The difference in approach to "equality" from either side of the aisle is night and day. Conservatives are never characterized as caring about equal rights, but instead are often called racists, when we suggest that laws should protect EVERY citizen under the law, regardless of skin color, gender, sexual orientation, or any other classification. Is it racist to believe every individual is capable of taking care of themselves, regardless of how they look? I was under the impression that making general assumptions that a group cannot perform equal to other groups, simply because their skin is a different color, was the definition of racism. We live in an upside down world, where equality means pushing certain groups to success, while expecting others to fend for themselves.
Conservatives believe our rights are given to us by our creator, not the government. The government merely acknowledges those rights, and promises to fight to protect and uphold them. Among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These are the basic human rights every person is endowed with. Conservatives believe every person deserves to have these rights protected equally, and nobody should be shown any favoritism, under the law. You see, Conservatives believe in equality of opportunity. The idea here is that obstacles are removed, so that the individual is responsible for their own success. This means the individual is to be protected from government oppression, as well as criminal interference from their fellow citizens. If this protection is upheld, then the individual will most likely be in control of their own success or failure. That is how Conservatives measure equality. This is why Conservatives fight against affirmative action, fight for welfare reform, and any other type of governmental attempts at so-called "leveling the playing field." Conservatives argue the playing field is very level (not perfect), and furthermore the programs the left employs do not produce the results they seek, instead promote generational cycles of dependence.
The Left sees equality as a call to action. They don't see it in terms of whether every person is treated the same, and given every opportunity to succeed. On the contrary, they view equality as something the government is supposed to engineer into our populous, via social programs, affirmative action, and redistribution. Their idea of equality is called equality of outcome. This is the fundamental split between the left and right view of equality. According to the left, if two individuals grow up in identical socioeconomic situations, and one ends up better off than the other, then something must be done to make their outcome more equal. The idea here is that individuals are not responsible for their own decisions, rather society is responsible, therefore society deserves to pay to raise these people up. In the end, equality in its basic and fairest form, equality of opportunity, is not achieved. It is ignored, while a certain percentage of the population is given more capital to succeed, which is taken directly from those who usually haven't received a comparable amount of help from society. All in the name of progressive equality.
Fairness is a term usually used by the left to justify stealing money from middle class and wealthy families, to be redistributed to lower-middle class and below families. Yes, there is a certain percentage of the population who needs assistance just meeting their daily requirements to survive. Food, shelter, and clothing is essential to life, especially when children are involved. Those people in need should be taken care of, not because they are deserving, but because it is the right thing to do. Is it fair to make one man give something to another, simply because the one who gives has something, and the one who receives doesn't? On a logical level, this does not sound fair to me, because it isn't. A person does not "deserve" another person's belongings. If there is someone in need, individuals should have the right to decide whether they can and will help or not. They should also have the right to decide how they help, and how much they will help. A third party (government) has no business getting involved with this process. Maybe if people weren't guaranteed a certain level of assistance, they would be motivated to make it on their own.
If the social "safety net" is removed, or drastically reduced, people will be faced with figuring out solutions on their own. Individuals will begin to understand they are personally responsible for their own well being, or face the consequences. This should lead the able-bodied to get off of unemployment and welfare, and work for their living expenses. Families will become much more important, as individuals make poor decisions, or otherwise fail. They will be the new "safety net," helping, housing, and assisting family members in need. Where families fall short or are non-existent, charities and churches will fill in the gaps. People are willing to help others who are seriously in need, as well as those making an obvious effort to pull themselves up. If affirmative action is thrown out, minorities should work harder, to make sure they are the most qualified individual for their desired school or occupation. Fairness and equality should be consistent, across the board, with no exceptions. Conservative equality and fairness ensures each man, woman, and child is treated equally and fairly, under the law.