Ageism, Sexism, Racism: Alive and Well

by Michael Haberman on September 5, 2008 · 0 comments


If you have been watching any of the coverage of the U.S. presidential election you realize that people can get pretty passionate about their choices for candidates. That is one of the things that makes the process interesting. People have differences in how they think taxes, energy, war, employment, unemployment, immigration, natural disasters, the economy and a hundred other issues should be dealt with. And discussion/debate on those issues is healthy. Perhaps better solutions are discovered during that process.

But if you have been paying attention you have also seen an ugly side of the process. Rather than healthy debate we have seen biases bared, biases based on race, sex, age, lifestyle and even disability. Biases, for or against a candidate, are, in my opinion not a healthy way to choose a leader. We have seen these biases early on in the Democrat Party process. People wanting Obama exclusively because he is “black” or wanting Clinton because she is a woman. On the Republican side there has been sexism in the critique in the hairstyle of Palin and in her drive and ambition. Who really cares what a leaders hair looks like? Or in asking whether she could care for her family and be a VP. Asked of any male candidates? Not that I have heard. The personal criticism of McCain hits both disability bias and ageism. I have heard people say he looks funny because of the way he holds his arms. Well that happens when they have been broken and not healed correctly. I have heard others call him that “sad, little old white man” and question whether someone his “age” can lead.

Preferring, or not preferring, a candidate based on color of skin, gender, age, or disability is not the way to select your leader. The thing that distresses me the most about this is all those things I have heard or read have been expressed by people in Human Resources. That line about color of skin, gender, age or disability should sound damn familiar!

In my opinion, if you are in HR and have expressed these points of view then I think you should consider a change of profession. If you are going to let these things sway you in your choice of leadership, then in all likelihood they will sway you in your choice of employees, trainees, promotees and demotees. And that has no place in our profession.

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