They are seeking to eliminate programs and personnel previously engaged in diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, which has sparked a lot of understandable outrage and debate nationwide.
On Season 21, Episode 07 of Real Time with Bill Maher, which aired 03/10/2023, the issue took center stage.
John H. McWhorter, an associate professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, answered a central question Maher posed on the difference between equity and equality.
McWhorther made several points, which I’ll paraphrase here:
1. Equity is a sneaky terrible thing – a “wormy word” that forced the issue; that places people into positions they are not qualified for, so everything looks like America.
2. Diversity means lowering standards for Blacks and Latinos, and sometimes Native Americans.
3. DEI stands for God, because these people think they’re God.
Maher wanted to talk numbers, and he spoke about Hollywood forcing half of writing rooms to be BIPOC. He then made an attempt at a joke, asking why diversity would be needed on a Polka show. I made an audible sigh at this point in the episode.
Equality is the ideal in a democracy where all people have equal access and standing in the eyes of the government. We re-enforce equality with rights. Equality is everyone being treated the same.
Equity is a little different. It shouldn’t be so hard for Conservatives to grasp because it’s straight out of the Capitalist Bible. Equity says everybody gets a share.
Imagine our stock market without not only the idea of shares but also the promise of the return on investment they hold. Market investment would be a truly faithless endeavor without guaranteed equity.
Our country has rarely taken seriously the cause of equity, but it is a concern of God in the Bible.
Psalm 96:10 suggests that God’s judgment shall be measured out in shares, or equity. As heirs, knowing we are entitled to a piece of and a place in God’s Kingdom to come, inspires faithful action in this world.
McWhorther argued using “weasel words,” as he eloquently put it, deflecting from what is academically obvious: assuming the status quo rhetorically, as the de facto “Elite” form that Plato prefers in The Republic.
The problem is, our institutions aren’t being ruled by the best, and the rules — only recently interpreted to assume us all — don’t equitably or justly regard the needs and yearnings of the masses. A more perfect union is achieved by a more equitable society, but that takes investment and return on those investments.
In government, a more equitable approach looks like expanding the House of Representatives to have representation more responsive to the voters, which is a proposal that Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) made recently.
The founders believed we’d expand the number of seats as our nation grew every 10 years. To cling to an arbitrary number fixed last in the Great Depression, means our government will remain the possession of corporate and fringe interests that use money to subvert popular will through strategic underrepresentation.
Equity in institutions looks like what Hollywood just did to assure more creative diversity. Some want to say these are “Set Asides.” That may be, but I think they’re really “Sit Insides.”
Boards and boardrooms have anxiously clung to the comfort of the familiar as a justification of continued exclusion of other perspectives. It was assumed there was no money in diversity, but “Wakanda Forever” just re-demolished that myth to the tune of more than $1 billion in receipts.
A recent article in Ebony revealed that — in addition to California, Texas, New Mexico and Hawaii, which already are Majority-Minority states – New Jersey, New York, Florida, Georgia and Maryland all appear on trajectory to join them by the end of this decade. To put that another way, that would be 43% of all Americans living in states with Minority-Majorities.
Our institutions must respond to these numbers and their corresponding realities and responsibilities. Our institutions are not adapting quickly enough to the swiftness of society’s rapidly changing demographics.
McWhorther suggests that minorities should and will feel uncomfortable sitting at a table where they will only be welcomed because the standards were lowered. But this misrepresents the reality.
Writing diversity into structures does not elevate the unprepared; there are scores of well-educated minorities available to sit at these tables. The issue is not a lack of ability, merit or availability. The problem is the systems and structures that hinder or prevent well-qualified individuals, often people of color, from having a place at the table.
Those in established power – or, as we avoid saying sometimes, white people – should feel uncomfortable knowing that the current table only looks the way it does because those seated presently at the table are afraid to compete with all those new people and ideas.
Arguments on restructuring the way our country does business cannot just be reflections on rejected minority yearnings or avoiding majority offense. This conversation requires light and response from all corners, including reluctant white ones.
Equity and equality are both needed to make the promise of America whole. Both are undergirded by rights.
Equality guarantees rights under law. Equity guarantees rights to a piece of this big old pie we call a country.
We must have serious dialogues to sort out who needs to be at these tables and what versions of truth are going to be told and preserved for the next generations.
“Straw-manning” equity discussions is intellectually dishonest and precisely what’s wrong in our political and religious institutions.