Not always fair


I have always preferred the word and concept of consistency to that of fairness. The latter speaks to me of hard and fast rules for everybody, regardless of circumstance. I feel people today love “fairness” because there exists a myth that all of us got here through equally challenging means. Today folks have a tendency to see the world only through their own eyes and own experience. Therefore I can demand a “one size fits all” rule because I have had it equally tough as you. How do I know this? I just do.

This is why there is such opposition to affirmative action, to weighting participation in an event, to insisting that some have access who normally are never heard from or seen. The automatic response is “that is not fair!” In a certain sense these critics are correct. If fairness is an arbitrary rule that everyone, regardless of the context, is forced to navigate then awarding access to some over others by a different set of expectations is not “fair”. But in another way of looking at things, not everyone who crosses home plate got there from the same distance. Some arrive at home plate by starting out at third base, some have to get there from deep in the dugout.

I prefer consistency to fairness because we need some type of lens to guide us through life and using a lens of who you know or some arbitrary rule does not inspire me like the command to bring out the best in all of us. To bring out the best of my sister or brother in Christ I don’t look for a rule or whom I know best or who did this for me in the past, I look at the context and see what needs to be done to allow my kin the access to whatever is needed. If she needs to participate and I was there first, I want her to go ahead of me. If he needs to get into that classroom to be his best and I have better grades I have no problem with him getting that opportunity. Whether the reason is to allow folks these opportunities is race, income, gender or some other challenging barrier that exists in our society I as a straight white middle-class male need to find the grace and the perspective to see the justice in this act of inclusion.

I recall a lecture where the speaker came to us advocating for women to be heard, that women are often socialized to remain quiet in larger groups, to defer to male voices and she wanted all of the questions after her lecture to come from female students. It made perfect sense to me. From a consistency point of view there was a logic, purpose and long-term strategy to this ask and I was fully supportive. But for many, including many women, there were concerns about “fairness”. I recall asking “where is it written that shalt never make exceptions for the greater good?” I still believe having a consistent purpose and goal means that sometimes exceptions are needed, required to get us from here to there.