Whether motivated by outright prejudice or simple discriminatory disinterest, ...

This sentence-piece is taken from a text written on the illegalization of cannabis, stating that Mexican immigration was the reason cannabis was illegalized in the United States.

Given how discriminatory disinterest is being contrasted to outright prejudice, it would seem that discriminatory disinterest is a kind of discrimination not driven by emotional imperatives (like xenophobia, ideology, racism, etc.), but rather other motivations that simply happen to involve racial discrimination (if e.g. discriminating against Mexicans would somehow be economically favorable).

However, I don't quite see how discriminatory disinterest means that. Does the disinterest perhaps refer to the lack of actual interest in the actual race/ethnicity at hand?

Here's a link to the text it was taken from. You can find the sentence in the first paragraph of chapter 1: Rationale in the West: Class Legislation

  • Something can be racist even if it seems not to have a racial element or its proponents claim it applies to everyone regardless of race. For instance prohibiting something that Mexicans do a lot and non-Mexicans seldom do; bans on face coverings that discriminate against Muslims, or requirements on headwear that discriminate against turban-wearing Sikhs are other obvious examples of measures that don't appear racist but may have racist effects. So a measure which appears impartial is actually racist. This is really more a question for the politics board though.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Apr 21, 2021 at 12:11
  • @StuartF I am aware that something can be racially discriminatory without having a racial element, as you say. I included this in my post. My question is, what does the author mean with "discriminatory disinterest"? I then proposed this racial discrimination without a racial element thing that you mentioned as a possible meaning. Whether or not it is the meaning would depend on the semantics of disinterest, discriminatory and discriminatory disinterest, landing it within the scope of this site. There was no political question here, although the subject matter of the text is political.
    – A. Kvåle
    Commented Apr 21, 2021 at 15:35
  • "Outright prejudice" is used there to convey positively and actively punishing or injuring with bigotry, like its Latin root "praeiūdicāre" means "to injure." "Discriminatory disinterest" contrastingly conveys bigotry that isn't positive or active but is negative and passive by simply withholding interest you would otherwise give. "Outright prejudice" introduces harmful action. "Discriminatory disinterest" simply allows harm to come on its own by withholding action or taking away action generally provided to others in that situation. Commented Apr 21, 2021 at 22:19
  • 1
    Discriminatory disinterest is not a well established, set phrase. Any interpretation of it that may be offered (Mr Harman's is probably on the right track) thus amounts to an explanation of this particular text, rather than an elucidation of a general feature of English language and usage.
    – jsw29
    Commented Apr 21, 2021 at 22:50
  • 2
    @A.Kvåle, I think that the regular contributors to this site would probably agree that idiolects are off topic (such questions were characterised as 'too localised' in the past), but I suspect that they may not always agree on whether this or that question (that includes this one) is about an idiolect. If you are interested in getting some more elaborate answers to the question you raised in the last comment, you may wish to ask it on the meta- part of this site.
    – jsw29
    Commented Apr 22, 2021 at 15:18

1 Answer 1


The way I read it is "outright prejudice" is active in this case "the legislature actively designing legislation to harm Mexicans"

Discriminatory disinterest is still prejudice but it is passive "the legislature simply not caring, taking no effort to prevent legislation from being harmful to Mexicans"

A legislator drafted a piece of legislation that was deliberately harmful to Mexicans (outright prejudice), and the other legislators who probably knew this did nothing to prevent it from becoming law despite that being within their power or responsibility (discriminatory disinterest)

The distinction being drawn is between active and passive prejudice.

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