I became CEO of Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center (BCNC) in June 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise in xenophobia and anti-Asian hate, and two weeks after George Floyd was murdered. Within 48 hours of starting my role, I worked with others to write BCNC’s first statement on racial equity, joining many others’ responses to the tragedy.

Like many companies and foundations, I charged our organization to start its own racial equity journey and reflect on the experience of what it means to be Asian, an immigrant, Black, Latinx, or white. The Chinese immigrant and Chinese American experiences came to the fore for us, since a majority of our staff and our constituents identify this way, however, diverse experiences and voices are just as important if equity for Asians is to be truly lifted up. After that moment of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, however, many in our community and across the nation have questioned commitments to racial equity — including philanthropy’s commitment.

Philanthropy must recognize it is part of a more diverse country and that racial equity work extends beyond Black and white. In the United States, racial equity can be white-centric or focused on the white/Black paradigm, in many cases very appropriately. However, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work that is limited to that paradigm ironically may lack a focus on the distinct experience of other minorities because of the background of who is doing the work or asking for the work. As foundations pursue racial equity training and more diverse and equitable funding, the diverse experience of inequity of Filipinos, Hmong, Indonesians, Vietnamese, Chinese and other groups of Asian descent must be a part of that work — work which should also be led by Asians with lived experience of inequities.

I hope the new and increased support we have been fortunate to receive continues even as the limited media attention on the Asian community moves on. I hope funders increase their understanding of Asian needs as they increase their commitment to racial equity by simply listening to Asian serving organizations and their leaders. However, given that these experiences are the exception, not the rule, CEP’s report on the trend of AAPI nonprofit leaders reporting a less positive experience with foundation funders than nonprofit leaders of other races/ethnicities and the finding that foundations continue to overlook nonprofits that serve the Asian community should not come as a surprise.

How do foundations genuinely change those metrics? How does philanthropy truly reach those they want to serve and ensure that new or renewed commitments to racial equity make real-world impact?

Read the full article about widening the lens on racial equity work by Ben Hires at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.