By Valerie Rice | November 18, 2020
We hear a lot about “equal rights,” but we can’t seem to agree on what this means. In a country where all men are supposed to be created equal, there is a whole lot of privilege going on. This privilege prevents equality from existing. Maybe what we really want,and desperately need, is equity. They sound the same, I know, but we need to be absolutely clear about our goals.
To be perfectly honest, there are tons of people who are not interested in equity because they are doing just fine with equality or less. That is because they have privilege, either of race or socioeconomic status, and changing things would be inconvenient and take away their feeling of superiority. I am sure most people have seen some version of this cartoon by now. It illustrates the difference without a long winded explanation. Which do you prefer? Equity means that every person receives the support they need to succeed, whereas equality means everyone receives the same treatment. Each has its place, such as equality under the law and fair pay, but then we need to realize that redlining and generational poverty have deeply affected communities that now require greater amounts of help to improve lives and eliminate damage.
WHAT AM I ON ABOUT?
Quite a bit, actually. For year the US government segregated the country by refusing to give home loans to people of color, forcing them into poor districts and denying them homeownership in quality neighborhoods.. This led to poor education, living conditions, and adverse health effects such as asthma, obesity, hypertension, and premature birth. Despite being outlawed, these effects continue on. Why? Well, these neighborhoods are now the low income neighborhoods instead of the official “colored” or “immigrant” ones. Not that it changes much, they just sprinkled a few white people in with the old crew, because poverty disproportionately affects people of color thanks to unequal pay and generational poverty. Oh yeah, that. Generational poverty is when a family has been in poverty for 2 or more generations. That’s me and my family, thanks to single parenting and disabilities. So it surprised me when I found out that most people experience situational poverty, but at huge rates. Seriously, our country is riddled with poverty and most people experience it throughout their lives.
Wait….you guys eat without going to foodbanks and wear clothes that others haven’t? Whaaaat? JK, I know people do that, I just don’t. It means I live in survival mode, despite my education, because it is literally impossible to save money. Thanks to my genetic health there is no way to boost my income through traditional work. I have to secure shelter, food, and clothing for my family, in that order, and am most likely to juggle bills so someone gets shafted on a monthly basis in order to stay afloat. Sad face, right? Guess how many times my kids and I have lived on the street? Guess. Oh, it is more than 3. No, I do not need you to teach me how to budget, thanks. I know very well. But I only have so much to go around. One of the things people tend to confuse about people in poverty is the values we hold. People like me tend not to be materialistic and to value education, but are viewed as the opposite. It is quite sad, especially when they “help” by condescendingly explaining how to balance a checkbook or get a job. Pardon me while I roll my eyes. The barriers to overcoming generational poverty are not so clear cut….
HOW IT HURTS
Inequity that leads to poverty causes not only the above mentioned physical health problems, it also increases mental health problems. Children raised in poverty experience long term stress. They also experience depression, anxiety, and attention disorders. In fact, poverty and social inequality is known to have severe adverse effects on both children and adults, and have been tied to neighborhood wellness. What needs to happen, and I do not see it happening any time soon, is a social intervention program to provide equity to those struggling financially and physically.
IN THE END
You can call me a socialist, or a social justice warrior, or whatever. I find the evidence to be pretty clear. The fact that a lot of our problems can be solved with a social safety net and treating people with equity and equality is just a logical conclusion that comes from following the research. But what do I know, right? Of course, if we solved racial and social disparities, who would we have to look down on? Who would be the winner? But do we need a winner? I don’t think so. Be Well.