22 November 2018
by Samuel Murray, Organisational Lead- Practice & Support
A Fishy Quote About Equality
Albert Einstein was rumoured to have once said: “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Whilst Einstein never actually said these words, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a good quote all the same.
What these words are trying to highlight is equality, or “treating everybody the same”, is exceptionally flawed and at times can even cause far more harm than good.
Just take another look at the image above – taking a uniquely traditional view of fairness and equality will often give some people more than they need, at the same time as leaving others left with little or nothing at all.
At Jewish Care we have any number of examples where we most definitely do not treat people the same or equal, and for very good reason, too.
- We provide greater levels of support to people with more profound disabilities – because not all people with a disability need the same support.
- We have a Holocaust Survivor Support Program, as the unique experience of this trauma requires a particular type of support – because not all people over a certain age from the same country need the same support.
- We have Russian, Hebrew, Yiddish, Hungarian, and Polish speakers using our services, as well as many other nations represented, who all require us to communicate to them differently – because not all people need the specific language support.
- We support and work with people who identify as LGBTI+ and that requires us to think, act, and respond more understanding and sensitivity than we would with other folk – because not all people need the same support.
See where all of this is heading? Whilst we would hope that everyone we work with and support in our services are equal in term of rights, access, safety, and attitudes towards them, a person’s individual experiences mean that we sometimes need to do things differently in order to meet those needs.
What examples can you think of that would require you to not treat somebody ‘the same’ because of who they are and/or their lived experience?
The burning question remains: if we are not meant to treat people equally, what should we be doing?
Short answer: treat people with equity and support justice.
If we commit to treating people with equity, we understand that some people will need more than others – or perhaps a different approach to the support we provide. We appreciate that everyone’s lived experience determines how we interact with them, not just relying on “treating everybody the same”. Equity ensures that people get what they need, not just what everybody around them is receiving.
And when justice prevails, the barriers that potentially created inequality in the first place are gone altogether – or at least significantly reduced. It may be broad social change, revised legislation, or just a commitment by an individual, a team, or an entire organisation to address impediments to a person achieving all that they can be and being treated in a manner that respects them individually.
All that said…this cartoonist sums up the idea of equality versus equity versus justice quite nicely in this little triptych…
Until next time, "be the change you wish to see in the world".