Revisiting Equity at the End of 2020

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by Jai Simpson-Joseph | December 28, 2020

“Equality says we treat everyone the same, regardless of headwinds or tailwinds. Equity says we give people what they need to have the same access and opportunities as others, taking into account the headwinds they face, which may mean differential treatment for some groups.” ― Dolly Chugh, The Person You Mean to Be: How Good People Fight Bias

We wanted to close out this year by talking about equity: its definition, its role with the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) framework, and its significance in this unique and challenging year. Our focus on equity this month follows the October newsletter’s feature on diversity, as we dive more deeply into each component of DEI in succession.

Put simply, an equity-based approach is one that ensures everyone has access to the same opportunities. Not to be confused with equality, treating everyone the same, equity is distinct in that it requires us to make the necessary adjustments to ensure fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all, no matter what identities a person holds or what experiences they have had. Equity acknowledges uneven starting places and seeks to correct the imbalance. 

Why is equity essential for a more just society? While at first blush treating people equally may seem like the fairer approach, equal treatment only makes sense if everyone is starting from the same place and all need the same help. This is a far cry from the world we live in, in which system oppression and individual differences across a variety of factors – race, gender, sexuality, disability, age, citizenship status, and many, many more – scatter us across uneven playing fields. Thus, tackling equity issues requires an understanding of the underlying or root causes of outcome disparities within our society. Equity is critical to a DEI framework because it builds upon diversity to ensure that people from different backgrounds are not only invited into the room, but also ensured equal access to opportunities. 

This year threw into sharp relief inequities that have long existed across society, which exacerbated the pandemic’s effects for many marginalized groups. Inequities in education, housing, employment, and healthcare have all shaped how different individuals and communities have been impacted by the pandemic – meaning that all of us who are committed to DEI have our work cut out for us. Global Village Project’s role in addressing inequity this season has focused on ensuring our students – as refugees, English Language Learners, and young women of color – have the resources and support they need to learn. Yet larger, systemic change on a national level is what we really require to ensure all students have what they need to thrive. 

As we close out this year, the devastation wreaked by this pandemic is heavy on our minds. But at the very least, we hope the cracks it has exposed in our current systems have made the need for equity clearer and more urgent than ever before. Only by pursuing equity can we build a world in which every individual truly has the opportunity to live and exist in the fullness of themselves.