Updated: May 9
By Dr. Joseph Nwoye Ed.D
As we enter 2020, I call on all people to rise, unite and fight against structural inequity and the factors that influence and perpetuate it. To that end, this piece explores two foundational factors that drive and sustain inequity in our society: uneven playing fields in education and economic. I believe that the only way to meaningfully bridge the inequity gap in all aspects of our society is through leveling the playing field, and that is the subject of this piece.
Before we dive into the existing inequity in our society, let us briefly discus the foundational structure inequity that by extension leads to current uneven educational and economic inequity between the privileged and the poor. Our society’s inequity which by and large stems from the existing education and economic landscape does not occur in a vacuum, it stems from sustained structural inequality in our system. Let’s face it, the existing dichotomy in our society’s education that determines economic success or failure does not occur in vacuum, it has been perpetuated and transmitted through uneven playing field in both education and economic spheres.
Putting it in context, we are the product of our structural inequity, the have and the have not, which can be encapsulated in the context of one’s education and social connections which by and large determine success or failure. It’s like never ending stories regardless of how the perpetrators attempt to change the true story of the foundational infrastructures that drive and sustain inequity in education, which predictably influences one’s economic success or lack thereof.
If you are still unaware of the root causes of inequity and how it’s replicated and sustained. For starters, I would suggest that you familiarize yourself with the works of two prominent ethnographic researchers, Jonathan Kozol and Julius Wilson. These are two of the most important researchers on the issues of inequality and the infrastructure that sustains it. Their meticulous research and writings provide us the crucial information to understanding what causes and perpetuates inequity in education and subsequently in one’s economics. These meticulous scholars have certainly provided us with the framework for understanding inequity in a larger context and I will explain in a moment.
Let’s begin by reflecting on a book, “Savage Inequity,” which was written by Jonathan Kozol. In it, Kozol documented with clarity the extent of inequity in our school system that is fundamental in the creation of inequity in our system, and how they are sustained through blatant discriminatory practices in school funding and differential treatment of certain students that impede their academic success, and it’s not just yesterday, it still exists as I write this piece. For example, take a look for yourself and read this article in the Seattle Times which shows what the the State’s new data reveals about school discipline rates by districts and race. Yet, we say, “education is the greatest equalizer.”
These practices either occur overtly or covertly, and in most cases, it happens covertly and that alone explains the source of structural and systemic inequity in our system, including academic achievement gaps in a system that can be characterized on the surface as fair, but if you pull the rug as pointed out by Claudia Rowe of The Seattle Times, you will uncover the deceptive mechanism that nurtures and sustains inequity even though some deny the existence of what consistently benefits the wealthy and disempowering the poor and by extension, impedes the economic chances of the poor and those of their yet to be born children.
As we can see from Jonathan Kozol’s work, the extent of inequity that exists in our society stems from the existing infrastructure created and sustained in our uneven playing field.
Like Kozol, William Julius Wilson, a famous Professor of Social Policy at Harvard University, he used his research to demonstrate how “the disappearance of work and the consequences of that disappearance” cause havoc and thus manifest in social and cultural problems in the inner-city ghetto.” If you are unaware of the root cause of inequity that begins in our schools and by extension bleeds into the larger society, these eminent scholars provide us the window through which to conceptualize the ugly aspect of inequality, and the people repeatedly turn a blind eye to the harsh reality of the poor, and instead, they blame the victims of poverty all over again.
As this ugly reality continues, it leads to the creation of perennial haves and the have nots, the beneficiaries and victims. Those who benefit from the inequity are usually the politicians and policy makers who conveniently dismiss the existing inequity through their pathetic excuses, “well, maybe there could be some truth to that, but not completely.”
Groups that make excuses often adopt these denials or subversions of the truth by turning a blind eye to their purported twist leadership and circumventing the true causes of inequity. They allow established power to maintain benefits to their friends and relatives while creating and nurturing policies that sustain the ugly experience the victims of inequity endure.
Knowing the true cause of inequity and how it is sustained in our system, the choice is now yours. Do not ignore the reality and play ignorance. As they saying goes, “The ball is now in your court.” You now know about the pain associated with inequity and the divisions it creates on the basis of who benefits and who suffers, which is evidenced in our divided communities through existing zip codes. If you are conscious of the pain associated with inequity, you also know that it is your responsibility to help ameliorate the pain of inequity by doing something about it.
It is imperative that we change the foundational infrastructure that drives and sustains inequity as we strive to create a fair and better society. That society would allow everyone the opportunity to reach his or her God’s given potential without impediments to anyone’s ability to achieve his or her education and subsequently, their economic success.
To that end, I encourage everyone to take action to eliminate inequities in one of two ways: either as an individual fighting independently to eradicate inequity, or in collaboration with others with similar interest to eradicate inequities in all its forms. I know that you can do it.
First, start by adding value to your understanding of the complex nature of the problems associated with inequity through consistent study of the root causes of inequity in our system. Know how those who benefit from the existing unfair system deceptively and systemically sweep the true causes under the rug while manufacturing false evidence to conveniently deny the existence of the inequality in plain site or the factors that drive it in our school and bigger social and economic spheres. It’s clearly time for actions, actions designed to confront the perpetrators of inequity by exposing them and their ugly deeds to society so that the loud public response will propel them to change.
Alternatively, you can join progressive organizations and commit to “fighting the good fight.” Root out inequity in all its forms while inspiring other to emulate your foot steps to fighting and eradicating inequity while fostering peace, equity and social justice for all as we move into 2020.
Originally published in American Diversity Report – Author: Joseph Nwoye, Founder and President of DiversityFrontier.com, Systemic Diversity.org and SDIG (Systemic Diversity and Inclusion Group) on Linkedin.