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The City of Portland, Oregon

Office of Equity and Human Rights

Realizing Equity. Enhancing the City of Portland.

Phone: 503-823-4433

Fax: 503-823-4420

421 SW 6th Avenue, Suite 500, Portland, OR 97204

More Contact Info

The Problem with “Equality”

Equality vs. Equity graphic

We can’t get to “equal” when we have unaddressed historic deficits.


Much of our work at the Office of Equity and Human Rights focuses on tackling institutional barriers based on race and disability, and addressing those societal patterns that interfere with equitable City service delivery to all communities in Portland.

The school of thought that says we should be “colorblind” and treat everybody equally, ignores the historic exclusion of those not considered white and the need to recognize and value our differences. In the context of race, being colorblind marginalizes negative racial conflicts, cultural heritage, and unique perspectives of people of color. Colorblindness stands in the way of our necessity to address racial differences and difficulties—we cannot be colorblind until we address all the issues that color consciousness has created.

Look at the picture above and think of the field in terms of the services the City provides. What are your observations of the Equality picture compared to the Equity picture? How can you use the principles illustrated in these pictures to better understand the need for Equity in our City?


Note: This image was adapted by OEHR from the original graphic: