WHAT IS EQUITY?
By Brandon Fulk
Imagine that you’ve been tasked to plant three sunflowers. Sounds pretty simple, right? With plenty of sunlight, water, and fertilizer, you should end up having a strong looking finished product.
Let’s make this a little more difficult. One of the flowers is planted outside and has the most typical path to successful growth. The second flower is planted in a six foot deep hole outside. The third is planted in a coffee can in a dark room. You can try to tend to the flowers equally, but they won’t all reach peak growth at the same time. They may not even grow at all.
Equality is defined as the state of being equal, especially in status, rights and opportunity. Equality may mean giving each flower one hour of sunlight, yet equity means taking extra steps to ensure proper growing conditions to create plants that thrive. Flower one has needs; as a grower, you can supply water and fertilizer at a minimum. However, if you apply the same treatment to flower two, you will have a different result. When flower two is given water and fertilizer, it will not succeed as a key component is still missing. It isn’t until you pull the second flower from the pit that it will begin to thrive. Flower number three is confined by structures beyond it’s control, the roof blocks rays it needs to survive, and the coffee tin limits the roots that are created to reach for nutrients. These blocks may not seem like a problem from the outside, but with these barriers success is impossible. Each flower has the same makeup, they are sunflowers, but for the individual flowers to thrive, they have to have different treatment to thrive; equitable treatment.
Now imagine that you have a rose as well. While still a flower, the rose has a unique set of requirements that are necessary to achieve a healthy and successful growth. You may get weary of the pricks from the thorns but you understand its role in protecting the plant from harm. You may grow tired of the constant pruning, but after proper care you will enjoy a plant that produces many beautiful blooms.
Think of each child born in the Greater Lafayette community as a seed. These seeds are not all equal. They have different shapes, sizes, growing conditions, and so forth. They could be a sunflower, rose, lily, etc. They come from different families, lifestyles, incomes, or religions.
It’s the community’s responsibility to tend to these seeds. We have to be prepared to answer the call to action, no matter how unique or challenging it may be. Equity needs to be instilled into the hearts of those who take the steps to give solutions to problems in our community. Look at Community Gardening, for example. A community comes together to plant, tend to, and support a garden. This garden not only has aesthetic benefits, but it brings the community together to support something positive. With open hearts and minds, our community can ensure every baby is born healthy, ready for a better quality of life and successful growth as a functional member of society.
United Way of Greater Lafayette’s commitment lasts through the child’s progression to adulthood and their future career. There are many opportunities to step in and intervene for these individuals, no matter where they are on their walk of life. Each person has something different to offer when it comes to taking care of the community. Some may have the tools to begins planting seeds and prepare the ground for future plantings. Some people have the gift of time to water and nurture these seeds as they grow. Some might be able to support a fully grown plant by moving them out of their initial spot and replanting so it can grow and thrive even more. Everyone in the community has their own set of passions and skills, all of which can be applied to creating a more equitable community.
No challenge is impossible to overcome, especially when there is an army of love and generosity against it. Everyone wants to succeed. Everyone wants to be happy. It takes everyone in our community to create a space for every seed to thrive and grow.
Equity isn’t fair. Equity doesn’t mean equal. Equity is making sure everyone is tended to and makes it to their peak growth, no matter what challenges they face along the way. The question isn’t, “What will it cost?” Instead, let’s ask ourselves “What skills and resources do I have to help?”
Click the links below to learn more about how you can promote equity in the Greater Lafayette community as well as a one-year update from the United Way of Greater Lafayette DEI Committee.