We are living in unprecedented times. To claim anything else would be to naively dismiss our new reality; however, to believe that we cannot come out of this pandemic stronger than before would be to allow fear and anxiety to shroud the great opportunity before us.
We are being exposed. The ugly truths that our nation has tried to hide are coming to light and, in the light, we can diagnose problems by name and collectively work towards their cure. We now see that our healthcare system is inadequate, that our country is too slow to respond to disasters, that we undervalue the workers who keep our country running, and that racial minorities have to inequitably deal with the consequences.
According to the New York Times, black and Latino people are twice as likely to die from the Coronavirus than white people in New York City. In Illinois, 15% of the population is black, but they represent 42% of the covid-related fatalities. This pattern can be observed around the country – even in our own backyard. We should not be surprised; this is merely a new manifestation of an issue that is deeply rooted in American society. The coronavirus is not the great equalizer as some have claimed – it is the spotlight forcing us to confront our inequitable way of life.
As the world has slowed down, we have the opportunity to reflect and to make decisions. Let us decide that “going back to normal” is a terrible goal. Our “normal” was incapable of meeting the basic needs of so much of our population, so let us take advantage of this catalytic moment to aspire to something better. As philanthropists, let us be good stewards of our resources and ensure that every grant dollar spent advances equity instead of reinforcing a broken system. Let us advocate for policy change, empower the voices of the underrepresented, and concern ourselves more with the wellbeing of the most vulnerable than protecting the corpuses of our endowments.
The future will look back at this time to see if philanthropy did everything within its power to meet the needs of the people during the coronavirus pandemic. Let us be on the right side of history and not waste this wake-up call for a better tomorrow.