried to enlist in the Military. Having a four year college degree I could have went in as an officer. As my bad luck would have it, I was discriminated against then for having been born with a heart defect; they did not want me.
For several years immediately after the Supreme Court upheld Affirmative Discrimination some employers were very upfront about their hiring practices. During the rough economic times of the early 80’s I once drove across town to take a Union Millwright’s Apprenticeship test; that I had heard advertised on the radio. I was then working as a non-union plumbing laborer. As soon as I walked up to the table to register for the test an older white man told me “sorry son, you’re the wrong sex and color.” I wasn’t even permitted to registered to take that aptitude test.
After over 11 years of mediocre fulltime jobs I finally got on intermittently with the USDA’s AMS (Agricultural Marketing Service). I got work whenever there were enough local service requests. It was rough, but I stayed at it hoping to gain fulltime employment. After 4 years of working intermittently both my Mother In-law and oldest daughter were asking me to get better paying employment. I worked two part time jobs and helped watch our 3 young children during most of those 4 years. Then suddenly in 1995 a black, female new college grad was hired fulltime to work at the Cincinnati AMS Duty Station. I wasn’t even aware that there had been a fulltime job opening. We both had the same amount of formal education, but I had 17 more years of meat industry related work experience. That occurrence was very disheartening. My discontent prompted me to complain to Washington D.C. and threaten a lawyer drawn complaint. And, I did actually pay for a Lawyer consult. After much back and forth I was called and told that there had been 2 fulltime Cincinnati Duty Station job openings all along, and I was then given one of them. Pushing my way in made for a lot of tense feeling among my coworkers, but I was desperate for a decent job arrangement and didn’t let it affect me. As a result, I was never “in the loop” and was usually always the last one to know what was going on.
Toward the end of my career there was a forceful attempt to push me into early retirement. I had to retain a lawyer and file an EEO complaint in order to keep working. After much time and money the AMS’s own Civil Rights department decided that I had not been discriminated against when AMS HR had told me that I was medically unfit to continue working and gave me 2 weeks to resign. I can’t imagine such action happening to a non-white male today.
There are undoubtedly many more compelling stories of disenfranchisement that will never be penned. Thank God that we still have the right to try and speak out. The whole situation reminds me of the old saying: “two wrongs don’t make a right.”