Equality: opportunity VS outcome


I’ve been asking myself what equality truly means lately. It seems we all agree that equality is an important human right, yet disagreements arise when when it comes to implementation. It’s important to reflect on how far the fight for civil rights has come. Women can vote and work, black and white people can share the same spaces freely, and minorities of all kinds now have a voice. Much has been achieved, but there’s still a long way to go.

Some inequality and oppression is systematic and requires more work to topple. This is why the fight for equality must continue. But what does equality (in practice) truly mean in a world with a racist and patriarchal history? I know what you’re thinking… “what else could EQUALity mean”… but I assure you, there is a point being made here.

There is a difference between “equality of opportunity” and “equality of outcome”. This is where the left and right disagree. I believe we should weigh the pros and cons of both, and implement equality that is fair and just.

Equality of opportunity is about levelling the playing field so that everyone has a fair shot at success. It says “the door is open to everyone who wishes to enter, the requirements are the same for all”. This is good if we’re all starting from the same place, but we’re not. I will be using education as an example.

We all have equal opportunity to attend university, but not all of us can afford the fees. Our history has created such an imbalance that equal opportunity barely succeeds at being just. We didn’t receive the same basic education because our parents didn’t even have equal opportunity to work or live where they chose. Banks rarely loan money to students who are high risk (these are the same students who were previously disadvantaged). The result is that the privileged students continue to get ahead while majority of the disadvantaged students lag behind.

Many believe that the solution to this problem is equality of outcome. Which is to roughly say that in a country where 70% of the population is black and female, universities should reflect these stats by admitting 70% black females into each faculty. It means after graduation, companies should also reflect these stats by hiring 70% black females. Every industry would reflect these same stats… 70% of mathematicians would be black females, 70% of CEOs would be black females, etc. Far from fair of course, but society is perfectly represented here. However, this approach comes with a few problems of its own. Firstly it assumes that just because 70% of black females CAN BE admitted into a faculty, 70% of black females WILL WANT to be admitted into a faculty. This is not always the case, because lo and behold! People want different things out of life.

Secondly, it closes the door on a lot of talent in the name of being fair. If 70% of the best applicants are white males, it means most of these competent applicants are rejected. The result is positions being filled by incompetent people who just happen to have the right skin colour and gender.

My examples are of course fictional and extreme, but they paint a vivid picture of what each of these approaches to equality truly mean for society. Perhaps there is another approach I am yet to consider. What are your thoughts on the matter? What does equality mean to you?

Your in inspiration,

1 Comment on “Equality: opportunity VS outcome

  1. Hmmm, you’ve just made me realise just how not fair our ‘equality’ really is… 🤔 The question for me now is how can we introduce a system that results in real equality without down playing any of the sides/people involved? Is this even possible???

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