Philanthropy, Privilege, and Racial Justice: Allyship and Accountability

MacArthur Staff and President John Palfrey write on the concept of accountability and the role of allies in challenging systems of oppression and racial inequity in the United States.

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John Palfrey, President

White people have an essential role to play in dismantling the systems of oppression and racial inequity in the United States. To be effective allies to our colleagues of color, most white people, myself included, have a lot of homework to do to understand and grapple with our white privilege and our role and complicity in upholding these inequitable systems.

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Kristen Molyneaux, Vice President, Social Impact, Lever for Change

MacArthur Foundation’s CFO Ken Jones recently challenged colleagues with four powerful words “be stakeholders not placeholders” in this fight for racial justice. He was asking us to do more than sit in our feelings of white guilt and helplessness; to be more than well-meaning people, who work for a good institution, within a system that is inherently flawed.

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Thomas Watkins, Cross-Foundation Administrator, People and Culture

In response to public displays of execution and persistent oppression of black people, nationwide resistance and protest erupt with a grave pandemic in the background. This is the backdrop of 1919 during The Red Summer. From Eugene Williams (who was killed for drifting into the white swimming section in a Lake Michigan beach) to George Floyd (who was killed with a police officer’s knee on his neck), the prevalence of systemic racial injustice remains intact. As a non-black ally, these tragic deaths serve as reminders of the failings of our still-segregated society. These disparities are everyday life for communities of color, further highlighted by the fact they are being hit hardest by COVID-19.

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Sharon Bissell, Director, Mexico Office

Quarantined at home in Mexico City, I had been watching with consternation the chaotic expansion of the coronavirus in the U.S. and its unequal impact on black and Latinx communities, when the dangerous cocktail of racism and police brutality exploded once again. The names Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Amy Cooper raced across borderless social media; many others preceded them. In the coming days, people around the world organized protests on the streets and at U.S. embassies.

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Peter Chytla, Meeting Planner

From a conversation with family:

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Vicki Glinski-White, Legal Project Administrator, Grants

When I see tough things happen, I do not jump in — I observe, I grapple, I reflect, and sometimes, maybe, I change. But now I am compelled to admit my ignorance of history out loud and realize its contribution to today. I am compelled to show vulnerability because it has been shown to me by the bravest of my colleagues, friends, and others — their souls and sadness laid bare — and it has broken my heart.

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