Tag: white privilege

Blackface, White Privilege

By Katy Moore
Managing Director of Corporate Strategy
Director, Institute for Corporate Social Responsibility

Over the last few days, as the story of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook photo featuring a man in blackface and another in Ku Klux Klan robes has played out, I’ve had numerous conversations with white friends and family about whether he should step down. I’m glad my white circles trust me enough to talk about race-related topics with me. But, I’m not a racism or racial equity expert. I am simply a daughter of the South who has embarked on a learning journey that has required a painful examination of my own deeply-ingrained belief systems, biases, privileges, and an acknowledgement of my own role in perpetuating racism and racial inequities.

The typical conversation about Governor Northam in my white circles has gone something like this: “Why should a ‘good man’s’ career be ruined over something that happened 30 years ago? After all, he’s apologized and asked for forgiveness. And, what’s so bad about blackface anyway?”

Why isn’t an apology enough?

The Governor’s initial apology seemed sincere and many, myself included, were inclined to forgive him – especially if he utilized this moment to spark conversations around race and racism. However, when Governor Northam changed his tune, it smacked of damage control, marred his chance to begin rebuilding trust, and squandered his opportunity for learning and community-building.

Even with what felt like disingenuous political maneuvering, many of my white friends and family are eager to forgive the Governor’s past actions. They are (ironically) loathe to condemn a (white) man for youthful indiscretions. This begs the question, should Governor Northam’s repentance matter more than the feelings of the thousands of Virginians who feel betrayed by this racist act and what it represents?

In many ways, as a white woman, I want to forgive Governor Northam. This could, after all, have easily been one of the many men who have helped shape my life. But, at some point, we (white folks) have to face the consequences of our actions and own the fact that we have all – intentionally or unintentionally – contributed to our society’s racial disparities. How can racism and its pervasive effects possibly be dismantled until a tidal wave of white people understand it and take responsibility and action for our role in this unfair system?

So, no, Governor Northam’s (recanted) apology isn’t enough.

Should past actions ruin careers?

At the time he was in medical school, Governor Northam was old enough to know right from wrong. Judging by the Governor’s swift apology after its discovery, I am going to assume that he is either in this photo or that another similar photo exists. Either way, he clearly didn’t think dressing in blackface or donning a KKK hood was a problem.

Governor Northam attended an institution of higher learning that accepted this type of bigoted behavior, so much so, that Eastern Virginia Medical School documented it in the yearbook. The likelihood that this environment reinforced a belief system of white superiority and black inferiority is quite high. The likelihood that this belief system – conscious or not – was then perpetuated by Governor Northam and other graduates who would go on to impact the lives of people of color as decision-makers, doctors, and public officials is also very high. In their medical practices, for instance, it is conceivable that these doctors contributed to long-running racial health disparities or undertreated their Black patients’ pain based on racial biases normalized through the type of behavior captured in this photo. This is about much more than a yearbook photo or long-ago moment in time.

In his race for governor, Governor Northam, a Democrat, ran against an opponent tied to a president who has been accused of racism. Many Virginians, including 87 percent of Black voters, supported candidate Northam. I cast my vote for him partly because of his career of service and, partly, as a rejection of his opponent’s party’s seemingly racist views and beliefs. With the emergence of this glimpse into Governor Northam’s past, I no longer believe that he can effectively represent all of Virginia’s residents – particularly the 20 percent of its citizens who are Black. A politician’s license to serve is based on the trust and confidence that citizens bestow upon them. That trust is broken.

Why is blackface so bad?

Google it.

Next steps?

Many are calling for Governor Northam to step down. Unfortunately, even if he resigns and Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax is sworn in as the Commonwealth’s second-ever Black governor, Virginia will not magically become a post-racial utopia.

Racism has deep roots here. This incident is just one example of how overt racism shows up in our society. Similar to the countless cell phone videos documenting racist acts, police brutality, and racial discrimination, this yearbook photo should serve as another piece of evidence to spur white Americans to deepen conversations about race, our racist past, and our role in perpetuating current racial inequities.

It is outrageous that in 2019 life outcomes can still be predicted by race. Calling for Governor Northam’s resignation cannot distract us from the real work that needs to be done to dismantle the deep-seated racism that underlies our societal systems. We should care about racist imagery and hold our public officials to the highest of standards. But, we should care even more about the deep inequities that still exist in our society based on nothing more than the level of melanin in our skin and a false narrative about white superiority.

Resources

If you’d like to learn more about racism, white privilege, unconscious bias, etc., I encourage you to embark on your own exploration. Here are a few resources that I have found helpful:

Videos: www.puttingracismonthetable.org
Podcasts: Scene on Radio – Seeing White
Books: Waking Up White, Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence

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.

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.

Friday roundup – April 11 through April 15, 2016

THIS WEEK AT WRAG
– We released the second video in the Putting Racism on the Table series, featuring Dr. Robin DiAngelo, former professor of education and author of What Does It Mean to be White?, speaking on white privilege. After viewing, we encourage you to share your thoughts on the series or on the specific topic via Twitter using the hashtag #PuttingRacismOnTheTable, or by commenting on WRAG’s Facebook page. We also suggest checking out the viewing guide and discussion guide to be used with the video. Both can be found on our website.

THIS WEEK IN PHILANTHROPY
 In an update to WRAG’s Beyond Dollars report originally published in 2009, former managing director Kristin Pauly of The Prince Charitable Trusts provided the latest on their efforts to help protect a cultural and environmental asset in Virginia, and presented a new documentary on the fight, When Mickey Came to Town. (Daily, 4/13)

Opinion: Public Welfare Foundation president and WRAG Board member Mary McClymont shed light on the need for long overdue reforms to the civil justice system, and the need for more foundations to support civil legal aid for vulnerable citizens. (Chronicle, 4/8)

– Consumer Health Foundation (CHF) president and WRAG Board member Yanique Redwood, and administrative and communications assistant Kendra Allen, shared how CHF has used learning journeys to further connect with their grantees and view their work from a different perspective. (NCRP, 4/7)

THIS WEEK IN THE REGION
– Editorial: The Washington Post took a look at recent violent crime occurring in the District’s wards 7 and 8, and the importance of tackling social issues that are often factors in crime. (WaPo, 4/11)

– Why Virginia is shaking up its economic development strategy (WBJ, 4/12)


WRAG’S COMMUNITY CALENDAR
Click the image below to access WRAG’S Community Calendar. To have your event included, please send basic information including event title, date/time, location, a brief description of the event, and a link for further details to: myers@washingtongrantmakers.org.


Calendar won’t display? Click here.


How did you know when you were officially an adult?

– Ciara

New video is live – Putting Racism on the Table: White Privilege

PUTTING RACISM ON THE TABLE/WRAG
The second video in the “Putting Racism on the Table” series is now live! The video features Dr. Robin DiAngelo, former professor of education and author of What Does It Mean to be White?, speaking on white privilege. After you’ve had a chance to view the video, we encourage you to share your thoughts on the series or on the specific topic via Twitter using the hashtag #PuttingRacismOnTheTable, or by commenting on WRAG’s Facebook page. We also suggest checking out the viewing guide and discussion guide to be used with the video. Both can be found on our website.

WRAG president Tamara Lucas Copeland said of the video release:

I am so pleased to share the next installment of the Putting Racism on the Table video series. Dr. Robin DiAngelo provided a thought-provoking and memorable session on a topic that is an integral piece of the puzzle surrounding the various aspects of race and racism. In this video, Dr. DiAngelo takes viewers on an exploration of white privilege and how it works to perpetuate an inequitable society.

HOUSING/ARTS | You can take a glimpse inside The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation‘s Art Place at Fort Totten, a new development coming in mid-2017 to include more than 900 apartments, a new children’s museum, and retail. (WBJ, 4/11)

EDUCATION/NATIONAL | New data show that, in 23 states, the annual cost of educating a 4-year old at a full-time day care center exceeds the average cost of in-state tuition at a four-year institution. Maryland is one of those states. (WSJ, 4/11)

SOCIAL EQUITY
– A new study suggests that when an individual has just a brief, in-person empathetic encounter with another individual who identifies with a group they hold prejudice against, their views can be  dramatically changed. (City Lab, 4/8)

AudioBlind Hiring, While Well Meaning, May Create Unintended Consequences (NPR, 4/12)

PHILANTHROPY | OpinionPhilanthropic Leadership Shouldn’t Still Look Like the Country-Club Set (Chronicle, 4/11) Subscription required.

DISTRICT| Editorial: The Washington Post takes a look at recent violent crime occurring in the District’s wards 7 and 8 over the past several days, and why it remains so important to tackle social issues that are often factors in crime. (WaPo, 4/11)


Go, Twiggy, go!

– Ciara