Tag: structural racism

How Philanthropy Can Work to Give All Black Men an Opportunity to Succeed


Over the past few days, I keep hearing — and thinking — about an important new study whose results the New York Times summed up in its headline, “Extensive Data Shows Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys.”

I was drawn to the study’s coverage for two reasons: The focus on black boys is of personal importance to me, and it’s part of my position supporting professionals in philanthropy. And I have long tried to encourage grant makers to award money for social change based on data about what works and what matters.

But what surprised me was the number of people who told me about the New York Times article, which distilled the findings in attention-grabbing graphics and words.

I had to wonder: Were those who shared it with me surprised by the Stanford, Harvard, and U.S. Census Bureau findings? Or were they just aware of my interest in the topic? I think it was a little of both, an FYI to a colleague and an “aha” moment similar to those engendered by recent cellphone videos of police violence.

And that’s what disturbs me. The evidence that black boys are not succeeding in America has been stunningly apparent for years — test scores, graduation rates, incarceration rates, income disparities, the list goes on and on. The desire to tackle this challenge even emanated from the White House with President Obama’s 2014 launch of My Brother’s Keeper. Don’t we know this data already?

Perhaps many do, but this new work demonstrates that the struggles of black boys and men in America really are about race, not class.

And it might have a powerful resonance because it shows that structural racism and implicit bias harm the sons of the black upper class, underscoring the reality that we — black people — are still judged by the color of our skin. This is not a problem that solely affects low-income communities. Although poverty compounds the effects, this study makes clear that in America, race determines our life outcomes far more than class.

Black Boys Aren’t Broken

The concept of race enters our thinking earlier than we may have assumed. Some suggest that the sense of racial hierarchy has been shown to be evident in 3- and 4-year-olds. And that notion of a racial hierarchy is reinforced by messages that portray black boys as criminal, weak learners, and lacking ambition. These messages have been inculcated into the American narrative for decades. We cannot pretend that it doesn’t exist in the postracial America that some imagine.

So now that this study has gotten people shocked enough to act, what will we do?

In my role as head of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers, we will continue our Putting Racism on the Table effort to educate leaders about a side of our society — one built on structural racism and implicit bias — that many people do not know exists.

We started with grant-making executives, but we knew that even though philanthropic dollars can be catalytic, they alone cannot solve any problem, particularly one as entrenched as racism. Recently we joined with Leadership Greater Washington to expand Putting Racism on the Table to business, government, and nonprofit leaders.

The importance of helping leaders fully understand the realities of racism should not be minimized, but it often is. We feel the pressure to act fast, without taking the time to learn. But consider this: At no time have most of us received any formal education on structural racism and implicit bias. Some of us have firsthand experience with it, but we may not be able to identify it or know how insidious it is. And without this knowledge, we direct resources to the wrong places. We try to fix black boys. They aren’t broken. What is broken is the education system, the criminal-justice system, and many of the other societal structures that surround them with a false sense of racial hierarchy.

Steps to Take

America has made little effort to understand structural racism and implicit bias. Philanthropy has many opportunities to change that. It can:

Support research on how best to have difficult conversations about race. What strategies are most likely to work with business leaders, elected officials, and community leaders? How can we have the conversations that we have avoided for decades, if not centuries?

Commit to supporting broader and deeper educational efforts about structural racism and implicit bias. These sessions must be tailored to key audiences to ensure they receive the information in ways that will be meaningful. Those in positions of authority need to understand the reality of racism and its ramifications. It will be difficult and perhaps uncomfortable, but with skilled discussion leaders, these conversations can be had. This part of America’s past and present must be faced.

Award grants to media watchdogs. The media’s role in defining how we see black males in America is undeniable. We must begin to call out instances of prejudicial coverage and seek to support more balanced portrayals of black people, especially men and boys. The bias that exists has been nurtured and reinforced by media images and media coverage.

Finance examinations of how black people are portrayed in American history textbooks.Foundation grants can encourage and enable the creation of texts that present a comprehensive and more accurate recounting of the role that blacks have played in the making of America. As long as this role continues to be minimized, the position of blacks in the country can be, and will be, marginalized.

Examine racial equity in your grant making. You may be inadvertently perpetuating racial inequities unless you undertake an analysis to determine the racial impact of the projects you support. Positive intentions can sometimes lead to negative impact.

Establish scholarships for black men who want to become teachers. It is especially important to get more black men to become classroom instructors. As part of offering financial support for their training in teaching, organizations should urge them to commit to working in schools with high black populations.

Support research to examine systems in our country, such as education and criminal justice. Foundations can support work to determine how key systems across the country provide advantages and disadvantages to Americans based on their race. It can then support efforts to change those policies and practices that have led to these realities.

Beyond such efforts, grant makers can and must explore their own implicit biases — ones that may have contributed to a lack of support for grass-roots and black-led organizations working to correct racial disparities. And grant makers should examine their own policies and practices that may be grounded in implicit biases.

This is just a small sampling of the multiple ways in which philanthropy can promote racial equity. If it has the will, philanthropy can move this country to examine and to act on a topic that has been taboo.

When apartheid ended in South Africa in 1994, the government established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, not only to reveal and understand the atrocities that had occurred but also to facilitate movement toward healing. South Africa publicly acknowledged the wound and actively worked to foster understanding and healing. In the United States, we have never fully acknowledged the wound of slavery, Jim Crow segregation, redlining, preferential lending practices, and mass incarceration — some examples of structural racism and implicit bias that existed years ago, but continue, in some form or with vestiges today — all factors that bring us to the statistics revealed in the study.

We have been immersed in that all-encompassing sense of white is good and black is bad. We may not want to say those words out loud, but that is America’s truth. We must be explicit in our commitment to confront, to learn and to unlearn, and to build a just and equitable society. Government may not pave the way to healing in the United States as it did in South Africa. That’s all the more reason why philanthropy must lead the conversations and the actions that will contribute to America’s healing.

Some Good Deeds Go Unfunded!

by George Jones
Chief Executive Officer
Bread for the City

Many of the DC nonprofits welcomed the decision of the philanthropic community to put racism on the table. That’s a conversation that is needed, but one that hasn’t occurred. By focusing on this in a visible way, you opened the door for so many others to move into this space, but now let me tell you what happened when we did, or when we tried to.

Make no mistake about it, WRAG members beginning a meaningful discussion about the role race and racism play in the perpetuation of poverty in DC, has made it legitimate for the entire DC community to join that discussion.

At Bread for the City, in light of the fact that 99% of the clients we see in our food, clothing, medical and legal programs are African American, or people of color, we not only began to discuss the role that race plays in this fact, but we’ve sought to reverse this painful reality.

For the past several years, BFC’s staff, Board and clients have zealously taken on that complex issue of systemic racism. Our staff, Board and even some clients have completed an in-depth 2-day racial equity training. The training gave us the template for assessing and reforming our various agency policies and practices to root out unintended or implicit racial bias in our agency. We’ve seen other nonprofits commit to doing the same.

We’ve also participated in numerous local and national conferences that have sought to educate social justice advocates across the country on how to reverse the impact that racism plays in virtually every institution in America. And in coalition with a few other nonprofit agencies, we have met with several local policy makers in an effort to persuade the DC government to consider and address the implicit racial bias playing out in the various public systems they oversee.

Just as important, I’ve met with several of the philanthropic foundation leaders in DC about our work. Without fail these leaders have praised our work and urged us to press forward with these efforts.

However, only one of these foundations has provided any financial support, a $30,000 grant, for our racial equity work. To their credit the foundations have continued to fund our core programs, but they have essentially stated they don’t have additional dollars to fund our racial equity work.

Summarily, figuring out how to undo the centuries of the racial bias imbedded in our healthcare, educational, criminal justice and even nonprofit institutions is as difficult as it sounds. Fundamentally, it requires these institutions to reform, and in some cases abandon the primary ways they serve people in general, and people of color in particular. And if the philanthropic community really wants to be a leader in the conversation regarding undoing the ill effects of historic and institutional racism, and to help eliminate disparities racism causes, they will need to reform their own policies.

I believe they should start first by reversing the longtime practice of dispersing only the 5% annual minimum required by the federal government. I suggest they raise the annual disbursement totals to 7%, even 8% of their total portfolio. This increase will help the nonprofit sector pay for things like the fundamental training needed to understand the theory and practice of racial equity work, to build the capacity of agencies like BFC to operationalize and staff their racial equity work.

Again, it’s great that WRAG and its philanthropic members have begun to discuss racism. But to really begin to help our nonprofit institutions do the important anti-racism work the philanthropic community has been discussing, those philanthropic institutions must “put their money where their mouth is”.

Communicating about Racism as a White Ally

By Katy Moore
Managing Director of Corporate Strategy
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

A few years ago, Ebony magazine started arriving in WRAG’s mailbox. The mailing address was correct, but the recipient was unknown to us. The first time it came, I tossed it. The second month it came, I asked Tamara (the only African-American on staff at the time and WRAG’s president) if she was interested in reading it; otherwise, it was going into recycling. In that approachable yet authoritative way that only Tamara can pull off, she said, “Why don’t you read it?” I must’ve looked a bit confused as I explored the magazine’s cover, seeing a beautiful dark-skinned model and a teaser headline about hair relaxers, because Tamara said, “There is real news in there too, you know? You might find a different perspective interesting.” And, in my overly-sensitive way, I immediately thought, “Great. My boss, mentor, and friend thinks I’m a racist. Awesome.”

And, then Trayvon Martin was killed…and then Freddie Gray. And, so many lives were lost in between. And I found myself – like so many of my white friends and colleagues – asking “what can I do?” The best advice I received was from the indomitable Amanda Andere, a friend, confidant, and CEO of Funders Together to End Homelessness. Like Tamara months before, Amanda suggested that I expand my sphere of influence, that I intentionally seek alternative viewpoints, that I fill my social media feeds with the likes of Charles M. Blow, The Root, TWiB! (This Week in Blackness), Ta-Nehisi Coates, and others. And, I did. And, I watched WRAG’s Putting Racism on the Table videos. And, my understanding grew…as did my frustration at my inability to make change.

Once I became aware, once I was “woke,” I could not un-see, and there was an ever-persistent and overwhelming moral pressure to tackle the issue of racial injustice in every situation in full force.

Last week, WRAG hosted a training for its white members called Communicating about Race with White Family, Friends, and Colleagues. At that training, I had an “aha” moment – one that was desperately needed after some of the inflamed rhetoric during and following the election. My aha was that “converting” someone with racist viewpoints into an active white ally isn’t the only outcome as you seek to address racism (unconscious, overt, or otherwise) and it is often an unrealistic place to start. I also learned (in a very obvious moment), that blame, humiliation, calling someone a racist, trying to illustrate how smart you are, being argumentative, and trying to change other people (rather than addressing their behavior) are also all ineffective (duh, right?).

Instead, in our attempts to tackle racial injustice, we must understand:

1. What is occurring (are you seeing, reading, hearing, experiencing something racially charged?)
2. The impacts of our action/inaction on the situation (on you, on others, and beyond this moment)
3. The perception of who we are in the situation and how others will react to us (ex. I’m white, cis female, millennial, straight, educated, southern, etc.)
4. The context of the situation (is it happening in person, online, in public, in private, are there recent events that could exacerbate the situation, etc.)
5. The outcome that you want (remember: conversion is not the only outcome!)
6. The options available to you
7. Potential gains or costs for addressing or not addressing the situation (including personal safety, the strain or loss of a relationship, etc.)

Only after considering each of these factors (which usually happens unconsciously and in a split second) should we act.

Addressing racism and racial inequality as a white ally is difficult and uncomfortable work. It means exploring your own biases, acknowledging your own privilege, and calling yourself out on both. It means recognizing the ways we consciously and unconsciously support white privilege, acknowledging how we benefit from it, and actively working to address this unjust power dynamic. It means recognizing that we cannot and will not dismantle a system it took hundreds of years to build overnight. But, we also have to start somewhere. So, let it start with me.


Communicating about Race with White Family, Friends, and Colleagues was held as part of Putting Racism on the Table: The Training Series for the local philanthropic community. You can learn more about WRAG’s ongoing work around racism and racial equity at www.puttingracismonthetable.org.

“Structural Racism Theater” humorously places the Electoral College in historic context

RACE | With our 2016 Annual Meeting, Philanthropy in Bold, right around the corner, WRAG has been talking a lot lately about acting boldly and embracing risk. Last week we released the first in what we hope will be a series of videos that embody both of those ideas: Structural Racism Theater. Based sardonically on Masterpiece Theatre, Structural Racism Theater introduces the viewer to concrete examples of structural racism and implicit bias in an edgy, social media-friendly way. The first episode, which debuted on Facebook, focuses on the timely topic of the Electoral College and its connection to the Three-Fifths Compromise.

WRAG’s president Tamara Copeland explains the goal of the videos (Daily, 10/31):

We know that for many, there isn’t time to read lengthy articles, so we are condensing this information and making it, we hope, more digestible. Our goal is to make structural racism and implicit bias understandable to a larger audience. We want them to understand and then to act.

REGION | A cross-sector group of regional leaders has been working over the past year to rebrand the Greater Washington region. The initiative is part of a larger effort to position the region to better attract business and talent, in order to lessen the region’s dependence on the federal government and ensure the region’s long-term economic sustainability (WaPo, 10/26).

This Task Force is part of the 2030 Group’s Roadmap for Our Region’s Economic Future project, which WRAG has been proud to partner with since last year. WRAG’s vice president Gretchen Greiner-Lott says,

“An outgrowth of the Roadmap project is the development of a regional identity campaign to promote all the positive aspects of our region. It’s not only important for the “outside world” to see us as a cohesive and productive region, it’s important for those of us living and working here to think that way, too. Thinking and working as a cohesive region is the only way we are going to be able to tackle our big regional issues, such as housing affordability and transportation.”

TRANSIT | Budget proposal paints grim portrait of Metro’s future (WaPo, 10/30)

ARTS | “Art-Washing”—A New Name for a Not-So-New Side Effect of Gentrification (NPQ, 10/28)

FOOD | How the Half-Smoke Links a Changing D.C. (City Lab, 10/28)


I hope everyone has as happy a Halloween as this dog did!

-Rebekah

Addressing Racism Has Gone Viral: Introducing “Structural Racism Theater”

By Tamara Lucas Copeland
President, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

2016 was the year in which race and racism went public, so to speak. Whether it was talk about implicit bias in police actions, or broader structural racism in the criminal justice system or the housing industry, or even comments from presidential candidates, racism has been front and center this year. This has been the case especially in social media. While Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are often vehicles for some to express racist thoughts, fortunately, many individuals and organizations have taken to social media to expose racism, particularly structural racism that is embedded in our country’s institutions.

According to Search Engine Journal, the growth of social media – and its relevance as a vehicle for the exchange of information – cannot be minimized. 97 million accounts on LinkedIn. 316 million users on Twitter and 1.5 billion profiles on Facebook. According to SEJ, direct video uploads to Facebook now exceed YouTube.

A few months ago, the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers ventured into social media with the substantial topic of racism. We know that for many, there isn’t time to read lengthy articles, so we are condensing this information and making it, we hope, more digestible. Our goal is to make structural racism and implicit bias understandable to a larger audience. We want them to understand and then to act.

First, we published the six videos in our Putting Racism on the Table lecture series on YouTube. To date they collectively have over 14,000 views. That’s huge for our small, regional organization. Then, we made the lectures available as podcasts on Soundcloud and iTunes for easy access as you exercise, drive to work, or make dinner. Good adaptation? Yes, but still not quite easy enough for busy people overwhelmed with too much content and perhaps already hesitant to enter the weighty space of racism.

Now, we have created an original, five-minute video. It is, we hope, a catchy way to easily share information. Based sardonically on Masterpiece Theatre, WRAG’s Structural Racism Theater introduces the viewer to concrete examples of structural racism and implicit bias. It’s edgy, dryly humorous, “shareable,” and an incredibly different direction for WRAG. We think it’s bold and even a bit scary. We’re going outside of our comfort zone.

Someone once said – long before the days of social media – “Put a grain of boldness into everything you do.” Structural Racism Theater is our grain of boldness. Perhaps by the time you read this, the first installment, “The Pernicious Compromise,” which focuses on the timely topic of the Electoral College and its connection to the Three-Fifths Compromise, will have gone viral.

Unemployment benefits increase in D.C.

EMPLOYMENT | For the first time in almost 10 years, D.C. residents are eligible for an unemployment benefits increase as of October 1.

District residents are now eligible for up to $425 in weekly unemployment insurance benefits, or $1,700 a month, for up to half a year if they lose employment due to layoffs or other factors outside their control. Although the change is under a hundred dollars more than the $359 currently allowed each week, it’s the first time D.C.’s unemployment insurance benefits have risen in roughly a decade. The increase also brings the District in line with Maryland’s and Virginia’s programs for unemployment insurance, which provide weekly maximums of $430 and $378, respectively.

As of August, approximately 6 percent of residents were unemployed. The District is also moving toward a $15-an-hour minimum wage by 2020 and is considering one of the most robust paid leave benefits in the country. (City Paper, 10/3)

RACIAL EQUITY | President of the Meyer Foundation and WRAG Board Member Nicky Goren discusses the role of the funding community as allies in moving racial equity forward and building a more equitable Washington region together.

PHILANTHROPY | Association of Black Foundation Executives leader Susan Taylor Batten helps grantmakers understand and address systemic racism, and is one of a number of leaders who want to expand the definition of philanthropy. (Chronicle, 10/4)

Related: Leader Seeks to Break Crisis-Response Pattern After Shootings by Police (Chronicle, 10/4) [Subscription Required]

Also Related: ABFE’s Susan Taylor Batten and Marcus Walton are leading two trainings on grantmaking for racial equity later this month, as part of WRAG’s ongoing Putting Racism on the Table learning and training series. These trainings are open to all grantmakers. More information can be found here and here.

EDUCATIONPr. George’s Co. council member says she wouldn’t put her kids in Head Start program (WTOP, 10/3)

HEALTH | In a county with high rates of diabetes, obesity and other chronic diseases, a new bill is up for debate that will focus on healthy food options in Prince George’s vending machines. (WaPo, 9/27)

HOUSINGLegal Fight Over Brookland Manor Redevelopment Intensifies (City Paper, 10/3)


Robots delivering our food? I think I’m game! – Buffy

Eviction in DC: What is the Full Story?

By Tamara Lucas Copeland
President, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

I’m still haunted by the August 9th Washington Post story, “Facing eviction over $25.” I just can’t get it out of my mind. How can a person be evicted for owing $25 in back rent, for walking a dog without a leash, or for the tragedy that her son used an unlicensed gun to commit suicide? The fact that they are all lease violations punishable by eviction still seems unfathomable and just plain wrong.

If you haven’t read the article, I would urge you to do so. It appeared to offer a powerful testimony to how structural racism plays out in the housing arena in the District of Columbia and, perhaps, across the country. Upon reading it, you might think that zoning commissions, wanting to increase property values, were allowing property owners to maximize profit by transitioning their property from low-income housing to housing that appeals to higher income residents, without sufficient consideration of how all people will be impacted. You might also think that court systems were allowing overly zealous landlords to utilize “the letter of the law” to evict tenants whose only true offense is that they’re poor. And, who do these actions most often affect in our region? Black and brown people.

But before you totally form your opinion on this particular situation, you must read the August 14th response from the owner of the property. He rebukes the primary focus of the article, by citing, very publicly, his company’s history vis-a-vis affordable housing and his company’s commitment to retaining affordable units in the future. Now what am I to think?

Some of the work that WRAG has done on structural racism has emphasized that far too often our public institutions legally, but, in my view, immorally, provide an advantage or disadvantage to one race of people over another. That occurred for decades with redlining, contributing to the wealth gap that persists today between black and white Americans. Is that the case in this situation?

What I have also learned from the hours of conversations and lectures about the dimensions of racism is that we all need to talk to each other more – really talk and really listen. And not only do we need to talk, we need to research to get to the bottom of situations. Assumptions and misunderstandings abound. Was that the case with aspects of the story about eviction at Brookland Manor in the District of Columbia? I don’t know.

What I do know is that every family deserves quality housing that they can afford. Every individual deserves to be treated humanely and fairly. The front page story and the subsequent rebuttal offer extraordinarily different views. The truth, I suspect, lies somewhere in there. We must be able to simultaneously recognize the devastation that eviction places on a family while acknowledging that a property owner does have the right to be paid. Stories like that of Brookland Manor are often the catalyst for reform. We must provide for affordable housing and we should improve areas that have long gone neglected in our region. I simply hope that those improvements can be guided by a moral compass while also grounded in financial reality.

Is that possible? It has to be.

Revealing truth through art

Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. They are civilization’s radical voice and moral compass.
– Paul Robeson


by Marcela Brane
President/CEO
The Herb Block Foundation

The Herb Block Foundation was asked by Tamara Lucas Copeland to comment on the Foundation’s annual Herblock Prize winner for Editorial Cartooning, specifically on the “Racist EZCash” cartoon shown here. The Herblock Prize is for distinguished examples of editorial cartooning that exemplify the courageous standard set by Herblock, reinforcing his lifelong fight against abuses by the powerful and the freedom to express it. The prize is awarded to the best portfolio of 10-15 cartoons, and this year’s winner, Mark Fiore, is the first animated cartoonist to win.

Fiore’s cartoons cover subjects like refugees, immigration, xenophobia, and gun violence, as well as politics and other subjects. Whether race, religion, government transparency, or environmental concerns, cartoons use both a sense of humor and a sense of outrage to inform. The cartoon “Racist EZCash” is about how our country profits from structural racism. It lists startling statistics about Ferguson, MO, and how it is representative of other police departments across the country.

One of the three Herblock Prize judges, Kevin Kallaugher, said:

Mark Fiore’s entry contained an engaging and powerful collection of visual commentaries. Fiore demonstrated a great use of parody, adept writing, great visualizations, and solid journalism, to deliver thought-provoking editorials. Like a good Herblock cartoon, Mark’s work displayed a consistent and determined passion to fight against society’s ills and absurdities. It is his skilled and masterful cartoon craftsmanship steeped with determined political convictions that make Fiore’s animations worthy of the Herblock Prize.

When we were asked to comment on why the Foundation and our committee chose a portfolio like Mark Fiore’s with a piece like “Racist EZCash” for recognition, the answer was easy – because for the political cartoonist, it is their role to speak for the other guy or to call out the injustices. As Mr. Block said, “There are no super men or women, there are only you and I and others who believe in democracy, think about the other guy, and do something about it.”

The Putting Racism on the Table series really broadened the scope of our discussions in the office. It connected me with others and presented me with greater awareness of structural racism and implicit bias, presenting the challenge to press this lens within myself, my family, and The Herb Block Foundation. For six months during the series, grantmakers and their trustees gathered to “think about the other guy.” I believe that was a great start. Now, let’s start doing.

Creating Meaningful Impact/Creando un impacto significativo

By Silvia Salazar
Board Member
Consumer Health Foundation


Putting Racism on the Table is a six-part learning series for WRAG member philanthropic CEOs and their trustees to explore key elements of racism together. Below, Consumer Health Foundation board member Silvia Salazar shares the meaningful impact the series has had on her own life thus far. To reflect her bilingual and bicultural identity, this blog post is also available in Spanish.


Why is it that we are not as healthy as white people? Why?” Mamá repeatedly murmured in Spanish as she drifted in and out of consciousness. She was in the ICU recovering from lung surgery. I did not know what to say. Why would race come up at that moment? I responded that it was not true (in fact, Latinas are healthier until we arrive in the U.S.¹). What would cause her to think that Latinas are lesser and white people are better? Where does such programming come from?

Mamá’s question has continually surfaced throughout WRAG’s Putting Racism on the Table learning series. During the Structural Racism session with Professor john a. powell, I finally found the words and concepts to explain my and my Mama’s lived experiences. For example, I fully understood how the complexities of race manifest in societal structures such as voting, housing, education, employment, and entertainment, and disproportionately favor whites while marginalizing communities of color. We then internalize those racialized structures into our own conscious and subconscious. Moreover, the different ways of relating and being that manifest in our identity, self, and spirit are also impacted. Structural racialization also affects one’s sense of belonging. During her critical moment of need in the ICU, my Mamá thought that she was sick because she fundamentally believed that white people are healthier than Latinas. She had interpreted and internalized the structural racialization that is the foundation of our society. As I reflected on Professor powell’s session, I realized that Mamá had marginalized herself.

At this past Friday’s session on The Racial Mosaic of America, Dr. Manuel Pastor provided quantitative data on the growth of communities of color and how the future of our country will depend on our ability to allow everyone a seat at the table. As a Salvadoran immigrant who grew up undocumented, I saw my experience and my Mama’s sacrifices recognized in Dr. Pastor’s demographic maps—they confirmed the growth of immigrant communities in the D.C. area and how Latino families continue to thrive.

The learning series has given me language that I didn’t have before. The discussions with fellow philanthropists on how we can organize to address racial inequities are important in crafting a collective vision. Our success will depend on our recognition that organizations are at different places along the readiness continuum. Some foundations are about to start the conversation and are interested in finding tools and support. As a new board member of the Consumer Health Foundation, I am learning about our long history of addressing racial equity by participating in learning journeys and funding social justice organizations. By supporting each other regardless of where we are in the process, we can create meaningful impact for communities of color in the D.C. region.


“¿Porqué es que no somos tan saludables como los blancos norteamericanos? ¿Porqué?” Mi mamá murmuraba repetidamente en español  mientras entraba y salía de estado consciencia. Ella estuvo en cuidados intensivos mientras se recuperaba de cirugía en los pulmones. No sabía que decir. ¿Porqué saldría el tema de raza en ese momento? Le respondí que no era cierto (de hecho, las Latinas son más saludables hasta que llegamos a los EEUU). ¿Que ocasionó que mi mamá pensara que Latinas son menos y que la gente blanca norteamericana es mejor? ¿De dónde viene tal programación mental?

La pregunta de mi mamá constantemente surgió durante la serie de WRAG, Poniendo Racismo sobre la Mesa. Durante la sesión sobre Racismo Estructural con el Profesor john a. powell, pude finalmente encontrar las palabras y conceptos para explicar nuestras experiencias vividas. Por ejemplo, entendí completamente como las complejidades de raza se manifiestan en estructuras sociales tales como votando, vivienda, educación, empleo, y entretenimiento, favorecen los blancos desproporcionadamente mientras marginan las comunidades de color. Luego interiorizamos esas estructuras raciales en nuestro consciente y subconsciente. También son afectadas las diferentes maneras de relacionarse y ser que se manifiestan en nuestra identidad, persona y espíritu. Las estructuras raciales también afectan nuestro sentido de pertenencia. Dentro de la unidad de cuidados intensivos, en su momento crítico de necesidad, mi mamá pensaba que estaba enferma porque fundamentalmente creía que la gente blanca norteamericana es más saludable que las Latinas. Ella había interpretado e interiorizado la estructura racial cual es el fundamento de nuestra sociedad. Al reflexionar sobre la sesión del Profesor powell, me di cuenta que mi mama se había marginado a ella misma.

En la sesión del pasado viernes sobre El Mosaico Racial de América, el Dr. Manuel Pastor brindó información cuantitativa sobre el desarrollo de comunidades de color y como el futuro de nuestro país  dependerá en nuestra habilidad en permitirle a todos tener un asiento en la mesa. Como inmigrante salvadoreña que creció indocumentada, observe que mi experiencia y los sacrificios de mi mama fueron reconocidos en los mapas demográficos del Dr. Pastor – confirmaban el desarrollo de las comunidades de inmigrantes en el área de D.C. y como las familias Latinas continúan prosperando.

Las series de aprendizaje me han dado terminología que no tenía anteriormente. Las discusiones con mis colegas filántropos sobre cómo podemos organizarnos para tratar temas de inequidades raciales son importantes para crear una visión colectiva. Nuestro éxito depende en nuestro reconocimiento que organizaciones se encuentran en diferentes lugares en el continuum de preparación. Algunas fundaciones están a punto de empezar la conversación y están interesados en encontrar las herramientas y el apoyo. Como nuevo miembro de la mesa directiva de Consumer Health Foundation, estoy aprendiendo sobre nuestra larga historia en tratar equidad racial por medio de participación en viajes de aprendizaje y financiando organizaciones de justicia social.  Apoyando los unos a los otros sin importar donde nos encontramos en el proceso, podemos crear impacto significativo en comunidades de color en la región de D.C.


¹At WRAG’s 2015 Annual Meeting, David R. Williams also touched on the health declines that many immigrants experience over time after coming to the U.S. (at the 1:17 mark).

Is the power of philanthropy enough to move the needle on racism? Yes, it already is.

by Tamara Lucas Copeland
President
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

In January, the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers (WRAG) started an intensive exploration of racism called Putting Racism on the Table. Each month, for three hours, grantmakers have been immersed in a topic. Structural racism in January, white privilege in February, implicit bias in March, and this month the focus was on mass incarceration as a case study on how all three factors are operationalized in one system of government, the criminal justice system.

I think that several factors are remarkable about this work. First, eleven major funders in the Greater Washington region came together and said, “We aren’t ready to act. We want to learn.” This was powerful. It has seemed like a societal taboo to talk about the 800-pound gorilla of racism that sits in the middle of the room when discussing housing needs, educational needs, health care, or any of the multitude of community needs that philanthropy seeks to address. But these grantmakers were ready for the talk. Eighty percent of the attendees have come to two or more of the sessions. They have recognized that racism cannot be explored in sound bites. There is a depth and breadth to the topic that requires that you listen, reflect, talk with others, and then sit with the information for a while to make it your own. They are doing the hard work of truly understanding racism. After the sessions, many have been candid in revealing, despite their education and commitment to social justice, just how lacking their knowledge truly was about how pervasive and entrenched racism is in our society. Here’s an illustrative sampling of comments:

“After the session on structural racism, I realized how little I know about racism.”

“The systemic nature of racism is more pervasive than I had previously understood.”

“I think there are situations where white privilege is so ingrained that I am not even aware of the impact I am having just by being present or in casual conversation.”

“Having been through the session on implicit bias, I better understand the very strong and powerful way our subconscious influences our thinking and actions. What can we do?”

I am proud of the commitment that philanthropy has made to this learning journey. People who felt that they were sensitive to and understood racism have learned that it is far more nuanced, unconscious, and institutionalized than many would think. We have achieved the goal of knowledge gain. But, this isn’t learning just for the sake of learning.

Philanthropy has been referred to as society’s passing gear. Its position provides a platform for societal change that goes well beyond dollars. Consider the impact of the national Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on smoking reduction or that of the local Summit Fund on teenage pregnancy prevention. They both felt that they could make a difference and with a laser focus that commitment has led to deep and lasting improvements.

I have heard foundation CEOs talk about how this work is already translating into changes at their foundations. I have heard trustees who are business leaders share the impact that it is having on their thinking and on their actions. And, I have heard colleagues in other states discuss how WRAG’s work has opened the door for a discussion that they didn’t think they could have with funders. The needle is moving – slowly perhaps – but moving, and the momentum is building. Stay tuned.