TheGrio Daily

Equity vs Equality

Episode 110

“It’s not just about fairness, it’s about making your product as good as it can be.” Michael Harriot debunks the myth that any attempt at equity is an attempt to achieve equality of outcome. This concept simply isn’t possible because minorities are subject to economic, social, political and educational deficits that white people do not experience.


Michael Harriot [00:00:00] Hey, I don’t know if you heard, but theGrio Daily has been nominated for a Webby Award. It’s like an online Oscar or Internet Emmy, except, you know, for this one, it’s just not all white people win. You’re all the words, right? Like, they don’t believe that Harry Styles is better than Beyonce. So you get to choose. That’s right. All you have to do is go to this link. Maybe it’s up there or maybe it’s down here, I don’t know how your internet works. But just click on this link. Vote for theGrio Daily. And if enough of you participate and enough of you vote for us, we win. Make sure you go vote because voting ends on April 20th. So go vote for the Grio Daily. And of course, we’ll see you on the podcast. 

Panama Jackson [00:00:48] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network. Black Culture Amplified. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:54] Would you rather have. $1,000,000 or a thousand more dollars. Would you rather be able to jump six inches off the ground or 20 more inches off the ground. Well, like I know what some of you are thinking, right? Like if you don’t have $1,000,000, of course you’d like to have $1,000,000. But what if you have 1.5 million? What if you have 2.5 million? Then a thousand more is more dollars. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today. So I want to welcome you to theGrio Daily, the only podcast that will explain equity versus equality. So what’s up, y’all? We’re back again. Back up in this mug. And today, we’re going to talk about one of the myths, one of the controversies right now, diversity, equity and inclusion. It’s all up in the news. They’re basically outlawing it in Florida, making it against the law to actually be more inclusive. I guess they want to make exclusive like I guess whiteness is exclusionary. 

Ron DeSantis [00:02:16] We are also going to eliminate all DEI and CRT bureaucracies in the state of Florida. No funding, and that will wither on the vine. 

Michael Harriot [00:02:27] Today, we want to talk about not just that broad idea, but one of these things that, you know, you hear a lot, right, is the difference between equity and equality. Right? And there’s this kind of conservative myth that any attempt at equity is an attempt at what they call equality of outcome. Right. What they’re trying to say is like, we’d rather have all students make Bs than have the smart students make A’s. And then the you know, the poor students make C’s or the the mediocre students make Cs. It’s a strawman argument. We’ll dismantle it during this podcast. But one of the ideas that that is based on is the idea that, like white people assume really, honestly that they’re smarter, right? So when you talk about diversity, equity and inclusion, what they counter with is, well, it should all be based on merit. Right. And ideally, theoretically, that would be cool. But that would also assume that how you got to a place is based on merit. Right. And that’s the difference between equity and equality. Right. 

Michael Harriot [00:03:47] So, for instance, if you are a college administrator and you’re trying to choose a student to enter. Right. Well, you have to figure in race because you’re looking at equity, not equality. We know that not all schools in America are equal. Right? Like, we know that Black schools, majority Black school districts are underfunded. And about $1,622 per student. Right. We know that. Like this data. Right. So. If you’re going to just look at two students, right, you’re going to have to factor in the fact that one of them just had more money every year that they were in school. In high school. Right. In middle school, in an elementary school, you have to factor in the fact that majority Black schools literally have fewer books in the library. They have fewer resources and the teachers are paid less. And you have to factor all of that in. You can’t just walk in the door and say, well, I’m looking at these two pieces of paper and so I’m going to judge them equally. That is why we need equity. For instance, if I ask Bill Gates, “Hey man, would you like to have $1,000,000 in your bank account?” He’ll laugh, right. If I asked an unhoused person, they’d rejoice, right. Because we were considering, they are considering what they already have. Right. And you have to consider the past in stuff like college admissions. You have to consider that we live in an unequal world. When you are constructing school systems, when you are constructing admissions policies, when you are constructing hiring policies, for instance. Right. You have to consider all those things. And the point of this is not that you are trying to give people a leg up or help them out, Right? It is not just about fairness. It is about making your product as good as it can be. 

Michael Harriot [00:06:12] And I might have told the story on this podcast before, but I always tell it. When I was in college, I went to a school that had a big engineering department, and so they had this race every year. But the race was not to build a car, a solar powered car that could go the fastest. It was to build a solar powered car that could go the furthest on solar power. And my friend, who was an engineering major, my frat brother, he was trying to figure this thing out. His whole team was together trying to figure it out, but they couldn’t figure it out. Right. They knew they were going to lose. So this kid from around the way, like he was, literally grew up in the projects. He was part of one of our social projects. He was there and he was like 12 years old, but he had taught himself how to weld and he would make these huge, like six foot tall bicycles. But to peddle those bicycles, he had created the systems of pulleys and chains. So he would take bicycle chains apart and put them back together so that they were longer and could go to thru the pulleys. And he showed them how they could apply that to his car. 

Michael Harriot [00:07:22] Now, all of those people on my friend’s solar car team, they had learned from the same teachers. They had been in all the same classes. They essentially had a homogenous learning background, so they weren’t helping each other. Right. What one new all knew because they had the same background. And that one small difference, that one small bit of diversity solved their problem. But that kid was not an engineering student. He was just someone from a different background and he made the part their project better. And that’s how diversity works and that’s also how equity works, right? So imagine if you were a lifeguard and there were two people drowning, right? And you said, Well, which one should I save? Right. Well, you can’t make the choice, Right. Based on nothing. So you have to have some kind of metric or some kind of criteria. Well, one of those criteria should be the person’s background, not their race and not their, you know, ethnicity, but, if one of those people could swim, right, you should consider that in which one you’re going to help because one could swim, you should go get the one who can’t swim first and then go get the one who can swim, because he could probably tread water or keep himself afloat longer. And that is the point of equity, considering all of the factors. 

Michael Harriot [00:09:07] Now, when you have constructed a society where the color of your skin whiteness gives you a social factor, you have to factor that in. Right. You have to factor that in if you are hiring somebody for that solar team. Because if all your students are white or went to the Ivy League colleges, you gonna end up with all people who think the same way. If all of your people on your, in your college all came from the same kinds of high schools. Then you’re going to have a student body that is just not more diverse because the teachers again don’t teach you just in class, right? You also learn from your fellow students. That’s why you have group projects. That’s why you have study groups. Right. So diversity makes the product, in this case a university or a college better. And that’s how equity works. And that’s why, for instance, when you are talking about reparations, you have to consider the past, because you have one group who has benefited from the racism that built America. And one group that has been put at a deficit in economic, financial, educational, social, political deficit. 

Michael Harriot [00:10:38] When you’re thinking about anything, when you’re thinking about jobs, when you’re thinking about, you know, any aspect of life, you have to consider equity. And it is not trying to gerrymander or manufacture an outcome. It is an attempt to not just right wrongs, but to make things better, to make things work. And that is the difference between equity and equality. If you don’t consider it, you’re being unequal. And that’s also why you have to watch this podcast. You have to download the app, you have to tell a friend about it and you have to subscribe or whatever platform you listen to. And that’s also why we leave you with another Black saying. And today’s Black saying is. If I had $1,000,000 would mean nothing if I already had. So thank you for listening to theGrio Daily, and we’ll see you next time. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download theGrio app. Subscribe to the show and to share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to podcasts at 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:13] I’m political scientist, author and professor Dr. Christina Greer, and I’m host of The Blackest Questions on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network. This person invented ranch dressing around 1950. Who are they? 

Marc Lamont Hill [00:12:26] I have no idea. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:28] This all began as an exclusive Black history trivia party at my home in Harlem with family and friends. And they got so popular it seemed only right to share the fun with our Grio listeners. Each week we invite a familiar face on the podcast to play. What was the name of the person who was an enslaved chief cook for George Washington and later ran away to freedom? In 1868, this university was the first in the country to open a medical school that welcomed medical students of all races, genders and social classes. What university was it? 

Roy Wood, Jr. [00:13:01] This is why I like doing stuff with you, because I leave educated. I was not taught this in Alabama Public Schools. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:07] Question three. You ready? 

Eboni K. Williams [00:13:09] Yes. I want to redeem myself. 

Amanda Seales [00:13:11] How do we go from Kwanzaa to like these obscure. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:15] Diaspora, darling. 

Amanda Seales [00:13:17] This is like the New York Times crossword from a Monday to a Saturday. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:21] Right or wrong. All we care about is the journey and having some fun while we do it. 

Kalen Allen [00:13:26] I’m excited and also a little nervous. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:28] Oh, listen. No need to be nervous. And as I tell all of my guests, this is an opportunity for us to educate ourselves. Because Black history is American history. So we’re just gonna have some fun. Listen, some people get zero out of five. Some people get five out of five. It doesn’t matter. We’re just going to be on a little intellectual journey together. 

Eboni K. Williams [00:13:44] Latoya Cantrell. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:46] That’s right. Mayor Latoya Cantrell. 

Michael Twitty [00:13:49] Hercules Posey. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:50] Hmm. Born in 1754 and he was a member of the Mount Vernon slave community, widely admired for his culinary skills. 

Kalen Allen [00:13:57] I’m going to guess AfroPunk. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:00] Close. It’s Afro Nation. According to my research, it’s Samuel Wilson, a.k.a. Falcon. 

Jason Jounson [00:14:09] Wrong. Wrong. I am disputing this. 

Latosha Brown [00:14:13] Very, very, very rare 99.9999 sure that it is Representative John Lewis, who is also from the state of Alabama. That let you know, Christina, we got some goodness come out of Alabama. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:25] There’s something in the water in Alabama. And you are absolutely correct. 

Diallo Riddle [00:14:28] The harder they come. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:30] Close. 

Diallo Riddle [00:14:31] Oh, wait. The harder they fall? 

Diallo Riddle [00:14:33] That’s right. I’m one of those people that just changes one word. 

Roy Wood, Jr. [00:14:38] I just don’t know nothing today. I’m going to pour myself a little water while you tell me the answer. 

Latosha Brown [00:14:42] The answer is Seneca Village, which began in 1825 with the purchase of land by a trustee of the A.M.E. Zion Church. 

Roy Wood, Jr. [00:14:49] You know why games like this make me nervous? I don’t know if I know enough Black. Do I know enough? How Black am I? Oh, my Lord. We going to find out in public. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:57] So give us a follow. Subscribe and join us on the Blackest Questions.