letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor: Kopp’s Definition of ‘Equity’ Misses the Mark


I’m writing in response to Quentin Kopp’s column in the May issue “Equity Does Not Mean Equality.” In it, Mr. Kopp refers to Webster’s Dictionary to define “equity” in a way that seems to be willfully misleading. A quick online search shows that he drew heavily on the third definition as a way to show that “equity” has nothing to do with the debate about equity vs. equality. By focusing on a tertiary definition related to historical English law, Mr. Kopp builds up a strawman that has nothing to do with the topic and uses it to decry the “language destroyers.”

By skipping straight to the third definition, Mr. Kopp ignored the primary definition of equity as  “justice according to natural law or right, specifically freedom from bias or favoritism” and “something that is equitable.” Perhaps this definition was inconvenient for Mr. Kopp’s strawman argument? 

Equity is an important theoretical development as we work towards building a better society. Under the framework of equality, it is assumed that everyone’s needs can be met by providing the same support. Let’s say we wanted to give everyone a bicycle so that everyone could ride a bike that wanted to. Under the model of “equality” this would mean giving the same sized bicycle to someone who is 6’3″, someone who is 5’4″, someone who has limited mobility, and a 5-year-old child. Everyone has a bike now! This is great, right? But, all these people can’t fit on the same sized bicycle. A child certainly couldn’t ride an adult’s bicycle, and someone who is 6’3″ certainly wouldn’t fit on a bike sized for a five year old. 

What if, instead, we gave a large bike to the 6’3″ person, a smaller bike to the person who is 5’4″, a recumbent bike to the person with limited mobility, and a tricycle to the child? Now, truly, everyone can ride a bike! By recognizing that different people have different needs, and face different barriers to access, we can achieve “equity.”

Finally, I would love to see the Sunset Beacon, which does such a great job of conveying local news to follow the steps of the ChronicleIt became increasingly unclear why Willie Brown, who is no longer an elected official, continued to enjoy a weekly freeform column for years, and they have ceased to publish that column. I’m happy for this paper to present the voices of our current elected officials, but I remain unclear as to why we continue to give voice to someone who no one has voted for in over 20 years.

Alice Duesdieker

3 replies »

  1. Indeed. Why give this ancient political curmudgeon the space to narrowly frame arguments against straw puppets with cute aphorisms that never edify, but rather distract. The writing isn’t even all that good. Will the newspaper institutions ever get that people who read are not interested in bad writing? Or is the real motivation for the platform something like giving our overloads a toady who plays the role of spokesperson for the masses, the silent majority that never existed, but is just a phantom mob in eyes of the aristocracy that owns the newspapers.


  2. > but I remain unclear as to why we continue to give voice to [Willie Brown .ed] who no one has voted for in over 20 years

    I’ve got this one. Willie Brown still has a public voice because he is a formidable power broker in San Francisco and, I suspect, he maintains a firm grasp on the levers of power at a state level. Do not underestimate that man.


  3. The conduit by the interests become the power broker in the world of politics. I’ve see Willie live twice in my life time. Once outside of Willie May Park at MoMo’s (sorry Pac Bell and whatever it’s called now — Oracle Puke) where Mr. Brown was being regaled by all sorts of “influencers” .

    The other outside of the State Bird Provisions on Fillmore near Geary, accompanied — as usual — by two young ladies.


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