This month we’ve been exploring inequity – what it is, how to spot it, and today we’ll look at three things you can do when you see inequities. Recognizing injustice and unfairness is a start, but there is absolutely more that we can all do to ensure we address inequity in our society. Once you become aware of injustice or a situation that creates unfairness, take the following steps.
First, talk to friends and family
Often, we’re most receptive to suggestions and nudges from the people who care about us – our friends and family. Do you see something that is unfair or unjust and the people in your circle don’t? Or, maybe they see something is not fair, but they have no sense of urgency about changing it? Sometimes we’re able to see things more clearly than our friends and family. When this happens, talking to them about it can help bring an issue to the forefront.
Generally speaking, people are more receptive to hearing and speaking the truth when they’re in a safe environment. Talking about something you saw, read, or heard – say a shocking statistic about the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color – provides an opportunity for your friends and family to talk about the situation, share perspectives and learn. A big hurdle to addressing inequities is to simply acknowledge they exist. Much of what happens in America goes on, day after day because there aren’t enough people outraged and motivated enough to change it. Talking to friends and family in a safe and supportive atmosphere helps get the conversation in the open, and hopefully helps open their eyes to situations of unfairness and injustice in America.
Then, ask “Why?”
When you begin to discuss inequities with friends and family, I recommend asking “Why?” five times. Often, the default logic is to blame the people for their circumstances. However, as you expand your awareness and understanding of inequity and invite others to join you, I challenge you to become a detective and investigate what may have caused people to be in the circumstance in the first place? Asking “why?” five times can help peel back those layers.
For example, the CDC says that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19. As of July 18, Indigenous and Alaska Natives are 5.3 times more likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 than a White person. Black Americans are 4.7 times more likely to be hospitalized than White Americans. One of the first questions to ask is “why?” Why is this happening?
The answer could lead me to understand that BIPOC as a group have higher rates of underlying or pre-existing illnesses that, when combined with COVID 19 can lead to more serious illness or death. If I ask why again and conduct a little research, I’d learn that illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease is related to biological and socioeconomic factors. If I ask why again, I will be able to understand more about these factors and their origins. So you see, asking “why?” can help move us from making assumptions about people or even blaming them for their circumstances. It can help us get to the source of the inequities and then inform the best way to address the problems.
A big hurdle to addressing inequities is to simply acknowledge they exist.
And, speak up in the moment
As you begin to ask yourself, “why” and further explore what creates the circumstances people are in, it is important to speak up in the moment. If you don’t have a fully-baked solution to a problem you’ve identified, that’s okay. The goal of speaking up is to be the voice that says, “This way of doing things is not beneficial to everyone. We need to rethink how we’re approaching this if we truly want to be inclusive and equitable.” Perhaps after you speak up, the next step is to do more research into what causes an inequity. Or, maybe it’s to create a team to determine how a specific action or policy could be more fair and inclusive. The goal of speaking up is to create awareness and make a more equitable situation possible.
There are many more actions you can take once you spot inequity. In addition to talking to friends and family, asking “why?” and speaking up in the moment, you can join other organizations in their work to promote equity. You can financially support organizations that promote equity, encourage your organization or company to host educational workshops for staff, become active in local politics, and much more.
How will you take action to address inequity in our society?