Something about equality and equity
Lately it seems I wake each day with heart racing, jolted upright by the noise going on in my head.
Crazy, uncontrollable urges to jump out of bed and run headlong into the day at full speed with no logical reasoning of why, how or what I should be doing. It͛s almost indescribable the range of emotions I travel through before I realise that I am awake and no one is chasing, following, pointing or catching me to attack or trap me.
The fear and anxiety slowly leave as I pause, breathe and instinctively turn to my inner strength, truth, and Saviour.
In the daylight, the truth is seen, I am relieved to be awake and able to think and feel rational again.
The subconscious world of dreams and sleep, can relate and reform ideas, talk, frustrations and doubts into a reality that seems so powerful and real. I have been drawn to re-evaluating my beliefs and life-long morality, authenticity, and integrity. World, local and family events have highlighted areas of myself that I had thought were truly embedded in truth of who I was, who I had become, and the basis of who I am today.
Hey guess what? I͛ve been pretending to understand truth, and what that means as a follower of Jesus.
I have patted myself on the back so often, secretly puffing up with self-pride when being thanked for being such a wonderful, patient, calm, strong, caring and wise person! If only.
I͛ve sat back and listened to conversations, watched informative and controversial TV debates, documentaries and interviews, nodding my head with agreement, or grinding my teeth at the absurd, arrogant, inaccurate and blindingly offensive and discriminately behaviour and talk that is seen each day. Social media, internet articles, all forms of communications add to the noise in my head.
I suppose I could just stop listening, watching, and sign off on all forms of social media. It would certainly ease the noise, calm my emotions, and perhaps I would sleep more peacefully.
Then again, perhaps I should continue to seek the truth, and face that challenge.
It’s amazing how we are easily caught up in a mode of communication that is accepted on face value.
Perhaps it’s time to step back, pause and truly study words.
My fall-back position always points me to this truth of this scripture.
The word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It cuts all the way through, to where soul and spirit meet, to where joints and marrow come together. It judges the desires and thoughts of the heart.
A fundamental lesson last month was to distinguish between Equity and Equality. There has been so much spoken about minority groups, peoples, gender, faith, human rights and cultures. I thought I knew the difference. I didn’t.
I thought that equity and equality could sometimes be used interchangeably. This led to confusion because while these concepts are related, there are important distinctions between them as well. I’m beginning to see the difference; I can understand why things happen that shouldn͛t.
Equity, involves trying to understand and give people what they need to enjoy full, healthy lives.
Equality, in contrast, aims to ensure that everyone gets the same things to enjoy full, healthy lives.
Like equity, equality aims to promote fairness and justice, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same things.
I needed to understand this more fully to be able to relate. So, I thought about this scenario, to which many of you reading will be able to relate.
Let͛s think for a moment about runners sprinting around a track during a competition. The concept of equality would have us treat the runners in the same way, ensuring that they all start at the same place on the track. On the surface, this seems fair.
But we know that runners in the inside lanes have a distinct advantage over runners in the outer lanes because the distance they must travel is shorter. As a result, equality – starting at the same place – doesn’t result in fairness.
The concept of equity, in contrast, staggers the starting positions of the runners to offset the disadvantages facing those in the outer lanes. In this case, different or appropriate treatment is a surer path to fairness and justice than the same treatment.
So, I began to really think about all the areas and conversations that I had experienced and seen. Being a long-time advocate for gender, education, health, faith and social equality, I needed to nail what “fairness” and “success” really means knowing that everyone is so different, and that situations and issues are so varied. It͛s a complex exercise because there are so many variables. The most unfathomable being money, materialism, and culture and the discrimination attached to each.
I am a strong believer in both equity and equality, but I also need to recognise that both need two strategies to produce fairness. Not everyone starts at the same place, and not everyone has the same needs. All I do know is that God loves each and every person in the same measure, but he also makes sure that each of our weaknesses, needs and potential are individual, opening doors that are unique to me, you, and each of his children.
It͛s much easier to just say we are all equal and therefore deserve to be treated and have the same opportunities, equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful. Equality is treating everyone the same.
Since everyone is different and we embrace these differences as unique, we must also redefine our basic expectations for fairness and success as contingent upon those individual differences.
I began my career as a teacher. Classrooms are for learning, developing and achieving potential. They are also places with a mixture of different learners. Students enter the classroom with different learning styles (such as being visual, auditory or tactile learners). All different, but all the same, they want to learn.
Visual and auditory learners will process information differently and need to be given the opportunity to learn in their own way. If I taught the children all the time by talking, then the auditory learners would have the advantage.
All students and peoples need to have differing processes to learn and develop. We all need to respect basic expectations for fairness and success.
In our world of multiculturalism, this means that some people will need a language translator when speaking to a government agency and others will not. And it wouldn’t be fair to just provide one specific language translator just because it is the language most people speak. This would marginalise those who didn’t speak that language. This would not be equity in action.
When I don’t recognise differences, I work within privilege. I can succeed most days, just by being able to do the normal ‘take it for granted’ daily tasks. Usually, I am just unaware of my own privilege, because the system generally works in my favour. But I have challenged myself to feel the other side of privilege.
Again, I think of an everyday occurrence. For my biker husband, the roads are dangerous. Not intentionally. Most car drivers aren’t trying to be jerks. It’s just that the traffic rules and road system simply weren’t made to work for both cars and bikes to peacefully coexist. Cars and bikes are different. And the truth is that “the whole transportation infrastructure privileges the car.”
So, the systems of life are flawed when they don’t meet everyone’s needs.
Can we change the whole system? Rarely. What we can do is advocate for equitable practices to promote fairness. This requires extra work, and for me, in my world, it means I need to stop and be aware.
Education and teaching needs to allow different student’s needs and learning styles to be accommodated. Using all styles and methods to access knowledge will ultimately allow everyone to succeed. I need to practice equity to be truly fair. I can no longer rely on blanket practices just because they appear fair. My actions must elicit justice.
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognise, accept, and celebrate those differences.” Audre Lorde stated.
How true that statement is. I challenge myself daily with these words. I reflect on my thoughts, words and actions and always come back to God’s word:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
The truth is that God designed and created both Man and Woman in his own image equally, yet he designed us to fulfil different roles. Just as equity gives access to what is needed, equality gives all the same rights, resources and opportunities.
The truth? I need to sort out all my head noise and decide what is equitable and what is equality.
No matter what World leaders may say or foundations on which governments may base their policies, no matter how Faith leaders might interpret their messages, the only truth is what God says.
Psalm 139 is my reality Psalm. Each verse strengthens my faith, hope and purpose. I urge you to read the whole Psalm, but for me Verses 13-16 say a whole lot.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
I will be seen; I will not hide. I will embrace equality and equity, I will find peace.
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