two people of color clasping hands

As cultures and societies evolve, so do their languages. For example, there has been a whole lot of discussion lately about issues pertaining to race. Some terms might be confusing. Some people might be willfully using terms to sow confusion. Progress can stall without some semblance of a shared language. Even the best-intentioned folks can sabotage an important conversation by not fully understanding what certain words mean.

Case in point: racial equity and racial equality. While similarities exist, these terms cannot be used interchangeably in an accurate way. With that in mind, let’s explore the crucial differences between the two.

What is Racial Equality?

The dictionary definition of equality is “the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.” Extrapolating from there, you can see that racial equality involved the goal of having everyone:

  • Given the same exact breaks and opportunities
  • Treating and serving everyone the same
  • Promoting fair­ness and jus­tice

Examples of Racial Equality

  • Giving all citizens of voting age the right to vote — regardless of race
  • Funding all school systems with equal financial and material supplies
  • Allocating tax dollars equally among all neighborhoods in a given city

What is Racial Equity?

It’s understandable how these terms get mixed up, but racial equity is about treating people in an equitable manner based on their situation or circumstances. To achieve racial equity is to make certain everyone has what they need to thrive.

Examples of Racial Equity

  • Making sure all citizens can safely and swiftly exercise their right to vote
  • Funding schools based on each school’s baseline needs
  • Funding neighborhoods according to their current situation with a special focus on areas that have been marginalized

two people of color clasping handsWhat is the Difference Between Racial Equality and Racial Equity?

Equality is a noble goal but implementing it within an unjust system does not close the opportunity gap between different races. Think of equity as the long, hard road that leads to equality. It meets people where they are and takes those circumstances into full account. Aiming for equality without first achieving equity can and often does make inequalities sharper.

It can feel “inequitable” to promote an approach that allocates more resources to some groups but this is what happens within a system that has been so unfair for so long.

Related Terms to Understand

As you ponder the implications of equality vs. equity, keep in mind that there are other related words that must be understood. For starters:

Diversity vs. Inclusion

Let’s use the workplace as an example. A diverse workplace is made up of people from a wide, unlimited range of groups. In a way, it’s analogous to equality. Inclusion is more like equity. It means that the workforce is not about quotas or token hires. Each person is given the opportunity to shine on their own terms — regardless of what group they belong to.

What is Privilege?

Whether they asked for it or are even aware of it, some people are granted race-based advantages. These advantages cannot be earned by actions or merit. They are part and parcel of an entrenched, almost invisible system. Someone with privilege may not identify something as a problem because it doesn’t impact them.

Racial Justice

This is the goal: to empower all people toward their full potential. This we must reimagine and retool the entire system. The foundation of racial justice is proactive but also preventative. By definition, the system benefits everyone.

Being part of the solution is a major responsibility. It means you’ll challenge some deeply held beliefs. To accept this mission is to remain open to examining your own behaviors and conditioning. If you are interested in learning more about therapy for bipoc or how it can help you, let’s connect soon.

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