Last winter in our Nonprofit Workplace issue we promised that we would return to the largely overlooked topic of race in nonprofits. Impelled by our board of practitioner-advisors, who said, “we need this approached differently. This issue is about how power is held,” we have placed race in the larger context of democracy.
During the development of this issue, we ran across a troubling situation. When we queried nonprofit listservs to find stories about organizations that have “1) linked their effectiveness with the need to address issues of power-sharing and inclusiveness, and 2) as a result have undergone a process that has changed the base of power—assumptions, interactions, and decision-making regarding race and power dynamics,” we received nothing. It took a great deal of searching to find the few (wonderful) stories of transformation that we have included—even seasoned diversity consultants had few noteworthy examples of profound change. Given the importance of redressing the imbalance in power between whites and people of color in this country, this resounding silence left us pretty alarmed.
The mix of articles intends to feature some different approaches in understanding racism as it occurs today and how to change the situation. Lani Guinier, now a Harvard University law professor and recent co-author of The Miner’s Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy shares what she means by political race and ways to reclaim race as an asset—a diagnostic tool that can help us understand how resources are allocated. We invite you to share your thoughts and reactions to her propositions within our online Nonprofit Quarterly Learning Center. Another provocative article is by John Dovidio and Samual Gaertner. They describe the subtle, less overt racism found among some liberals—what they call aversive racism—which among other implications has important impact on hiring and work team performance.
Even if everyone interacted with others equally, however, John Powell from the Institute on Race and Poverty details “how racism has leaped from being inscribed in our laws to being inscribed in our land”—and thus how positive action is necessary to combat the inertia of past racism and achieve equity. Julie Quiroz-Martínez discusses the need to connect immigrant rights struggles with racial justice—one without the other falls dangerously short.
To go from the call to arms to a description of the actual work of inclusion and power sharing, we have a (small) number of good organizational stories and a wonderful piece by Tyra Sidberry, the director of Boston’s Diversity Initiative—a collaborative of grantmakers that fund diversity work, apparently the only such project in the country. Sidberry shares her extensive experience with us in an unusual overview of how organizations generally work on diversity issues.
In our Departments section, we have departed from the norm by printing some longer articles. In the advocacy department, the National Council of Nonprofit Associations alerts us to the important issue of payments in lieu of taxes. We need to keep an eye on this issue that could deeply affect the way nonprofits function. In the governance department Mel Gill, a Canadian researcher, reassures us that the strange ways in which some of us have constructed our boards (a little of this and a little of that) is probably quite functional. And in the human resources department, we have a rich description of how the Head Start network has approached balancing a recent mandate for higher educational requirements for teachers with their traditional mandate of hiring constituents. Don’t miss the two articles in fundraising or technology, either—our friend Phil Anthrop is back with a shocking report about pharmaceutical testing on foundation staff, and we aim a proton blaster at blind reliance on tech support experts.
Racism in its various forms continues to be widespread in our society, organizations and inter-personal relations. Whether intended or unintended, exclusion and injustice continue to benefit some at the expense of others. Our failure to find much real movement in altering the locus of power in nonprofit organizations and in the economic and social institutions of our country stands as a stark example of how even the most aware and engaged groups would rather remain unaware of their responsibility to act. As the authors in this volume suggest, we have to start (yes, you—and yes, now) developing positive norms for a different and more desirable way for ourselves, our organizations, and our society to function—and holding each other accountable for upholding those norms. As Lani Guinier suggests, our democracy’s success depends upon this work.
Once again, we could not have put together the illustrations in this issue of the magazine without the help of several arts organizations committed to social change and promoting a diversity of voices. Among the many places where we found images were the National Conference of Artists, dedicated to promoting African American art and artists, and the Center for the Study of Political Graphics, an educational archive of posters relating to movements for peace and social justice. We’d particularly like to acknowledge the courtesy of the following two organizations.
Social and Public Art Resource Center, a 25 year-old nonprofit arts organization based in Venice, CA, is committed to socially responsible public art making. The Great Wall of Los Angeles, the longest mural in the world, was started in 1976 and is still in production. (“Development of Suburbia” by Judith Baca, page 6)
Artists for Human Rights Trust, based in Durban, South Africa, supports art and artists and uses the arts to assist in the creation of a human rights culture in South Africa as well as abroad. The “Images of Human Rights” Print Portfolio is one of their projects and is available for sale. (“Birth Right” by Jan Jordaan, page 34)