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Salisbury’s Take

Guest columnist, Stephen Salisbury. PHOTO/Ryan Lohman

By: STEPHEN SALISBURY

Guest Columnist

I once heard the generation coming of age during the 1970s referred to as the “me” generation. These folks were essentially baby-boomers who were in their twenties and thirties at the time and were going through a period of what some would call self-discovery. It was during this decade that the Black Power movement reached its apex, along with the fight for other types of civil rights like the Equal Rights Amendment and the development of the gay pride culture. In other words, this was a time when people who had felt marginalized their whole lives were taking public stands in an attempt to usurp some power and authority from the establishment which had traditionally been controlled by white, straight, wealthy Protestant men.

What is interesting about the fight for equality, in its various communities, that I have never heard articulated before until very recently, is that the fight has never really been about equality. Equality means that everybody gets exactly the same thing and is treated exactly the same way and, let’s face it, even the most passionate activists realize that that is virtually impossible to achieve. What we should be focusing on and what many of the social justice movements today are striving for is simple equity.

Equity is often used in terms of business and essentially represents a share in the value of a company. The company in our case is America and the people who live here are the shareholders. BusinessDictionary.com defines equity as, “fairness and impartiality towards all concerned, based on the principles of evenhanded dealing. Equity implies giving as much advantage, consideration, or latitude to one party as it is given to another.” When a social scientist refers to “privilege,” what they usually mean is that one group is being given more advantage, consideration, and/or latitude than other groups. The level to which you believe that seems fair serves as a barometer for how much privilege you have and how much you wish to keep.

One very recent example is the whole “#metoo” phenomenon that developed on Facebook over the past several weeks in response to the revelations about a certain Hollywood mogul and his predilection for victimizing women in return for consideration for his support of their careers. The stories that have surfaced are disgusting and vile and reveal the extent to which some men will go to take advantage of their “privilege.” The “metoo” hashtag was launched as a way for women, in the most simple and unambiguous way possible, to declare to their peers that they too have been either sexually harassed or assaulted in some way, shape, or form in their lifetime. The point was to illustrate the ubiquity of these acts and let other women know that they are not alone.

Almost immediately, men began to post responses saying things like, “Men are sexually harassed too, ya’ know.” Many of these responses are coming from men who were raised during the “me” generation and it has become only natural for them to lash out at those who are trying to shine light on inequity. These are the same people who refuse to acknowledge that “Black lives matter” and are only willing to assert that “all lives matter.” When they do this, they are attempting to prove that they are somewhat more enlightened and caring rather than acknowledging the disparity that these movements are attempting to reveal.

Here are the statistics: Ninety percent of the rapes in America are carried out against women. One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. For men that number is one in 33. In other words, women are over five times more likely to experience this horrific act than men are. When it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace, in 2015 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported 6,822 officially reported claims; 83 percent of those claims came from women.

So, yes, men do get sexually assaulted and harassed, but the extent to which this happens as compared to women is significantly less. And, yes, all lives matter, but until you are willing to publicly acknowledge that Black lives matter, be honest and admit that you don’t really believe either of those statements. And when a woman proclaims #metoo, admire her for her courage. Let her know that you love her and support her and that you are sorry that whatever happened to her happened. And if you occupy a position of privilege, as I do, use your platform to support those that are fighting for equity among all. Don’t belittle them and undermine their defiance by marginalizing it. That is exactly why they are fighting back. If you truly care, use your power to lift up, not tear down!

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