Tag Archive for racism

Responding to Ferguson, Michael Brown’s death

I’ve been following the news coverage about the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson fairly closely.  It continues a disturbing pattern of systemic inequality against minorities in America:

  •   police brutality, differential enforcement and sentencing
  •   economic injustice in hiring and advancement, as well as in access to credit
  •   disparity in the educational resources in communities of color
  •   environmental injustice in the siting of polluting industries

These big picture issues recurred in the more personal stories of racism and exclusion I’d heard from people of color in my own church community during conversations in response to a call for a Sacred Conversation on Race by our denomination (United Church of Christ) in the wake of the 2008 Presidential campaign.

As I wrestle with the question of how I can personally improve the situation, I think about three steps that I encourage others to consider as well:

  1. Raise my personal consciousness of the situation.  Pay attention to the news, read books like The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, and listen to the stories of people of other races.
  2. Cultivate friendships that cross not only race boundaries but economic ones as well.
  3. Speak out against injustice.  Quite frankly, this still scares me.  I find it easier to speak out by writing a check than I do by saying something in person or email.  So, if Citizens United establishes contributions as voice, then my voice will not be silent.  Here are organizations that I believe are prodding or supporting much-needed change:

I’m still in the early stages of this new awareness, and I have yet to take all of my own advice, but I’d welcome additional suggestions for organizations or other ideas you have on making a difference.

Community Foundations and funding “Social Justice”

There’s an interesting blog post today “The Big Uneasy” over at White Courtesy Telephone (an occasionally irreverent series of guest blog posts about philanthropy) talking about why Community Foundations shy away from funding Social Justice.  Better than just talking about it, they provided some survey data (surveying community foundation staff members) about it.  While it’s a small sample (57 people), it’s a lot better than one person pontificating.  (And they let you download the survey results, though not the raw data…)

The main concerns are that “social justice” is either too radical or too vague.

  • 57% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement:

“Many CEOs or trustees of community foundations resist social justice philanthropy because they fear alienating donors”

This doesn’t mean that the respondents themselves felt that way.  Indeed, it smacks a bit of “sour grapes” where staff members would like to take a more radical stand, but feel push back from CEO’s or trustees.

They speculate a bit about how improved messaging (a focus on “fairness” and “equality of opportunity”) might clarify the goals and make it more palatable to donors.

As for me, some stats about the inequities that social justice is trying to correct is more compelling than word-smithing a perfect definition.

How about these drawn from “Fourteen Examples of System Racism in the Criminal Justice System”

  • People of color represent half the population of NYC, and 80% of the NYPD stops.  8% of whites who are stopped are frisked, for blacks and Latinos, it’s 85%.
  • In 2004, the American Bar Association reviewed the status of the public defender program and wrote:  “All too often, defendants plead guilty, even if they are innocent, without really understanding their legal rights or what is occurring…The fundamental right to a lawyer that America assumes applies to everyone accused of criminal conduct effectively does not exist in practice for countless people across the US.”
  • “The U.S. Sentencing Commission reported in March 2010 that in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10% longer than white offenders for the same crimes.”