Discrimination and Social Meaning
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
This chapter presents the view that discrimination is wrong when and because it is demeaning. In order to demean, an action must both express denigration and be adopted by a person or institution with social power. In order to determine whether a law, policy or action does expresses denigration, the account looks to its meaning in the context and culture in which it occurs. As a result, the actual subjective intentions of alleged discriminators are not relevant. This account helps explain why discrimination on the basis of socially salient traits is more often wrongful than discrimination on the basis of other traits.
Deborah Hellman, Discrimination and Social Meaning, in Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen The Routledge Handbook of the Ethics of Discrimination, Routledge, 97-107 (2018).