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Just a Thought - Good Apple: Bad Apple

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- May 26th, 2005

"Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It's beyond me."
 Zora Neale Hurston (American folklorist and writer, 1903-1960)

As a Black Mac user and die-hard fan of Apple, I would like to think that my color, creed, sexual orientation, or my choice of friends, hair color, food, or underwear would not matter to anyone. I would like to think that people read, or don't read my articles on this forum and others based on the quality and content of my work, or lack of it, and not because my ancestry includes Africans, Native Americans, and a German who somehow got tossed in the mix. I would also like to think that the Mac community, as a whole, is intolerant of stereotyping each other base on a person's heritage or choice of lifestyle. (Stereotyping PC users, however, is OK.)

I would like to think these things, but, if I am the realist that I like to think I am, I know that I would be silly to put absolute faith in such beliefs. Apple fans, and it appears, if you believe the new discrimination lawsuit against Apple, Apple employees are not immune to the affects of the baser human ideologies, and the actions they inspire. We are all human, after all; the range of our morality can be plotted on a bell curve.

So, it shouldn't surprise us that there are people in Apple who could do the things claimed in the lawsuit. It should surprise us, however, that Apple's upper level management let it get to the lawsuit stage, but we don't know all the particulars, and we should not assume that Apple, or its managers, have done right or wrong in this case: 'Innocent until proven guilty' is suppose to be the credo on which our court system is based.

Just as there are people who practice discrimination (and some of these folks have had enough practice to be considered experts, I can tell you), there are those who seem to wear their differences as a very large, very bright shouldered chip, waiting for someone, anyone silly enough to knock it off, so that they can then unleashed whatever pent up anger they may be carrying on the unsuspecting soul. Heck, sometime the chips they carry are so large that you have to be a contortionist to avoid knocking them over.

It seems that some people have more issues than National Geographic, and it could be that the plaintiff in this new lawsuit against Apple was looking for a fight, and she pushed all of the psychological buttons of Apple management until she got the words and actions she needed to level a lawsuit. We don't know the motives of people, we have no magic mirror through which we can peer into the hearts of our neighbors to see if there is true innocence or malice harbored there.

What we can see are the actions of others, and how they interact with the variety of people that constitute their social circles, be that in the work place, in the mall, in an Apple Store, or just walking down the street.

I've had people spit at me and call me things that are only now becoming a scientific possibility; and that's from people with whom I share similar racial and economic backgrounds. I've had a half full (or was it half empty) can of beer hurled at me from drunken White guys in a pickup truck, an Asian store owner refuse to sell me a pack of gum, and have been sneered at by Hispanic women who assumed I wanted more from them than a smile and a greeting (Truth be told, I get that treatment from most women, no matter what their ethnicity may be. Sigh.). And I am ashamed to say that I have done some things based on prejudicial perceptions that may not equal what was done to me in violence, but can be easily viewed as equal in the harm it may have caused others.

The point is that no one, with the possible exception of Mother Teresa, is immune to acting upon unfair and unhealthy prejudices, or find that he or she is on the receiving end of a discriminatory act.

But smart people understand what discrimination is, that it can cause great harm, that they should not practice it, and make every attempt to challenge discriminatory acts wherever they occur.

That said, I have two opinions concerning the discrimination lawsuit against Apple: First, if managers at Apple actively discriminated against the plaintiff, or anyone because their race, religious or sexual orientation for that matter, then Apple deserves to be sued. Plain and simple. There is nothing frivolous about standing up against those who would deny you your right to live, work, and be paid on equal footing with those of equal qualifications, but different backgrounds. If you do the work, and cause no fuss, then you should be paid like anyone else, all other considerations being equal.

But that's the rub, isn't it? Who makes those considerations, and judges what is equal?

People do. The same guy, for instance, who may have, at one time in his life, thrown a half full can of beer at some guy walking down the street. Or maybe it's some woman whose revered great aunt is Mother Teresa. To quote Forrest Gump, life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're going to get. We deal with the situations we find ourselves in as they presents themselves. If the plaintiff felt she had no recourse but to sue, then it's Apple's fault, and they should pay.

Which brings me to my second point: While the dollar amount the plaintiff and her lawyer is seeking against Apple has not been publicly stipulated, the history of the plaintiff's lawyer seems to indicate that they may try for a big payday, as apparently was the case in an earlier discrimination lawsuit against Apple in which $40 million dollars was sought.

I'm sorry, but I can't find reason to sue anyone for $40 million dollars unless death or serious bodily harm was done. I believe that those who practice discrimination should pay the price, but extraordinarily high awards send the wrong message: It says it is now open season on companies, and any malcontent with a bad haircut and a grudge the size of Texas can find, or conjure up reason enough to sue for some ungodly amount.

$40 million is not a huge amount to Apple, and if Apple were bent on treating people of diverse backgrounds unfairly then it can afford to continue do so; and I guess that's one way to redistribute wealth in this country.

But if the purpose of the lawsuit is to help stamp out corporate sponsored discrimination then the lawsuit should force changes at Apple that reflect a more open and accepting employment and management policy, one where such incidences of discrimination is discovered and corrected early.

The bottom line is this: Like cancer, pot holes, and bad breath, discrimination exists. We need to understand it, and deal with it in order to minimize its affects. But astronomically high lawsuits serve no one but the lawyers and those looking for ways to retire at 35.

is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

You can send your comments directly to me, or you can also post your comments below.

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