Illegal doesn't mean uncommon

So, sometimes when I talk about disability or racial or sexist or religious discrimination, people will be like “but isn’t that illegal?!”.


If you’re inclined to react that way, consider this list of things that are also illegal in the United States:

  • downloading copyrighted movies without paying
  • uploading someone else’s copyrighted content to YouTube
  • Scanning a whole book and putting it on Blackboard for your students to download 
  • smoking marijuana
  • shoplifting

You may have done one of these things in the past week, and you almost certainly know someone who did at least one of those things within the past week.


Illegal discrimination is like that too. It is against the law, but people don’t always follow the law. And, while serious consequences are sometimes imposed, a lot of people get away with breaking those laws without facing any serious penalty.


People who are discriminated against know this. You should keep that in mind when you talk to them about discrimination and the law.