Many people don’t truly understand the subtle yet substantial differences between equity and equality. These two terms are not just overused and underappreciated, but they’re often thrown around as if they share the same meaning. However, unless or until we recognize that we can’t have one without the other, our road to true social equality is going to be far longer and far more painful than it needs to be.
Just as the universe continues to expand, one we or another, we’ll reach equality. It’s inevitable. It’s in our makeup. We can either do it the hard way or the easy way.
There are countless analogies we could use to help differentiate the meaning of these two words.
If someone is choking, we perform the Heimlich maneuver. We don’t perform the Heimlich on everyone in the room.
When a child has been neglected and abused, we provide love, stability, and additional support. We don’t provide additional support for children.
When someone is ill, we don’t provide medical support to everyone. We provide additional medical support only to treat those who are ill.
When people lose their way; when they’re not living in alignment with their values, we provide clarity and guidance to help them find their voice, their purpose, a new direction. We don’t do the same for those who are thriving. They receive different nurturing, support, and guidance.
These examples help to clarify the meaning of the words equity and equality.
How does that help us as individuals and as a society?
It’s only after we help the person who’s choking; after we’ve provided additional support; after we’ve provided medical care to those who need it and redirect those who’ve strayed will be closer to true equality. The people who needed additional support now have a better chance and are better equipped to leverage the opportunities that present themselves.
We just can’t achieve true equality without first providing equity. We, societally, have to provide additional support to those who’ve been mistreated, neglected, marginalized, and abused.
…we must earn their trust.
It might take weeks or months or years to earn trust. Truthfully, it is likely to take generations. But during that trust-building/rebuilding process we cannot waiver in our support; not for an instance.
As with a child who has been repeatedly neglected and abused; whose hopes have been repeatedly dashed; whose sadness and tears have been replaced with anger and fear because her tears have dried, this will take time.
It will take compassion and patience and faith and love, beyond anything we’ve seen before. We’ve got to listen. We’ve got to sympathize. We’ve got to be patient, and forgiving. Like an animal that has been abused, we have to understand that when they bite us (and they will) our commitment cannot waver. We need to love them; love, the verb. We need to do those things that we do for the people we love most. But one lapse; just a single laps in love…in caring…one break in listening, a single instance of losing focus or patience can bring us right back to the starting line. It can move the starting line back even farther.
This IS the path.
This is on us.
Let’s earn trust.
Let’s give love.
Let’s cross the finish line together, arm in arm, looking back to ensure that no one is left behind.