Dismantling White Supremacy & Anti-Blackness in Philanthropy

Justice Funders
Jun 5, 2020 · 4 min read

We need to acknowledge the ways in which our institutions and our field at large have perpetuated these systems of oppression.

To our colleagues in philanthropy:

Like many of you, we are outraged by the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Nina Pop, Tony McDade and the countless other Black lives lost to racist police violence and vigilantism. We mourn their unjust deaths, which add to the devastation that Black communities are facing from disproportionate mortality rates from COVID-19 due to the overlapping and reinforcing ways in which racism shows up in our healthcare system, in employment and housing discrimination, and through the racial wealth gap.

These murders are a result of white supremacy, which is maintained by laws, systems and cultures that uphold and reinforce anti-Blackness. We stand in solidarity with all those who are rising up to unapologetically defend Black life. We urge our colleagues in philanthropy to uplift Black-led organizing, and call on our non-Black colleagues to join the struggle alongside those turning up in the streets so that Black folks can have more of a choice to not carry the burden of all forms of protest taking place in this moment.

To dismantle white supremacy, those who have benefitted from white privilege need to recognize how silence, lack of intentional allyship, and lack of protest are fueling the culture of anti-Blackness.

It took a global pandemic to compel foundations to commit to making some incremental grantmaking shifts that grantees have been insisting on for decades. But our sector has yet to act like we want to eradicate the life-or-death emergencies that Black and Brown communities experience on a daily basis. Anti-Blackness is given momentary attention, exhibited by statements that imply that white supremacy and anti-Black racism are problems “out in the world” to be solved with grantmaking dollars.

But the insidiousness of white supremacy and anti-Blackness will continue to permeate in philanthropy until we acknowledge the ways in which our institutions and our field at large have perpetuated these systems of oppression, and actively work to dismantle them within our own practices.

To understand philanthropy’s role in perpetuating racism and white supremacy, we must first recognize that the extractive, capitalist economic system to which philanthropy has contributed is one that is deeply racialized. The theft of Indigenous land and the exploited labor of enslaved Indigenous and African people at the founding of this country are what created the wealth and fueled the economic growth of the U.S. These practices are expressions of racial capitalism, defined as “the process of deriving value from the racial identity of others, harms the individuals affected and society as a whole,” which continues to drive our economy to this day.

“In order to truly be antiracist, you also have to truly be anti-capitalist,” ~ Ibram X. Kendi

Over the next several weeks, Justice Funders will be sharing our thoughts on dismantling white supremacy and anti-Black racism in philanthropy, which we believe are requisite actions for a Just Transition for Philanthropy. Today, we invite you to reflect on the following:

  • How do white supremacy and anti-Blackness show up in my individual and institutional mindsets and behaviors, and how have I/my institution been complicit in perpetuating these systems of oppression?
  • What steps can I/my institution take in this moment to support those most impacted by white supremacy and anti-Blackness?
  • How is my institution currently supporting (through grants and investments) the systems that are harming our communities, including the police and prison industrial complex?
  • How does my personal stance and my institution’s stance on defunding the police and prison abolition impact the ways in which we are responding to this moment?
  • How might we align and move more resources to Black-led organizing work and grassroots leadership to meet this moment AND commit long-term support to this work?
  • How am I/my institution leveraging this moment of upheaval to create the new, just world we all need?

One action that you can take immediately is to educate yourself about and support Black-led organizing efforts that are both responding to the current moment as well as working to advance long-term systemic change. You can find places to take action in our compilation of #DefendBlackLives Response Funds & Black-Led Organizing Work.

Racist police violence against Black and Brown communities is increasing and intensifying across the country and around the world. Dedicating ourselves and our institutions to becoming anti-racist is not only how we honor the lives of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Nina Pop, Tony McDade and the countless other Black lives lost to racist police violence and vigilantism, but a critical and necessary step towards actualizing a just and thriving world.

In solidarity,

The Justice Funders team

Justice Funders

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