Sit in It: Philanthropy Must Embrace Discomfort and Rapid Change on the Road to Achieving Equity
by Edgar Villanueva and William Cordery
Reposted from Huffington Post. Edgar Villanueva is Vice President of Programs and Advocacy, Schott Foundation for Public Education.
When Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were murdered last summer, they joined a long list of Black people slain through state-sanctioned violence, a pile of dead Black and Brown bodies for whom no one was accountable. We also watched in horror as police used pepper spray, rubber bullets and concussion cannons, and dogs to fight peaceful protestors at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who were protecting their land, cultural sites and water from the Dakota Access Pipeline. These processes are becoming so familiar to the modern American psyche that their almost now as rote as arithmetic. Black and Brown and Native communities demanded justice. The headlines sensationalized and stirred passions. Leaders gave empathetic, but careful speeches.
And then we ultimately went back to what we were doing the day before.
Ever slow and unwieldy, philanthropy—even progressive philanthropy—was in danger of performing the same mechanical response ritual. Some foundations’ first impulse was the typical knee-jerk reaction. There was a desire to help, but the insistence on applying structure, instituting logic models and gathering more data for an appropriate public-facing response. We know that that isn’t the right approach in these times. Social justice-minded philanthropies help create systems change by empowering local leadership and supporting grassroots movements to move the needle for poor communities and people of color. However, philanthropy isn’t always bringing the right tools to the task to solve these big problems rooted in social inequity, and sometimes our field perpetuates inequities in the communities we claim to care about. We also witnessed well-heeled investors and donors turn away from philanthropy to band together and get resources on the ground faster than our organizations ever could. And while we proudly champion equity, we were, as a field, guilty of not practicing it.
To achieve the equity we all claim to be in search of, philanthropy must have a look (no, a deep long gaze) in the mirror and have some very uncomfortable conversations about who we are, what we believe, and how we could adapt our approaches to new realities and environments where change is constant.
Read this entire article on Huffington Post.