Though most don't realize it, there is a stark contrast between what equality means, and what equity means. Treating everyone exactly the same isn't actually fair all the times. What equal treatment does, in reality, is erase the differences we come it and promote privilege.
Fairness and success really do mean different things when everyone is different. Equity and equality are two strategies we can use in an effort to produce fairness. While Equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful. Equality is treating people the same. Equality aims to promote fairness, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same help. But that's never the case in real life situations. Equity appears unfair, but it actually is just "evening the playing field."
Since everyone is different and we embrace these differences as unique, we must also redefine our basic expectations for fairness and success as dependent upon those individual differences. In the real world, this means that some people will need a language translator when speaking to a government agency and others will not. And it wouldn’t be fair to just provide Spanish translators just because it is the language most people speak. A Spanish translator would give a French speaker the same access to opportunities.
That would be a privilege.
Privilege is when we make decisions that benefit enough people, but not all people. Privilege is allowed to continue when we wrap it up with actions of equality because it ends up justifying privilege
On the outside, everything appears fair, because how can we argue against equal treatment? We need to recognize our differences as unique, rather than reach for one definition of “success.” By utilizing just one definition of success, we erase our differences.
Often times, decisions are made to benefit the majority of people without paying attention to individual needs. Privilege is a tricky thing. I don't know about you, but I’m not aware of my privilege on a daily basis, no one is. I don’t feel a bit of my privilege when I sit in an hour-long lecture or have 3 meals a day even though a lot of people don't have those same privileges as me. Usually, I'm just unaware of my own privilege, because the system generally works in my favor.
Now the next question is can we change the whole system? Rarely. What we can do, however, is be advocates for equitable practices in order to promote fairness. We can't keep relying on practices of equality just because they seem to be fair, because, in reality, they're not. Our actions actually do have to be just and equitable.