This post was authored by Paul Bachleitner, Project Director of Joint Affinity Groups (JAG) and was originally published on the JAG Blog. It appears here as part of the EPIP-JAG blogging partnership, “Wit and Wisdom”.
Less than three weeks ago, the not guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin rocked the nation. The outrage directed at Zimmerman and stand your ground laws was merited, but it might have been better directed at the policies and structural barriers that cast men and boys of color as criminals and wary citizens in a shoot-first mentality.
Over the last six or seven years, philanthropy has developed a body of grantmaking that targets men and boys of color (MBOC). This grantmaking calls attention to gun violence, high school graduation rates, and a host of other impacts. However, there are at least three things these efforts must achieve before they help reduce disparities that produce tragedies like Trayvon’s.
There is certainly a need for field building. Last month, in fact, Frontline Solutions organized the second of what is becoming an annual conference of grantmakers, nonprofits, and others working to improve the lives of MBOC: A Gathering of Leaders.
But conferences alone aren’t enough. We need collaborative action. JAG presented a session at the conference based on a framework for investments in MBOC that outlines what’s missing:
- An understanding that MBOC initiatives are rooted in structural inequities
Disparities facing MBOC exist within a deeper historical context of trauma in diverse communities, such as Jim Crow laws and colonialism. These structures are still alive and kicking and continue to create the inequalities that impact MBOC. Yet grantmaking often occurs in a vacuum, as if Black men were just able to start paying child support the whole problem would be solved.
- The broader context of equity needs to be the work’s focus
MBOC also don’t exist in a vacuum. The same structures that impact them create inequalities that intersect with women, girls, and LGBTQ populations. There is a whole context of community inequality that affects MBOC, and philanthropy must address this.
- Change starts from within
Grantmaking institutions with MBOC initiatives can develop more equitable policies and practices. MBOC initiatives should exist alongside other, broader efforts that address racism, sexism, and homophobia. Grantmaking should also be for the long term and integrated within an institution and with peers outside of it. Program officers shouldn’t have to go it alone.
We won’t prevent the deaths of other Trayvons overnight, but we’ll never prevent them if we don’t address these missing pieces of the work. Trayvon’s death gives us an opportunity to galvanize breakthroughs and deeper commitments from within philanthropy and without that can make change happen quicker.
Download the framework and learn more about and get involved with JAG member efforts to galvanize change.
Wit and Wisdom is a blogging collaboration between EPIP and JAG. Featuring a monthly entry from individuals within our networks, it highlights thought leadership about philanthropy, racial/social equity, and multigenerational change. Its lightening-hot interviews, essays, and case studies aim to provoke insightful discussion. We hope you will engage!