Thursday, December 6, 2018

Equality


We are having the wrong conversation; equality doesn’t help anyone already behind, we need/want equity.
The rainbow was replaced by an arithmetic symbol for equals. Volatile arguments are had among social structures about having, or still desiring, equality. I’m hoping if you are reading this, you follow me because you have a general idea that I have strong opinions, but if you stick with me and read the entire thought, I’ll bring it all back around.
“I want equality,” screams the child without a toy. “You have it, stop whining and making a big deal about it,” exclaims the child with the same toy. This is a fractional analogy, but it works because society has treated the term equality as if the subject matter is a tangible product like a toy. The conversation is all wrong if you ask me.
A conservative white male former friend of mine tells me I have white guilt and that I’m ashamed to be a white man. Am I ashamed of my skin’s complexion? No. Am I painfully aware of the destruction white men have caused to the rest of our beautifully blended melting pot of a country? Yes, absolutely. His logic is fairly simple; Whining about wanting equality is stupid because the minorities have it. Are African American’s equal with white males? Is the LGBT community equal to a white male? To be clear the white male remains atop the social structure in terms of privilege and opportunity. I don’t love this statement or reality or even social structure, however, I am pragmatic enough to call a spade a spade. White males accidentally stumbled upon this country, colonized it, and then used others to remain in power for as long as they can be. This is history, this isn’t a political opinion. I’ll get back to this in a minute or two, because I need to address the discomfort white males feel in our current world.
A black male, woman, homosexual or transgender person can vote, has access to the same benefits* a white males does. The only asterisk I will place out there is the ridiculous legislation of some states that prohibits same sex marriage. From a simple-minded perspective, we are equal. A simple-minded person will stop the conversation there, but there are deep implications of this equality that must be explored.
I am an avid basketball fan and player. Although I’m not as athletic as I once was in college or even high school, I still play as often as my body allows me to. See that kids? Your body will tell you what to do when you get older, so enjoy it while you can. When I step into the gym and I see a game of 21 going on I will ask what the scores are before entering. This is a standard happening in gyms across the country. Why though? Why does the score matter? I have a threshold of 13 because I think I can still get in at 0 and surpass that player to get 21. Is it harder to earn 21 quicker than the player who already has 13? Absolutely, it is, I have to play harder just to catch up to the 13, and then we are equal. Why join a game when the high score is 19 and the next shot wins? The player with 19 and me, when I join, are equal, we both have access to the game and opportunity to score 21. Who would do this though? I applaud those who have the confidence to join, in basketball and life. 19 to zero isn’t equal is it?
I saw this powerful and simple video once. A teacher took all his kids outside and lined them up at the end of the field. If your parents are still married, take one step forward. That’s one of the statements he made. If you this, take one step forward. If you that, take another step forward. With each step those who answer yes move closer to the finish line at the other end of the field. Aren’t they all playing the same game? They are equal then, right? Isn’t even the most gifted athlete at a disadvantage if they are 100 yards behind a lesser athlete at the 290 yard line of a 300 yard race? They are equal, but one is automatically at a disadvantage. No one likes to be treated unfairly. Have you seen an angry white woman at a restaurant when she feels she has been treated unfairly? That stereotype is funny, but also shows the outrage people feel when they sense unfairness.
Equality isn’t what we are looking for. Equity is the good stuff that will and can make the world fresh again. Another illustration I have seen is three people who are each given a box. Every box is the same size, however, each person is a different height, i.e. person one is 7ft, person two is 5’10”, and person three is 4’11”. Each person is standing before a 6’ tall fence with their box. Equality is each person standing on their respective box. Equity is the 7-footer realizing he doesn’t need the box and handing it to the other smaller person to stand on so they can see what he sees over the fence. Equity is everyone not only having the same rights, but having those rights administered in the same way.
I don’t panic when a police car drives behind me. I have illegal tint and often speed. I’m held to the same laws a black male is. We are equal. However, we do not have equity. I know and anticipate being treated by a police officer in a certain way. A black male doesn’t and has not been treated the same. Obviously not all police officers are terrible, but unfortunately for them, the terrible ones reveal such a large and systemic problem that they overshadow everything else.
My wife and I went to this bar once because they had an advertisement in the local paper for a free drink when you check-in at their establishment. The whole ideology behind them having an advertisement promoting free stuff is to draw people in. People love free stuff! We decided to try it out as we are always looking to do and try new things and places. We walked in and there was a cloud of smoke that started at my wife’s hip. My wife is 5’2” so her hips are quite low if you can picture it. There are four guys in the bar who were obviously friends. Two were working at the bar and two were customers. My wife and I have the same right to service and drinks as they do, don’t we? We were uncomfortable because obviously this business was not interested in gaining new customers because they were so exclusive with their friends who were there. Although we are equal as customers in terms of being able to buy a drink, they had advantages that we did not, in terms of relationships and frequency of visits that gave them access to better service than we received.
I hope the picture is beginning to become clearer to you here. Equality isn’t what a minority wants or should even ask for. Stop saying you want something you already have. The truth is equality isn’t enough, equity is the right thing to give those at a disadvantage, whether it be socially, economically, or personally. Now, back to the discomfort a white male should feel in the current societal and political environment. Whenever someone in the lead begins to lose the lead or sees someone on their heels, it is very uncomfortable. No one wants to concede power or position. I don’t like being beat at games. I get uncomfortable when someone shows up and is more charismatic and social than I am. I want the spot light!
Here’s the thing though. Have you ever been in a spot light? It’s hot. It’s bright. It’s lonely. It’s awkward. The spotlight feels good, but it isn’t as great as we think it is. When we broaden that spotlight to light an entire room, we can see, we can see our peers, we can see our flaws, we can see those in need. Giving every individual the same thing isn’t admirable, it’s contextualizing the individual or minority and bringing them up to speed that is inspiring.
Equity is what we need and what we should protest for. Kneel for the anthem. Boycott businesses that don’t stand for what is right. Demand fairness. But do not ask for equality. Demand equity.

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