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Equality – or Equity? What is Our Testimony?

Many Friends in SEYM and the wider Quaker world have started using the word ‘Equity’ in place of ‘Equality’ to better describe a testimony to anti-racism and to social and economic justice.

Beverly Ward, member of Tampa Meeting and the SEYM Committee for Ministry on Racism (and Field Secretary for Earthcare), is engaging in conversations among Friends about ‘Equality,’ ‘Equity,’ and what a testimony to true justice looks like.

She writes:

Our equality testimony flows inevitably from our belief that there is that of God in every person. If we believe in Equality, we must work for Justice. British Friends remind us: ‘Are you alert to the practices throughout the world which discriminates against people on the basis of who or what they are, or because of their beliefs? Bear witness to the humanity of all people, including those who break society’s conventions or its laws. Try to discern new growing points in social and economic life. Seek to understand the causes of injustice, social unrest, and fear. Are you working to bring about a just and compassionate society which allows everyone to develop their capacities and fosters the desire to serve?

Facing Unbearable Truths, Harold D. Weaver, 2008

The Sunshine Bus Co., St. Johns County, FL. photo: Beverly Ward

I’ve been sitting for some time with Friends’ testimony on Equality; and have had a rather public discussion with Friend Hal Weaver, of the Black Quaker Project, on how Friends’ testimonies can speak to justice. The discussion and the above quote from Friend Hal’s book suggest that he too has been sitting with the testimonies for some time.

In that 2019 discussion, Friend Hal pointed out that Friends’ testimonies do not address justice. I agreed and added that I had suggested that perhaps Friends needed a testimony on Equity.



By now, most of us have seen some version of this graphic: 







I have also seen this transportation-related meme:



Though the graphics may seem simple, they are quite powerful in explaining the difference between equality and equity.

Equality begins with the assumption of sameness, “equal footing“, a “level playing field”, and so on.

Equity begins with listening to each condition.


And the Lord answered that it was needful I should have a sense of all conditions, how else should I speak to all conditions; and in this I saw the infinite love of God.

—-George Fox, Journal, 1647

…the testimony of equality in some ways really might get renamed the testimony of equity because in point of fact what is the same for one person, it may not be the right solution or action for another person. So our deep commitment to seeing the divine in every person leads us to seek the right solution or right arrangement that honors each person’s truth…

—Tom Hoopes, Amesbury Quakers, “Equality or Equity? The Quaker Testimony

I will facilitate a ‘Conversation to Explore’ on equality and equity with Quakers of Orlando, 25 Second Month; and I’m looking for opportunities to visit other Meetings (virtually) as well.

I am also planning to convene a faith-based session during the Conference on Advancing Transportation Equity, 6-10 Ninth Month 2021. I am looking for potential panelists or posters or other activities for this conference; the call for abstracts ends 19 Second Month.

Please feel free to contact me, Beverly G. Ward, fsearthcare@seymquakers.org