Monday, February 1, 2021

Orwell and the Democratic Vogue for Using the Term "Equity"

At The Liberal Patriot, John Halpin has a great piece taking off from George Orwell's classic essay, "Politics and the English Language" (haven't read it?--you should!). In politics, the tendency to use ideological jargon and fuzzy concepts instead of plain language that communicates what you really mean was as rampant in his day as in ours. Here's Halpin, channeling Orwell, on today's incessant use of the term "equity".
"[Take] the Biden administration’s new “equity” agenda which turns concrete issues of discrimination and poverty into abstract ideas that many people probably can’t follow.
Although President Biden genuinely cares about racial equality and equal opportunity—and his administration has many good ideas for improving the lives of people of all races across the country—his new executive order on equity is impenetrable in written form:
"For purposes of this order: (a) The term “equity” means the consistent and systematic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals, including individuals who belong to 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; members of religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) persons; persons with disabilities; persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality."
What exactly does this mean? What is “systematic and just”? And who exactly is included or not included?
If the Biden team means to eliminate concrete forms of discrimination in housing, education, criminal justice, or employment, just say so. If it wants the fair and impartial application of all laws to all people, just say so. If the goal is to reduce or eliminate poverty, which affects people of all races, just say so.
But the vague use of “equity” to describe what in traditional civil rights terms is full equality under the law plus the dedication of federal resources to help chronically poor and underdeveloped communities, makes this executive order confusing and open to misinterpretation. Many Americans will hear this order and think that equity means favoritism—money and help for this group and no money or help for mine.
This is not news. Ask ten people to define “equity” and you will get ten different responses.
In contrast, we have entire civil rights bills and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that explicitly lay out how governments can ensure full political equality, basic living standards for all, and anti-discrimination measures to eliminate racial bias and prejudice. Why make politics more confusing by importing academic jargon to describe a basic commitment to fairness, impartiality, and equal opportunity backed up by the power and resources of the federal government?"
Why indeed? Read the whole thing at The Liberal Patriot!

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