Why Racial Justice Matters In Covid-19 Responses

 Why Racial Justice Matters In Covid-19 Responses

By Bonnie Chiu

In the U.S. and the U.K., statistics have shown that ethnic minority groups are disproportionately getting ill and dying from the virus. In other parts of the world, amid the pandemic, Global Fund for Women has seen increased police brutality against black queer women in Brazil, and increased racist responses and prejudice against the Muslim communities in India, to name a few. Given the scale of racial injustice exposed by the crisis, many funders and advocates have been adopting a racial justice lens in their work.

Edward W. Hazen Foundation, a private foundation aimed at dismantling structural inequity based on race and class, fast-forwarded their grants selection and disbursement amid the pandemic, announcing more than $2.8 million to 24 organizations. This represented a nearly five-fold increase in committed funding compared to its spring 2019 docket.  “In New York, 75% of frontline workers are people of color. A lot of the workers are members of our grantee organizations, and this has been deeply traumatising for them. The most heavily hit communities are in parts of Queen, Southwestern Georgia, Detroit—people of color communities. In this moment, we see that there aren’t healthcare facilities that many native Americans can access. With so much at stake right now, we saw no reason to delay much needed funding,”  says Lori Bezahler, President of the Hazen Foundation.

Grantmakers for Girls of Color has been convening funders to take an intersectional lens to grantmaking, particularly focused on race and gender, since 2015. Amid the pandemic, they launched a $1 million fund, as their first grantmaking effort as a newly independent entity. “In April, we had a virtual convening to hear what the emergency needs of young people are, as well as the structural barriers they face. One of the strongest statements from the webinar was from Sara Haskie-Mendoza, from the National Compadres Network. Sara said that the most dangerous precondition to the pandemic is racism. What we have to do, as grantmakers, is not to shy away from racial equity,” says Dr. Monique W. Morris, executive director of Grantmakers for Girls of Color.

In the U.K., #CharitySoWhite, a campaign group led by People of Color, seeks to tackle institutional racism in the charity sector, and their activities have accelerated since the Covid-19 pandemic. Fatima Iftikhar, an organiser of the campaign, says, “we have been engaging with the charity sector for many months on the topic of racial justice, but progress has been slow. With Covid-19, we couldn’t delay anymore. We see funders dropping equalities monitoring and sticking to funding existing grantees as part of their emergency response. Organisations led by people of colour entered the crisis underfunded so this will only exacerbate racial inequalities.” They launched an open letter that has gained close to 140 signatories, calling for groups led by people of color to be at the heart of decision making in any relief package to the sector. Another initiative in the U.K. is the Resourcing Racial Justice Fund, launched in early May to provide financial support to frontline organisations, grassroots groups and community groups that are working to redress the impact of COVID-19 and systemic racism on communities of colour.

A racial justice lens seeks to redress and dismantle the historical disadvantage that people of color, and organisations led by people of color, have been subject to. “As we move into financial crisis, it is our worry that many organizations we support are going to be less likely to attract funding. They will be judged through a lens that doesn’t take into account that they have been underinvested in for so long, and yet, they are embedded in communities and know what’s really happening. This moment should be one for funders to take stock of what we’ve been doing, realize the inadequacy of it, and do things differently if we really want to get to a just society,” says Bezahler from the Hazen Foundation. Iftikhar from #CharitySoWhite echoes that this should be a moment of reckoning for funders: “Communities know better themselves what they should give funding to. It is time for funders to confront their lack of trust in communities and overcome the reluctance to hand over power and resources.”

Funders not only need to channel their resources differently, but also challenge their assumptions in how they make decisions. Chicago Beyond, an impact investor which has invested more than $30 million for youth equity, has launched a guidebook to support funders collect data and evidence in a racially equitable, unbiased way. With lots of data and studies emerging about the impact of Covid-19, Chicago Beyond cautions that, “If we do not address the power dynamic in the creation of research, at best, we are driving decision-making from partial truths. At worst, we are generating inaccurate information that ultimately does more harm than good in our communities.”

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Originally posted on Forbes

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