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Irshad Blog

In Arabic, Irshad means “guidance.” So go ahead — share your burning question, especially if it can lead to better conversations.

25Jun

I love how Moral Courage ED bridges ideas that seem to be opposites, like social justice and free speech. Is there a both/and way to think about “equity,” too? Or do we really have to choose between equal opportunity (which many conservatives insist on) versus equal outcomes (which a lot of progressives insist on)? – TJ

Given the culture war that’s raging around Critical Race Theory in K-12 schools, you ask a timely question, TJ. And yes, there is a way to bridge progressives and conservatives on this issue. 

But first, let me say something in the spirit of keeping it real: I don’t think anybody honestly believes that equal outcomes are possible, whatever the circumstances. No civilization — none, nada — has been devoid of hierarchy. That’s because human beings (and many nonhuman animal species) are biologically wired to pursue prestige as a reproductive strategy. 

Research repeatedly shows that materially successful people tend to be more attractive as mates. It’s true even for college-educated, diversity-loving progressives. More often than not, they marry each other, concentrate wealth, and perpetuate inequality. 

That’s not to suggest a massive gulf between the haves and have-nots is inevitable. The chasm can indeed be narrowed if most people are on onboard. 

And this is where your question comes in. Is there a way to reframe “equity” so that the majority of progressives and conservatives buy in? Yes, there is. Here goes.

Think of “equity” in financial terms. It means ownership. Equity in your home, for example, is how much of your home’s value you actually own, free and clear of what you owe. 

A pre-condition of having ownership in a home is having access to it. Access is a social justice concept that all progressives can stand behind.  At the same time, having access means having the opportunity to do something with that access. Opportunity is a concept that all conservatives can stand behind. 

In this both/and framework, “equity” means equality of access — access to resources such as lines of credit, financial scholarships, or professional mentorship. If you choose to take advantage of the access you’ve got, then you’ll own the outcome. Nobody has given you the outcome; you’ve earned it. But if you turn your back on the access you’ve got, then that’s your choice and your responsibility. You own the outcome.

It seems to me that equity as “the ownership that comes from equal access” speaks to the moral foundations of both sides. 

Of course, it takes Moral Courage to want both sides feeling victorious. You’re taming your ego (primitive brain) to turn a win-lose confrontation into a win-win collaboration. Speaking truth the power of your ego requires a dose of humility. 

So the ultimate question for both progressives and conservatives is this: Who among you merely wants to beat your chest about vanquishing the “Other” and who truly wants to move the needle on making our society more fair? 

Choose wisely. You’ll own the outcome.