As we are called to relieve people who are in distress, we need to understand how certain discriminatory laws contribute to making life harder for others and creates problems beyond their control, especially if one is poor. It is very common for such laws to create inequality even today in 21st century societies.
Following is a common example of how discriminatory laws affect the poor and minorities, and creates distress among people:
Meet Mr. Y:
Mr. Y lives in poverty in an impoverished rural area. Y is not on government assistance but qualifies. Mr. Y is a single parent, has three kids and a 12 year old car. Mr. Y works and lives on a farm, and the nearest town large enough to have a grocery store and pharmacy is Bristol, 10 miles north. The kids catch a bus to school.
Meet Mr Q:
Mr. Q owns a grocery store in Bristol named “Super-Save-A-Bunch” that also contains a pharmacy. The store in Bristol is 10 miles from Mr. Y, and is the only grocery/pharmacy store in town other than high priced convenience stores.
A discriminatory law has passed that allows businesses to discriminate against people like Mr. Y.
Mr. Q has decided to refuse service to all Y’s. The law allows him to do this.
Part 2: Effects of discriminatory laws
Mr. Y drives 10 miles to Bristol for groceries and medicine as usual, and discovers the store owned by Mr Q is no longer serving Y’s because Mr. Q can now legally discriminate.
Here’s what that means for Mr. Y’s family:
1. Mr. Y will need to spend more gas money to drive another 10 miles to the nearest store in another town–Winston–that serves Y’s. That’s a total of 20 miles from Mr. Y’s house one way and 40 miles round trip.
2. Because of the farther distance, Mr. Y will need to take more time to get groceries out of his day which may at some point conflict with Y’s work, child care, and medical requirements.
3. Mr. Y’s car, 12 years old and rarely in good shape, will receive more wear and tear over gravel roads and highways to get groceries and medicine. It’ll need some work for mechanical problems.
4. Mr. Y will have more difficulty getting the medicine needed for the family because Mr. Y now must drive a 40 mile round trip to buy simple cold medicines and aspirin. Add to that the danger of driving while sick or with sick children and trying to focus on the road.
5. Mr. Y arrives at the grocery/pharmacy store in Winston and discovers the prices are 15% higher than the other store in Bristol. He now ends up paying more for groceries which he cannot really afford. He’s spending more for gas, groceries, and medicine.
6. In the mean time, people who are not Y’s and are not dealing with discriminatory laws continue to shop at Mr. Q’s “Super-Save-A-Bunch.” Life is easier, more convenient, and cheaper for their family than it is for Mr. Y’s family.
Discriminatory laws create a hardship for people which is enforced by a state, province, district, colony, territory, or national governments. Discriminatory laws can be directed at skin color, gender, religion, sexual orientation, employees, or simply the poor in general.
As Odd Fellows, we must not meddle in politics. But we must study discrimination and its contribution to poverty so we can better help those who are most affected by it.
Here’s an exercise: Where could your lodge intervene in Mr. Y’s case to aid his family?
Scott Moye is an award-winning history educator and collector of Arkansas folklore. He grew up on a cotton farm and is currently a museum worker. Hobbies include: old house restoration, writing, amateur radio, Irish traditional music, archery, craft beer, old spooky movies, and street performance. He is a member of Marshall Lodge #1, in Marshall, Arkansas, and a founder of Heart In Hand Blog. He currently resides in Little Rock, Arkansas. He’s available for writing and editing gigs.