Opt for Opportunity

Diva-Oriane Marty and Saci-Elodie Marty

American School in Japan, Japan

Enable everyone to help themselves

Equality is not enough. Equality has been placed on a pedestal as the solution to all our major world issues.  Today, under the law of many democratic nations, everyone is viewed as equal. However, equality alone has not stopped disunity. Equality by definition is the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities. When we talk about equality we often just look at equality of status and rights, forgetting the third crucial component, opportunity. Under the United States constitution’s equal rights amendment “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” However, women in the workplace are too often not awarded the same opportunities as men when it comes to position. Opportunity is the catalyst for the idealized essence of equality. Instead of looking at equality as the ultimate solution, we should turn towards opportunity. I am not suggesting that opportunity will lead to world peace, but simply that it's a more suitable lens to look through when attempting to tackle world issues ranging from the glass ceiling to terrorism.


We have made great strides as a global society to seek equal rights for all people. However, written laws do not translate to opportunity in the workplace or in social situations. It can be seen in the denial of services or job opportunities based on characteristics that don’t affect one's ability or worthiness.


Homegrown terrorism is a growing issue impacting all developed societies. For example in France in the 1960s the banlieues received a flood of immigrants looking to work in major French cities. The “banlieues”/ “cités” are often isolated from mainstream French society. Those living in the cités are stereotyped, automatically acquiring a criminal image. These immigrant populations have built families in France. Their children are French and have only ever really known France, but many rather associate themselves with their ethnic nationality due to discrimination they encounter in France. Stereotyping and ostracizing are at the core of this issue. It has limited the opportunities of those living in the banlieues. The strict borders between neighboring communities, have created a very strong sense of them and us within France. The lack of integration is at the root of homegrown terrorism, and other forms of violence and criminal activities. Those living in the banlieues may be equal under law to other French citizens, but they are not awarded the same opportunities to move up the socioeconomic ladder.


The story is very similar when it comes to the inner cities of United States. Racial profiling has caused divisions across racial and neighborhood lines. With these divisions in society there is an eruption of violence between groups and continued violence inside these communities. The concentrations of poverty and violence have caused never-ending cycles due to the limited exposure and opportunities provided.


Without opportunity, one is left with no hope. Those without hope cannot be expected to strive to better themselves and their communities. Those that are blocked out of mainstream society are going to look to be part of another community. By cutting people off and striping them of their hope, we leave a void; a void that radical groups, gangs, pimps, etc. take advantage of. They are either providing a means of survival or the prospect of better life. The possibility of a better life with the opportunity to strive towards something for a greater cause is appealing to all humans. Everyone needs a purpose and goals in life. We cannot expect those that are left behind not be picked up by these extremist organizations.


As Obama said, “Now, as a nation, we don't promise equal outcomes, but we were founded on the idea everybody should have an equal opportunity to succeed. No matter who you are, what you look like, where you come from, you can make it. That's an essential promise of America. Where you start should not determine where you end up.” As Jacques Chirac stated, “La démocratie, c’est l’égalité des droits, mais la République, c’est l’égalité des chances.” Democracy means equality of rights, but a republic means equality of chances. When we discriminate against large populations, by not insuring that they are awarded the chance to succeed and contribute, we cannot expect change. Not working towards equal opportunities is not only harming individuals, but also it is hurting our economies and our communities by wasting human resources. Governments and communities need to make it possible for everyone to be able to help themselves.


We need to continue to discuss and assure that attitudes change, in order to insure pay and positions are not affected by discrimination, because laws alone don’t guarantee change.


We need to focus on building strong education systems, that are available to all those who seek them. The education systems should encompass k-12 education, affordable colleges, trade schools, and night schools.


We need to have community outreach centers and mobile technology tools that are available to all, proactively educating people on different career paths and opportunities. In order to guarantee that accurate information on opportunities is widespread, both social organizations and governments need to take on the initiative. These tools would provide exposure to opportunities for those that would otherwise be unaware of all the possibilities that await them. Such opportunities provide hope and build goals.


We need to help immigrant populations integrate from physical integration throughout metropolitan areas, to intellectual integration throughout mainstream society. It is normal that new immigrants want to stay together to ease the transition, but from the beginning their needs to be active civic engagement to make it easier for them to integrate. The integration can take place through schools, sports, and events.


Change will only come once we enable everyone to help themselves.