Many people entered this year with hesitation, fear and anxiety about how things would change due to the new administration. How would we as individuals be treated? Would there be discriminatory practices and regulations due to the beliefs of those in the new leadership? Several have spoken out, and many have protested. As we fight for what we believe in, are we really getting the message we want delivered across?
Current generations have grown up with/after the civil rights movement with the goal to end racial segregation and obtain civil rights for black Americans. We have also experienced the feminist movement – the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of equality of the sexes. These are only two areas of possible discrimination. We have many differences besides race and gender – there is also age, sexual orientation, religious affiliation. And even if we are the same race, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, we are still different.
Equality – what most say they are fighting for – is the state of being equal or being the same. But we are not the same. I don’t believe we want to be the same. As a woman, I don’t want to be the same as a man. We do want the same rights and opportunities as others. We want to be treated fairly and impartially, regardless of what we look like, where we came from, and what we believe in and practice. Being treated fairly and impartially is the definition of equity.
I recently read a book called Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (www.jodipicoult.com). This novel brilliantly tackles the still-present concerns around prejudice, race and justice. In the book, the author (through her characters) explains that equality is treating everyone the same. It is equal to give the same printed test to two students, but if one is blind, that doesn’t work! Equity, on the other hand, is taking differences into account so everyone has a chance to succeed – giving the students the same test but in different forms. While the book presents just one area of prejudice, it provides a beautiful example of learning to accept each other and appreciate our differences. The differences are what makes us individual and makes us each beautiful!
Words are really the meaning we give them. So whether you choose to use the word equality or equity or even something else in your fight for fairness, just be sure those you are communicating with understand what you are actually striving for as understanding is often important for acceptance.