Dana Kawaoka-Chen, executive director of a new group called Justice Funders, issued a rallying cry in a recent talk with the Chronicle of Philanthropy. She said, "There needs to be a shift from wealth and power being accumulated within institutions toward a new vision where philanthropy is about redistributing wealth, democratizing power, and shifting economic control to the community."
Her colleague, Marie Nakae, put it more succinctly, saying it’s time for foundations to pay “reparations.”
[Charitable] foundations have felt the great sustained pressure to “pay up” for alleged sins against the ideals of racial and economic equality.
The idea of reparations recently became the rage among 2020 Democratic presidential contenders, with Sen. Kamala Harris of New York, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts specifically floating the idea. There is also a growing list of institutions wondering if they “owe” reparations too, from the federal government to private businesses to colleges and universities. Georgetown University’s student body recently voted to pay a fee to the descendants of slaves owned by the institution's Jesuit founders.
But among these institutions, charitable foundations have felt the great sustained pressure to “pay up” for alleged sins against the ideals of racial and economic equality. It started out as pressure from a few vocal activists banging on the doors of large foundations. It's turned into a movement in which philanthropic leaders are falling over themselves to throw money at their critics in hopes of mollifying them, even if it means ignoring the original mission of their institutions.
James Piereson is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
Naomi Schaefer Riley is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.
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