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Equality or Equity

3 min read

Equality for a lot of white Americans means acknowledging that black people are human. The difficulty comes when applying equity because that paradigm strikes at the heart of privilege. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) made that abundantly clear with the questions he put to the Biden administration’s nominee for Attorney General, judge Merrick Garland. Implicit in Mr. Cotton’s inquiry was an old saw. Whenever the question of equity is introduced by the ruling class, dare I say it, the wild race card is played. The questions from Cotton were meant to suggest that ensuring that people of color, disabilities, genders, religions, etc. being allowed to compete on the same playing field, is not just, but reverse discrimination. National Review writer Andrew McCarthy concluded, using reliable sources such as the “nice progressives at Google,” that ‘Equality’ is a social condition and ‘Equity’ is social engineering, without giving much thought to the error of using a definition to classify bigotry as opposed to pragmatic truth.

Black and brown people do not need permission to be equal but we do need oversight to corral those who would deny people of color the right to practice its inherent equity. Along with Cotton was his Republican colleague Senator John Kennedy(R-La.) whose feigned homespun ignorance to the meaning of racism was particularly offensive, when he asked, “Does that mean I am a racist no matter what I do or what I think?” That type of mocking buffoonery is now part and parcel of the GOP ostrich posturing. My question for Mr. Kennedy would be, why bristle at the specter of racial animus that you believe does not exist?

White America’s real trouble with words like equity and affirmative is that they require action.  The use of equality is a nebulous term that allows its’ users to cover themselves in self-praise. I point you to the popular phrase, ‘having a seat at the table.’ The action comes when people of color are served the same meal and are not just there to watch others eat. “I don’t see color” is a hollow and insulting denial of the presence of people of color. Moreover, it is a silly self-aggrandizing statement used as a self-congratulatory platitude demonstrating one’s moral superiority over the “less informed.” In reality, it is another way of passively making the ‘other’ invisible.

Throughout my life, I have been repeatedly called out with the use of racial epithets, during verbal fights, disagreements with supervisors, during traffic mishaps, and yes by the police. In those cases, the fallback argument was to dehumanize me.  When I was 12 years old, following the mayhem after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., there finally came a day of calm. I was enthralled by the uniformed National Guard soldiers armed with M-14 rifles stationed on every corner in my neighborhood. I had even thought about how the day would come when I would be drafted and could wear one of those uniforms, with stripes on the sleeve and my name on the pocket. I wanted to thank the red-headed, fresh-faced helmeted soldier who protected my neighborhood, I was naïve. I was a skinny kid alone, and armed only with the PF Flyers I wore—that made me run faster. As I approached the soldier he pointed his rifle at me, yelled, and shooed me away; at that moment I knew I was just another one of the others.

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