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  • Writer's pictureShana Ritter

Equality or Equity

I’ve been listening to a number of interviews with writers lately and am reminded that writing serves as a reflection not only of my own thoughts and practice but as one more voice in capturing the larger story. 

The news from yesterday and today offers a plethora of reactions; disheartening in relation to the voting rights act, inspiring when watching Wendy Davis fight for women’s rights using her voice and presence, and for the work for the ongoing the Dream ACTivists, hopeful, listening to the presidents speech on the necessity of taking action regarding the environment and downright celebratory as the supreme court recognizes the rights of all to marry by declaring DOMA unconstitutional.

But I want to keep my eye on the prize  – equality is a slippery word in the world of legalities – if we treat each person exactly “equally”, i.e. the same the results, due to context and history, will likely result in inequality. I prefer the word equity for that reason, and a dedication to creating equal access to opportunity. This implies that in order to get true equality creating differences in how we ensure that equality is essential.

Here is the crux of the difference from a NY Times article: But a tension runs through the cases, one based on different conceptions of equality. Some justices are committed to formal equality. Others say the Constitution requires a more dynamic kind of equality, one that takes account of the weight of history and of modern disparities

My own response to the array of legalities concerning civil rights (and I include the protection of our environment as a far reaching civil right) is an echo of Audre Lorde’s essay “There is No Hierarchy of Oppressions” . I was born Black and a woman. I am trying to become the strongest person I can become to live the life I have been given and to help effect change toward a livable future for this earth and for my children. As a Black, lesbian, feminist, socialist, poet, mother of two including one boy and member of an interracial couple, I usually find myself part of some group in which the majority defines me as deviant, difficult, inferior or just plain “wrong”. From my membership in all of these groups I have learned that oppression and the intolerance of difference come in all shapes and sizes and colors and sexualities; and that among those of us who share the goals of liberation and a workable future for our children, there can be no hierarchies of oppression.

 If we have civil rights that are truly rooted in social justice there can be no hierarchy of equalities.

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