Joseph Backholm is senior fellow for Biblical worldview and strategic engagement at the Family Research Council. This article appeared in WORLD Magazine on October 18, 2022.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Vice President Kamala Harris raised eyebrows at the Democratic Leadership Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum when she described the way hurricane relief should be distributed: “It is our lowest-income communities and our communities of color that are most impacted by these extreme conditions,” Harris said. “We have to address this in a way that is about giving resources based on equity, understanding that we fight for equality, but we also need to fight for equity.”
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., told CBS’ Face the Nation this means your relief will be faster if you have a different skin color. Fact checkers were quick to point out she didn’t say that, but is that what she meant?
The emphasis on equity is a recent development on the American political scene. The old fight for “equality” prioritized making sure everyone had the same opportunities while the new fight for “equity” demands that action be taken so that different groups of people have the same outcome. That’s a significant shift from equality of opportunity.
Ibram X. Kendi, a professor and one of the leading voices for the agenda of equity, illustrates the problem he sees by pointing out that white families, black families, and Hispanic families have different rates of home ownership. From an equity perspective, the fact that this disparity exists is self-evidently racist. Similar arguments are made to suggest that disparities in test scores or classroom discipline are always the result of racism. Since racial disparities are assumed to have a racist cause, the suggestion that certain students may have deserved discipline more than other students or that some students may have done a better job preparing for a test are racist suggestions.
Notably, different outcomes across racial groups are never used to disprove racism. According to this logic, the fact that Asian Americans educationally outperform white Americans and have higher incomes is never a reason to doubt the existence of white supremacy, but examples of white people outperforming other groups are always proof of it.
Indian Americans have the highest average income of any racial group in America and they also have the lowest divorce rates of any ethnic group. Only two percent of Indian American children do not live with their married mother and father. But equity forbids the suggestion that family structure explains racial disparity as much or more than skin color.
Curiously, in a world that emphasizes group identity, we are told that only one group identity matters. The group you will be identified with is not defined by aptitude, income, effort, or character, only by skin color. What quickly becomes apparent is that the pursuit of equity demands injustice. While justice ought to be blind and requires that each person be treated as an individual, equity forbids it.
The principles of equity are important enough to the Biden Administration that it made them a priority in the distribution of COVID 19 vaccines. It is unclear what that meant in practice, but based on the statements of Vice President Harris, the administration is keeping those principles in mind when it comes to hurricane relief as well.
Before you dismiss the possibility of race-based hurricane relief as ridiculous, consider that only weeks ago the Minneapolis School Board and Minneapolis Teachers Union agreed that if any layoffs needed to happen, they would fire white teachers first, regardless of seniority. Earlier this year a school in Colorado held segregated playground hours where white people were not allowed. Policies like these may strike you as racist because they are. However, in our brave new world, the pursuit of equity is the magic potion that converts an act of obvious racism into an act of social justice. If the racism is targeted at the right group, the ideologues of racism say it’s not racist anymore.
Fortunately, the tactics equity demands are often illegal. Despite the intentions of social justice advocates, the Constitution prohibits the government from treating people differently on account of their skin color. Should the federal government consider skin color in the distribution of hurricane relief funds, or the Minneapolis school board really did target white teachers for firing, courts would likely intervene.
Still, we have a problem when serious people in positions of leadership, up to and including the vice president of the United States, want the government to act like the most significant thing about a person is his or her skin color. Whatever that is, it’s not progress.