Equity vs equality: Tom Cotton branded ‘rich White Harvard guy’ amid Merrick Garland's AG confirmation hearing

Cotton questioned President Biden’s nominee for Attorney General Merrick Garland regarding Biden’s executive orders on 'racial equity'

                            Equity vs equality: Tom Cotton branded ‘rich White Harvard guy’ amid Merrick Garland's AG confirmation hearing
Senator Tom Cotton speaks during US Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland's confirmation hearing in Capitol Hill on February 22, 2021 (Getty Images)

Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton may have been missing the spotlight, but it is now firmly back on him. At the confirmation hearings for President Joe Biden's pick for Attorney General, Cotton's line of questioning led to him trend on Twitter. On the face of it, Cotton's questions seemed pretty straightforward but carried a strong undertone of White supremacy. 

Cotton questioned President Biden’s nominee for Attorney General Merrick Garland regarding Biden’s executive orders on “racial equity” on Monday, February 22. At the heart of the matter are the terms equity and equality, with the former a key part of Biden's new executive order. Cotton's line of questioning hinted at the concept of "reverse racism", which has so far been a looming shadow in the Republican Party.


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Senator Tom Cotton (Getty Images)

Understanding equity

Equity is defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary as "freedom from bias or favoritism". However, the term is also widely interpreted as providing to a specific group of people so as to level the playing field. Unlike equality, equity takes into account that the playing field is not level, to begin with. 

That does, however, mean providing more resources to a particular group - in this case, African Americans and other minority groups. That is exactly what Biden's executive order on racial equity aims to do. By using the word equity, the government is acknowledging that minority groups have not had the same opportunities and resources as others. 

To that end, the order also goes on to define equity as "the consistent and systematic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals, including individuals who belong to underserved communities that have been denied such treatment."

That is where Cotton has made his objections.

Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 22, 2021. (Getty Images)

Reverse Racism

Delivering equity rather than equality means providing a bigger stage and more resources to groups that are traditionally underserved. That will come at the cost of resources for others - in this case, White Americans. That leads many White supremacists and conservatives to believe that they are being discriminated against. 


Reverse racism literally means prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a dominant or privileged racial or ethnic group. It is somehow the belief of Cotton that providing equity would be detrimental to White America.

If there was any doubt as to that, Cotton backed it up with a tweet saying "Judge Garland agrees that it's wrong and immoral to discriminate based on race. I hope he'll oppose any of President Biden's so-called equity initiatives that treat Americans differently based on the color of their skin."



Cotton is known for his highly conservative views, but as the Republican Party shifts further right, it seems harder for America to unite on critical matters such as racial justice. Any opposition to President Biden on the matter would be harmful to America at a critical moment.  

Right now, millions of African American, Asian and Latino communities are struggling for access to the Covid-19 vaccine. They have also been unfairly hit by school closures, with most minority communities having limited internet access. At this time, it is imperative these groups have access to a level playing field. The challenge is that getting there requires some special treatment. 

What Cotton ignores is that White privilege is indeed a reality in America. Biden's executive order aims to dismantle that, which is what conservatives see as harmful. That is exactly what thousands of Americans thought as well. Within minutes, Cotton found himself trending on Twitter. While a lot of Americans attacked the senator there were a few who tried to educate him on the matter. "Equality - everyone get the same thing no matter the need Equity - everyone gets everything they need to be the same Does that help Tom Cotton? #GarlandHearing," explained one social media user.

While another asked, "Do you not understand the difference Tom? Equity brings everyone to the same level. Equality doesn't have as much of an impact when there are different starting points. If you start a mile ahead of me, it doesn't matter if we have equal gear and terrain, you'll still finish first."




'We love nothing more than being lectured about racial equity by a rich white middle aged harvard guy who got campaign funds from Wall St, Big Banks, Big Biz, Big Oil, and dark money. Great separate but equal speech. What a shocker" said one slamming Cotton. 


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