Equity Work: Why There is no Point in Backing Down

March 7, 2017

eq·ui·ty    ˈekwədē/        noun
The quality of being fair and impartial; "equity of treatment"
synonyms: fairness, justness, impartiality, egalitarianism

In our work at the Diversity Council we interact everyday with the complex realities – and fallacies – of diversity, inclusion, and equity. We address these issues at interpersonal, social, and institutional levels, balancing the historical and the immediate, the theoretical and the very real. And, It is somewhere between the application of statistics and the validation of personal experience that we find and must acknowledge a few fundamental truths:



All human beings, regardless of individual physiological or culturally-identified traits, are ultimately and unequivocally the same. Exactly the same. Despite our desire to categorize, differentiate, or label, we are a single species. This means that all efforts to identify or claim difference are contrived and perpetuated purely by social systems and individual beliefs.




Human beings are not governed solely by natural laws, because we have the intellectual capacity to move beyond natural consequence. For example, we, as the race of humans, do not believe that we are bound by the natural law “survival of the fittest." If we did, we would not seek out ways to ensure ease, cure illness, or extend life. We have created a complex system that allows us to offset our weaknesses by leveraging the strengths of others and the power of the collective.    


Based on this, when we deny the basic human rights of others, we do so strictly because we can – our circumstances allow us to – and not because we are superior or innately better equipped to survive. We make that choice, whether we acknowledge it or not.  



3.    As humans we often ascribe our actions to human nature, indicating that we have no control over our natural responses. These can be small actions, like arguing that little boys make guns out of random objects because it is in their nature grow up to be violent offenders, when this has been disproved repeatedly; or larger things, like adhering to the belief that African American males have a greater propensity for violence, when it is systemic racism and a myriad of interwoven facets of our culture that generate that impression.


When we assign things to our “base human nature” we are, in fact, denying our ability to rise above our animal instincts and utilize our minds and our hearts to form responses and address urges.



Some human beings have a tendency to grow louder and more adamant as they are challenged. Others become silent. We are living in challenging times and are experiencing this dichotomy: the volume, insistency, and fervor are rising, yet there is a vast stillness where many voices are missing. 




What is in the silence? Is it disinterest, assent, denial, fear? Silence is a powerful tool and the absence of voices is nearly always by design. Sometimes the purpose is to maintain neutrality. For example, if there is an issue of inequity and someone is silent, they may wish to appear neutral. The affect, however, is to reinforce the inequity. 


Sometimes particular voices are repressed or not sought out in an effort to direct an outcome. This is a tactic commonly employed when seeking to maintain a power imbalance. 


Sometimes people say nothing because it is the easiest thing to do.  


 It becomes harder to talk about and address inequity the longer it exists in any space; an injustice perpetuated over time will create anxiety, resistance, and the potential for additional inequities as it is undone.  In witness to this, there is currently a vast roiling storm of disenchantment permeating U.S. culture. 

But we know that the foundations of racial inequities are myth, that we, as humans, have both the innate tools and learned behaviors to correct our ways, and that only by becoming active participants together will we move toward a fair and just world.  

There is no point in backing down. 


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