Our country is broken. The Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare the devastating disparities in our society. But these inequities are not new – they have existed and persisted for centuries. The systems and leaders we all depend on continue to fail us.
Black communities are under constant threat from individual and state sanctioned violence. People are scared and sick as they battle not only a deadly virus but also the unconscionable racism that threatens their daily lives.
The recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and the racialized threats made against Christian Cooper are stark reminders of the dangers black people in America face every day.
While many are experiencing unprecedented dread and fear, communities of color and Indigenous communities are particularly weary. Having already borne the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic, with loved ones sickened, dying, or economically crushed by the virus, these communities are forced to endure repeated unjust killings and increased policing with no end in sight. Increased displays of public xenophobia and violence have harmed Asian and Latinx communities. It is unbearable to witness.
In this tragic time, philanthropy must commit to breaking the cycle of racist violence and oppression that is killing people and destroying communities. We have an obligation to redouble our efforts to admit to what is wrong, fix what is broken and help communities heal.
I’ve heard many leaders in philanthropy talk about “building back better” in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis. I wonder what that really means? I know what it does not mean.
- Building back better does not mean rebuilding an unjust status quo system that works for some but not for all.
- Building back better does not mean ensuring comfort, safety and economic opportunity for White Americans while leaving Black Americans, Indigenous communities, and communities of color behind.
- Building back better does not mean allowing insidious beliefs and false assumptions about who deserves to survive and thrive in America go unchecked.
- Building back better does not mean preparing for a “new normal” but creating the “next normal”.
After we have taken some time to mourn, grieve and support each other, particularly our Black community members, we need to get to work. The only way we can live up to our promise of advancing the greater good is by working to rebuild and recreate systems in a way that provides safety, economic security, justice, and health for all.
Philanthropy has been at the heart of major advancements in society for generations and will continue to play an important role long into the future, but only if we use the power, privilege and resources we are afforded to create meaningful, deep and transformative change that combats racism as its own deadly disease.
Our colleagues within the CHANGE Philanthropynetwork--Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy, ABFE : A Philanthropic Partnership for Black Communities, Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, Funders for LGBTQ Issues, Hispanics in Philanthropy, Native Americans in Philanthropy, Women’s Funding Network, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, Neighborhood Funders Groupand Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity--have led the effort to integrate diversity, inclusion and social justice into philanthropic practice and culture for decades. These organizations articulate a compelling vision for how philanthropy can advance equity and catalyze social change. Their resources, expertise, and tools can guide the way on what will be a long journey toward change. We will continue to amplify their work and deepen and extend the longstanding Council programs, like Career Pathways and HR Retreat, that support a more diverse and inclusive sector.
Sometimes a system must come to a breaking point to be ready for change. In that moment, something tips. There is a broader understanding that the pain of maintaining the status quo exceeds the pain of change. That moment is now.