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Archive for December 19th, 2019

I’ve previously argued that “freedom of association” is the best way of dealing with thorny social issues such as baking cakes for gay weddings and transgender bathroom usage.

Simply stated, people should have the freedom to do business with each other – or not do business with each other – based on their personal preferences.

I may disapprove of how various people exercise those preferences, but I wouldn’t ask a politician or bureaucrat to intervene.

Which brings us to today’s topic. Here are some excerpts from a New York Post story about a not-quite-women-only business.

The Wing was supposed to be the ultimate sanctuary for women: decidedly feminine in design, with walls and furniture in shades of millennial pink and a thermometer set at a women’s-clothing-friendly 72 degrees. …It offers perks that other co-working spaces can’t match — showers stocked with high-end beauty products…the company’s expansion and popularity has brought up a completely different issue…men wanting to come in and hang out. …it’s not against the rules for men to be at the lady lair, which costs anywhere from $185 to $250 a month in the US to join. But that’s only because legally the company can’t ban men. …The problem, multiple members have told The Post, is that the men physically take up too much space with their bigger bodies… While they aren’t using the members-only changing rooms and showers (yet), they are in the guest bathrooms. …The Wing…never had a membership policy, because, reps say, they didn’t think they’d need one. Instead, they simply billed themselves as a women’s co-working space and social club. …the New York City Commission on Human Rights…in 2018 opened an investigation into the company. The Wing’s large membership — more than 11,000 worldwide, according to reps — meant it couldn’t pass as a “social club,” and therefore can’t discriminate based on gender.

My reaction is that the New York City Commission on Human Rights should mind its own business.

If women want a female-only place to interact and do business, it’s not the job of government to interfere.

Yes, that means discrimination against men. Maybe that’s wrong, at least on some level, but not everything that’s wrong should be illegal.

Here’s another example, though the discrimination is based on politics rather than gender. As reported by the Hill, a California restaurant wants freedom not to associate with overt Trump supporters.

A restaurant owner and award-winning author in California tweeted that he will no longer serve customers who wear “Make America Great Again” hats at his eatery. “It hasn’t happened yet, but if you come to my restaurant wearing a MAGA cap, you aren’t getting served…”Some diners told The Associated Press on Thursday that they understand the restaurant owner’s position but added that they have mixed feelings about the ban. …“I see where he’s coming from, but I don’t think you should just keep people out because of a hat,” Jamie Hwang, a San Mateo resident, told the news agency. Another diner, Esther Shek, told the publication that she believes the hats have “come to represent racism, intolerance, exclusivity” but also added that López-Alt’s choice to refuse supporters of the president might spell trouble later.

In this case, I definitely think the restaurant owner is being petty. But I also recognize that it’s his restaurant. It’s his money and it’s his property.

By the way, it’s worth noting that freedom of association is a two-way street.

It means private businesses can refuse customers, but it also means customers can reject businesses.

A black couple in Georgia turned away a white repairman who showed up to their house while flying a large Confederate flag, leaving the couple in utter “disbelief” before saying he wasn’t welcome. …After a polite conversation with the contractor, Brown said, he was in “disbelief” that the man he hired from Facebook’s local marketplace would think the flag was acceptable to fly during house calls. Brown’s wife then came outside and bluntly turned the man away, video shows. …The repairman offered to remove the flag, but the damage was already done. He later reached out to the couple on Facebook to say he didn’t mean to offend them, Zeke Brown told ABC News. Brown replied to the contractor, explaining that the flag is “extremely offensive” to people of color while urging him to do some research.

Incidentally, I may be a bit of a Pollyanna on these issues, but I’m glad that the contractor reached out to the couple with an apology.

Having spent many years in Georgia and having interacted occasionally with people who displayed confederate flags, I concluded that very few of them were motivated by racial animus. It was more a form of social signalling about being rural, or being a hell raiser (a la Dukes of Hazard).

That being said, they obviously were not sensitive to the fact that blacks had a much more jaundiced view of what the flag represents.

Which is why I hope many of them eventually had the kind of epiphany that led a Texas man to get rid of his rebel flag tattoo. Simply stated, we should care about the feelings of others.

But I’m digressing.

Let’s conclude by addressing the negative aspect of freedom of association, which is that some bad people will discriminate for odious reasons.

The stereotypical example is a business in Alabama in 1958 that refused to serve black customers. This is partly inaccurate because much of the discrimination during that era was the result of government policies that mandated segregation (a.k.a., the Jim Crow laws).

But I’m sure there was also plenty of genuinely private discrimination.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that such discrimination generally is punished by market forces.

And the best news is that our society is now increasingly vigilant against bias.

For instance, the Washington Post reported about a bakery that gained customers for being welcoming to everyone.

Nino Barbalace…opened a bakery and cafe in Dorchester, Mass. …He affixed a tiny pride flag to his restaurant’s window for the pride parade in June, and it has remained there since. Then came the Yelp review.“Well, that flag says all when you delve deeper and see the real customer base here, it’s clearly geared and catered ONLY to those who rally behind the rainbow flag.” That alarmed Barbalace, who posted an image of the one-star review on the restaurant’s Facebook page. “All are welcome at Zia Gianna, even this gentleman. We’d love to show him some kindness…” Barbalace wrote in his post on Aug. 13. …Customers rallied in response. Tiffany Andrade told Fox 25 that she dropped by the cafe on Friday to offer support. …“We love your place, and love your love for everyone no matter what,” one customer said. Another said: “Haven’t been in to your restaurant before, but now I’m putting it on my must-visit list. Love is love is love. Keep flying that flag!”

Kudos to Mr. Barbalace, by the way, for reaching out to the unfriendly reviewer.

The United States has made great progress and is one of the most tolerant places in the world.

But there’s always room for more progress and you’re far more likely to change hearts and minds with outreach – Daryl Davis and Matthew Stevenson are role models – rather than demonization.

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