As we face the realities of more incidents of police brutality against black people, a pandemic that has disproportionately affected people of color through higher infection rates, and an economic downturn that places greater burden on communities of color, we must ask ourselves hard questions about the role of philanthropy in addressing racism in our society, and what else we can and should be doing to bring about racial justice. The first thing we can do is to acknowledge that white privilege has always existed in philanthropy – a privilege that has long been rooted in preserving power and wealth. That privilege has led many foundations to have a myopic view of community needs that often results in funding traditional or established organizations and thus maintaining the status quo.
Philanthropy has a responsibility to do more to shift its thinking and power. To ensure that those whose voices have been stifled through years of systemic racism are brought into the process and listened to as decisions regarding philanthropic focus and funding are defined and acted on. It means welcoming new and different voices that represent underserved communities and can best advocate for what those communities need to thrive.
The foundation has a long-standing commitment to health equity that leads with racial equity. Yet, like most philanthropic organizations, we have work to do. We remain committed to ensuring that our privilege is not simply balanced by, but rather outweighed by those of the community. Ours is a foundation created from community assets and we will continue to ensure that the needs of the community drive our work. We cannot promise to get it right every time. But we can promise to listen with an open mind; to look for ways we can change our practices to support the work of systemic change; and to be open to confronting our own privilege head-on.
We know this work will only be successful if all in our community can bring collective strengths, knowledge, and vulnerability to the table. We, at the foundation, hope you trust us to work beside you to break down the systems that hold white supremacy and racism in place. We are constantly inspired and humbled by the work of the leaders and agencies in the region who have, for many years, worked tirelessly to fight for racial and social justice.
We welcome you to join us at monthly Racial and Ethnic Disparities Workgroup meeting and to reach out to have a conversation about these issues anytime. More information on our ongoing health equity work can be found here.