The Collins dictionary defines equity as “the quality of being fair and reasonable in a way that gives equal treatment to everyone.” Equality is defined as “the same status, rights, and responsibilities for all the members of a society, group, or family.”
How do we ensure that our society is a fair and equitable place for all citizens? We would first need to identify the struggles endured before we can offer a solution. At an individual level, each person, even with similar opportunities, will have a different struggle as there are several factors that will affect someone’s opportunities.
It is easy to look on from the outside and make assumptions about the burdens that a person should be able to sustain. We see someone presumably in a better position and form opinions about what they can and cannot tolerate. These assumptions are not always based on facts and can often lead to decisions that are detrimental to the individual.
However, there are certain generalizations that can be made that may hold true for most individuals within a certain class or group.
For example, persons earning a minimum wage in Barbados will find it difficult to make ends meet, far less to thrive.
Another general truth is that there are many middle-class Barbadians that are barely making ends meet and have been burdened with the responsibility of supporting family or friends in less than ideal circumstances and may be a few pay checks away from poverty.
A third general truth is that there are Barbadians that have taken care of their basic needs. Their mortgages have been fully paid, they never worry about the source of their next meal and their days are spent maximizing their potential wealth.
There are many expectations and assumptions that are made of these three groups. The first group assumes that they are alone in their plight and that the system has been designed to keep them in a state of poverty.
The second group lives in fear that they are perceived as privileged because they do not exist in a state of poverty and are able to enjoy some of life's pleasures. They fear that they may be expected to give more to society when they themselves are in a constant state of balancing between survival and thriving.
They fear having the ultimate goal of financial freedom pushed back further and further as more is taken from them in the name of what is best for society and they dare not complain because things could be worse and are often told that they are in a better position that most in society and should be grateful.
The last group fears that persons perceive their wealth as luck and do not see the hard work that went into creating and/or maintaining that wealth. There is a guilt for some in enjoying the fruits of their labour, such as engaging in nice vacations multiple times a year. Some may even go to the extremes of hiding their nice clothes and food from the hired help for fear that they are judged.
But is there more that each group can do to understand and live in harmony with each other? Is there a way that assistance can be offered to others without members from each group feeling as though their way of life is at risk?
In my next article, we will dive deeper into understanding some of the ways we can bring about more equity in society.
*Krystle Howell, CPA, CIA, COSO, ALMI, ACS, aka Mavis, is an Internal Auditor by profession, avid artist and a lover of dance.