It is urgent that philanthropy invest in a dramatic expansion of civic bridging through an explicit lens of racial justice. This form of civic bridging entails multiracial, multiethnic relationship building, the creation of opportunities for people to share their stories and develop bonds of trust, and a deepening public understanding of the meaning and impact of structural racism on local communities and the whole country. Only as we build the capacity for this kind of civic connection in our local communities can we as a country develop the collective will and energy that will be required to create equitable solutions to serious, long-standing public problems. When civic bridging through a lens of racial justice becomes a core part of our civic life, people of all backgrounds will come to understand that our country cannot work well for some of us if it is not working well for all of us.

In making the case for focusing specifically on racial justice in civic bridging, I am drawing on my longtime experience as head of Everyday Democracy, a national civic organization that supports dialogue for equitable community change with a view toward advancing a more authentic, just, and participatory democracy at all levels of society.

Early in our work, we came to understand that building civic bridges through an explicit lens of racial equity is foundational to a strong democracy. Building civic bridges—that is, people coming together to practice the art of civic association—“lies at the center of America’s self-understanding.” Doing so through an explicit lens of racial equity makes it possible to address the rot at the heart of the American system—an underlying assumption of white superiority that was built into our founding and runs like a thread through our history.

Read the full article about civic bridging by Martha McCoy at Knight Foundation.