The illusion of inclusion is defined as the “sometimes subtle ways that standards can appear to address race while at the same time marginalizing people of color,” (Heilig et al 2012) or as I like to say, an organization’s inability to engage in authentic practices. For example, many organizations have a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) strategy but have no or very few Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) staff or leadership representation.

When thinking about equity and justice, funders should ask themselves if we are operating from an authentically inclusive space—or under the illusion of inclusion. I would argue that when funders fail to engage in authentic practices, we act as pillars that uphold the very systems that we fight so hard to dismantle. Unfair and unjust practices impact the psychological safety of our BIPOC colleagues, who often find themselves “working while wounded.”

When our BIPOC colleagues do not feel seen, heard, or valued they are less likely to see themselves as influencers and change agents to the organizational culture. This does not just impact the promotion and retention rates of our BIPOC colleagues, but also negatively impacts their spirits, decreasing their confidence and mental and emotional well-being. For many, this is experienced as racialized trauma.

To ensure that racial equity and justice is not another trendy topic of discussion at the water cooler, we as funders must do internal work to support equitable and just practices and weigh ourselves on the scale of accountability. There is no gray area in the fight against inequity and injustice. Our white colleagues should understand their positions of power and privilege; understand how to reflect, filter, and strategize through an antiracist lens; and structure positions, roles, and responsibilities using an antiracist approach.

Read the full article about creating an authentically inclusive space by Chiara Smith at Grantmakers In Health.