Dean's Message

The difference between equality and equity is everything

equality equity black history month amanda gorman history Black Americans
By Elizabeth Wentz on February 25, 2021

“In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.”  The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman

A few years ago, a colleague showed me the illustration below. For me it was a powerful and effective way to show the difference between equality and equity. Most people could agree in looking at this figure that supporting equity provides more favorable outcomes for all. 

Black History Month is a way for us to celebrate the impact Black Americans have had on our country but we should also take it as an opportunity to recognize how far we still have to go in creating a more equitable and just nation. 

History has its eyes on us.

Equality is not enough without an understanding that people aren’t always on equal footing. In fact, equal treatment can often perpetuate inequality. Equity acknowledges that there are differences between people and what they need to succeed. An equity approach also acknowledges that there are systemic and institutionalized differences in how people are and have been treated.

 

For example, history shows us that Black Americans haven’t had the same opportunities to pursue success as white Americans. Centuries of discriminatory policies and practices prevented Black Americans from having the same access to home loans, to neighborhoods with good schools for their children or to access to programs like the GI Bill that provided a college education – or even to the same admissions decisions to those colleges and universities. This is true for other marginalized groups as well. 

Creating equality is an important and critical first step but we need to focus on creating equity and justice. The ASU Charter is a call for all of us to work toward equity and justice by asking that the university be “measured by whom we include and how they succeed'' rather than by “whom we exclude.” 

Decisions around equity involve deciding how to distribute our time and resources to support and serve our ASU Charter. This means that some students may need more or different kinds of support and resources than others to achieve success. 

Our society as a whole is better off when more people succeed and when we appreciate each other's different experiences and perspectives. Some people are afraid that if we provide more opportunities for others there will be fewer opportunities available for them or their loved ones. They think of opportunity as a pie that stays the same size but it’s really a pie that grows bigger with each new opportunity created and all of us benefit. 

Since I opened with a quote from Amanda Gorman’s The Hill We Climb, I’d like to close with another:

“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit./It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.”