Equality or equity?
This article was authored by Rebecca Harriss, Risk and Compliance Assistant, for Race Equality Week.
With this being Race Equality Week, it is prescient to consider what this could mean in the future, as well as what it means now.
Equality as a concept is an admirable societal goal but having a more equal society can only be achieved if we first look at how we can make things more equitable.
Acknowledging that not everyone has the same starting point in life is crucial to this.
Institutionalised racism affects the lives of people of colour in many ways – even from the moment a child takes their first breath. Maternal mortality rates in the United Kingdom show that even though Black women account for 4 percent of births, they are five times more likely to die during pregnancy and from complications after childbirth, with the rate for Asian women being twice as high as white women. Children grow up without mothers often because their concerns are dismissed by healthcare professionals, or their symptoms are not recognised as ‘normal’.
The application of justice to all those who live in this country is also not equal – Black people are nine times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people, which lends reasoning to the YouGov poll in June 2020 that found that 70 percent of Black, Asian, and other British people of colour believe that the Metropolitan police is institutionally racist.
The same poll found that more than half believe their race has affected their career development, or that people have made assumptions about their skills because of their race. Abuse faced by Black people on the street is almost the same percentage as those who have been racially abused in the workplace.
These statistics may be nothing new to many reading this article, but they put into stark contrast that we must really address the power and privilege that we hold as individuals and as a collective.
As a white woman my gender is still subject to misogyny, but my skin colour gives me privilege that Black and Asian women do not have in this country. I am not subject to stereotyping if I am angry or upset. My hair was not policed as a child in school, nor as an adult in the workplace. I know when I talk to my doctor that they are listening to me and will not minimise my pain or worries to the same extent as women of colour. I will be paid more in my lifetime, not based solely on my skills and education, but also on the colour of my skin.
The above examples of Misogynoir or the ‘double burden’ of being a woman of colour as a form of intersectionality shows that when we talk about Racial Equality Week, it is not just about race. We must look at all facets of a person and work on unpicking the ingrained structures that still hold people of colour back. Let me also be clear – the burden is not on people of colour to educate white people and do it for us. We need to be talking about race in a way that does make us uncomfortable, that does make us get up and act.
I propose we start discussing the term ‘Race Equality Week’ as needing to be more along the lines of ‘Race Equity Week’. On the surface, equity seems unfair by not giving everyone the same resources and aid. But until we all have the same starting point, we need to adjust so that eventually, equality can become the reality. We need to have our actions speak just as loudly as our words.
If you wish to find out more about race and racism in the UK, we would suggest the following books as a starting point:
- Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo;
- Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams;
- Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India by Shashi Tharoor;
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge;
- The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré;
- Natives: Race & Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala;
- Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain by Peter Fryer;
- In Black and White: A Young Barrister’s Story of Race and Class in a Broken Justice System by Alexandra Wilson; and
- Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga.