Equality vs. equity.

These two words have been appearing more often in our nation’s political dialogue when it comes to helping all American citizens take full use of the opportunities our unique form of government and economics provide. They are both strong and positive sounding words, almost as if they are simply different ways of saying “Everyone should be treated fairly and equally.” That is not what both words mean.

President Biden signed an executive order on the topic his first hours in office entitled “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.” This sounds like something any person of good will would be completely supportive of. But “racial equity” is something altogether different than “racial equality.”

Vice President Kamala Harris, two days before our national election, tweeted a video to her followers explaining this very thing. “There’s a big difference between equality and equity” she explained. She is correct, and it is important all Americans understand the difference. President Biden’s Executive Order mentions “equity” 21 times, while “equality” is never mentioned.

So what is the difference?

Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy recently explained that in the Biden/Harris usage, “Equity has now come to mean the functional opposite of equality.” Gonzalez explains that equality,

…means equal treatment to all citizens, such as the Constitution calls for in the clause of the 14th Amendment that deals with equal protection of laws. Equity means treating Americans unequally to ensure that outcomes are equalized—the old tried (and failed) Marxian standard.

Vice President Harris said this very thing in her tweeted video seen here:

Equality is the essential ideal that everyone should have the same and equal opportunity. When it comes to race, this is the American ideal guaranteed to all Americans in our Constitution and it demonstrated why slavery and every other unequal treatment under the law based on race failed to live up to those ideals. Equity, however, doesn’t mean everyone gets an equal and fair place to do their best at the starting line. Equity, as it is being used today, means adjusting the race itself so that everyone is guaranteed to end up at the same place at the end of the race, regardless of effort. This is precisely the message Politico presents in their own affirming explanation of the difference in the two words,

The Politico host explains this is a distinction that goes markedly further than anything President Obama ever considered in his administration’s work for racial equality, “This is a much more central part of the conversation in the Biden administration, than it was even in the Obama administration. I think that’s partly because there’s a whole new wave of progressives who are older and care about this more.”

Politico also explained the significance and expansiveness of this dramatic shift in the new administration’s plans, far beyond anything President Obama ever envisioned, “Already, ‘equity’ is an organizing principle of every policy prescription Biden has put forward so far, from housing to climate change.”

Photo from Interaction Institute for Social Change | Artist: Angus Maguire.