I’ve been thinking a lot about how much of a difference it will make to have a new presidential administration in America for the next four years. The hard work is not over because a new administration is in place. Rather, the process of building a new world is just beginning. If we believe that working for change is good (especially, for me, the idea of equity), how are we going to support it?
In large part because of our leadership of our church’s antiracism group, Henry and I paid particular attention to the two news conferences related to racial equity that happened last week. In the first, Susan Rice described first steps in how President Biden plans to make “racial justice and equity the centerpiece of his presidency.” In the second, Biden spoke about how he can be optimistic about change because “today’s generation of young Americans is the most progressive, thoughtful, inclusive generation that America has ever seen.”
I remember being that young and optimistic. I remember taking the train from Boston to march and stand in candlelight vigil in Washington, DC in the days when AIDS/HIV was ravaging the country. I wasn’t working for racial equity, but I believed in the power of people to drive change. I still do believe it, and I’m grateful that a new and diverse generation of young people have taken on this project.
So what is it about equity for me? Equality means giving everyone the same thing. Equity means making change so that everyone is on a level playing field. During a recent webinar, this idea was illustrated with two images of an adult, a teen, and a child trying to see over the fence into a baseball game. With equality, they each had one box to stand on. The adult and the teen could see over the fence, but the child could not. With equity, the adult’s box was given to the child, and all heads were at the same level.
I’ve been thinking about the recent Economic Impact Payments, or “stimulus checks,” which were sent to millions of Americans who fell below a certain income threshold—which I think is too high. Henry and I got ours, but we honestly don’t need it. We have not been substantially harmed by the pandemic. I know that the government had to choose certain criteria, and someone who lives in San Francisco or New York City (with their much higher housing markets) would probably need those stimulus funds. The point is that equality isn’t always the best way to do things.
So how do we go about creating a climate of equity in this country? On an individual level, Henry and I have decided that some of that stimulus money will go to support our church’s food bank. But on a national level, I honestly don’t know what the new administration will be exploring. I do know we have a lot of work to do in order to overcome generations of inequity in terms of opportunity and support.
I’m grateful that, as a nation, we are committing to the process. I pray that we can reach the point where we will make a difference. It won’t happen overnight; I was talking with someone a few days ago who said that it could take us nine generations of work to overcome the inequities we have baked into our culture. But it has to start somewhere.
And so, I ask again: If we believe that change is good, how are we going to support it? I invite you to join me in prayer about what is ours to do, individually and collectively.