Building an Anti-Racist Future

Building an Anti-Racist Future

Black Lives Matter Protesters
Kiran Ahuja

America was built by design. We are dealing with the cost.  

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Nina Pop, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, James Scurlock, David McAtee 

We say their names. We honor their memory. May there be no more Black lives lost on our watch.  

We look to movement leaders who have come before, like acclaimed writer James Baldwin, who wrote:

“The reason that Black people are in the streets has to do with the lives they are forced to lead in this country. And they are forced to lead these lives by the indifference and the apathy and a certain kind of ignorance, a very willful ignorance, on the part of their co-citizens.” 

Those words still ring true today, 52 years later, though our hope is the protests around the country signal not only shifting winds but finally coming to terms with our racist history as a country, and addressing it head-on. We must do everything in our collective power to right historic and present-day injustices so that we build an anti-racist future in service of the Black and Indigenous visions for a world where we can all truly be free.   

I didn’t always have the words, and sometimes I’m at a loss even today. But it is my belief that as an individual you can’t be a true ally to Black communities until you take it upon yourself to understand our racialized history in its most intimate and heinous forms — and learn, as I did, that all forms of discrimination flow from the subjugation of Black and Indigenous people. And in philanthropy, we won’t be a true supporter without funding organizations that seek to address racial inequities in all their forms. I commit myself to doing this work alongside you. 

I will continue to stand under the guidance and leadership of Philanthropy Northwest’s DEI Committee and our board’s Equity Design Working Group to be in service of Black leadership, imagination, experience and liberation. And I do believe that our organization — like all those around us — can and should play a more vocal role in our country’s eternal battle for racial equality.   

The Heavy Questions We Must Ask Ourselves NOW 

"As philanthropy, how do we think BIG in response to nationwide protests to decades (and centuries) of racially-motivated trauma?"

Our work together among staff, consultants and board is forcing these essential questions: As philanthropy, how do we think BIG in response to nationwide protests to decades (and centuries) of racially-motivated trauma? How will we respond to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black and brown communities? Will we use these crises to demand expansive public funding and policies to ensure adequate food, housing, healthcare, and most of all, dignity and freedom, for vulnerable communities? In fact, can we reimagine how we will not just fund our communities but earn their trust, acknowledge and address our inherent privilege and power and go to work together with Black communities?  

We are asking ourselves and our philanthropy peers, “how will we work to not only acknowledge the life and the future of the Black community, the Indigenous community, Black immigrants, Black queer and trans people, Black women; but also to affirm it so that they are free from the daily trials of white supremacy?” Feel that weight? Yes, you must.   

Statements and words come easily, while action requires us to be and do better. That is why we’ve used the last few days to mobilize as staff around what we commit to doing today, next month and beyond.   

Our Actions 

We’ve closed Philanthropy Northwest offices Thursday, June 4, so that we may observe a National Day of Mourning for the tragic losses of Black lives in this country because of police violence, injustice and systematic racism. We thank the civil rights leaders for their work. We hear that our Black colleagues, friends and communities are tired, upset, hurt and raw, and let us be clear — while we mourn, we invite our Black staff members to REST as a radical act in and of itself. We want them with us on their terms. We are asking the rest of staff to take the day to “do the work” and use the time to reflect, learn and have the conversations needed to be in service. 

Next, we know that we have benefited from Black-led movements, in small and big ways. Philanthropy Northwest is pledging $50,000 of CEO strategic funds towards Black-led organizing as part of our immediate response to dismantling racist and unjust systems. Our intention is that this will seed a much larger collective effort in the Northwest, and we will be sharing more details and asking our members to join us in shared action in the coming weeks. We urge our members and philanthropy to hold us accountable to these commitments and reach out to us in the coming days.  

We know that our role is, first and foremost, as a convener. In the weeks and months that come, we will be calling in our network to learn together in service of action. We have heard our Black and brown community members loud and clear: the learning has gone on too long. It is time to act, and act boldly. We will continue convening in service of transformationYou will start to see shifts in our programming, and we ask that you lean into this.  

Things You Can Do Right Now 

Action Steps for Individuals:   

  • Give. Prioritize equity-centered giving to organizations trusted by community including Northwest Community Bail FundBlack Lives MatterNorthwest Justice Project and Black United Fund of Oregon.  
  • Find an Accountability Person. It is easy to feel overwhelmed in moments of great upheaval, particularly in the face of painful truths about our own complicity. Find someone you trust who is committed to learning and action to dismantle anti-Black racism. Push each other. We can’t do this work alone.   

Action Steps for Philanthropy: 

We will do our work in this lifetime and raise our children ready to do the work in theirs. We stand in solidarity.