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Let's Humble Ourselves and Question Ourselves

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

In the last few weeks, the SCG team has been balancing our feelings between optimism and skepticism, between composure and rage, between conviction and frustration. We are channeling the energy from our internal equity journey of the past few years into embracing the complexities of our daily and long-term work. We are inspired by the tremendous efforts of Black activists and Black-led organizations, who have fought tirelessly to build a racial justice movement that is driving millions around the globe into actions.

Two weeks ago, during an SCG webinar on how philanthropy can support Black communities, a panel of leaders reflected on what feels different about this moment within their multidecade fight for social justice in Southern California. These warriors reminded us that they were in the movement before this moment, and will still be advocating fearlessly for their communities once the protests are over.

  • Gloria Walton, President & CEO of SCOPE, called to attention the exceptional solidarity across communities and the depth of racism that has permeated society. Gloria encourages philanthropy to think about this moment, not as another flashpoint and not simply as a momentary infusion of funding into Black communities. 
  • Pastor Samuel Casey, Executive Director of C.O.P.E., asked us to consider the opportunities for movement building. Philanthropy can lean in, listen to Black leadership, and invest in capacity building for Black-led organizations. 

This illuminating discussion prompted me to have deeper conversations about the momentum to dismantle systemic racism and anti-Blackness in philanthropy. While it is positive that our sector is reinvigorated around these vital endeavors, it is critical to highlight philanthropy's tendency to overlook accountability for ways in which we continue to uphold white supremacy in our internal and external practices. No matter how long we have been in or whether we are newly committed to the fight for Black lives, we desperately need to acknowledge that the work of undoing our relationship with white supremacy is hardly over. In our career and lifetime, we might not ever completely untangle the web of our white-dominant culture. But we are committed to doing this work because we must. 

In this moment within the racial justice movement, we can build our endurance for learning, receiving feedback, and withstanding emotional fatigue. As life-long learners, we must have humility, curiosity, and imagination. As a learning network, I invite our beloved SCG community to hold each other accountable and to critically examine every aspect of our actions for traces of inequities. 

Together, let’s humble ourselves and question ourselves. 

Christine Essel

President & CEO, Southern California Grantmakers

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