Is it unfair or unequal?

Setheesh Moturi


Here is an example of unfair discrimination: Tax reform. The two candidates who lie on either side of this spectrum (Trump and Sanders) are aiming to give tax breaks to either the richest or the poorest. Under Trump’s plan most tax cuts would come to wealthier households, and the opposite is true for Bernie’s plan. To the “wealthier,” Bernie’s plan seems unfair, because who wants to pay for others to have free stuff?

During these elections, words like “inequality” and “unfairness” have been thrown around hotly, so a distinction needs to be made. There is a difference between unfair and inequality.

This quote from a post on The Boeskool blog caught my attention almost immediately: “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” The author calls into question his experiences of oppression only to realize his feelings were often misguided and based on his personal discomfort.

These days, it doesn’t seem to take much to become “oppressed.” Feelings of oppression generally stem from unfair circumstances.

Far be it from me to say that inequality is a thing of the past. Just less than two weeks ago, the state of Nebraska rejected a bill that would ban LGBT discrimination in the workplace. This legislation is not a standalone. States like North Carolina and Mississippi both are rekindling the fire of human rights for LGBT members in our communities.

Inequality is not the idea that I’m not getting what I want, it’s that groups of people (typically) aren’t getting what they deserve. This distinction is an important one to be made. And based on the potential outcomes of the current election, it will become even more important as time moves onward.

When we look at a campaign like Donald Trump’s, “racist” is often a word that comes up. His comments toward the Mexican community—and illegal immigrants in general— as well as the Muslim community are in no way sensitive. However, to say these comments are “racist” is more likely an assumption based on the subsequent actions of many of his supporters.

Many of these supporters likely feel it unfair that illegal citizens are taking jobs, security, and wealth away from hard-working citizens. Never has the racist community of America shone more brightly and under such a unified banner as, “Make America Great Again.”

A similar, though not the same, argument can be made for Sanders and accusations of socialism. He intends to spread wealth in order to fuel a capitalist economy, not to destroy it. In Sanders’ camp, there are likely many supporters who feel it unfair so much wealth be spread amongst so few people, while others struggle to work for the leftovers. This is likely the context under which many support the message of Sanders.

Under either banner, we see many claims of inequality thrown toward the opposing candidate. However, let’s pause the next time we’re tempted to flippantly use the term “inequality.” Often it is likely that this inequality is actually unfairness in disguise based on our feelings of personal discomfort.

Setheesh is a sophomore mathematics and religious education major.