Reluctant heroes may be our only hope in the fight for equality

January 17, 2023 | By ANDREW QUINIO
Han Solo aiming gun

“Why don’t you take a look around? You know what’s about to happen, what they’re up against. They could use a good pilot like you. You’re turning your back on them.”

As the Galactic Empire closed in, Luke Skywalker was desperate for Han Solo to take up the Rebel cause.

From the start of the movie Star Wars: A New Hope, Solo made it abundantly clear that he had no intention of getting mixed up with the Rebel Alliance. His plan was to get paid, settle his debts, and stay alive, even if that meant constantly reminding his idealistic travel companions that he “ain’t in this for your revolution.”

Despite Solo’s complete disinterest in getting involved, Skywalker’s desperate pleas made an impact on the rugged “I work alone” outlaw. In the eleventh-hour of the Battle of Yavin, Solo joins the Rebels and saves the day by clearing the way for Skywalker to destroy the Death Star.

An unlikely champion

Solo is not your typical hero, but that doesn’t make him any less of a hero.

Unlike Skywalker, who was eager to leave his simple desert farm boy life and just needed that extra push to step up to the plate, Solo required some serious convincing and a big push before he, begrudgingly, joined the fight.

While he is the furthest thing from a textbook hero, his reluctant hero arch is precisely why he has become such a beloved character to Star Wars fans. In many ways, the plight of the reluctant hero is more relatable to people living in our galaxy not so far, far away.

Our world is filled with real-life characters who don’t believe they have a stake in the fight. Like Solo, one day they find themselves unwittingly thrown into battle, where they rise to the occasion and save the day.

There is one real-life battle waging today that is pleading for a Han Solo.

A fight for equal rights

The Constitution’s guarantee of equality before the law used to be correctly understood to mean that government and public institutions could not discriminate against any individual based on immutable characteristics, like race.

But equality’s true meaning has been pushed aside and replaced by a push to institute race-conscious policies in nearly every facet of our lives.

Whether it is in public contracting, or small business grants, the demand for the government to base access to opportunities solely on the color of a person’s skin seems to be ubiquitous.

Once upon a time, this type of government discrimination was a catalyst for civil rights activism. But in some perverted twist, it has become a new fight for so-called “equity.”

Worse still, anyone who dares speak out against it faces public backlash that has cost some their jobs and reputations. All this considered, it has become increasingly difficult to find heroes willing to stand up and do the right thing.

The population might be culturally primed to have race-based policies pushed on them. Polls show sizable support for “diversity, equity, and inclusion.” As Peter W. Wood explains in his book, Diversity Rules, diversity “has not gone away as a slogan or a cultural meme.” This has led to “…a world where diversity is a social norm, not a frontier.” And government largely translates that norm to solely mean race or skin color, and not any other form of diversity.

The reluctance to enter the fight is thus understandable when one sees what they would be up against. Han Solo would demand that you never tell him the odds. But public opinion doesn’t make government discrimination any less unconstitutional or morally wrong. And sitting out the fight doesn’t mean the fight won’t come to you anyway.

But there are individuals out there who have taken a cue from Han Solo and made the decision to stand up.

A city worker in Seattle

Joshua Diemert spent years as a hard-working public servant for the City of Seattle, where he focused on providing his fellow residents with valuable services, earning several commendations in the process for his efforts.

Joshua was an outstanding employee who loved what he was doing until the City of Seattle began asking employees to violate the Fourteenth Amendment.

A city-wide policy was implemented requiring employees to treat everyone they assisted and worked with by the color of their skin. Josh and his coworkers had to attend trainings, many of which were segregated by race. One of the trainings Josh was told to attend was called “Why White People are Cowards.”

For years this went on as Josh became increasingly uncomfortable until he couldn’t stay quiet anymore. He began to speak up and ask questions about the trainings. Eventually his decision to say something resulted in verbal harassments and threats that made him feel unsafe going into the office.

What was once a place he enjoyed working in became a nightmare that went against everything he believed about treating others fairly and equally, regardless of their skin color. As much as he wanted to keep his head down and focus on his work, there was no escaping the racist work environment, unless he did something about it.

A barber in Colorado Springs

If you’re looking for a fresh cut in Colorado Springs, Etienne Hardre is the guy to depend on. He grew his barbershop and salon through his diligence, business savvy, and simple gratitude for the opportunity to build something of his own.

Like so many other small business owners, when the pandemic began, Etienne’s business struggled due to widespread government shutdowns. The State of Colorado announced that it would be giving grant money to businesses that needed help, but Etienne would not be eligible to apply because his skin was not the right color.

Etienne wasn’t looking for a fight. He just wanted to keep his business afloat and secure his employees’ jobs. But the more injustice he encountered, the more he knew he was going to have to stand up and do something about it.

A mom in Connecticut

Like every parent, Connecticut mom LaShawn Robinson wanted the best education for her son, who was being bullied in his public school. The answer to her son’s dilemma was a world-class magnet school in Hartford, which admitted students by lottery because of the high demand for admission.

LaShawn entered her son in the lottery each year, but he was denied each time. The reason was that arbitrary racial quotas implemented by the school kept her son out. The school already satisfied its quota for black students, and admitting LaShawn’s son would upset that quota. It was a discriminatory situation that Robinson could not even imagine, but which was the reality for her and her son.

LaShawn couldn’t just be a normal mom, but a mom that had to go battle.

The decision to fight

For each of these individuals, the fight came for them. Fortunately, they decided to fight back. And with Pacific Legal Foundation by their side, they wouldn’t have to go it alone.

The decision to fight back is not for everyone.

I spoke to several small business owners in a city where race was one of the factors that determined which businesses received COVID-19 relief funds. Many of these business owners were resigned to the discriminatory conditions, expressing a sense of futility in presenting any sort of challenge to them. They were used to these types of programs and losing out on much-needed funds because they did not fit the right racial categories.

Others felt that while the racial criteria were wrong, it was not a big deal for it to happen with a local grant program.

But the line must be drawn somewhere—because that line crosses you eventually, just as it did for the Seattle city employee, Colorado barber, and Connecticut mom. Or, as Luke Skywalker reminded Solo, “You know what’s about to happen.” So for those reluctant business owners, or anyone facing government discrimination, you have the chance to save the day.

Will you rise to the task?

In the end, shiny medals are given to all the heroes, even the reluctant ones. Ultimately, it isn’t about how you got to the fight or why, but what you fought for.

The shiny medal might not look like the one Han Solo received at the end of the story, but a much bigger payoff awaits in the fight against government discrimination. By protecting the right to be treated as an individual, regardless of skin color, one offers a new hope for preserving equal opportunity for all. Not bad, even for a scruffy-looking nerf herder.