So often we worry about “fairness.” We want everyone to be treated the same. To have equal opportunities.
But the reality is that we are not the same. And because we are not the same, we may not need the same things to succeed or to fulfill our potential. Fairness may not always be achieved by treating everyone equally. It may require that we consider equity instead.
Equity acknowledges that we are not all the same, we do not all start from the same place or have the same advantages and so there may need to be adjustments to compensate for imbalances. We may need to prioritize our concern for those who need more than others in order to achieve justice.
I know it can be hard, in our culture which emphasizes individual achievement and assumes that everyone can accomplish if they just try hard enough, to acknowledge that some need something more (or at least something different) than others to make the situation fair. People struggle with the idea of “Affirmative Action.”
Consider the story of the curb cut: When the disabled fought for curb cuts on sidewalks so that the sidewalks would be wheelchair accessible, some said that this was an unnecessary change to accommodate a small number of people with “differences.” But the curb cut was an equity issue; it made it possible for disabled people to get around more easily and have a greater ability to participate in the public square. It created more fairness. And, it turned out that others were helped too: those with bikes, and strollers, and elders… You never know where commitments to equity can lead.
On January 21, I was a guest of Rev. Kathey Edwards, pastor, at St. Paul’s African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Great Neck. Terrance Floyd, brother of George Floyd and founder of We Are Floyd Organization, was the speaker. Mr. Floyd talked about the murder of his brother at the hands of the police. He also talked about “Black Lives Matter.” He said that believing that “Black Lives Matter” also means that you believe that All Lives Matter. But sometimes you have to commit to supporting those who are victims, who are oppressed—to make the adjustments and compensate for the imbalances in our society which make some people and some communities live without justice.
We can prioritize the needs of those who need our support, our compassion and our love. We can fight for fairness, equity, and justice.
Submitted by Rev. Dr. Natalie Maxwell Fenimore