Equity and equality are not the same

Written by: Libby Thoma | Staff Writer

Many consider equity and equality to be the same, if not extremely similar. In reality, equity and equality are different, and it is important to understand that a society with equity is a society that benefits us all. 

Equality would be three people of different heights standing on the same amount of boxes to see over the wall. Equity would be giving those who are shorter more boxes to stand on. 

Equality is the first step towards a thriving society. If a society can make it so far as to achieve true equality, it may begin to work towards equity.

Equality is important, but many don’t understand that everyone needs different levels of support —  everyone has different abilities. For example, making two people walk up a set of stairs, and ensuring they have the same number of steps and railings would be equal. 

Would this still be fair if one of these people is fully capable of walking and the other is in a wheelchair? No. Equity would ensure the ability of the person in the wheelchair to have access to an elevator, allowing them to get to the second floor just as well as the person who could climb the stairs. 

Equity provides resources for every person to be successful. This is hard to understand for those who need fewer resources than others, as to them, it looks like someone is undeserving and taking the resources that they could have had for themselves — taking advantage of the system. 

If this sounds familiar, it is important to understand that many aren’t as privileged as you are. There are many reasons a person may need additional resources, such as those who have mental and physical disabilities or even just a difference in height, weight or strength. 

This is why America’s saying of “the land of the free” and claim to equality is problematic. As stated before, a society should work towards equity rather than equality to ensure its residents have the best quality of life possible. The freedom statement leads to the idea that all are free and can achieve “the American dream.” This is not true, due to America not being truly equal — but more importantly, because this train of thought does not work, as there is no equity. 

If we, as a society, are going to celebrate diversity, we must acknowledge that equity is necessary and is the most fair way to run a society. 

Contact the author at ethoma23@mail.wou.edu