When you hear the word “equality” in the context of our constitutional republic, what springs to mind? Likely, you think of equal rights, status, and opportunity under the law. Okay, that was the easy part. Now, how about the word “equity”?
That is what they used to call a whole other kettle of fish. You can be excused for thinking the word equity is almost interchangeable with the word equality because of the similar formation and meaning of the shared prefix. It would seem logical to believe that the mere absence of two letters in one from the other means that it’s likely just a shortened version of the same thing. And who could be opposed to that?
The left is counting on the fact that you will reach just such a conclusion. And both words do in fact revolve around the generalized concept of being equal, but that is where they take divergent, even opposite, paths.
Equality, as it has always been defined in the political and constitutional context, means everyone is entitled to the same opportunity to succeed or fail. Equity, the shiny new mantra of the left embraced by everyone from the suddenly progressive Joe Biden on down, means everyone is entitled to expect the same outcome. Only then, we are told, will the equality enshrined in our Constitution, produced and sustained through the blood, sweat, and tears of a revolution and civil war, have true meaning. “Mere” equality is insufficient if the granting of consequent rights and privileges does not produce outcomes which are “equitable” in a society long rife with white privilege and supremacy. Equity in this context can be defined as a means of achieving equality.
This raises several immediate questions, foremost among them: Just who gets to decide what qualifies as equity? Is it like one man’s terrorist who is another man’s freedom fighter, dependent on one’s purely subjective perspective? More to the point, how can such a demand for equity be fulfilled – or enforced?
Well, that is where government mandates come in. And therein lies the slippery slope of accepting the spirit if not the letter of the equity movement. If you thought affirmative action was aggressive in its attempt to right historical wrongs, the progressive left has something considerably more far-reaching in mind. And it’s all based on our gradual acceptance of equity over equality as the proper guiding principle for the Republic.
So, you might ask, how would equity, as an outcome-based political concept, be achieved? Would it be, for example, when 13% of employees of every private company and public workforce are black, 18% Hispanic, and six percent Asian, since those are the population numbers for each group? Or should those numbers be doubled, or tripled, to account for past inequities? Should we empty the prisons to assure that the outsized percentage of incarcerated people of color is automatically reduced to acceptable levels?
These fundamental questions about an equity society are similar to those one could ask a self-professed Christian who believes that his good works are what will land him in Heaven. What is the threshold? How do you know when you’ve done enough to make it? Will you ever truly be secure that you have successfully curried favor with God?
Of course, the answers to all these questions are indeterminate, for there is no possible way to know the moment God has said you’ve done enough good, or to assure that anything approaching equality of outcome can be achieved in a radically heterogeneous society of more than 300 million people.
But that is exactly the point of the equity crusade. Its stated goal provides endless opportunities for grandstanding and virtue-signaling because inequities are endemic in any society, as inevitable as the sun rising in the east, and are therefore ripe for perpetual exploitation.
Does the left’s shining vision of an equity society represent a rising tide which will lift the boats of those who have fallen victim to a rigged, systemically racist system? Or is it a sinking tide which will lower us all?
Read more from Tim Donner.