Most of us understand that discrimination is a bad thing: if you deliberately act like an ass toward someone just because of their race, gender, or sexuality, you’re officially pond scum. But not everyone who engages in discriminatory practices picks such obvious targets. Sometimes, it turns out that we like to hate on people for reasons best described as “ridiculous.” Here are ten forms of discrimination that, while perhaps not pure evil, are definitely completely absurd:
10. Anti-Cyclist Prejudice
In the hierarchy of road users, cyclists come pretty much at the bottom, below even tailgaters and joyriders. That’s not an exaggeration: their two-wheeled antics generate such popular resentment that even respectable newspapers are cool with comparing cyclists with apartheid apologists.
This cultural hatred has gotten so entrenched that it’s actively starting to endanger lives. Earlier this year, a dangerous driver killed a cyclist on a Boston road. When his case came to trial, the jury unanimously handed down a Not Guilty verdict – despite videotape and police evidence suggesting the driver was lethally incompetent. According to those who covered the trial, this was down to deeply ingrained anti-cycling prejudice on the part of the jury, meaning we now hate cyclists so much that we’re actually happy to see them killed.
9. Anti-Goth Prejudice
It sounds just as absurd as some black nail varnish-loving teenager moaning about how the other kids pick on them. But anti-Goth prejudice is a totally real thing that has been recognized as a hate crime by the Manchester Metropolitan police.
It all started in 2007, when a young Goth and her boyfriend were kicked to death in a park by local thugs. Rather than just writing off the case as a one-off, the police dug a little deeper and uncovered a world of violent prejudice directed at kids who looked Goth or Emo. Teenagers who dressed in black routinely got spat at, assaulted, and even murdered based solely on the clothes they were wearing, and no one was doing a damn thing about it. Thankfully, the new hate crime ruling means that will probably change.
8. According to Blood Type
Knowing your blood type is kinda important in Japan. In fact, make that very important. According to the BBC, everything from how you’re taught in Kindergarten, to whether an employer will hire you, to who will date you is determined by blood type. For the vast majority of Japanese people, this is nothing more than a harmless bit of fun – like knowing what your star sign is – but for those with B or AB blood types (around 30 percent of the population,) it can totally destroy their lives. While no one has yet been killed for their blood type as far as we know, there are countless stories of people losing jobs, kids being bullied, and marriages ending, based on nothing more than a perceived blood mismatch.
7. By Literacy
Mid-60’s Louisiana had a problem. For some time, it had been illegal to deny black people the right to vote based solely on their skin color, yet the guys in charge weren’t happy with the idea of non-white voters. In such a situation, what’s a racist tool to do? If you said “find some other, subtler way of discriminating against black people,” then congratulations, you’ve hit the nail on the head.
Right up until 1964, people who wanted to vote in Louisiana were required to undergo a fiendishly difficult literacy test, with anyone who got even a single question wrong barred from voting. Since the test was marked by racist white guys, and overwhelmingly given to poor black people who had been segregated out of a decent education, the unsurprising result was the continued disenfranchisement of a great swathe of the population. In effect, discrimination based on literacy became a smokescreen for real racism in the south for decades, until finally Washington stepped in and put a stop to this pointless practice.
6. By Teeth
We all know what “good teeth” look like: ultra-white, straight as an arrow, and free from any coffee stains. And most of us would probably admit that we judge people on the quality of theirs – after all, how would you react to seeing a set of brown, decaying teeth in the mouth of a first date?
But this aversion goes past just picking potential mates, and into actually affecting how we treat employees too. In a 2010 study, researchers discovered that women who drank fluoridated water during childhood (something that would show up in the improved quality of their teeth) earned on average 4% more than women who didn’t. Put simply, women with better than average teeth made more money than their snaggle-toothed counterparts – regardless of their skills or economic worth. So if you’re lacking in the denture department, maybe consider not ending your next prospective job interview with a smile.
5. Having a Phobia
A phobia is defined as an irrational fear. People who are terrified of spiders can’t sit down and rationalize away that fear, any more than you can rationalize away your need for oxygen.
Yet having a phobia is so taboo in some areas, it has literally cost people their jobs. Earlier this year, an Ohio teacher got roundly mocked for suing her school after she was fired for having pedophobia – a fear of children. Summed up in a sentence like that, it sure sounds dumb. But once you dig a little deeper, you find out her phobia was specific to very young children, meaning she was fine to teach at high school level. She did exactly that for 35 years, until the school board needlessly transferred her to a middle school position, completely against medical advice. Upon starting her new job, her phobia got so bad it nearly gave her a stroke, at which point the school board refused to transfer her again, and chucked her out on her ass.
4. Bearded Men
There exists an actual, honest-to-god real group called the “Beard Liberation Front.” Their stated aim: to fight against anti-beard prejudice wherever they can find it. Bizarrely enough, such prejudice isn’t actually all that rare.
In New York, for example, a Hasidic Jewish policeman recently lost his job for refusing to trim his beard. As you’re probably aware, going clean-shaven is something Hasidic Jews aren’t really allowed to do, so the NYPD kind of dropped the ball on this one. But even this blundering has nothing on the oppression bearded men have suffered elsewhere in the world. Under Communist stooge Enver Hoxha, Albanian men were literally banned from growing beards – with visitors to the country forcibly shaved at the border. In Turkmenistan recently, having a goatee became grounds for a visit by the feared secret police, after the unhinged President outlawed them. In short, anti-beard prejudice is a real, categorical, insane thing, and it’s ruining the lives of hairy men everywhere.
The Internet has an uneasy relationship with vegetarians. It may not target them as mercilessly as vegans, but the feeling still seems to exist that there’s something not quite right with someone who doesn’t enjoy meat. And that feeling’s reflected in the real world too: sometimes with bizarre consequences.
Meet Ryan Pacifico: a former trader for Calyon, a big financial trading company with offices all over the world. By all accounts, Pacifico was good at his job and got along famously with everybody, until his new boss learned of his vegetarianism. At that point, things suddenly went downhill: during team bonding dinners, his boss would deliberately pick meat-only restaurants. When ordering working lunches, he would only order meat, and refuse Pacifico leave to get anything that wasn’t dead animal. During working hours, he followed him around calling him a “fag,” before ultimately firing him over a minor infraction.
In short, Pacifico lost his job simply because he wasn’t interested in eating bacon. As disproportionate punishment goes, that takes every cake in the bakery.
2. Belief in Climate Change
Who would ever fire someone for holding a different viewpoint than them over something like climate change? Well, that’s exactly what happened at one of Britain’s biggest real estate companies just four years ago. In 2009, Tim Nicholson was fired for trying to implement green policies at Grainger plc. Apparently, his firm belief in climate change had been irritating his anti-green bosses, who responded by sending him packing.
Hilariously, it was Nicholson’s job to worry about climate change; as Head of Sustainability, he was meant to give an eco-friendly face to the company (one that the big bosses clearly did not believe in,) and was then fired for doing exactly what his company had hired him to do. Apparently, it turns out that people who are into sustainability generally also believe in climate change. Who’d have thought it?
Last year, University of Toronto computer engineering professor Steve Mann made history. He became possibly the first person who ever lived to suffer from what we’re gonna call “anti-cyborg discrimination.” See, Mann has his own proto-version of Google Glass permanently attached to his skull. This means he is monitoring – and potentially recording – everything he sees at all times, and not everyone takes kindly to being on camera.
So when Mann started auto-recording employees in a Parisian McDonald’s, they decided to take action. Angry action. According to Mann, they attempted to rip the device from his face (an act which, if successful, would have removed half his skull along with it,) before booting him and his family out into the street. If his account is true (and there’s some evidence to suggest it may have been embellished,) then Mann possibly got a strange taste of what our future will one day hold: gangs of angry McDonald’s employees, picking on people because they’re part robot. At least, they will until the Terminators come.