[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here. Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]
So today I see this post over at the Washington Times’s Water Cooler blog saying this:
DOJ to white male bullying victims: Tough luck
The viral video sensation showing a [schoolyard] bullying incident at an Australian school has brought the issue of bullying back into the spotlight. Here in the United States, the Obama administration has made school bullying a federal issue….
Here is the catch. DOJ will only investigate bullying cases if the victim is considered protected under the 1964 Civil Rights legislation. In essence, only discrimination against a victim’s race, sex, national origin, disability, or religion will be considered by DOJ. The overweight straight white male who is verbally and/or physically harassed because of his size can consider himself invisible to the Justice Department.
OMG, here’s the latest example of a Department of Justice that is only interested in protecting women and minorities!
…except not so much. Now I will put aside what one might rationally read between the lines for a moment, but let’s look at what the Department of Justice actually said:
The Civil Rights Division and the entire Justice Department are committed to ending bullying and harassment in schools, and the video highlights the Department’s authority to enforce federal laws that protect students from discrimination and harassment at school because of their race, national origin, disability, religion, and sex, including harassment based on nonconformity with gender stereotypes.
So let’s go back and look at what the Washington Times said again:
Here is the catch. DOJ will only investigate bullying cases if the victim is considered protected under the 1964 Civil Rights legislation.
Well, first leaving aside that the Washington Times doesn’t seem to understand that they are by implication talking about the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), too, here’s the thing. Every single one of you are protected by that law. There is a myth popular in a lot of circles that there is such as thing as “protected classes” under our anti-discrimination law, but that is (mostly) untrue. Any person, white, black, Asian, etc. who is discriminated against by another because of his or her race, is protected under these laws and the same is true regarding gender-based or religion-based discrimination. White males can and do sue under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 all the time.
There are two examples, that I know of, of our Federal anti-discrimination laws setting up a protected class. The ADA only protects handicapped persons—and despite the fact that I belong in that protected class, I think that is wrong. And the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) (completely inapplicable to schoolyard bullying, obviously) only applies to individuals above the age of forty. So hey, next time you run into someone who is depressed to be turning the big four-oh, you can say, “hey, congratulations, you are now protected by the ADEA!” That should make them feel much better, right?
And the Washington Times seems to get this writing next:
In essence, only discrimination against a victim’s race, sex, national origin, disability, or religion will be considered by DOJ.
But then the very next line contradicts that:
The overweight straight white male who is verbally and/or physically harassed because of his size can consider himself invisible to the Justice Department.
Now it is true that size-based discrimination is (probably) not covered under federal anti-discrimination laws (although a few people have tried to claim that being fat was a disability under the ADA—something I oppose). But the straight white maleness of the victim has nothing to do with it. It could be a fat, gay, female black/Filipino/native American mix and as long as they are only bullying her for being fat, there is no federal issue. And it’s not fair to the Washington times to imply that the Department of Justice is saying that the color, sexuality or gender of the victim is even officially relevant. If you say that it has to violate the federal civil rights laws, you are at least facially saying that you don’t care about the gender, race or religion of the victim but whether the attacker is motivated by those traits, whether the victim is in the “historically oppressed group” or not.
Now, you might rationally suspect that regardless of their words, they will only protect those “historically oppressed groups.” But the Department of Justice is not saying it will take that approach.