Equal Opportunity in Oklahoma: Not so equal after all...
In practice, equal opportunity legislation seeks to level the playing field in a variety of ways: funding public schools, so every kid has a solid educational foundation, investing in public health - so mental or physical health problems don’t hold workers back, and creating an environment in which everyone feels supported and has a stake in the success of our communities. There are already blog posts about education and healthcare, so let’s dive into Equal Opportunity.
Equal Opportunity - in its most basic form - means that everyone in our society is treated fairly and has an equal chance to succeed regardless of who they are or where they originate. As Americans, we often take pride in the concept of the American Dream and point to celebrities and entrepreneurs as the embodiment of that dream come to life. But the reality of the American dream is - at times - a bit homogenous; thus, the importance of creating a level playing field.
A common misconception of the phrase “leveling the playing field” is that it takes opportunities away from qualified individuals in employment and educational opportunities like admission to universities. On the contrary, in an equal system where everyone has access to the same high-quality resources regardless of a ZIP Code, a qualified individual is not impacted by race or socioeconomic status.
If we create a more equitable society, we allow individuals to achieve based on their hard work and merit. Still, sometimes we must enact legislation that ensures equality for all - especially in a time when it seems certain rights are not something we can take for granted anymore.
Earlier this year, a bill came before the House that would force transgender students to use the restroom of their assigned gender at birth. Proponents of the bill cited fears that transgender students would somehow harm their class. However, it is usually transgender individuals who are at a higher risk of harm because of the same exact rhetoric.
Fanning the flames of division is the exact opposite of what our legislature should be doing. Instead, we should strive to support and create solutions that result in a state where all people are welcome to be themselves.
Finally, let’s create more opportunities for democracy to work. Voting will always be one of the best solutions to any problem in our country, but when voter turnout is low, the answer should not be to place more restrictions on voting. Instead, we must meet voters where they are to increase their engagement and allow them to have a say in a system that often feels inaccessible.
The importance of creating equal opportunities is twofold: creating a chance for anyone to forge their way forward and find success and creating a society where each person feels like a valued community member. After all, we don’t all have to agree, but we should all feel like we belong.