Do we need to update our testimony on Equality to better reflect our commitment to Equity?

Friend Beverly Ward, the Field Secretary for Earthcare of Southeastern Yearly Meeting, recently posted a piece linking environmental concerns to transportation equity:

Equality -> Equity -> Justice: The Transportation Case Example

She effectively quotes Friends George Fox, Hal Weaver and Tom Hoopes to show that treating everyone equally might exacerbate social disadvantages, but seeking equity might instead result in more overall equality in results. The United Way of the National Capital Area provides a simple explanation on its web page:

“Equity recognizes each person has different circumstances and needs, and therefore different groups of people need different resources and opportunities allocated to them in order to thrive.

Equality is giving everyone the exact same resources across the board, regardless of individuals’ or groups of people’s actual needs or opportunities/resources already provided to them.

In equitable programs like United Way NCA’s work, instead of giving each individual or group of people the same resources (by definition, equality), data is analyzed to determine where funds, resources and opportunities need to be allocated most in order to give all community members the same opportunity to thrive.” They summarize: “there is not a one-size-fits-all solution (equality) to the problems we see in the world, but there’s a right-size solution for each individual’s needs (equity).”

We Friends have always held, as a central part of our Testimonies, that all are equal before God. But this distinction indicates that we have many difficult decisions to make in trying to witness to this testimony in the world. Patience Schenck’s Pendle Hill pamphlet [reviewed by Friends in SEYM] describes her struggles particularly clearly, and is highly recommended as a guide to further reflection on these issues.

Perhaps Beverly Ward’s experience in upholding Equity as a witness in transportation policy will enable Friends to broaden our understanding of the most appropriate meaning of this central testimony of our Society.