Are All These Discrimination Lawsuits Doing More Harm Than Good?

February 15, 2013  |  

In the last two days alone, we’ve written a story about multiple lawsuits against Disneyland over perceived discrimination committed by some of its theme park characters, and another from a set of New York City party-goers who felt they were the victims of racism at the hands of a bouncer demanding hundreds of dollars for a bottle of liquor in exchange for club entry.

No one is supporting discrimination, but are these lawsuits really furthering the cause of racial justice?

In these cases, the basis for the lawsuit is questionable. In one of the Disneyland cases, parents claim that their children didn’t receive the same treatment as other children because the characters didn’t hold the kids’ hands or hug and kiss them. Is it possible — just possible — that these characters are being overrun by kids and some will get a little more attention than others?

And in the case of the 230 Fifth partiers, the plaintiffs actually did pay the $320 for the vodka that they say the bouncer demanded to get in. If they sensed that white patrons were getting preferential treatment, why did they pay the money? Why would they want to continue to lounge in a place that, they say, made it plain, that they were unwanted guests?

Now this doesn’t mean that the plaintiffs weren’t wronged. The Black family paid to have the full Disneyland experience for their kids. That means lots o’ love from the characters. And Jermaine Sanders and his friends wanted to have a fun night out, especially after they paid hundreds of dollars to get into the club. Anything less than a fun and boozy night of good music and good atmosphere is going to feel like money wasted.

But in both of these cases, the problem sounds like a customer service issue, not systemic racism. The Disney characters who are unable to handle the throngs of children vying for their attention need to be working at the food counter or somewhere else entirely. And a surly bouncer needs to be bounced from the door for a new line of work. The managers in charge of these arms of the business need to pay closer attention to how patrons are being treated. And be sensitive to the fact that people from different walks of life are going to be paying customers with high expectations.

The US is the most litigious country on the planet. And in many cases, these lawsuits serve as pathways to justice. But in these cases, one has to wonder whether, once the details of the cases are hashed out, we don’t find that these plaintiffs just had a bad time one day and decided to sue. In that case, it’s setting the stage for actual cases of racism to get short shrift. Discriminatory acts are committed every day and high-profile lawsuits should be reserved for those instances where the outcome will positively move us further along the road to equality.

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