Biden’s embrace of ‘equity’ means he’s abandoned the quest for equality

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Letters to the Editor — Feb. 1, 2021

President Biden preaches unity but practices division. Witness his “Executive ­Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” part of an unprecedented barrage of such orders. It calls for “an ­ambitious whole-of-government equity agenda” that smacks of a Great Society for identity politics.

One of the order’s main ­aspects is to require all federal agencies to ferret out any policy that may produce unequal outcomes among members of categories deemed marginalized. 

This will put the divisive doctrine of “disparate impact” on steroids. The doctrine rests on the dubious concept that if an impartially applied policy leads to unequal outcomes, it is illegal, no matter how nondiscriminatory in intent. Policymakers will then search for racial ­results, and their policies will be unfair and wasteful.

The order’s “marginalized” groups are naturally often the creations of the wealthy activist class that feeds on federal dollars and influence when the left is in power. That activist class is back at the trough thanks to ­another part of this order.

Section 8 calls for the head of each agency to “increase coordination, communication and ­engagement with community-based organizations and civil-rights organizations” — that is to say, insider network organizations with no grassroots support or involvement. It threatens to be a full-employment act for identitarian affinity groups like UnidosUS, Asian-Americans Advancing Justice, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and on and on.

Another section calls for government data not already disaggregated to be catalogued along identity categories. “Many Federal datasets are not disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender, disability, income, veteran status or other key demographic variables,” the order grumbles. That will change in order to “advance equity.”

“Equity,” by the way, appears 21 times, while that old American mainstay of “equality” doesn’t even make a cameo. And there lies an important rub.

Equity has now come to mean the functional opposite of equality. The latter means equal treatment to all citizens, such as the Constitution calls for in the clause of the 14th Amendment that deals with equal protection of laws. Equity means treating Americans unequally to ensure that outcomes are equalized — the old tried (and failed) Marxian standard.

The order defines the term ­equity, but it isn’t forthright about whether it’s equality of opportunity or outcomes. It says “ ‘equity’ means the consistent and systematic fair, just and ­impartial treatment of all individuals.” Thus, everything turns on how administrators interpret the meaning of “fair” and “just.”

It will likely be a “woke” interpretation, considering the definition’s exhaustive inclusion of every victim category under the sun (“underserved communities that have been denied such treatment, such as black, Latino and Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders and other persons of color. . .”). This usual list even includes “persons who live in rural areas” — a nod, one supposes, to the left’s new awareness of its vulnerability there.

Vice President Kamala Harris was much more forthcoming and honest when she tweeted this on Nov. 1: “There’s a big difference between equality and equity. Equality suggests, ‘Everyone should get the same amount.’ The problem with that, not everybody’s starting out from the same place. So if we’re all getting the same amount, but you started out back there and I started out over here, we could get the same amount, but you’re still going to be that far back behind me. It’s about giving people the resources and the support they need, so that everyone can be on equal footing, and then compete on equal footing. Equitable treatment means we all end up in the same place.”

The order also revokes a Trump-era federal ban on using toxic critical race theories to harass employees in so-called anti-racism trainings. And as if that weren’t enough, the order then tackles history itself, also revoking the 1776 Commission, whose remit had been to return America to an objective teaching of history.

Why? Because the commission and its report “sought to erase America’s history of racial injustice.” Full disclosure: I was a member of that commission — and we did nothing of the sort.

In other words, the expansive overreach represented by the equity order, to be coordinated by the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, has everything to do with Biden’s weakness on his far-left flank — and nothing to do with unity.

Michael Gonzalez is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and author of “The Plot To Change America.”

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