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8. The Death of DEI
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  • Writer's pictureAntonio Da Veiga Rocha

Equity, Social Justice, and the Apprehension


I've come across many companies that are insecure at the idea of equity practice in their social spaces, and what it means for a work space to move towards a more socially just practice. When I've engaged in these conversations I've come to understand that the apprehension is informed by companies holding ambiguous definitions and a limited landscape reference for what these practices can do. This post is about clarifying these two terms, at least towards the way we use it here at KinSite.


Social Justice

We all deserve to live in a Socially Just society. It is a project that has been identified at many different points in history, an undertaking that has been on a gradual arc since the beginning of the human experience. It calls for a person, a community, a state, a nation, etc, to be treated justly. It is a series of actions that firstly identifies what is unjust and then woks towards making it just.


For example, the system of rights and laws that we have in the United States is an attempt at Social Justice (whether you believe it or not). The founding documents speak of Equity (fairness), Access (opportunity), Participation, and Rights (essentially the four pillars of Social Justice). The developing of these documents was informed by what was seen at the time as unjust practices by the British. So, to the aforementioned point: actions (groups) identifying what is unjust and further actions to make it just: Social Justice.

In contemporary society an example would be socially constructed healthcare systems which most western countries have adopted. Initially identifying that no member of that society should be without healthcare, they moved to create a more just system for all. This is also Social Justice.


I have often heard that social justice is socialism (the more direct line of apprehension for the companies I mentioned earlier), but though often associated with Socialism, it is not Socialism. Social Justice is one of socialism’s main ethos – a just society, but it is a much older project and shouldn’t be limited to that system. Though the two are associated they have their own set of characteristics.


Equity


Breaking it down even further we have the practice of Equity, which is a pillar of Social Justice, and again, holds its own characteristics. It is a word that is present in many different discourses right now, headed mostly by healthcare systems that are inquiring about the social determinants of one’s health.

Equity simply means Fairness; are the practices a company undertakes fair to all of its constituents? Is the city fair to its residents? Equity practice then is attending to fairness as a primary concern, and for this to be done, one needs to understand the needs and particularities of said constituents.


Here’s an example from the healthcare field. If I have an individual that needs to commute 2 hours to work, lives in a food desert therefor is limited to processed corner store foods, is widowed and cares for 3 children (one of which is a special needs child), and who works two jobs (both for minimum wage), will their health be more impacted by these circumstances then say someone that holds half these characteristics? Is it possible that they will experience more high blood pressure counts and higher levels of fat intake because of the higher salt and fat content in the processed foods they eat? May they have higher levels of anxiety do to single parenting and caring for a child of special needs. Such questions and pondering is the application of the Equity lens. This individual should be attended to from the complex characteristics they hold. So, as a healthcare provider, should I respond only to the in-office visit and write prescriptions as needed, or also advocate for social changes that better impact this person’s health? This is Equity in practice.


The Takeaway


For the employer that is preoccupied with opening up the lens of equity and the socially just pathways in their social workspaces, it’s important to first understand the differences in terms and practices. Once this step is undertaken one can personalize the methods that are inherently a part of these age-old practices, and from there see how such enactments can bring success to your work groups and clients.

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