Black History Month at Tides: Equity In Action

Black History Month at TidesHistorian Carter G. Woodson started Negro History Week in 1926 to educate the American people about African-American history and to promote that history as a more significant part of American history as a whole.  Despite his original intentions and the federal expansion of the week into a month, critics rightly argue that African Americans and other people of color are still viewed as the exception to the majority white rule, and that this marginalization continues to be pervasive and at the detriment to economic and social mobilization.  We must fully embrace that this “exception” of race is the rule—as data shows—and more justly distribute resources and elevate opportunities to pursue true equity.

Numbers and projections show that people of color are fast becoming the new majority in the United States; 43.9% of the population is non-white or Latino. Asians and Latinos experienced the highest rates of population growth between 2000 and 2010 (43.3% and 43.0%, respectively), and people of color are set to become the majority of the US population by mid-century, following a trend already seen in California and New Mexico.  Blacks, specifically, are 13.6% of the population and saw 15.4% growth in ten years, behind Asians and Latinos but still outpacing general population growth of 9.7%.

However, resource distribution is vastly disproportionate, as reflected in the philanthropic sector.  Programs focused on ethnic and racial minorities receive only 10% of grant dollars: 6% targeted ethnic and racial minorities generally, 2% specifically African Americans, 1% Latinos, and less than 1% targeted Asian and Native Americans.  Additionally, people of color comprise only 7.5% of foundation CEOs/Presidents, 12% of executive staff, and 13.5% of board members/trustees, with African Americans being 3%, 4% and 7%, respectively.  The only area in which foundations better reflect the general population, in terms of people of color is among program officers—34% overall and 17% African American—who tend to have less decision-making power on overall budgets and organizational directions than levels of leadership with less representation.  Lastly, there are significantly fewer foundations based in the South, where the highest concentrations of Black populations live.

We also need to expand our definition and thinking of Blackness beyond the borders of the United States and Africa.  Although the concept of the African diaspora is not new, corresponding resource mobilization strategies are still unexplored and underutilized.  There both is a long history of forced and voluntary migration from Africa to other continents and an urgency to act as we continue to globalize, experience unprecedented rates and numbers of population shifts (e.g., conflict and climate change refugees), and understand how race dynamics play out in dangerously parallel ways from culture to culture.

For instance, Afro-Latinos—Africa -descendent populations in the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking nations of Latin America—make up over a quarter of the region’s total population (150 million of 540 million), and are among the poorest, most marginalized groups in the region.  They are 45% of the population of Brazil (which has the largest Afro-Latino population in the region), but 64% of the poor and 69% of the extremely poor.  Additionally, only 18% have completed secondary school (compared to 38% of whites), and they earn 44% less than non-Blacks.  One study has also found that violence is becoming the leading cause of death for Afro-Brazilian men.

Tides is committed to addressing these issues by building Black donor engagement and increasing our support to Black communities in the United States and globally.  Racial equity is fundamental and central to our mission, not considered a special initiative or specific to a narrow population.  We are developing systems and vehicles that democratize philanthropy and leadership in the truest sense—by supporting the growth and retention of local assets in racial and ethnic minority communities around the world. “21CF powered by Tides” is a significant step towards bringing racial justice firmly into the core work of Tides and giving a mandate of elevating community-of-color-focused work to the social change sector.  We look forward to sharing our upcoming work throughout the month.

Melissa L. Bradley is the CEO of Tides.

Photo via Flickr user hepingting, used under Creative Commons license.

  • Sam in Chicago

    I had to read this article twice to really comprehend the analysis and the message as it mixes ideas and strategy. Basically, it is looking at the world through one lens: race. It is not looking at the issue with a post-race lens. If it were, the analysis and goals would be different.
    If the US is quickly becoming a country where people of color will be in the majority (and where by just 2112, they may be 62+% of all residents), then doesn't this promise a rising tide (ha!) of power and resources? Will it still be such an excluded and marginalized minority to use your jargon?

    Is the social and economic mobilization of people of color actually improving? The author and tone suggest no, when in fact it is both yes and no. College education, professional employment, death by murder, political representation are improving. Poverty and lower assets dogs most minorities, yet the standard of living is up: the (new) child poverty indicator study by Census shows a drop of about 10% overall. This suggests the "exception" rule is not dominant and a (slow yet steady) improving "inclusion" rule grows.
    I read that Tides wants to support the growth and retention of local assets in racial and ethnic minority communities around the world. Okay, but that suggests that POC philanthropy will not benefit others, or be so egalitarian, that POC donors should not swim in broader waters, be bigger players.

    I'm sorry, but the article just sounds rather dated. Not 2012.

  • Anonymous

    So we're excluded and marginalized and things are not getting better? The editorial says so. Compare that to this news item on the NCRP web site:
    "Communities of Color Find More Prominent Role within Philanthropy Sector

    Jan 9, 2012

    As the U.S. population shifts, with ethnic and racial groups growing faster than the overall American population, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has found the face of philanthropy is rapidly changing to become as diverse as the country’s population.
    The new report, “Cultures of Giving: Energizing and Expanding Philanthropy by and for Communities of Color” commissioned by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, with major funding by the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, shows how philanthropy is evolving, with some of the most significant growth stemming from identity-based philanthropy — a growing movement to spark philanthropic giving from a community on behalf of a community, where “community” is defined by race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation."

  • http://www.tides.org/ Irene Kao

    Numbers and experiences clearly show that we are not in a post-race society, in the United States or globally. Yes, some measures show that things are better now than they used to be, but the recent economic recession demonstrated how fragile progress can be, especially for people of color, and how more needs to be done so that there is greater social and economic mobilization of whole communities. Should we settle for incremental improvements if the overall picture is still problematic? Most of all, we need to act faster and more broadly so that our sector changes at the pace of our population, which has not been the case, and ensure that people of color philanthropy (in your terms) is embraced as a core standard, not a niche. What changes do we want to see in this world, and what roles can be play to make them happen?

  • http://www.tides.org/ Irene Kao

    While there has been progress in particular areas and with specific initiatives (with Kellogg’s work being a great example), the philanthropic sector as a whole still has a ways to go to achieving parity. We can designate more funds to racial equity and justice work, we can position and develop more people of color for leadership roles, we can do a better job of making sure there’s more accountability to communities of color that we serve, and we can increase the scale of the work. The sector should promote and celebrate the strides we make, but never lose sight of the fact that we can always do more.