Bakersfield City Council Members Discuss Equity Versus Equality In Funding

Equity and equality, are two terms that despite sounding similar have two completely different meanings. 

By Janell Gore | South Kern Sol

Equity and equality, are two terms that despite sounding similar have two completely different meanings. 

While the idea of equality is nice, some feel that it is not enough. For equality, disadvantaged groups who have been left out of opportunities in the past need help to catch up to others economically. This is where equity comes into play, equity is giving the groups what each of them needs to create what looks like an equal playing field. 

During the last Bakersfield City Council Meeting this very conversation was sparked between the council members when discussing a grant aimed towards disadvantaged communities. 

According to the City of Bakersfield website the $500,000 grant will be split between California State University Bakersfield’s (CSUB) Small Business Development Center and Division of Extended Education and Global Outreach, the Kern Community College District’s (KCCD) Bakersfield College (BC) Launchpad. and the Kern County Black Chamber of Commerce.

Between these three entities; women, Black, Indigenous, people of color, and LGBTQ+, owned businesses will be targeted through the funds with the Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Technical Assistance and Grant Program. 

Councilwoman Patty Gray of ward 3 stated in the March 22 council meeting that she supports the program but believes it threatens “equal opportunity for all.”

“It only benefits those that are minority entrepreneurs, including women-owned, Black-, Indigenous, People of Color, LGBTQ that experienced disparities in their community,” stated Gray in the meeting. “I don’t again wish to withhold any of these funds but at one time my husband was a disadvantaged White male who did not have the opportunity to have grant funds given to him to be able to open his own business.”

Gray continued to say that she hope for a time when people are not stuck on race and gender. She wants people to be able to apply for a grant after college without those questions being asked. 

“I just want to see the system be fair. That it’s equal opportunity for everyone no matter who they are in this country, that they can gain access,” said Gray. “I feel like what is happening today is another form of discrimination that we as a country can say we aren’t going to take this anymore. We aren’t going to let it divide us.”

After Gray’s comments Vice Mayor, Andrae Gonzales and councilmembers Manpreet Kaur, and Eric Arias stated that they disagreed with her stance. 

Gonzales explained that he had to “respectfully disagree” due to the fact that many historical and systemic barriers have made it harder for different communities. He explained that communities of color were “held back from creating generational wealth” because of things like redlining and governmental policies. 

“I think it’s important for us to recognize that and recognize that these programs are a way for us to address some of those systemic issues that are affecting our community,” said Gonzales. “There are issues that we may not see every day and I think it’s nice to hear that we want to be equal but it’s really important for us to understand that it is not equal for many people and their experiences.

Kaur spoke after to say that also had to “respectfully disagree” and similar to Gonzales explain that there historical reasons why women and people of color have not been provided equal opportunities. 

“It’s our role and I frankly think it’s the direction our city should be heading, and it’s the opportunities that we should be creating for the next generation to come,” said Kaur. “So that folks can sit here proudly and be proud of the city that supports their dreams no matter that we live in a country that has histories that we’ve inherited of inequalities we face every day and frankly people still experience every day rather they’re trying to go to school, rather they’re trying to start a business or just going about their day.”

She also told Kern Sol News that is disappointed by remarks made by Councilwoman Gray and that feels that this is a great solution. 

“This is a creative and effective solution – to criticize a policy that actually reduces burdens to economic prosperity, based solely on minority communities being named recipients, fails to understand the difference between equality and equity.  And to deny that systemic inequalities across gender, race, class, or sexuality don’t exist – simply is not factual,” said Kaur.

Arias spoke to the need for equity explaining that it is important for each person to be able to attain the American dream and that means acknowledging not each person has equal opportunity. 

“We must acknowledge that that is not equal. As we look across demographics, as we look across age brackets, by gender, there are so many ways that we can cut it up but at the end of the day that playing field is not equal,” said Arias. 

He continued to read from a Federal Reserve article that states, “White Americans hold 84 percent of total U.S. wealth but make up only 60 percent of the population—while Black Americans hold 4 percent of the wealth and make up 13 percent of the population.”

Arias explained that the American dream depends on your access to capital and it is “profoundly dangerous” to assume that the playing field is equal. 

Arias told Kern Sol News that he feels this is a serious misconception and that is why it is important to have equity. 

“Equity refers to the work that we must do to provide the additional support and recourses to communities that don’t necessarily have the same opportunities, or the same resources, or the same support as others,” said Arias. 

He continued to explain that is important to locally try to make this change and strive for more equitable changes. 

“We have seen certain parts of our communities neglected for decades. Frankly, we are trying to create new opportunities, new partnerships, and to think creatively about how we can provide unique opportunities to specifically marginalized communities that have suffered for so long.”