Giving Compass' Take:
- Stephanie J. Hull, writing for Independent Sector, discusses how the philanthropic sector can build flexible, transparent partnerships to uphold a systems change approach to tackling systemic racism.
- What would a systemic approach look like in your community?
- Read more about giving effectively in the fight against systemic racism.
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As the nation continues to grapple with many of the crises of the past year, addressing systemic racism continues to be front and center for a number of philanthropic organizations in the United States. Some are envisioning massive infusions of funding to support this work.
These commitments are both welcome and, clearly, overdue. Those of us in organizations that work to address the consequences of systemic racism applaud their focus on eradicating racism at its origin: We have long known that it is crucial to get this work done.
It is also crucial to get this work right, and to begin right away, before the window of attention and opportunity closes. Already, some of the home truths of last year’s “racial reckoning” are in danger of fading from view.
So, in the spirit of getting this done and getting it right, three observations:
This systemic problem requires multiple simultaneous systemic solutions. As the work of Isabel Wilkerson and others reminds us, systemic racism is not simply about hatred. In fact, that notion — emotionally gripping as it is — puts the cart before the horse. Systemic racism in the United States has arisen from a fundamental social and economic reliance on the existence of a permanent underclass; in Wilkerson’s words, “Caste is the bones, race is the skin.”
The very fact that we as a nation have known it for so long and still failed to address it demonstrates how deeply our institutions rely on it, and how many roots it has — cultural, economic, political, social. To acknowledge that it is so deeply rooted tends, perversely, to let everyone off the hook. We will gain traction only if we pull together, from all sides at once, with large commitments of resources distributed across sectors and across areas of concern. Youth services, economic capacity building, community organizing, education, public health: every one of these areas, and more, should be involved from the beginning, and every one of them will need unprecedented resources.
Providing support for this broad kind of work challenges funders to engage on multiple fronts. While staying focused on their mission-specific areas of endeavor, they might also be prepared both to fund more than one large-scale effort, and to ensure that any efforts they support are interconnected. To pit organizations, sectors, and agencies against each other would be to ensure failure.
The multiple systemic approaches are most likely to thrive if they’re flexible, transparent partnerships. Even as so many disparate areas are implicated in addressing the problem of systemic racism, they are also deeply intertwined. The youth services sector depends upon education and public health, which contribute to and are shaped by economic capacity building and community organizing, and so on.
Read the full article about systemic racism by Stephanie J. Hull at Independent Sector.