Kept Equal

By Louis R. Avallone

Think about it: There’s not a single day that passes where the headlines don’t include a story of growing racial tensions, such as the removal of civil war monuments. Or the NFL players protesting during the singing of the National Anthem. Or reporters and Hollywood-types calling out President Trump (and all of his supporters) as racists and bigots. You could go on and on, with example after example.

Many had hoped that the 2008 election of the nation’s first black president would improve race relations, especially among black voters – but it didn’t. Today, nearly 3 out of 4 Americans say race relations in this country are bad. Compared to 2008, this this number has more than tripled.

For some, this uncomfortableness in our country is what what we need right now, if we are going to achieve meaningful change – especially if you listen to San Antonio Spurs coach, Gregg Popavich. Just last month he said, “There has to be an uncomfortable element in the discourse for anything to change…People have to be made to feel uncomfortable. And especially white people, because we’re comfortable.”

But are white people really “comfortable?” Then why would whites commit suicide at twice the rate of blacks? And why do white men, who are presented as the most privileged of all in America, commit 70% of all suicides and yet they represent only 30% of our population? Whatever the reasons, clearly more whites than blacks consider life not worth living.

From protest to protest, though, it’s inequality of outcomes at the heart of our racial tensions. Unequal justice in our courts. Unequal education. Unequal pay. Unequal footing.

But is inequality of outcomes inherently wrong? If you are a Christian, or otherwise religious, you may remember Jesus’ “Parable of the Talents” in Matthew 25. In this parable, each of the workers was given money to manage, “according to their abilities,” and as the parable unfolds, the results were different for each of them. So, if Jesus recognizes that we all have different abilities, and therefore we will all have unequal outcomes, then are we trying to make equality of outcomes into what it never was, and never will be?

Consider this: During the 19th century, and especially after the Civil War, equality meant everyone should have the same opportunity to make what he or she could of his or her capacities, regardless of race, religion, belief, or social class. But later, into the 20th century, this changed.

Equality became more about the idea that we should all be equal in terms of income or living standard. In other words, more and more folks began thinking that life should be arranged so everybody will end at the finish line at the same time, instead of just making sure everyone begins at the starting line at the same time.

But can we remain a free people if we guarantee equal outcomes? I mean, if we are all going to end up at the finish line at the same time, some people will need to be held back after the race starts, because no two of us are the same, and this raises a very serious problem for freedom. Most times, whenever societies have put equality before freedom, they end up with neither, and yet “equal outcomes” seems to be the objective of the racial discord in our country.

Some of you may not be convinced that we can’t end up at the finish line, all at the same time, and still remain a free people. But think about this: Would you take much pleasure in watching sporting events if the players were not among the best in the world? Or would you enjoy movies as much if they didn’t cast the very best actors?

Of course not. That’s the same reason why there’s no equal opportunity for me to play guard alongside LeBron James with Cleveland Cavaliers, or co-star alongside Harrison Ford in his next movie. The fact is, life is not fair, and I’m okay with that because I’d rather it be free, than fair.

You only need to look at societies like China and Russia, where equality of outcomes has been their basic goal, and you’ll see the tyranny foisted upon their people, in the absence of putting freedom above all else.

If liberty is embodied in the creed, “all men are created equal,” does that likewise mean that we shall all be kept equal, as well?

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