Note: The links throughout were inserted by me as references, not as badguyware. They be legit, yo
In the midst of a rather disturbing conversation with some former coworkers, it was presented to me that my position of seeking a state of equitability for all Americans was, to their view, wrong. As they defined it to me, the terms equitability—and so equitable—presupposed what they referred to sneeringly as “equal outcomes.” I presented to them my own understanding of equitability, which they in turn rejected, viewing it still as defining some manner of “equal outcomes.” Leaving aside the question of why they believe equal outcomes ought to be avoided, I will define equitability and its relationship to the notion of equality.
Equitability is characterized distinctly from equality by the implication that the former makes up for contextual deficiencies which make equal conditions inherently impossible. It should be readily accepted that equal conditions at the onset of a given situation ought to be equal—or as close as humanly possible—in order to ensure unencumbered success for all parties involved. It is for this reason that racers around a track are arrayed in staggered form to make up for the deficiencies inherent in their initial positioning. In time and space, these initial positions are in constant flux, and in the context of our own present socioeconomic situation, we might reasonably define the “starting point” for, e.g., sons of Joe Kennedy III or Chase Koch far ahead of that of something as nebulous as the average household income for Hispanic and African-American families.
Such is their condition with respect to the “majority culture” of the United States.
Dissonance of this is often replete at the boundary of most complex systems, a region where there already exists a differential of power, and so such a model can likewise be applied supra-racially and supra-ethnically to the civil rights struggles of other groups which are likewise outside of the “majority culture”; e.g., the rights of individuals with respect to landholders, the rights of women with respect to men, the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community with respect to cisgender heterosexuals (straights), the rights of immigrants with respect to the law, the rights of marriage with respect to race or gender—and you can see how the list can and indeed does go on. In each of these instances, following the “revolution” which changes the particular power dynamic of the moment, there remains a wide dissonance between legal formalities and the language of equality with respect to the “majority culture,” and the realities of cultural bias. By way of example of what I mean, I can recall a very frank conversation in 2013 with a female coworker who explained to me that a major factor in her hiring had been that she was neither married nor interested in starting a family. The pair who ran the firm—husband and wife with two children themselves—were unabashed in their view that the current female employees in positions of senior leadership were inherent liabilities for their business for the simple fact that they each ran the “risk” of becoming pregnant and becoming unable to work. In the context of the “majority culture,” this equates to a bias which disfavors—or outright opposes—(heterosexual) women, a fact we see manifested not in explicit directives against the hiring or women, but by the systemic inequality in pay and benefits which, e.g., advantage those more closely aligned with the “majority culture,” in this case the condition of lacking fallopian tubes. By this alternate illustration of bias founded in “majority culture,” I hope I have helped assuage those who might believe this is just “a racial thing”—as someone close to me recently said to me, You assume everything is about race, and you’re wrong.
The concept of equitability seeks to redress, or at minimum offset, these conditions whereby those who are not members of the “majority culture” do not enjoy the benefits of equality with said culture—at least not without much sacrifice and devotion to that culture and not to another one more than the “majority.” Equality is forever the condition sought by all free people, but it is those who are better represented among our us who hold in their power the conditions—that is to say, the ability to define those conditions—for equality. Thus comes about the cultural dissonance which requires in response equitability: to make up for the deficiencies which prevent the realization of true equality. This does not suppose “equal outcomes,” for “equal outcomes” requires a sort of control over culture which, though not impossible, is immoral, unethical, and unacceptable.
Equitability instead adjusts the conditions which are most formative and important for each individual in the pursuit of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in entering economic adulthood. That we in the present continue to necessitate conditions such as affirmative action does not reflect an socioeconomic dependency, but rather only the palest of reforms, coming into law even after concession after concession by the “majority culture” to what, under the law, out to have been pure equality. To the conditions of minorities and people-of-color in the United States of America for the time only following the American Civil War, there were necessary three Constitutional Amendments—Thirteen (1865), Fourteenth (1868), and Fifteenth (1870)—necessary to ensure the legal rights of persons-of-color, and yet equality was evidently not achieved by the time of the Civil Rights Acts of 1866, 1871, 1957, 1960, 1964, and 1968. The fact that following those aforementioned Constitutional Amendments legislation like the Civil Rights Acts and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was at all necessary reflects not only the tenaciousness of a conservative state of mind—one in which any change which impacts the individualistic interests of the privileged are perceived as threatening—but the overwhelmingly powerful nature of the struggle remaining in order to achieve equality under such conditions. That critical parts of such legislation as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 have since been overturned (see Shelby County v. Holder) should raise a fair amount of alarm, seemingly coming in the vein of apartheid American laws which codified absolute segregation based upon race and ethnicity (“Jim Crow laws”), as both examples provide a glimpse into the continued resistance to change among the “majority culture.” It should now become apparent that the use of a term as potent as equality among the “majority culture” only applies to those individuals and groups so designated as “equal”—whether by race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or wealth. All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
This definition can move and transform, allowing for the entry of outsiders, though only as is required by those within—and with the understanding that removal remains contingent upon acceptance, or rather lack thereof. Thus, one of those persons with whom the conversation which spurred this post shook their head at the notion that someone who is African American might be just as readily claim entitlement to being American as the child of ethnically Swedish immigrants. For some reason, in their view, the former is somehow not a member of the “majority culture” until they have proven themselves—though the same would not be expected of her sibling or their cousins, nephews, and nieces. This might not alarm those who likewise consider themselves to be part of—or do not understand that they are intrinsically part of—the “majority culture,” but it should likewise be apparent to those who have eyes that wealth inequality, regardless of any and all other conditions, is the greatest struggle in this country. This model of cultural dissonance can be as readily applied to members of the poorer White American community who aspire to the pretensions of the wealthy within the “majority culture,” but who by their economic status will not achieve such status without great sacrifice and ambition. That they remain tied by race will help more than not, just as the ties of gender may likewise give a leg-up over others.
This notion of “majority culture” and its use as the standard by which all others are judged continues to drive the sorts of biases which create conditions of inequality within our republic. Equitability seeks to redress this cultural dissonance through various actions, which includes the redress of past crimes to members of “non-majority communities,” the redress of compounded wealth (or lack thereof) which continues to create conditions of inequality for the African American community (“reparations”). In a capitalist society, wealth is what speaks most mightily, and though much hard work and perseverance may help achieve this wealth, as those with compounded wealth continue to become increasingly wealthy, those who are not wealthy will find themselves further “bottlenecked.” For as more wealth becomes concentrated in the top strata of society, so more inequality grows with respect to the power of money, and although free elections may guarantee this, the overturning of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in 2013 should, I say again, ring some alarms among those who see historical patterns in human behavior. This bottlenecking is therefore intensified, allowing for the meteoric rise of one such as Barack Obama to the Presidency where no member of any minority community—including women—had achieved since 1776, 1870, 1965, and to date (2022) remains the single member of such “non-majority” communities to ascend to such status.
Through monetary compensation, equality through equitability (thus “Equanimous Equitability”) can more closely be achieved in a capitalist society, where wealth and then hard work holds sway—and in that order. Where the latter may lead to the former, the former consistently outweighs the later. Even those who are required to make their own private fortunes before being given the “keys to the kingdom” by way of inheritance are not plagued by the notion of needing to worry for the future, being asked only to make more money to contribute to the greater wealth of the individual whole. Those without luxury must balance the interests of the present against the interests of the future, requiring the constant vigilance of market economics with respect to investments and the monthly contributions to a retirement IRA—problems which do not plague those afforded such aforementioned luxuries. Through their enablement by members of the wealthy “majority culture,” we see then a concentration of absolute wealth at the top, regardless of condition or point in life—that is to say, wealth in such quantities as to make it unnecessary to continue to sacrifice.
It is only at the point where each individual can “begin” life as free Americans—at the same proverbial starting line with respect to the offsets rendered by virtue of distance from the “majority culture” (their individual “cultural dissonance”)—that we can expect a true measure of equality. And to those who believe that we have come far enough, it should be self-evident that the truths inscribed in the Preamble to our Constitution enshrines in its very first condition of existence the formation of “a more perfect union.” The redress of explicitly unequal conditions, and therefore the formation of a more perfect union, can come only through the enterprise of equitability.
Further reading: Seek Rivalry, Not Enmity
See also: Our Cold Civil War