Vice President Kamala Harris sparked controversy last week when she appeared to suggest that progressive notions of racial and social justice would be a factor in the distribution of federal aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian’s destruction in Florida.
When pressed to clarify her remarks about “equity” instead of “equality” in terms of federal aid distribution, Harris refused to answer the question or explain what she had meant, Fox News reported.
Harris implies racial and social “equity” a factor in federal aid
On Friday, while speaking at a Democratic National Committee event, VP Harris was asked a question about the impact of climate change in terms of extreme weather like hurricanes and federal relief efforts in the wake of damaging storms, such as Hurricane Ian in Florida.
In a rambling response, Harris replied, “And the way that we think of it and the way I think of it is both in terms of the human toll and — I know we are all thinking about the families in Florida, in Puerto Rico with Fiona — and what we need to do to help them in terms of an immediate response and aid, but also what we need to do to help restore communities and build communities back up in a way that they can be resilient — not to mention, adapt — to these extreme weather conditions, which are part of the future.”
“And in particular on the disparities, as you have described rightly, which is that it is our lowest income communities and our communities of color that are most impacted by these extreme conditions and impacted by issues that are not of their own making,” she continued. “And so, we have to address this in a way that is about giving resources based on equity, understanding that we fight for equality, but we also need to fight for equity; understanding that not everyone starts out at the same place. And if we want people to be in an equal place, sometimes we have to take into account those disparities and do that work.”
Kamala Harris suggests hurricane and disaster relief should be based on race. pic.twitter.com/DjjotmhJds
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) September 30, 2022
No clarification from Harris; WH defends “equity” remarks
Following an event the next day, Harris was asked to clarify her remarks that seemed to imply equity-based federal aid, but the vice president simply smiled and walked past the reporter without giving any response.
“Can you clarify what you meant about ‘equity’ for hurricane relief?”
Kamala Harris refuses to answer. pic.twitter.com/abTJcjkJoJ
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) October 3, 2022
On Monday, however, during a press gaggle, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was unable to dodge a question about the controversial remarks from Harris, but asserted that Harris hadn’t been referencing post-storm federal aid at all and had actually been referencing “long-term investment, not FEMA aid, for hurricane response efforts.”
“We are committed to quickly getting resources to all communities impacted, period, full stop,” she added. “But we also know that some people, particularly in lower-income communities, have a hard time accessing that help. That’s why this administration has also made it a priority to remove barriers and ensure that everyone, regardless of their ZIP Code, can access federal resources. And that’s what she was talking about.”
Notable difference between “equity” and “equality”
Jean-Pierre’s attempted explanation aside, the comments from Harris were controversial because there is a decided difference between “equity” and “equality” and there is a legitimate debate on whether the federal government has any business engaging on the former instead of focusing simply on the latter.
According to Dictionary.com, “equality” is defined as “the state or quality of being equal,” and is something that is protected and required by the Constitution, while “equity” is an entirely subjective notion about “something that is fair and just” and is not constitutional as it inherently treats certain citizens differently based on various factors instead of equally under the law.