One of the tragedies of humanity is that people often think that equality means sameness and so people do not want or seek equality for those who are not the same as them. This is the politics of the other. This is the politics which means inferiority is ascribed to those who are not the same as those who have taken power from themselves as the natural order of things. Which is why everything is political. Apoliticalness is inscribed in the absence of struggle, the absence of subjugation. Sometimes silence is the loudest sound.
Therefore and counterintuitively, those who suffer from the politics of the other, point out the existence of the politics of the other and are then accused of creating the politics of the other, by those who benefit from the politics of the other. And the silence grows louder. The oppressive silence is only broken when equality is requested, politely asked for, and then demanded, as the natural order of things. We should all be free. These chains are socially constructed. Equality is asking for socially constructed chains to be removed, made absent.
So, legal instruments and general statements of equality often fail. Because they declare something to be, that should be, but is not, but they make no mention of the whys and hows of the not being… they ignore the process of othering. How the not being came to be. How the unnatural order of things became the seemingly natural. How oppression subverted justice and insinuated itself in human consciousness as the way things ought to be. So actually, legal instruments of equality do not really attempt to ‘de-other.’ By granting equality they presume that the dominant should, as a matter of course, have the power to bestow equality. Thus they make invisible the mechanisms of inequality, such that despite declaring and presuming some power to grant equality, such instruments and statements carry inherently within them the propensity and general aspect of failure. They inadvertently reify the othering process by making the other more visible, making the other’s socially constructed inequality more visible, yet without, in any way coming against the process of othering. Without holding the dominant accountable. General statements of equality entrench inequality.
And so, in many ways we fail to acknowledge the true meaning of equality. True equality is not a lifting of the oppressed, but the removal of the power of the dominant to oppress the different. Equality is justice. And that is what makes that statement so true:
‘when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression’
Equal and Sameness
So to remove the power of equality, sameness is pressed forward as a synonym of equality. Violent integration and extreme epistemicide masquerade benignly among us. But the beauty of the world is found in the lines of difference. Equality is not the same as same. As closer thought will always uncover. For example:
A has two children X and Y. A loves both children equally, but they are not the same. A treats both children equally but not the same. When X breaks her arm, A does not get both of them a cast. Y is artistic, but A does not seek to enrol both children in Art College.
B Ltd sets up a foundation to help people without medical insurance. Do they give everyone in the hospital £10000? Or just those who they know are unable to afford treatment? Are they pursuing equality or sameness?
Equal is not the same as same. When we say equality, we should mean treating everyone justly.
If you can understand the examples above but cannot understand why people who are not the same should be treated equally, then that is a refusal to understand. Not ignorance. It is a choice to ignore. If you cannot understand why people who have different histories of oppression, and can be considered equal, but should receive different levels of treatment in the present to attain justice… Then I have no more words. Life is too short. I’d rather be drinking gaari with kuli kuli and epa. Be right back…
I am back.
Here is the thing with a system of oppression. If you do not want to see it, you will not see it, no matter how often you ask for it to be shown to you, your voice dripping with false sincerity, while your hands press down on the truth, and your feet trample on truth, you will not see it. You. Will. Not. See. It. Especially if you benefit from it. When you benefit from oppression equality means the reduction of your benefits, and it feels like oppression. To you it is oppression and you will refuse to see it until you want to. Because, those who suffer from the politics of the other, point out the existence of the politics of the other and are then accused of creating the politics of the other, by those who benefit from the politics of the other. And the silence deafens.
An agbalumo is not an African pear. It is an agbalumo. Equal is not the same as same.