During his questioning of Merrick Garland, President Joe Biden’s nominee for attorney general, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) asked if Garland if he believes that discrimination based on race is morally wrong and then proceeded to question him on racial equity versus equality.
Garland answered in the affirmative, saying, “Yes, I think discrimination is morally wrong. Absolutely.”
Cotton then tossed the nominee this question: “Are you aware President Biden has signed an executive order stating his administration will affirmatively advance racial equity—not racial equality, but racial equity?”
“Yes, and I read the opening of that executive order,” Garland answered, saying the order “defines equity as the fair and impartial treatment of every person without regard to their status, including individuals who have been in underserved communities where they were not afforded that before.”
Garland added that he does “not see any distinction.”
“That’s the definition that was included in that executive order you’re talking about.”
According to Slate, Cotton continued his questioning, asking if Garland believes equity and equality are one in the same.
“This is a word that is defined in the executive order as I just said it. So I don’t know what else—I can’t give you any more than [the way the] executive order defined the word it was using,” said Garland.
The premise of Cotton’s questioning hinged on the specter of “reverse racism” and the idea that racial equity would, somehow, be detrimental for white Americans. Achieving equity requires people to be treated based on their need in order to reach an equal outcome. Equality simply means everyone is treated the same, which ignores the impact of systemic oppression and the disparate outcomes it causes.
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