|Equity is not Equality|
When we talk about "equity," we don’t really mean equality, which would deliver the same result to everyone, and would necessitate a totally different social, economic and cultural system. Barry Hessenius, an author and former executive director of the California Arts Council, puts it this way:
Very likely there will never be absolute equity. As individuals, as a sector, as a society we all need to live with that reality. And equity doesn't necessarily mean absolute equality. Rather it means policy and practice that is fair and just. That doesn't mean that progress doesn't need to be made where it can so that we get to a point where we are closer to equity. And I think more people understand that we remain too far away at this point in time. We have to do better than we have.Herein lies the central dilemma that is raging around our society's discussion of equity. Without a clear definition of what “fair and just” means, we cannot possibly hope to reach a resolution that satisfies all of us, let alone some of us.
Issues of language and its meaning have been critical to addressing the major topics of our society throughout our nation's history. Efforts to control debate through language have been very effective at times, and at least in the public arena it is now common to both the left and the right. We also know that if we do not put forward our own definitions and language, then others will put forward definitions and language for us. For anyone pledged to the cause of equity, it would be advantageous to try to control the conversation. In this regard, just as we strive for greater equity, we need to also ask what does "inequity" mean? Those who already have resources and/or power (that is, "privilege") are usually loathe to see their allocations of these things diminished and one can assume, therefore, that those with privilege are not going to “solve” this dilemma and may not be interested in the discussion. So it falls to those seeking fair equity to propose a new way to allocate resources, with all the pros and cons on the table, for there to be a basis of discussion.
Put another way, those who call for redressing inequity -- and here I'll expand this discussion to include diversity and inclusion, which suffer from the same definitional complexities -- must propose ways to achieve the equity they seek. Standing at the Lincoln Memorial facing a sea of people, Martin Luther King, Jr., famously described his own dream of equity. Dr. King also understood that he who commits to the idea of building a bridge must also offer the path to its construction. Should we fail to follow Dr. King's example, we are left as people standing on opposite sides of a river shouting at each other, with no real means to cross the river or to meet in the middle.
Read the entire fully developed post in Culture & Kibbitz at The Clyde Fitch Report here.