letters | civility and civil rights

Bias is more than just inconvenience — it does damage

Jeff Jacoby anesthetizes himself from the cruelties and dangers of biased behavior by painting pictures of polite florists and courteous shopkeepers who harbor innocuous aversions toward certain lifestyles or opinions (“A cup of civility,” Op-ed, Oct. 6). But we all know that this is not what bias looks like, or where it ends.

Bias doesn’t merely mean not wearing your favorite T-shirt to the shop down the street. Bias has the power to block access to education, jobs, safety, and dignity. So if you find the perfect apartment, but your landlord prefers not to rent to a same-sex or mixed-race or Muslim or Jewish couple, Jacoby might simply tell you to find another apartment. And if the next landlord says the same thing, find yet another. But at what point do we get fed up with his credulous call for “a little more live-and-let-live”?

Jacoby needs to understand that this credo is too often a misnomer for the opposite: Live and don’t let live. The problem is not about one bigot selling wares that one can simply buy at the next shop. The problem is people with power to affect the lives and well-being of others — landlords, bosses, teachers, managers.

Gina Fried