Equality is equal treatment; equity is fair treatment.
Originally published on April 8 2021 - York Region.com
If you are disadvantaged — either socially, economically, physically, mentally, racially, ethnically, culturally, financially, sexually or any combination of these — and are then treated equally as a person with none of these challenges, over time the gap between you and “everyone else” becomes insurmountable.
You will consistently fall behind while the everyone else moves forward.
Equity, however, is crafted out of measures specifically designed to close that gap and get everyone to a level playing field. For equity to exist, all people must have a sense of ownership, power, a seat at the table, a voice, and a vote.
All of these must be true for everyone. Nothing less will suffice. No substitutes. You might say that that say that this is unattainable. That there is no political will to make it happen.
I disagree. The problem is intricate, but it is not insurmountable. For those of us seeking a fairer and more just society, we put on our rose-coloured glasses and continue to make small changes.
One such example is the change to language. Many people often complain about political correctness gone wild, but have you ever stopped to consider that the very language we use to describe people can unintentionally stigmatize them?
If this were not true, why the focus on helping people overcome the shame and humiliation they often feel when it comes to mental illness? Why does #BellLetsTalk burn up Twitter every year without fail?
We understand and accept that the use of words to describe groups of people is important. It can help with better understanding of who they are, what influences them, what services they need and so on.
However, those words also have the power to belittle, marginalize and degrade groups of people. So, while admittedly there are times when political correctness seems to have gone awry, it’s important to realize why it was even needed in the first place.
Language is a powerful tool. The way we talk about people and entire communities facing barriers has a tremendous impact on how they are regarded in society. Words can either empower people and affirm the value of diversity or demean them and propagate stigma.
This inevitably leads to discrimination. Stigma can cause reluctance to access supports and services, which, in turn, exacerbates existing systemic inequities.