Over the past two weeks there have been protests and violence in St. Louis, demonstrations reported by the Chicago Sun Times after the death of a black woman at a local hotel,1 Republicans getting the word out on tax reform, and Nancy Pelosi being shouted down by pro-DACA agitators in San Francisco. What do these things have in common? They are all about inequity. They wouldn’t exist in a nation where we truly believe that equal means not special.
Would we want it any other way? Not likely.
Equal means not special how?
True equality doesn’t exist and it never will, even if we want it to. Our prejudices make us human whether we like it or not and no matter what we profess to believe. Besides, there is money and power to be had from exploiting inequity in the name of leveling the playing field.
We run into problems when we look for inequity where it might not exist.
Equality is a flawed value judgment
Equality is a value judgment. We keep hearing that it’s our goal. This comment from Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) about LGBT discrimination hints at the problem:
We have come so far and made a great deal of progress on the issue of equality for all Americans, but now is not the time to rest on our past victories.2
The same argument applies to African Americans in remarks from another congressman:
But although we have come so far, it is important to recognize that there is still much to be done to provide quality health care, affordable housing and education, and access to the ballot for all Americans.3
Women’s Equality Day was August 26, 2017 and we heard the same refrain about the battle for gender parity:
Though we have made great progress in achieving equality since, there is still much work to do.4
The fight for equality can’t end because equal means not special. There is too much fame and fortune to be had from injustice, unfairness, and inequality.
Sometimes these causes are just. Sometimes they are manufactured.
Equal means special for too many
The “more work to do” dialogue is easy to slap on Latinos and Hispanics, LGBTs, women in the workplace, the disabled, the poverty-stricken, and any other group harmed by the inequities in our society. That’s why we have a Congressional Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus, Asian Pacific American Caucus, LGBT Equality Caucus, Progressive Caucus, and an untold number of special interest lobbying groups. There are certainly problems to address, but the fight for equality also generates money, power, and influence that would vanish if the battle ever came to a satisfactory end.
Congress doesn’t need to worry. There is too much at stake for that to happen. This year we have already been offered the Refund Equality Act for 2017 for same sex couples, the Equal Protection for American Workers Act to protect us from illegal workers, the Equal Protection in Travel Act of 2017, and S. 328, the Equal Justice Under Law Act of 2017 to pursue class action suits against states that don’t provide “effective assistance of counsel” to criminal defendants.5
These are just a handful of examples. Two words, equal and equality, drive an astounding amount of the dialogue and rhetoric on Capitol Hill and hide behind more legislation than most of us know exists.
Too much equality, too little value
We are drifting farther away from a national dialogue where equality is something of value. Equal means not special and that’s not what politics wants. What draws our attention is about being special, about being different, and most important of all, being treated badly.
The death of an African American at the hands of the police or with no apparent foul play6 elicits knee-jerk protests, vandalism, and even violence. Illegal immigrants protest their treatment, demanding rights they haven’t earned but are so assured of that they heckle politicians like Nancy Pelosi who are notorious for pandering to their needs. Antifa defends the left by justifying violence to stop perceived threats from the right. Congressional conservatives try to protect citizens from violent gangs and are opposed by colleagues who resurrect the profiling argument.
None of these examples are about fighting to be equal. They are about being special.
Equal means very special in tax reform battle
Tax reform is the next big thing on Capitol Hill. Federal taxes will never be about equality because the poor can’t pay the rates that the rich do. That is a balance we will never, ever replace with true equal treatment because tax equality would be castigated as amoral.
Equality will never be good enough
Discrimination is wrong. It shouldn’t be tolerated, but don’t think for a moment that being special is going to get old or that we will arrive at a point where equality makes everything better. That will never, ever happen because it’s not what we want. Certainly members of Congress who stake their claim to making us all the same aren’t going to give up redressing wrongs. The bar is going to be raised higher no matter how far we have to stoop and when some groups get what they want, we will create others to replace them.
UPDATE September 21, 2017: when special isn’t special enough
It had to happen sooner or later. Outrageously demanding illegals didn’t get what they want and now they are turning on the only people who want to give it to them. As The Hill reports this morning,7 immigration activists and protesters are getting tired of waiting. They are unhappy with a party that hasn’t handed them what they want.
They may be illegal but they aren’t stupid. Democrats have been playing this game with minority communities and African Americans, in particular, for decades. It took the threat of deportation, one disseminated by Democrats and not by Trump, to make them wake up and sniff the hypocrisy.
1. Charles, Sam. “Rosemont police quash calls for FBI to take over Kenneka Jenkins case.” September 18, 2017. http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/rosemont-police-quash-calls-for-fbi-to-take-over-kenneka-jenkins-case/, retrieved September 19, 2017.
2. “Congressman Lowenthal Helps Introduce The Equality Act to Protect LGBT Community From Discrimination.” Alan Lowenthal. May 2, 2017. https://lowenthal.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=398840, retrieved September 19, 2017.
3. “Congressman Donald Payne, Jr.’s, Statement on the Celebration of Black History Month and the 100th Anniversary of the Birth of Rosa Parks.” Donald M. Payne Jr. February 4, 2013. https://payne.house.gov/press-release/statement-black-history-month-100th-anniversary-rosa-parkss-birth, retrieved September 19, 2017.
4. “Chairman Crowley Statement on Women’s Equality Day.” Joseph Crowley. August 26, 2017. https://crowley.house.gov/press-release/chairman-crowley-statement-women-s-equality-day, retrieved September 20, 2017.
5. “S.328 – Equal Justice Under Law Act of 2017.” Congress.gov. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/328?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22equality%22%5D%7D&r=7, retrieved September 20, 2017.
6. Charles, Sam. “Rosemont police quash calls for FBI to take over Kenneka Jenkins case.” September 18, 2017. Op. cit.
7. Bernal, Rafael and Lillis, Mike. “Liberal unrest threatens Dem immigration strategy.” The Hill. September 21, 2017. http://thehill.com/homenews/house/351671-liberal-unrest-threatens-dem-immigration-strategy, retrieved September 21, 2017.
Photo: Grant, Glenn. “Majestic line of emperor penguins, Antarctica.” National Science Foundation. https://www.nsf.gov/news/mmg/mmg_disp.jsp?med_id=61986, retrieved September 20, 2017.