William Morris, Bronze Medal Nominee (2016)

Reflection on “Equity”

On Social Equity

Equity is the social understanding that all men are equal. However, our common practice of equity is comparative in nature, we assess people not by initial worth, but socially accepted outcome. Samuel Mockbee, founder of Auburn University’s Rural Studio, once said, “Physical poverty is not an abstraction, but we almost never think of impoverishment as evidence of a world that exists. Much less do we imagine that it‘s a condition from which we may draw enlightenment in a very practical way.” In America professional success is the rod by which we measure value, however, as Mockbee points out, there is a dignity beyond outcome that makes people equal.

In the American Declaration of Independence the phrase, “all men are created equal,” is swiftly followed by, “ and are endowed by their creator…” There is an essential part to the human condition that garners respect outside of polite society. Image bearing is the understanding that all men have been created in God’s image, a value not simply assigned at creation, but defined at the cross. Christ’s blood paid the price of sin for all men; equalizing them, yes, but valuing them at a price only God could ever pay. Human value is not based on a comparison with fellow man, but rather set by God. Thus, to value a person lower then oneself is not only a social injustice, but also a moral offense.

When we say people are equal, we are saying that God has placed a value on everyone so high that we should never devalue a single soul. Thus, equity for equity’s sake is nothing more than the comparison between men, but image bearing is the assignment of value by God. Mockbee understood that the value of culture among impoverished families is priceless. He never sought to elevate their economic level to the average social standard, but rather he advocated that every person should have a warm and dry place to sleep, food to eat, and shelter for the soul.

The practical application of equity by God’s assigned value is summed up in Philippians 2:3, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem the other better than himself.” We will never obtain genuine equity among men if we only ensure that everyone is treated the same; we must place others as a higher priority than ourselves. This may mean seeing others’ situation as admirable even if it differs from our own. We do not need the latest iPhone, car, or house to be of equal value to others, but we have a moral obligation to see that all have the basic necessities of life. This is not only a call for architects, but also for all members of society. Therefore, let us seek out collective and individual value as assigned by God, not society, and let us esteem others more than ourselves. Then and only then will we have genuine social equity.

Exhibits of Coursework (click to expand)

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