Nonprofits and funders on the side of improving access to housing and financial assets for low-income people are closely watching a showdown in the Supreme Court on “disparate impact.”
When you are one, you have only just learned to speak. You move about clumsily and knock things down a lot. You don’t yet know what is possible, but you are burgeoning with life.
If you hang around the more professionalized precincts of philanthropy—like big name foundations with their armies of Ph.D.s or major consulting firms—the business of giving away large amounts of money can seem awfully complicated. (Hence all those Ph.D.s.)
But if you talk with Herb Sandler, as I did recently, it sounds pretty darn simple.
The Knight Foundation took another step forward in its work to bolster U.S. cities recently, by identifying 126 finalists in its Cities Challenge. All 26 of Knight’s communities of focus for the challenge are represented in the pool of finalists and the winners will divvy up $5 million in funding.
Over 7,000 ideas were submitted for the challenge, coming from public and government organizations, design experts, urban planning organizations, and individual citizens.
The successes of the civil rights movement are rightly remembered as a major achievement of grassroots organizing—with crucial assists by Lyndon B. Johnson and a muscular White House.
But there’s another part of that history that you won’t see on the big screen: How philanthropists supported the civil rights push at key moments. As well—fast forwarding to today—for all the media attention on racial justice in the wake of police killings in Ferguson, MO, and New York City, there’s been little mention of how foundation money has helped frame the response to those events and articulate a policy agenda going forward.
Alabama George Wallace famously pledged “segregation forever” in 1963, only to watch Jim Crow dismantled by federal law over the next few years. In the history books, and now at a multiplex near you, Wallace lost and Martin Luther King, Jr. won.
In fact, though, we all know there’s been no such storybook ending—especially when it comes to the segregation of America’s neighborhoods and schools. Instead, Wallace’s promise for the future has largely come true, minus the “Whites Only” signs—as documented by an endless stream of studies. One 2013 study, by Richard Rothstein and the Economic Policy Institute, put things this way:
Racial isolation of African American children in separate schools located in separate neighborhoods has become a permanent feature of our landscape. Today, African American students are more isolated than they were 40 years ago, while most education policymakers and reformers have abandoned integration as a cause.
We were struck by a blog post last month by Doug Stamm, CEO of the Meyer Memorial Trust, entitled: “Doug Stamm on the foundation’s—and his own—racial equity journey.” In it, Stamm discusses his transformation from not being “meaningfully involved in the struggle” for race equity five years ago to becoming more meaningfully involved now.