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Steve Hansen: Teen did good — without being from ‘protected class’

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Posted: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 12:00 am

Congratulations to Lodi High School teenager Grant Goehring for leading a charge that lifted the Dollar Tree’s student restrictions. Under the former policy, only two students were allowed in the store at the same time.

Goehring’s accomplishment was really quite remarkable, considering that teenagers are not considered a “protected class.”

So, what’s a protected class?

Over the last several years, our courts, legislators and administrative agencies have paralleled George Orwell’s famous novel “Animal Farm” about a socialist “utopia” in which “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Due to years of discrimination against African-Americans, women and others, courts and legislators have acted on the premise that the Declaration of Independence phrase of “all men are created equal” needs a modern-day review and interpretation.

Since all men had not been treated equally for more than 180 years after those words were written, laws have been created to “make whole” victims of former wrongdoings by granting some people “more” equality. The idea has been to create “real equality” by defining protected classes of people who share the race or gender of people who have been discriminated against — thus making descendents of the powerful “less equal.”

Does that make sense to anyone?

In a paradoxical attempt to eliminate discrimination, a number of court cases have defined this new class structure. Basically, these protected classes of people fit into categories, a hierarchy with the potential for victimization that is examined in one of three ways:

1. Strict scrutiny: People in this category generally come under the umbrella of discrimination because of race or national origin. Their specific situations come under “strict scrutiny” by the courts. They have the most legal protection.

2. Intermediate scrutiny: These people are not quite in the same category as the first, but they still receive extra protection from possible acts of discrimination. This class includes women and homosexuals. (California gives first-class “strict scrutiny” for the latter, based on its own laws and court decisions.)

3. Weak scrutiny: This category of potential victims bears a rational burden of proof to show discrimination. They include, for example, those discriminated against becase of their age (40 and older), disability and political affiliation.

Other types of people have qualified under one of these three protected classes: members of a religion, pregnant women, people of certain genetic or familial status, former members of the armed services — even those convicted of a felony.

There’s a fourth category as well. This is the “unprotected” class, which is just about everyone else. It includes teenagers and children.

Based on this developed class system, you can see why Goehring’s accomplishment is to be recognized. He and his friends are “fourth-class citizens” — well, they are placed in the last category. Yet with the help of the Lodi News-Sentinel, they managed to undo an act of discrimination against a generally unprotected group.

Of course, the opinions of this column are not to be viewed in the same way that lawyers or legislators might frame this subject, but rather one man’s view derived from the basic facts. Maybe this protected class system explains why there is now such a push from a number of other groups and individuals to become members of the first two — or at least slide into No. 3 and work their way to the top.

But looking at the big picture, perhaps one historian friend of mine summed it up best: “No one wants equality. What everyone really wants is superiority.”

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.

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