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    The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church

    news article

    Equity vs Equality

    January 26, 2021 / By GCORR

    Editor's Note: This article originally apperared in the 2020 Issue 4 of the Advovate, with the theme Dismantling Racism. Click here to see the issue. 

    Don't the terms "equity" and "equality" mean the same thing? It would seem so.

    • Both terms point toward treating all people the same - with dignity, worth, and as children of God who have voice, power, and choice.
    • Both terms point toward a deep desire that every person has the opportunity to reach their full potential, not only to survive but also to thrive.
    • Both terms point toward a day when race, age, socio-economic status, mobility, gender, sexual orientation, or other differences do not determine access to resources, mediate success, or designate one's level of inclusion or well-being.

    Equality and Equity are not the same though.

    EQUALITY says...

    • Everyone already begins from an equal place, with equal access to resources, and an equal chance to survive and thrive.
    • The rules of the game are the same for everyone.
    • Oppressions (racism, classism... ) will end when the experiences and the expressions of oppression end.

    Everyone has the right to vote.

    We can eradicate racism by “doing no harm." For example, racism will end when we refuse to reproduce the harms that oppress people of color.

    EQUITY says...

    • The structures or systems of education, politics, economics, healthcare, the Church, power, and others have been created in such a way that discrimination lives within the structures themselves.
    • Even if the rules of the game are the same, the game itself is "rigged" to privilege some at the expense of others.
    • Oppressions (racism, classism... ) will end when we dismantle the assumptions, values, and sources of oppression that lead to the experiences and the expressions of oppression.
    • Everyone has the same access to voting (for example, everyone has the same distance to travel to voting stations, hours of voting allow everyone to get to voting stations, the voting ballots are available in a language the voter can understand well, etc.)
    • We can eradicate racism by "doing no harm and doing good." For example, racism will end when we actively work toward justice by both refusing to reproduce harms we know lead to racial injustice and also actively struggling to dismantle the causes of racial inequity.

    Equality would be enough if we were living in a society where racism and other oppressions were already eradicated. But when we take the experiences of all of our sisters and brothers seriously, we must admit this is not so, yet. So, while equality and equity might seem the same...

    Just like we would never simply bind our child’s wounds and send them back to school without holding the bully accountable, we cannot assume that addressing the expressions of oppression (equality) can change the root of the problem (equity). As Christians, we believe that the Kingdom of God, the Beloved community, in its fullest expression will allow every single one of us to live the equality we were created for and so desperately long for. Until then, we do the work of equity that it may one day be so.

    With more than 134,000 members, the Upper New York Annual (Regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church comprises 865 local churches and 85 new faith communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our mission is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."