on equity and liberation

a couple weeks ago, my friend yoojin asked: Wondering if you happen to have any resources on sort of a 101 on the relationship between equity and liberation (connections and differences).

such a good question!

i’m not sure what i’m writing here now is 101 level but this question made me want to write some things down so i’m letting flow what comes up first and we’ll see what happens from there!

equity: everyone* having what they need in order to be their whole selves

working for equity, to me, is the work of correcting long-term systemic and individual imbalances in resources and opportunities. equity is also dynamic. at one point, i may not have enough. and then, as people (and i) work in the world with an eye towards equity, there may come a point at which i have enough and then, eventually, have too much. at that point, working towards equity would look like shifting resources and opportunities towards others. this can be true for/across individuals, groups, societies, and species.

liberation: the act and practice of being in choice while holding awareness that everything is connected (aka being in right relationship).

my current definition of liberation** is freedom (but not that individualist freedom definition that seems to be so popular these days…). it’s the freedom to choose what you do and who to be while holding the truth that everything is connected. in many ways, this is a much more constrained definition than that individualist freedom that says “i get to do whatever i want whenever i want, full stop.” but the paradox is that this freedom-is-choice-while-staying-connected definition, in my experience, creates a much more fulfilling and purposeful outcome. given our current hyperindividualist culture, it feels like it takes extra work to understand yourself in the context of other life (human, non-human, and more-than-human) and that it’s easier to just be free by doing whatever you want. but that extra work gives you relational depth that means you recognize you are never alone. (of course, in reality we are never alone even when we think we are or are led to believe we are. my friend, gopal, often says something to the effect of “my name is not for me. my name is so that i can be in community.”). and having freedom in the context of connectedness is really just the best.

liberation, to me, begins at the level of the individual and then flows outward from there. choice is fundamentally a solo endeavor but, in order to be connected, my choice will soon enough interact with others. it’s those interactions that begin to ripple my freedom outward (of course, others can resist it, but that’s on them. if i am truly free, even their resistance doesn’t end that freedom. ex: nelson mandela in prison).

one connection i see between equity and liberation is that liberated people work towards equity. if i am wanting to be in my full agency while knowing that everything is connected, it becomes clear pretty quickly that it’s actually in my best interest to make sure everyone has what they need.

another connection is that liberation is more easily found for people when they have what they need. it’s really hard to be at choice when you don’t have what you need. when i am lacking, i will often do whatever it takes to get that need met. even if that act to get what i need comes at the expense of others.

phew. ok! that’s what i’ve got for now. thanks, yoojin, for the prompt that inspired me to work on this. idk if it’s helpful for you, but it definitely helped me to process these thoughts out loud. :D

* everyone = all beings across all time and space.

** some other definitions of liberation are over here.

words / writing / post-processing
598w / 28min / min