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14 Quotes on the Meaning of Racial Equity

If equality is the idealized scenario of a fair and just society, then equity is the practical means by which we achieve that ideal society. Equity is a realistic approach to leveling the playing field that accounts for an individual’s specific circumstances and recognizes the inequality present in our world.

Imagine two people standing on footstools looking over a fence. Each footstool is of equal height, but whereas one person is tall and can see over the fence easily, the other person is shorter and cannot. Their circumstances are equal but not equitable.

Equity would, for example, give the shorter individual a ladder so they could see over the fence the same as their taller counterpart. In the context of race, equity involves considering the types of opportunities and resources that might compensate for decades of disadvantages and ultimately forge a more balanced society.

We’ve gathered a powerful collection of quotes that define, advocate for, and embody the spirit behind the fight for racial equity — a fight that all of us can contribute to in our day-to-day lives.

Equality of opportunity is not enough … When some people have to run a 100-meter race with sandbags on their legs, the fact that no one is allowed to have a head start does not make the race fair. Equality of opportunity is absolutely necessary but not sufficient in building a genuinely fair and efficient society.
Ha-Joon Chang

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Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
James Baldwin

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Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda … Our mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with tolerance, bigotry with knowledge, and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity.
Kofi Annan

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A democracy cannot thrive where power remains unchecked and justice is reserved for a select few. Ignoring these cries and failing to respond to this movement is simply not an option — for peace cannot exist where justice is not served.
John Lewis

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No matter how big a nation is, it is no stronger than its weakest people, and as long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold him down. So it means you cannot soar as you might otherwise.
Marian Anderson

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Now more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: More connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe.
T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) in “Black Panther”

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No matter what our intentions, everything we say and do in the pursuit of justice will one day be outdated, ineffective, and yes, probably wrong. That is the way progress works. What we do now is important and helpful so long as what we do now is what is needed now.
Ijeoma Oluo

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Prejudice is a burden which confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible.
Maya Angelou

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We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.
Martin Luther King Jr.

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No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.
Nelson Mandela

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The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed. If one is free at heart, no man-made chains can bind one to servitude.
Steve Biko

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When I liberate myself, I liberate others. If you don’t speak out, ain’t nobody going to speak out for you.
Fannie Lou Hamer

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I strongly believe that freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience … I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others.
Coretta Scott King

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Our anger is moral. Our rage is sacred. Our anxiety contains wisdom. Our hearts are telling us the truth. If the truth makes others uncomfortable — good. Show me an alarm clock that makes a sweet sound and I’ll show you an alarm clock I can sleep through.
Ralph De La Rosa

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Featured image credit: London Express/ Hulton Archive via Getty Images

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About the Author
Melanie Davis-McAfee
M. Davis-McAfee is a freelance writer, musician, and devoted cat mom of three living in southwest Kentucky.
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