67

Many Federation citizens, particularly those in Starfleet, seem to be openly hostile to the Ferengi and appear to have strong prejudices against them.

For example, when two Ferengi narrowly escape a doomed shuttle, Riker tells Worf to give them quarters "not too close to mine." He hadn't even met them, or spoken to them, but was still keen to keep them away from where he lived.

Others seem to automatically assume Ferengi will be trouble, too. Is this not prejudice in the literal sense? Is it not bias against their entire race?

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    Their entire race if known for wanting money, money, money. WHy wouldn't you be slighlty suspicious? – Mithical Jan 19 '17 at 21:23
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    Is it discrimination if it's justified by experience? – Petersaber Jan 19 '17 at 22:10
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    Yes, @Petersaber. You are still discriminating against somebody based on experiences with other people, and you are prejudging a specific individual against the assumptions and stereotypes of his species and culture. That doesn't mean one has to give them an unlimited replicator account to prove you're not a racist. It just means you have to give them the benefit of the doubt, be cautious, be open to defying stereotype, and not send them to the other side of the ship just because of their species. – Zoey Boles Jan 19 '17 at 22:20
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    @Petersaber: your English is better than mine, and I grew up here. And it doesn't help that this is a hard topic. "Prejudice" specifically means "judging somebody before you know them," so TECHNICALLY, even if every Ferengi you met stole your wallet, assuming that the next one will is, indeed, prejudice. Moving a Ferengi to another deck just to be "far away from them" is discrimination. In a science-fictional world full of planets of hats, it's probably justifiable to be prejudiced, but it doesn't change the reality of prejudice. It's silly complex. – Zoey Boles Jan 19 '17 at 22:47
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    @Petersaber, I want to be clear that I'm not attacking your question, it's just very complex and hard to word correctly. What I'm trying to say is that you are justified in changing your behavior around Ferengi based on experience, but you shouldn't be cruel, mean, or obvious about it. Don't leave your wallet on the table unless that Ferengi has earned your trust; but don't make a loud point about how nobody should leave wallets on tables around people like hiiiiiiim, if that makes a bit more sense. – Zoey Boles Jan 19 '17 at 22:53
91

Yes, it is, and it's a bit more proof that the Federation can be hypocritical.

The Federation claims to be open, free, and all accepting, and as proof they do seem to be all these things. But some times, some people can be outright hostile, bigoted, and prejudiced.

The example you provide is, like you said, THE definition of prejudice; "An adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts." Two Ferengi appear, and Riker wants them "not too close." Not because they are at war with the Ferengi, they are not. Not because they have a Cold-War type relationship, because they don't. Not because Riker considers them a security threat, because at that time they are not.

He wants them far away because they are Ferengi and they like money. Trying to "justify" this as "OK" because "All Ferengi are Greedy" or "They love money" is pretty disgusting; not every Ferengi is greedy (some are positively philantropic, at least measured against other ferengi). We learn in DS9 that much of what Ferengis believe are due to their cultural upbringing; they are doing right by their own book. If they are not actively harming you and being greedy... is that actually a basis to want them "far away?" I would state: no. It's prejudice.

Riker talks about the Ferengi as if they were "children" in their first encounter in Season One's The Last Outpost. Riker's low opinion of Ferengi fairly reeks of prejudice. So, yes, he's being prejudiced and probably technically racist ("You're bad because you're Ferengi.")

Part of the problem here is that Star Trek was a "Planet of Hats" show until DS9. In TNG and TOS, Romulans were Sneaky, Klingons were Angry, and Ferengi were Greedy. Each species was defined as a narrow caricature and always used as such. In a real universe of "Planets of Hats," it's believable that you COULD pre-judge somebody based on their species. But Star Trek VI, DS9, and Voyager opened up a much more diverse universe. Klingons could be diplomats. Ferengi could be magnanimous. Humans could be rebels fighting against the "Free Federation." Considering that Star Trek VI takes place before TNG in the timeline, I would classify Riker as racist.

Is prejudice bad? Ahh, now that's a different question, and one I'm not qualified to talk about. Human brains are wet meat filters of data, and we do a bad job at it (just barely good enough to stay alive). I'd submit that you shouldn't leave your wallet on the table next to a Ferengi you've never met. But not because he's a Ferengi... because your experience with their culture lets you know that they'll take your wallet and feel good about it. You might even make the case that making a show of hiding your wallet is RESPECT for Ferengi culture, showing that you are not naive and you recognize the value his society has in money... but that's a tarpit I'm not going to walk into on the Internet.

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    Has Riker had a positive interaction with the Ferengi by that point or only negative ones? If he's only had negative interactions it's not prejudice, he's judging by experience. – Separatrix Jan 20 '17 at 8:07
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    @Separatrix if you are robbed by a black man it is not OK to treat all black men as thieves. Experience does not cancel out prejudice. – Stop Harming Monica Jan 20 '17 at 9:34
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    @OrangeDog, It's not about being robbed by one black man, it's about being robbed by every Ferengi. There were later positive interactions, but had they had one by that point. – Separatrix Jan 20 '17 at 9:37
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    "You might even make the case that making a show of hiding your wallet is RESPECT for Ferengi culture, showing that you are not naive and you recognize the value his society has in money" This is great. – deworde Jan 20 '17 at 10:40
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    @OrangeDog: "if you are robbed by a black man it is not OK to treat all black men as thieves. Experience does not cancel out prejudice" That is absolutely right. However, you are also correct in that the bigger question is "is prejudice bad?" If you went to a country that literally went out of its way to openly declare that their culture was all about robbing people, would you be prejudiced to assume that one of their citizens wanted to rob you? Yes. Would that be a justified statistical inference? Also yes! Would you be justified in paying closer attention to your wallet? Absolutely. – Lightness Races with Monica Jan 20 '17 at 12:56
33

Yes. The Ferengi are frequently discriminated against.

Example

Dr. Reyga was a young Ferengi Scientist. A fair bit of the plot of the TNG Episode "Suspicions" deals with the trouble he's had being taken seriously. He refers to the scientific community beyond just the Federation. The delegation brought to see his discovery include a Klingon, and a Takaran (not likely a Federation member). None of which view him with an open mind. Reyga himself mentions his people's reputation. It's not his age, but specifically his species.

"This is an opportunity I would never have had without you, and I promise you, I'll never forget it." "Some of the scientists still seem a little doubtful, but after the demonstration I'm sure they'll come around." "Well, if there's anything I'm used to, it's skepticism. After all, a Ferengi scientist is almost a contradiction in terms. No, don't deny it. I know how the Ferengi are regarded." -- Reyga and Beverly Crusher

This reputation isn't just confined to the Federation. Here's an exchange between Kira (Bajoran) and Jadzia (Federation-Trill). Note that Jadzia, even as a Federation Scientist, doesn't argue with Kira's negative beliefs, just says they can still be fun.

"They're greedy, misogynistic, untrustworthy little trolls, and I wouldn't turn my back on one of them for a second." "Neither would I. But once you accept that, you'll find they can be a lot of fun." – Kira Nerys and Jadzia Dax, 2370 ("Rules of Acquisition")

Analysis

The Ferengi have an ideology diametrically opposed to the Federation, and Humanity in particular,

The Federation has abolished currency and want. The Ferengi have built their entire culture around money and profit.

Greed is eternal. -- Rule of Aquisition #10

The Ferengi also consider women to effectively be property. Marriage is a temporary contract between the Husband and the woman's Father. This is very much opposed to the Federations declared abhorrence of slavery or inequality.

Finally, the Ferengi and Federation have experienced open conflict for a fair period of their relationship. TNG shows the first recorded visual contact with Ferengi by the federation which, although it ended peaceably, included ship-combat. By the end of DS9 they have only been known for 12 years (first visual contact 2364, end of DS9 2376). Picard destroyed a Ferengi vessel while captain of the Stargazer, and several times throughout the series is attacked by Ferengi.

Riker has fair reason to distrust the Ferengi, as all of his experience has been negative up until the point of your example in the 5th season. Their initial meeting is combative, after the Ferengi stole Federation property. Daimon Bok is an antagonist in a first season episode, and again in the 7th. Picard is taken prisoner by another Ferengi in season 3 while on vacation. Even after your example, his suspicions are proven correct when the Ferengi attempt to buy a woman on the ship, and end up injuring an Ambassador.

This is clearly prejudiced on Riker's park. Even if his experience is entirely negative, he is judging these Ferengi on their race alone. Other characters present similar distaste of the Ferengi.

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    I would also point out that poor Dr. Reyga was murdered for his tech, which actually DID work, and the whole plan was based on the assumption that the murderer, <spoilers>, could spruce up the plans a bit, wait a while, and then come out with his brilliant invention, and everyone would just accept that he was just inspired by Reyga because Reyga was only a silly Ferengi, not that the functioning tech was stolen, even though that would be easily proved by anyone checking the replicator records for the original device. – Zoey Boles Jan 19 '17 at 23:00
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    The Tellarites also had a very poor attitude towards women, but it didn't seem to result in the same kind of prejudice. Okay, different times, but you would think that Federation citizens would see that changing attitudes like that was best done through friendship and cooperation rather than hostility and racism. – user Jan 20 '17 at 9:16
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    Hmm, hadn't considered the Tellarites, never watched much ENT. It's understandable during the founding of the Federation though, enforcing ones ideals on ally's would be different, and they desperately needed allies at the time right? It seems that during the later era (TNG) either humans have dominated the Federation, or their ideals have become dominant in the Federation culture. – ench Jan 20 '17 at 16:43
  • This is a great answer, except for "women" part. That assumption is 100% wholly contradicted by the fact that Federation is absolutely peachy-fine with sexism, exemplified by treatment of men as close to property and slaves (and most certainly discriminated against) by Betazoid culture. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 21 '17 at 0:36
  • That's why I included the "declared" part. The shows are generally very pro-equality, but there are still plenty of problems when you look. – ench Jan 21 '17 at 0:38
7

That particular episode in TNG, I think it was more of the writers for that episode trying to impose some sense of distrust, considering that the Ferengi as a whole were more of a rogue civilization. I remember a documentary saying that TNG writers were trying to have the Ferengi replace the Klingons. But later in TNG, and once DS9 came around, they create a new perspective. There's even a TNG episode where Riker makes a call to Deep Space 9 to turn in an IOU on gambling winnings for a favor.

I think DS9 did a better representing the Ferengi. Here they are cunning traders. They're even called upon to do some trade negotiations. There was an episode on DS9 where Quark discovered treachery in the Klingon Empire and the Chancelor accused a Klingon of using "Money to bring down a great house". Another episode Quark was stuck with a gamma quadrant ambassador/weapons dealer in the Defiant mess hall due to a dominion attack, dismantling a dud warhead that pierced the bulkhead.

Sure, other species are wary, because their own laws dictate that greed is good. But otherwise, they're considered to be another, yet quirky member of the Alpha/Beta Quadrants, and even useful allies.

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    "the Ferengi as a whole were more of a rogue civilization" Well that's pretty offensive. Rogue civilisation? Just because they're culturally different from your own? What have they gone rogue from? Federation ideals to which they never subscribed in the first place? – Lightness Races with Monica Jan 20 '17 at 12:59
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    It wasn't meant to offend, it was more to be according to the definition of a rogue nation or rogue state, "One that does not respect other states in its international actions." That is what they did. They traded with anyone, even when it was in someone else's territory, and they didn't like it. But that was their core values and belief. Free market is religion to the Ferengi. It wasn't just the Federation as well. Klingon Empire, Romulan Empire, the Ferengi didn't care. – as.beaulieu Jan 20 '17 at 16:13
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit - I'm offended that you're offended. – Omegacron Jan 20 '17 at 16:33
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit - well, shucks. Now I'm offended that you're not offended at my offense. – Omegacron Jan 20 '17 at 19:56
2

Yes and no.

The Federation's culture and values are diametrically opposed to those of the Ferengi culture. The Federation has made an effort to abolish need and want, and reject profit as a value, and they've actually been largely successful. The Ferengi culture regards greed and profit as the highest virtues.

Given that Ferengi culture appears to be monolithic, Federation members make a reasonable assumption that any Ferengi they encounter subscribes to this culture, and treat them accordingly.

On the rare occasion that a Ferengi disavows this culture, such as Nog, they are treated just like any member of the Federation. Their race is a non-issue.

As more such Ferengi are encountered, the way in which Ferengi are treated when initially encountered will surely change to recognize this.

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    It is somewhat noteworthy how Klingons are not shown to be treated like that (instead, it seemed to be somewhat "hip" to know about Klingon culture on some occasions during the 24th century), implying that "greed and profit" are a lot worse than willingness to exert physical violence towards other people. – O. R. Mapper Jan 20 '17 at 23:57
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    @O.R.Mapper The federation has been at peace with the Klingons for decades. Previously, in TOS, Klingons were not characterized so positively. Ferengi are new. Additionally, Klingon culture is about "honor", not violence. The Federation can understand honor. – DCShannon Jan 21 '17 at 0:13
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    Also note that the Federation don't treat native Klingons like the average Federation member. Riker is a lot more aggressive towards Klingons because he's embracing and tolerating their culture, rather than pretending it's the same. The issue with the Ferengi culture is that it appears so diametrically opposed to Federation values that Riker simply can't interact with it. This may be different for other Starfleet officers (e.g. Jadzia) – deworde Jan 27 '17 at 10:52
  • @deworde I agree completely with all those statements. If a Ferengi states that his highest virtue is greed, then it's not discriminatory to treat him like he's greedy. – DCShannon Jan 30 '17 at 23:41
-1

A better question is it discrimination to act as if someone represents a positive role model in their culture, until you have reason to suspect otherwise?

As others have said, there is a basic cultral conflict between them and the Federation. We haven't seen someone that knows them treating unknown Ferengi, as if they don't follow the RoA.

Of course, the answer is yes, positive discrimination is a thing. And the Ferengi probably encounter plenty of it. They would probably be gratified, if it didn't interfere with making a profit (rule of acquisition 77).

-3

I think the core premise of your question is flawed.

Is it really "racial discrimination" if you have a good respect of individuals of a species you only know from school?

As you said, Riker never saw them before so he couldn't have built his own perception of them really, except based on what he knows from books/data-terminals. As we all know books written as objective as they can be, they are still subjective since it was the author who decided which are the objective facts and which are not.

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    Yes, it's discrimination if you automatically make negative assumptions about people based on their race, even if those assumptions are based on your personal experience or what you have read/heard about them. – user Jan 20 '17 at 9:59
  • @ゼーロ i say your wrong it's not discrimination- it would be if Riker would have said to not let them on the Ship or to to put him in the Arrest Cell but what Riker said was to put him not to close to him i think he acted extremely intelligent- guess what could happen if you put two People who really don't like each other really close together - they would alway or at least more than the otherway get confronted with each other so the escalation of conflicts is programmed - if you can avoid conflicts its always a good thing to do so – konqui Jan 21 '17 at 16:57
  • that's the standard argument used by those pushing for racial segregation. – user Jan 21 '17 at 21:30

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