Equality Just Ain’t Good Enough To Address Racial Inequity
Equality will never be enough to survive in a White Supremacist society. White people have been the dominant society for so long and have amassed so much unearned/stolen wealth and privilege it will take concerted efforts to make things right. Equality must begin and end with equity because equality alone will never level the playing field or make things equal for Black people. Understanding the differences between equity and equality and demanding at the right times is extremely important for self-advocacy.
For White people and other People of Color countering racism/White Supremacy and anti-Blackness, understanding why calls for equality isn’t enough and never will be is extremely important. Equality alone will never close any of the gaps White Supremacy and intentional neglect created.
What Is Equality?
Many people scream equality where human rights are concerned and they have no clue about what it means. Not knowing or understanding what it means equates to us being disappointed about what can be achieved with it. According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, “Equality is about ensuring that every individual has an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents.” Equality in this respect has to do with opportunities.
According to Britannica Encyclopedia, equality is “the ideal of uniformity in treatment or status by those in a position to affect either.” In this respect, this equality is about people in power ensuring all people in their care are treated equally and they have equal statuses.
For Black people living in America, equality does not exist nor has it ever existed for us. The Constitution was initially written to ensure Black people weren’t treated equally. Slave Codes and Fugitive Slave Acts (learn about it here, here, here, here, here, and how they are tied to State’s Rights here) were created to ensure there was no equity among Black and Whites and to assert Blacks did not have the same (equal) human rights as Whites.
What Is Equity?
Equity has several meanings. Not all of those meanings are applicable to human rights and justice. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on equity surrounding rights and claims specifically for Black people. The Merriam-Webster definition of equity is “A right, claim, or interest existing or valid in equity,” and “the money value of a property or of an interest in a property in excess of claims or liens against it.” Black people have made claims against America due to the historic devaluation of our property communities, and our lives, the labor, and wages that have been stolen from us for centuries. To make up for all the inequality in America, equity is required. Equity must be addressed in order to move forward. Without this, we’re not moving anywhere.
Asking for equality without asking for equity is insanity. Likewise. Responding to calls for equality without ever having any plans to address inequity is also insanity.
It says to Black I’ll treat you right without making right what was done to us in the past. Asking Black people to move on is disregarding our equity claims, and I’m simply not about that life people. Every day our claims go unaddressed, the tab goes up White people.
When Should The Terms Be Used?
It’s not complicated at all. It gets complicated when White folks get involved because they love talking us up a tree when it comes to our rights and our claims against them and America.
Equality: We want to be treated fairly, equally — like White people are treated, in all things. We want the exact same rights the Constitution affords White people. We want the law applied equally and we want the law to be followed, and when the violations occur, we want justice, swiftly. We desire to be hired free from racial and economic discrimination.
Equity: We (I’m referencing Black people specifically) want justice. We want what we are owed (reparations), and we want the value of what we’re owed assessed fairly. We want all rights and claims addressed. We want our property to be valued equitably to Whites, and we want America to value us the way they value its White and buffer classes. There is a debt owed, and not paying it is not right or acceptable.
Treating Black folks equally and repaying us for the wrongs and injustices caused by White Supremacy/racism (equity) are two different things. Equality doesn’t address the latter which is why I’ve done away with using the term altogether. White people in my opinion are incapable of treating us equally, so I’ve moved on from expecting them to do so. My focus now is on equity for Black people. We want justice according to natural law or right. I desire the monetary value for all we’ve been cheated out of due to discrimination. I am only interested in our rights, claims, and/or past and present existing interests. Waiting on White people to learn about perfect equality as the dominant society prevents equity from being achieved.
To me, it’s much simpler to have reparations and build our own communities, police and govern ourselves, and make the communities we desire to have.
Why Understanding The Meanings of Both Terms Matters?
It’s important for anyone engaging in antiracism to understand the difference between equity and equality because the road to each will lead to different results. You cannot expect reparations from fighting for equality, but you can get justice, equality, and reparations in the fight for equity. White Supremacy/Racism has a wonderful command of words. Words are the law for all White people and White Supremacy/racism in general. Understanding what they mean to us and what they mean to those in power is essential to accomplishing the business of restorative justice.
Failing to ask for the right things using the right words means we delay justice. Knowing when to ask for equality and when to seek equity is essential.
Who Gets To Decide What Black People Need In Matters of White Supremacy?
Typically, White people have driven the discussions about what we need, what we want, and how we go about getting it, even when we Black folks believe we’ve arrived at the remedy on our own. In the past when we’ve attempted to vote our interests or make claims against the government, White people have quickly redirected those interests or efforts by telling us how remedying those items will harm them, how much they will have to pay, or how they will be left behind if there is a concerted focus on Black people. Because Black people come from indigenous, communal people, we take their concerns into consideration before our own, screwing ourselves over and over again instead of putting ourselves and our interests first the way White folks do.
As long as White people have the privilege of choosing what Black people pursue, how they pursue it, and dictate what’s in our best interests collectively, we’ll never get anywhere. It is imperative for Black people to understand the importance of the differences between equity and equality. We must advocate our collective interests because if we don’t, no one else will. Asking to be treated equally without making right what was done the entire time we weren’t treated equally is how wealth gaps and achievement gaps grow wider. We must get hip to the word games of White Supremacy.
Why It All Matters For Black People?
There are times when we need to call for equality and then there are times we need to demand equity. For instance, we want to be treated equally under the law. This means Black folks don’t want different sets of laws for Blacks and laws for Whites, nor do we want the laws of the land to be applied to White folks different (if at all) than it is to Black people. When it comes to equity, we want America to do whatever it is supposed to do in a restorative justice process in order to atone for all they cheated out of, no matter what White people think or how much it will costs. Why should we bear the brunt of the burden of their theft?
For example, two homes were built the same style homes were built, one in a middle-class Black suburb/community, the other in a White suburb/community. Same crime rates, same income levels, same school ratings, and all the other things White people use to determine if an area is “good” to them. The Black home is instantly devalued because it’s in an all-Black neighborhood while the White home in the all-White neighborhood is valued higher because it’s possessed by pilgrim-pirates (ancestors of pilgrims and pirates).
The devaluing of Black home built the same year, kept up in the same manner, appreciates less, the taxes are less which means the community is able to generate less revenue for roads, schools, parks, etc. White retail corporations don’t want to build what the Black community needs so Black families are forced to go over to the White communities to shop. They have everything they need within 2.3 miles of their pilgrim-pirate communities.
Because the homes and communities were treated unequally, to begin with, it’s impossible to use equality alone to repair the damage done by White Supremacy/racial discrimination. The remedy would need to be a combination of equity and equality. Finally putting in writing both communities must be valued equally. Equality can be used by ensuring homebuilders and tax assessors/counties are assessing value for the same homes and communities the same way, using the same methods, regardless of the racial makeup of those communities.
Equity comes in where they use the wealth accrued from the White communities to make whole the Black communities they’ve undervalued, provide resources to Black schools they cheated from revenue, etc. The White folks will bitch (because that’s what they always do when someone is getting something and they don’t, even when they don’t need it) and cry it’s not fair, but city officials and home builders don’t budge because they know the actions that led to the inequity and inequality to start with were rooted in racism/White Supremacy. Equity is eventually achieved, equality is written into code, and the Black community can finally begin to see improvements in their quality of life in the short and long term.
Equality cannot repair intentional inequity. Only intentional equity efforts can restore inequity. Understanding when it’s time to use equality and when it’s time to use equity is a must for Black people in America. If you ask for equality, they’ll happily give it to you knowing full well it never levels the playing field.
Remember, this is always the goal of White Supremacy.
Only equity can restore some of the harm done by the enslavement of our ancestors. Equality just won’t do. Also, in my opinion, it’s not appropriate for groups seeking equality (i.e. LBGTQ groups, White feminists, etc.) to co-opt or join movements where Black folks need or are seeking equity and restorative justice.
White people will always have rights and privileges we Black folks don’t have for simply being White. Take everything else off the table. If they have an issue with their nation’s laws and rules, they need to pursue those issues with the appropriate movements and not dilute Black folks’ efforts of attaining equity.
It’s Time For White Folks To Change Their Tunes
I have intentionally avoided discussing equality with White folks because they tend to use the term generally and interchangeably (and at times mischievously) either because they have no stomach for equity or do not desire restorative justice which enables equity and a level playing field moving forward. I am not even sure if White people understand the differences between equality and equity themselves. In any event, it doesn’t matter what they understand. For Black people, what’s important is ensuring we’re demanding what we’re owed.
White folks countering racism/White Supremacy must not only seek equality, but they must also do justice by achieving equity. There will forever be an achievement gap, wealth gap, land ownership gap homeownership gap, and life expectancy as long as both equality and equity aren’t addressed, preferably at the same time.
Claiming we’re equal then creating and upholding the conditions and institutions that maintain inequality and inequity is just bullshit. Achieving equality and equity require actions, actions most White people are willing to admit they aren’t interested in engaging in because it likely means they’ll lose something.
This leads me to the question of whether or not we can really ever achieve equality and equity. White people should seriously ask themselves, their friends, family members, coworkers, and significant others if they are seriously willing to do the right thing where equality and equity are concerned. Do it in your own spaces so you can get an honest response. After you inquire about equity and equality for Blacks, ask yourself and your people what their plans are to achieve it?
No plans? No problem. We’re culling our herds of faux-allies and hot-air ballons who are all talk, no action. Black people don’t have any more time to waste on White optimism, White hope, and White wishes. Either you’re working or you’re not. Either you’re countering racism or you’re not. Either you’re working to be racist or you’re working to not be racist.
As for Black people, we need to ask ourselves whether it’s still in our best interests to fight for equality alongside the dominant society and the buffer classes. We’ve been fighting for a long time and we haven’t achieved much. Equity has never been achieved. No gaps have been closed or decreased with the help of White support, so why are we continuing to beg to be treated equally. It’s clear White people aren’t concerned enough, they aren’t doing enough, and they aren’t interested in relinquishing that power. It’s not enough for one or two White people to tout what they are doing individually anymore.
White people individually need to come to terms with White people as a collective they simply aren’t interested in changing to become better people. Their life’s mission apparently is to oppress, dominate, subjugate, exterminate, and never apologize for it.
If enough White people can’t change to see the benefits of equality and to pay us what they owe us to make things more equitable, there really is no point to continue engaging with them. There is also no point in living among them because we’re going to be continually othered, discriminated against, and exterminated to prevent equity.
It’s been 400-years now and it’s fair to say we’ve tried. To keep asking us to have faith in a system that made it possible for our oppression to be a thing, to begin with, is madness.
Black people want equity with their equality because we know equality will never be enough to right this raggedy ship.
Marley K, 2021
If Black Folks Have To Beg For Rights, They Are Not Truly Free
On grappling with the fact, freedom is only for White people.
8 Reasons White People Shouldn’t Be Festive Celebrating Juneteenth
A brief overview for White people who don’t see the problem with celebrating Black trauma from our enslavement.