“Believe in equal pay for equal work? Put your money where your mouth is.” So reads the website of the most comically unfair product I’ve ever seen. I first ran across the EquiTable app about six months ago. At first, I thought that their advertisement video was a Saturday Night Live skit; surely no one could be as pandering (or have a name that sounds so fake) as EquiTable’s top dog and Chief Equality Officer Luna Malbroux.
EquiTable is an app designed to equitably split a restaurant tab. Or, as they put it, “EquiTable splits bills fairly. No, really. Fairly.” This means that if I, a white male, enjoyed a forty five dollar lunch with a transgender Latino friend (this app allows you to choose your gender along a sliding, non-binary line), I would be responsible for sixty seven percent of the bill, and they would pick up thirty two percent. The staff at EquiTable builds their distribution model off of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and what they call algebra or math. They call the resulting tab affirmative fractions. From what I gather, EquiTable is designed to both educate white people on the inequalities of society as well as feed the alt-right. Okay, maybe they only want the first one, but they’re doing such a good job with the latter too.
The app is based on the mindset that protected classes deserve more, because they’re under a state of continual and systemic oppression. We could say that this privilege in dining is unfair, and EquiTable wouldn’t dispute that. As a matter of fact, it’s the whole point. As the video says, “Reparations, one meal at a time.” This app is a crash course in the economics of protected classes. Protected classes are defined as “the groups protected from employment discrimination by law.” While all people fall into some protected class, the concept really emerged as a way “to correct a history of unfavorable treatment of women and minority group members.” The idea of a protected class has been rooted deeply in the American psyche since the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s, and questioning its utility is verboten. If you don’t believe me, try to question the level of oppression faced by any protected class on Facebook and count the seconds before “bigot” and “crawl back into your hole” have emerged on your feed.
Yet this is the very question I’ve had lately: do protected classes unite or divide a nation? Let’s first lay out some goals. Our desire should be to see a society progressing toward submission to the Gospel. This would manifest itself in a collapse of the walls between Jew and Greek, but it would require the government to stop maintaining these walls. The explicit protection afforded to protected classes is defense against discriminatory hiring practices, and while all people fall under a protected class, there is a special emphasis on guarding members of minority classes. Protection of those without power is important (Jas. 1:27), but I wonder, is there a better way to do that than just making them a protected class? It seems that special protection can cause damage in two ways: by feeding racist groups like the alt-right and by slowing societal progress.
The first issue does not need much explanation: the growth of groups like the alt-right correlates with the growth of minority groups demanding equity. Equity can here be defined as different from equality. Equality demands that we treat everyone the same; equity demands that we give everyone the same outcome. As aggressive groups like Black Lives Matter rose, so did Milo Yiannapoulis, Richard Spencer, and their alt-right friends. We can’t selectively fight white supremacy, because it is an ideology that feeds on inequalities (or perceived inequalities) in the system. So long as government protection is afforded to one group more than another—so long as equity is prioritized over equality—we cannot rid ourselves of reactionary racist groups. For more on this, read Douglas Wilson’s “Alt-Righty Then.”
The second issue that protected classes cause is decelerated progress on problems. For instance, since transgenders are a protected class, discussion around them has to tread lightly. Saying that transgenderism is a mental disorder or rebellion is seen as an attack on a minority group. Progress is not feasible, because half of the possible solutions are labeled as bigotry and hate. As the government arbitrarily assigns privilege to certain groups, it surreptitiously removes the ability for civil discussions on issues pertaining to these classes.
So what do I propose? I certainly am not advocating for the removal of protected classes so that we can oppress these groups. I argue that we afford all groups the same protections. If a transgender man is beaten, that should be prosecuted the same as if a straight white man was beaten. Affording special protection to minorities (and consequently heightened punishments to those who wrong them) falls on the equity side of the equity-equality spectrum, and operates on a mindset of payback rather than justice. Protected classes like immigrants and racial minorities should be wholeheartedly welcomed by the Church and treated as equals. But there are some protected groups that have ideas that are antithetical to the Gospel and that Christians should never accept, like transgenderism or homosexuality. The issue is that so long as we propagate an equity culture, simple disapproval of another group’s practices can be twisted into being an attempt to subvert or disadvantage them.
Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, speaking of immigrants, says that the key to acceptance is to blur the lines between native and immigrant through assimilation (Haidt 2017). The institution of protected classes builds a conceptual wall between two groups. If the government is truly concerned with creating a society which is just, government needs to behave justly. That means tying the blindfold back around Justice’s eyes, and treating equal crimes equally, without regard to the identity of the target. This will require a foundational change in policy, from the politics of equity to the ideal of equality.
Haidt, Jonathan. 2017. “The Closing of the Modern Mind.” Lecture, NYU, New York, February 22. Accessed June 21, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFD5odFv36k&t=3131s.