Social equality! Is it achievable? What are the pressing social equality issues the world is facing today? Let’s take that deep dive into the issue to understand it better.
While it’s still an elusive ideal, social equality is paramount for the growth of any society or country. But what do we mean when we talk of social equality?
Well, this amounts to equal treatment and distribution of opportunities and resources among members of a certain group or society, regardless of their age, race, ethnicity, social class, gender, sexual orientation, among other issues.
However, this has proven quite unattainable in many societies, with numerous social inequalities being experienced all over. Hierarchies within societies still exist, with some members being overly privileged than others, whether intentionally or not. This results in some people receiving better treatment than others in various spheres of life.
The 2020 pandemic presented numerous challenges that saw an upheaval in our normal societal operations. Bringing about one of the worst global economic downturns, millions were left jobless, even as the “Black Lives Matters” protests continued.
The call for police reforms to curb racial discrimination, climate justice, and food insecurity are topics that have also dominated our screens for the longest time.
Talking about these issues is one step towards solving them, once and for all.
Table of Contents
The Practice of Social Equality
This refers to a state of affairs where every individual within a particular group or society enjoys the same rights, liberties, and possibly status.
These include things like civil rights, autonomy, freedom of expression, and even equal access to public resources. It demands the absence of lawful social class distinctions and boundaries, as well as discrimination based on someone’s identity or character.
Social equality advocates and activists always try to achieve equal opportunity by the law for all persons, irrespective of their gender, sexuality, ethnicity, class, income, religion, age, health, opinions, or convictions. They advocate for equal chance and opportunity for all.
One thing to note here is that social equality can not be achieved by the efforts of a single person or institution. It needs the collective efforts of everyone, to make any notable social impact.
Top Social Equality Problems Globally
While the topic is mostly overlooked, racial discrimination is one form of social inequality with deep roots in our society. Whether we want to see it or not, people of color face numerous forms of discrimination each passing day. And, while human rights activists and other global organizations try to advocate for equality in this area, the issue is far from over.
For instance, the murder of a black man (George Floyd) at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer was a hot topic in 2020. This saw numerous “Black Lives Matter” protests that sparked a lot of reactions and responses from the local and international community.
Many would ask, would the policeman have reacted the same way if the person of interest was a white guy? Well, this is a serious question that we as a society should ponder.
The formation of the Black Lives Matter movement back in 2013 was triggered by such social inequalities, with an increase in incidents of police brutality and racial discrimination against the black community.
In the case of Floyd, reports show that between 15 and 26 million Americans took part in the protests. This moves one of the biggest in the US.
The truth is the laws are there. However, those who should enforce these laws sometimes don’t follow them, leading to such incidents. If we are to achieve racial equality and social justice, then we need to do more than just make these laws.
Remember, racial equality doesn’t only refer to a lack of discrimination. It also implies the presence of systems and values, which ensure justice and fairness for everyone in society.
Another major area of disparity in social justice and equality is in marriages. For instance, while this is a basic right, some societies still restrict same-sex marriages.
This means that some members of society (LGBTQ) are discriminated against and denied some economic, legal, and civic rights, compared to heterosexual members of society.
The LGBTQ (gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) community faces numerous oppressions simply because of their sexual orientation. And this happens right from our state and national governments, to even the basic institutions like schools, churches, and clubs.
To help make this clearer, a 2020 joint survey by the Center for American Progress and NORC (an independent group from the University of Chicago) gave the following findings:
- In every 3 LGBTQs in America, more than one has faced some form of discrimination in one year. This figure includes more than 3 transgender Americans in every 5.
- 1 in 2 LGBTQ Americans reports that discrimination negatively affects them both mentally and economically.
- 30% of LGBTQ Americans had difficulties accessing health care, especially due to high costs. This number includes over half of transgender Americans.
- More than half the members of the LGBTQ community in America reported concealing personal relationships to avoid discrimination. In addition, between 1/5 and 1/3 of them have had to change certain aspects of their work and personal lives.
- The LGBTQ community members continue to face serious mental issues, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic period.
- Around 15% of LGBTQs in America indicate avoiding or postponing medical checkups and treatment due to increased discrimination. This includes almost 30% of transgender members.
All this shows the level of disparity in social equality in our society, especially towards individuals who seem different from us. Without being socially equal, we can’t achieve economic equality.
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Income Gap and Economic Equality
In 2018, before the COVID-19 pandemic, studies showed that America’s income gap stood the highest than it ever had in over 50 years. And, the pandemic made it even worse.
In essence, there are millions of people living in abject poverty, while another lot enjoys extreme wealth at the top. Recent studies show that while the poor continue down the line of poverty, the wealthy continue amassing billions of money.
When dealing with the income gap and income inequality the disparities result from several factors, including race, sexual orientation, and gender. Some companies will offer higher pay to certain individuals than others, just because of their color or sex. For instance, men tend to earn more money than women, doing the same kind of job.
Now, this is a serious form of discrimination that should be handled. Even worse, governments are a major contributor to economic inequality. For example, they largely under-tax the multi-billion corporations, companies, and individuals, while the poor continue bearing the burden.
Also, vital public services are underfunded, including education and healthcare, meaning that the poor have no access to these services. The government should invest more in public services, especially in poor neighborhoods.
In addition, some of the policies made by our policymakers are all inclined to continue helping the rich while the poor continue perishing in poverty.
And, despite their hard work and contribution to the economy’s growth, the poor always benefit the least when the economic cake is being shared. Some of the main social equality issues emanating from the income gap and economic injustices include:
Lack of Resources
The hard truth is, when a section of society has access to some of the best resources, another section can’t meet even its most basic needs. To some people, access to resources like water, food, healthcare, and good education, is a luxury.
This shows the level of disparities in resource allocations, a failure that mainly falls on the governments. In the US alone, over 2 million children go without food, clean water, and other life necessities.
A study by World Counts even showed that over 485,000 children die each year because they can’t access food, clean water, or shelter.
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Where poverty levels are high, diseases also tend to rise. This is because people are not only suffering from malnutrition but also because accessing healthcare is an uphill task.
These two factors lead to an increase in certain diseases like diabetes and blood pressure in certain sections of the community. This is a scenario that has been quite evident during the COVID-19 period.
In the US, the black community was adversely affected by the virus, as they had several other underlying conditions like diabetes and heart disease. All this is because of poverty among these communities and poor healthcare over the years.
While in America, various programs have been set up to cater to the needs of the poor, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done to make them work well.
At the global level, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank indicate that almost half of the planet’s population has no access to basic healthcare. This shows just how serious this issue is.
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Social equality through education is something that every government should strive to achieve. Various steps have been taken over the years, both at national and global levels, to help bridge the education gap.
However, much still needs to be done to ensure the social inequality in accessing quality education is eliminated. For instance, at this time and age, there are still many regions around the globe where there is completely no access to education.
Also, in other regions, girls are not allowed to go to school like their male counterparts. According to UNESCO, over 9 million girls in Africa don’t go to school. On the other hand, over 6 million boys end up not setting foot in a classroom.
If such inequalities can be tackled, this would be a great step in tackling poverty and creating equal opportunity for all.
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Over the years, human rights activists and social workers have been on the front line fighting to combat social injustices in children simply requesting equal rights.
This, however, has not eliminated all forms of injustice related to children. There are still numerous challenges that children face, especially those from underprivileged families or communities.
Some of the issues that continue to threaten children’s physical and mental health around the world include:
Poverty is one fueling factor in child forced labor. This is because, even at a tender age, some children face numerous life challenges, which lead them to seek alternatives to survive.
Over the years, various laws have been passed globally to help ensure that children are not exploited. These laws were drafted to put to a stop the harsh and dangerous conditions that children were once forced to endure.
But, while in some areas, people want to think of child labor as a long-solved issue, this is still persistent in some regions. According to ILO (International Labor Organization), over 152 million children, aged between 5 and 7, were in forced labor in 2017. Estimates also showed that around 73 million of these children were engaged in hazardous labor.
Since 2000, efforts by various governments, social workers, and activists have seen the numbers drop significantly. However, there is still much to be done.
See Related: Gender Equality vs Gender Equity
Child Neglect and Abuse
This is another form of social equality issue prevalent in almost every society globally. Parents and guardians are not only neglecting their duties toward their children, but some are also abusing them physically, mentally, and sexually.
According to WHO, almost a quarter of the entire adult population has, at one time, faced child abuse. The big problem here is this abuse doesn’t end with childhood.
The trauma inflicted on these children affects them even later in life, negatively impacting them economically and mentally.
Civil Rights for Special Students
Not all of us are born the same. Some children are faced with various physical and mental disabilities that make a normal life a challenge.
That’s why numerous laws have since been passed to allow children with special needs to lead a normal life. For instance, students with conditions like autism or ADHD can easily access education without being discriminated against or looked down upon.
Examples of laws that have seen a significant change in how differently-enabled students are handled include the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and No Child Left Behind.
Before such laws were passed, children with various physical or mental conditions could not access normal education. Others were taken to special schools or asylums.
Today, the world has made numerous steps in the right direction in combating these social equality issues. However, some countries still lack the necessary infrastructure and resources to cater to special students’ education. This means that we still have a long way to go.
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Social Diversity and Equality
As highlighted earlier, equality refers to a situation where everybody, regardless of their characteristics, is given equal opportunities without discrimination. This includes having equal access to essential resources like education, healthcare, and even fair treatment by the law.
Equality ensures that everyone in society has a chance to grow and achieve their full potential without being derailed by discrimination issues.
Some good examples of social inequalities include:
- Black workers get fewer training and promotion opportunities compared to their white counterparts. This is even worse when you are a woman, especially a black woman.
- Less training for older workers despite having worked for many years
- Workers from minority groups receive less pay than other employees while still being overworked.
On the other hand, diversity means understanding that people are different in various ways, and treating them with respect, according to their uniqueness.
For instance, different people and groups have different lifestyles, beliefs, values, and cultures. These differences shouldn’t result in discrimination. In fact, they should be the basis to guide us in the best way to treat and respect different people.
In essence, diversity is all about recognizing, valuing, and celebrating our uniqueness. When we recognize people’s differences in backgrounds, skills, knowledge, and experiences, we can easily create a productive workforce where everyone feels valued.
The truth is everyone is different. However, everyone also has their strong points. It, therefore, doesn’t make any sense, to discriminate against someone just because they seem different to us.
In fact, we should embrace each other, learn from each other, and promote each other’s growth.
Equality refers to a situation where every person, regardless of what sets them apart from others, is given an equal chance. This includes having equal access to essential resources like quality education and healthcare and fair treatment by the law.
Equality also ensures that everyone has a chance to thrive and reach their full potential without being derailed due to discrimination issues; we need both diversity and equality to make everyone succeed together.
Specifically, there are laws set in place which give students with special needs access to normal education without being discriminated against or looked down upon because of their disability.
In addition, what this means for people who have been discriminated against is they will be treated equally if claim that they have been unfairly punished or deprived of racial and ethnic minorities and continue to experience disparities in education, employment, housing, health care, and more.
Diversity is the acknowledgment and understanding that everyone is different in various ways and should be respected for their uniqueness.
This includes but is not limited to different lifestyles, beliefs, values, and cultures. Diversity should never result in discrimination but racial discrimination is a form of discrimination based on race, or what we refer to as “color,”, particularly in the United States.
What this means for people who have been discriminated against is they will be treated equally if they file a complaint that they have been unfairly punished or deprived of resources and opportunities because of their race or ethnic background.
Social equality means that all people have the opportunity to contribute what they can to society and receive what they need from it. This includes opportunities for economic mobility, social inclusion, family well-being, and physical safety.
There are many ways that you can work towards social equality in your community. You can start by learning about the experiences of marginalized communities and what they need to feel safe, welcome, and respected.
Then you can find out what local resources are available to support them, what issues are present in your community, what organizations are working towards these goals, what works well, and what doesn’t.
You can take what you learn and use it to inform your work with others who are doing the same so you can mutually make better decisions to grow your community.
The most important thing you can do is listen to what others need and want without judgment follow the lead of what marginalized groups say they require and take direction from them on how best to support their needs.
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