Equal and Different

I may be one of the few people I know who loves the idea of equality and hates the idea of equity. I’m sure, with that one statement, I’ve pissed off at least 1/3rd of the people I know. If you’re pissed off, go away until you can come and read through what I have to say like a rational adult. I don’t look at things the same way as you, so if you expect that from me, you’re being irrational.

Now, the reason I dislike the idea of equity stems from the fact it requires an inherent inferiority. The most common picture used to demonstrate equality vs equity is the one with the fence. In the equality picture, three people of varying sizes are all standing behind a fence. The tallest can see over the fence while the other two cannot because they are too short. In the equity picture, three people of varying sizes are all standing behind a fence on boxes that put them at the same height as the tallest person (who needs no boxes). There is an inferiority of height being implied in the picture of equity – the person who is tallest needs no help. But the other two need boxes to see over the fence. They need help to get to the same height as the tallest, and there is an indication there that the tallest person holds the identity a person wants to reach. The two short people, in that way, become followers of the tallest, and, to become equitable with the tallest person, they have to become the same as the tallest person – at least in terms of height.

That’s where the inherent flaw of equity stems from – the assumption that because the tallest person can see over the fence, it is best to give the other two people the same opportunity by providing them with the resources to see over the fence by doing whatever is necessary to make the person the same as the tallest. Like, somehow, the person with the clearest view over the field has the best perspective and needs to be emulated.

This teaches people nothing except how to resent others. It teaches people to resent those naturally born with more resources. It teaches people born with more resources to resent those that have less than them. It becomes an unending chain of resentment, and I can’t abide that.

On equal footing – with everyone at different heights – the opportunity for different perspectives come into play. The fence is an obstacle to be overcome. The tall person has little to do to overcome the obstacle – they simply stand behind it and can see the world. The person of middle height has to be more creative in order to capture a view of the field for themselves. Perhaps they fetch boxes to make themselves taller. Perhaps they find a small crack in the fence that they can see through. If they find such a crack, then they have overcome the fence and have gained valuable insight – a perspective other than the one of the tallest person. The same goes for the shortest.

Obstacles aren’t put in our way to frustrate us; they are put in our way to help us grow and to help us develop new perspectives on life. The different lives we lead allows us to form perspectives and opinions different from the people around us. If we spend our entire lives trying to catch up to an abstract ideal, like equity, then we miss out on our own lives. Instead, we’ve spent our lives following others around.

Equality, unlike equity, is based on the premise that everyone has to face a similar set of circumstances to the people around them. The tall person may be able to see over the fence, so they have an advantage in that particular set of circumstances. In other set of circumstances – say, walking through a house with a low ceiling – they have the disadvantage, and the short person the advantage.

We all have different advantages and disadvantages that occur naturally because of the environments we were born into, the world that shaped us, the people around us, and the identities we hold. In an equal world, all perspectives would hold merit. Everyone’s voice would matter. Not one voice more or less than another.

Equity says that people who have been downtrodden and abused by society deserve to have a louder voice than those who haven’t been as deeply affected. I absolutely disagree. What everyone deserves is to have access to the same resources, the same benefits, the same social guarantees.

The problem we’re truly facing is the fact that our world isn’t equal. Everyone doesn’t have access to the same resources. People are discriminated against because of the identities they hold. In turn, those discriminated against discriminate against those with dominant identities. The vicious cycle repeats and continues and nothing gets done.

All the promise of equity does is build resentment in both directions, and I refuse, outright, to admit to my principles a concept that builds resentment towards others. At the end of the day, every person – no matter what their walk of life or the identities they hold – is a human being. As humans, we are all equal but we are not the same.

Equal and different. That’s the world I want to live in. Not equal and same.

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