Updated: Apr 21, 2021
On January 26, 2021, President Joe Biden spoke to the nation in an address titled Remarks by President Biden at Signing of an Executive Order on Racial Equity. Just as the title states, it was a speech devoted to the issues of race, racism, and more specifically, racial equity. He called on the nation, starting with the federal government, to overcome economic inequity by confronting systemic racism. Early in his speech, he states:
Across nearly every faith, the same principles hold: We’re all God’s children; we should treat each other as we would like to be treated ourselves. And this is time to act — and this time to act is because it’s what the core values of this nation call us to do. And I believe the vast majority of Americans — Democrats, Republicans, and independents — share these values and want us to act as well.
We have never fully lived up to the founding principles of this nation, to state the obvious, that all people are created equal and have a right to be treated equally throughout their lives. And it’s time to act now, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because if we do, we’ll all be better off for it.
Biden's commitment to equity is loud and clear, but notice that equity is now associated with our founding principles and is being elevated above equality, which, up to now, was the standard when it comes to American justice as fairness. But in the last paragraph above, the language also suggests that Biden and the Democrats have given up on equality because equity, for them, is better able to deliver the outcomes necessary to close the economic divide between the races.
From the Racial Equity Institute, they define and describe the issue of racial equity as follows:
Racial Equity: Racial equity refers to what a genuinely non-racist society would look like. In a racially equitable society, the distribution of society’s benefits and burdens would not be skewed by race. In other words, racial equity would be a reality in which a person is no more or less likely to experience society’s benefits or burdens just because of the color of their skin. This is in contrast to the current state of affairs in which a person of color is more likely to live in poverty, be imprisoned, drop out of high school, be unemployed and experience poor health outcomes like diabetes, heart disease, depression and other potentially fatal diseases. Racial equity holds society to a higher standard. It demands that we pay attention not just to individual-level discrimination, but to overall social outcomes.
For racial equity advocates, this belief and its growing social movement center around redistributing society's benefits and burdens so that racial outcomes are more equitable. Notwithstanding the Socialism implications, which are very real anytime the economic formula for wealth creation and class stratification are altered to comport with the Marxist principle, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs," racial equity is a flawed approach to overcoming racism by improving racial outcomes. As a result, racial equity is conceptually incoherent and thus runs afoul of the Constitution, the premier gatekeeper of equality, justice, and fairness; utilizes a flawed approach to racial disparities; and lacks historical compatibility with African American historical thought leaders like Frederick Douglass.
Racial equity's conceptual incoherence stems from its advocates' willingness to compromise and sacrifice equality and fairness for all as safeguarded by the Constitution in order to advance racially equitable outcomes that are purely driven by internal policy reforms and commitments to social justice for the few. This is well captured in Montgomery County, Maryland's 2018 Resolution to Develop an Equity Policy Framework in County Government. Item (7) of the Background section states:
As part of the Govermnent[sic] Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), a growing number of jurisdictions are undertaking the work needed to operationalize equity, and integrate it into the decision-making process. These include the use of an "equity lens" to determine who benefits from public policies, regulations and practices and the development of equity tools and plans to inform local decision-making.
Just like the racial equity statement from the Racial Equity Institute highlighted above, "equality" has been exchanged for "equity" wherein the principle force behind equity is the use and redress of historic injustices and disparate outcomes. Again, from the Montgomery County Resolution, the equity-disparity connection figures prominently and is indispensable with virtually all policy prescriptions that advocate for racial equity:
Eliminating disparities by promoting equity - the fair treatment of individuals and diverse groups - is an economic imperative. The Urban Institute's Racial Inequities in Montgomery County, 2011-15 report shows that a more equitable Montgomery County would increase the number of immigrants, Latinos, African Americans, and Asians with some college education, and would also increase employment and homeownership rates among people of color. A more equitable Montgomery County would enhance opportunities for all residents, thereby improving the economy.
By eliminating disparities through equitable outcomes, benefits and burdens are redistributed thus making for a more just society, at least that's what the racial equity advocates want us to believe. The reality is, however, that equitable outcomes for X necessarily create unequal outcomes for Y, and this tramples over everything the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution stand for and mandate when it comes to justice, fairness, and equality before the law. Because equity replaces equality, the Constitutional requirements delineated under the Fourteenth Amendment and its Equal Protection Clause are now rendered mute, moot, and meaningless under this flashy new arrangement. This troubling exchange creates a portentous legal situation of incalculable claims and harms as equity becomes the policy preference at the local, state, and federal levels of government.
Racial Equity is nothing more than repackaged egalitarianism with racial justice veneer. In short, egalitarianism is the belief that between law and public policy, everyone is rightfully entitled to all social benefits, and these are to be distributed equitably. From politics and economics to health care and education, there's to be no difference in societal treatment. In so doing, egalitarianism violates its own rules of valuing the individual by imposing the weight of government over human agency, individual autonomy, and self fulfillment. Under egalitarian systems, individual accomplishments that result in "excesses" over that of others is frowned upon. Again, harkening back to Marx, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs," achievement, enrichment, and advantage are inherently incompatible with the ideals of equity because this creates social disadvantage (i.e. inequity). Tibor Machan fleshes this out masterfully in his timeless article, The Errors of Egalitarianism upon which my egalitarian critique is based. Machan exposes the egalitarian flaws and fallacies in the following:
Egalitarianism is thus both a political and moral crusade, demanding that people do the right thing via their political institutions and, when it comes to their personal conduct, demanding that they give away all of their own wealth beyond whatever is deemed subsistence level.
The Declaration of Independence tells us that "all men are created equal." Ever since, critics of the idea of the free society have argued that this is nonsense because, in fact, we are quite evidently not all created equal. Indeed, they stress, the truth is we ought to be equal--it is only fair and just but we are not. Nature bungled. Accordingly, force should be deployed in society not primarily to combat criminal conduct but to make us all equal in al important aspects.
Of course, the Declaration was referring to equality of rights, equality of legal status in society. Men are said to be "created equal" in the respect of possessing unalienable rights to, among other conditions, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In other words, we are all rights possessors. That does not mean we are--or should be--equal in our heights, fortune, intelligence, looks, or talents.
Despite all the clear and undeniable differences among human beings, there are some basic principles we ought to respect and protect, namely, our fundamental rights as agent of our choices. Any kind of broader egalitarianism is both impossible, and, to the extent that its incoherent program is coercively imposed, blatantly unjust.
Machan's treatment is very powerful, compelling, and a necessary corrective to the errors of the liberal worldview that has resurfaced under a new identity. Equally, his critique applies to the fallacies of racial equity in that this emerging theory is unjustifiably hostile to the fundamentals of liberty and equality as defended in the Constitution. In the end, it cannot deliver what it sets out to accomplish and should be rejected and redirected toward advancing and protecting the virtues of racial equality that were spearheaded by the civil rights movement, a tradition that gave us enormous historical successes politically, legally, socially, and economically despite ongoing challenges and hardships that must be overcome in the interest of the African American community, specifically, and the United States of America, collectively. In part two, I will examine the issue of disparities more closely and how racial equity theory distorts and misapplies this important concept with reckless disregard.