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john a. powell, head of OBI and UC Berkeley law professor, swiftly traces the history of (in)equality and equity in this installment of AskOBI. In doing so, he points us to next steps, but what comes next? Arguing the equity is not enough, john a. powell pushes for a new mode of thinking: targeted universalism.

Listen to the rest of the conversation, "Our Progression to a Future of Belonging: Identity, Targeted Universalism, and Building the Bridges to Tomorrow," and others from the April 2021 OBI summit here.


john a. powellWe started in much of the world with extreme inequality. But in many of our societies and many of our lives, we’ve moved to the concept of equality.  In the last 15, 20 years, we realized that equality is not enough.

People are not situated the same. You don't treat someone who is sighted and who is not sighted the same. That's maybe equality, but it's not equity.

So we move to equity. In our practice of equity, oftentimes we just focus on the disparities not realizing that even the group who's at the top of the disparities is not necessarily getting what that group deserves or needs. At the Othering & Belonging Institute and beyond, we started talking about targeted universalism.

The universal is not just simply what the dominant group has but it's what all of us deserve. But we're not situated the same, so in order for us to get what we all deserve, we have to be targeted. So now we're in the belonging frame. 

If we're going to move to an imagined future where we all belong — in which we all move together, we create belonging for the earth and for each other, where we learn to care about each other, love each other, see each other without becoming each other — we have to actually not just think about people, we have to think about structures. 

It’s calling for something new.