“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” shows many examples of racism but what it does not say is that the basis of racism is equality, when one person thinks of himself as better than another person based on the color of their skin it is racism. But what is equality? Is equality the government saying you can not deny this person a job for this or that reason? Is equality saying you must have as many “black” or “Asian” employees as you do “white”? Is equality saying that anybody should be allowed to do anything? Is equality forcing everybody to be the same so no-one is “less” than the others? Is equality any of these? No, none of these are what true equality is.
Equality is not saying that all people are totally physically and mentally equal, no “sane” person would bet against a professional basketball player in a one-on-one against a toddler, nor would anyone say that Einstein has the same mental capacity of the average six year old. True equality instead says that potentially everyone has the same capabilities, that is to say that potentially the toddler could play professional basketball and potentially the six year old could become a future Einstein. This is regardless of the toddler being Asian and the six year old being black they still have the same potential as any other child. However this does not mean that although all people have the potential to become Einstein does not mean they all have the capacity to. Many factors come into account through out individual lives which change an individuals capacity for different activities. In the same way Downs Syndrome could prevent the toddler from becoming a physicist, a bad knee could just as easily stop the six year old from playing basketball. True equality in this respect is realizing that just because someone does not have the capacity to be a certain way does not make them less than the people around them, however this does not mean that the people around them should be required to live up to less than their full potential to make it so everyone is “equal.”
Frequently black slaves of the south and for many years afterwards blacks were thought of as unintelligent, however this is not because of some “animal features” as many white supremacists of the day would claim, nor is it because blacks are naturally made for slavery rather it was because the quality of education available to the blacks was lower than that of the whites. This still continues today, students from poorer schools who have disproportionately large number of “minority” students have a tendency to score lower on tests. This does not mean these students do not have the same potential nor do they have a diminished capacity for learning instead it just means that the quality of the learning experience is less than what is available in more wealthy areas.
True equality is realizing that just because the government says you have to treat everyone the same does not make everyone equal. True equality is realizing that just because the parents of a child are one way or another it does not limit what the child can become. True equality is realizing that although not all people are the same they can potentially be so under different circumstances. True equality is in realizing that skin color, religion or national origin has no effect on what a person can potentially be.