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Individuals, not government, fixing discrimination in Philly

By   /   March 6, 2017  /   No Comments

By Dan King | Young Voices

The city of Philadelphia is pushing new rules to fight discrimination. Eleven bars in the Gayborhood, the city’s LGBT hotbed, will be required to participate in fair business practice training and implicit bias training. The bars will also be required to post fliers made by the city’s Human Relations Commission about the city’s fair practice ordinance.

These efforts come as a response to a report released by the city in January, which found that women, minorities and transgender people have been discriminated against in the Gayborhood for decades. The city’s heavy-handed approach, while well-meaning, adds yet another expense and burden to local businesses. Mandating these implicit bias trainings will take workers away from their actual productive duties and force the bars to pay employees to attend diversity training sessions that have largely been found to be ineffective.

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THERE GOES THE GAYBORHOOD: Discrimination in Philadelphia’s ‘Gayborhood’ has prompted a heavy-handed reaction from the city. But have residents demonstrated that a non-governmental approach will work best?

Meanwhile, residents of Philadelphia are doing a better job of preventing discrimination than the city’s government. Individuals and the market have already acted to scale back the level of discrimination in the Gayborhood, before the government ever could.

Even Mayor Jim Kenney acknowledged that the discrimination had already been largely stymied, saying, “It is maybe not as palpable as it was, but it’s still there. We need to do everything we can as a government to hold it up.”

However, what Kenney fails to realize is that it isn’t some government action that’s slowed the issue; it’s individuals voting with their dollars and acting under their own moral guidelines.

Bars and other businesses won’t participate in bigoted or discriminatory practices if they’re under public scrutiny and the criticism hurts their bottom line. And if they do continue on a road of bigotry, they’ll only hurt themselves.

Kenney rightly used his bully pulpit to criticize the bars that were participating in bigoted practices, saying he wouldn’t patronize them and encouraging others to follow suit.

In response to public criticism, bars by and large stopped practices that drew attention, such as turning away black patrons due to attire, only carding black patrons, or subjecting black patrons to pat downs while allowing their white counterparts to walk right in. Social pressure is oftentimes a better deterrent from bad actions than government coercion, especially in tightknit communities with similar social norms.

Philadelphia has a history of combatting bigotry through social pressure and social media. In 2014, a gay couple was assaulted in Center City. Prominent Philly sports and social justice Twitter user @fansince09 got ahold of surveillance video, tweeting it out and eventually finding the attackers, who were then arrested.

Combine the brotherly love with the ability to boycott businesses that show discriminatory practices, and the individuals have far more ability to combat discrimination than they think.

Unfortunately, Kenney and the city fail to see this, instead pushing new rules. Individuals combat discrimination faster than government, and without the added layer of bureaucracy. It is our role as citizens to vote with our dollars and support only businesses that agree with our values.

Dan King is an advocate for Young Voices and a journalist residing in New York’s Adirondacks. He writes about free speech and civil liberties and can be found on Twitter @Kinger_Editor.