Hi everyone. This post today will likely ruffle some feathers. I only ask that you read it with an open mind, and maybe while eating a bar of dark chocolate (it reduces stress). If you’re a regular reader of my ramblings, you know that I frequently point out various flaws in our field. I do this because I love our sector and the people in it, and I believe in our potential to be truly transformative, to be able to help create the kind of inclusive, equitable world we know is possible. We cannot achieve that potential if we become complacent or self-satisfied with the way things are.
Most of my criticisms have been met with openness, even in disagreement. When I point out how evaluation is so white and problematic, (for examples here, here, and here), colleagues in data and evaluation engage in thoughtful and constructive dialogs. When I provide hard feedback about capacity building (here, here, and here), colleagues in capacity building welcome the discussions.
A long while ago, I directed a small nonprofit that focused on supporting the Vietnamese and other immigrant and refugee communities. A question that I got asked constantly was “Why aren’t you merging with the other nonprofit that is focused on supporting the Vietnamese and other immigrant and refugee communities?” Right, because having TWO whole organizations focused on these populations, even though these orgs are geographically separated by miles and do different things, is one too many in a tiny village like Seattle.
Fast forward a few years, I am now having coffee with a program officer, trying to convince this funder to give more money to organizations led by Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and POC communities. “I am not sure that aligns with our priorities this year,” said the program officer, sipping coffee slowly while the laughter and chatter of folks around us reverberated as golden afternoon sunlight streamed through our windswept hair (This was before the pandemic, so I might be romanticizing it a bit). “But, we are open to supporting nonprofits if they are thinking of merging.”
Hi everyone, quick announcement before we begin. BIPOC fundraisers, join Community-Centric Fundraising on Thursday, February 11 at 2pm PT for conversation and camaraderie. This is the second of a three-part monthly series. Register here. The series is for Black, Indigenous, and people of color, thanks white allies for understanding.
A few years ago, I discovered a personal pattern: Anytime that I had five or more consecutive days off, I would immediately get sick the first three days. Talking to other nonprofit leaders, I found out it was not unusual. It’s as if our bodies were so busy dealing with one crisis after another at our jobs that we just didn’t have time to get sick, and it catches up to us all at once when we have a moment to breathe.
Last week was the inauguration of US President Biden and Vice President Harris. I don’t think any of us believe that having a new US president will instantly solve everything. White supremacy and injustice will not end just because there’s a new administration. But this change at least allows us a moment to catch our breath, to take a break, and maybe get out of survival mindset long enough to assess how to best move forward.
This week we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose teachings have often been beacons of light for our sector. As we transition into something resembling hope and renewal with this incoming presidential administration, I encourage us to reflect on the words Dr. King wrote in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, where he warned of the “white moderate” being the biggest barrier toward social justice. He said:
“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”