Equity as a Process versus an Outcome

Great leadership is based on humility and competence. Humility is the underpinning of the universal value of interpersonal respect. Interpersonal respect is the foundation of equity. As I understand it, equity is about ensuring equality of opportunity and decreasing discrepancies between groups of people.
Yesterday, was our nation’s holiday honoring the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which was signed into law by Ronald Reagan in 1983. When he was assassinated in 1968, Dr. King was only 39. Within days, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which barred discrimination in housing. At the time, the New York Times wrote that “he was their voice of anguish, their eloquence in humiliation, their battle cry for human dignity. He forged for them the weapons of nonviolence that withstood and blunted the ferocity of segregation.” (New York Times, Eight Lives Etched in History, Sam Roberts, January 18, 2015) These are clearly wise words published in the late 60’s. Almost 50 years later, the word “their” stands out as dated because equity is a condition that affects us all. We all bear and share the burden of responsibility  to take the next step toward equity.
I used to wonder why it took so long to get to equity when our forefathers, like Thomas Jefferson, stated in the Declaration of Independence back in 1776: “…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. However, many minorities were, and in some ways are still, not included in Jefferson’s idea of equality. In fact, Jefferson owned slaves himself. Can it really be taking 240 years to get to this point in the actualization of equity? Clearly yes! Since equity is clearly a step-by-step process, it will surely take many more years. Keeping this in mind, it is important to celebrate the opportunities available today, even though total equity may still be elusive.
I recommend a current best seller: “Between the World and Me,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Spiegel & Grau, New York. The book is a letter a black father writes to his son about the reality of being a black man in present day America. If you listen to the audio book, you will see the author has a powerful speaking voice and tells his son about the hidden dimensions of discrimination today. He wrote the book to empower his son in facing the challenges of equity.
So this blog goes on 240 years after the Declaration of Independence. Is equity developing well or are we still at the beginning?
 What can you do today to bring more equity to someone in your organization? Even a word of encouragement might support a person to take a risk and go for something they thought might be out of their league.
Let us each remember something special about the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


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