Tag Archives: race

The subtle racism of expecting people and communities of color to always get along

[Image description: Two seagulls standing on the sand, looking in opposite directions. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, before we get into this week’s topic, a quick shout out to colleagues at Momentum Nonprofit Partners in Memphis for taking a stand for equity on their job board by no longer accepting job postings for positions that pay less than $15, and also requiring all postings to disclose salary information. Y’all rock. You make me proud to have spent my high school years in Memphis (Central High! Go Warriors!). Other job boards should consider this.

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Over the past six years, one of my greatest joys is being a father. I love it, even though I have little time to myself, and I have scars on my feet from stray LEGOS, and my diet is 85% leftover food that the kids refuse to eat. And the six-year-old thinks I’m going to die in the next ten years because “you are really old.” But it’s fun and rewarding. However, the kids fight constantly over things. When that happens, a quick resolution is to remove the contested item. Then neither of them has it, and the fight is over, and they hopefully have learned a valuable lesson about sharing and not bothering Daddy when he’s sitting fully clothed in the bathtub chanting “I love being a father, I love being a father.”

Unfortunately, I have been seeing these sort of dynamics happening in the sector, especially around funding. People and communities of color for some reason are expected to always get along, and when there is any sort of tension among us, folks with power and privilege freak out. A Black colleague told me “White people get terrified when two Black people argue in a room. I wonder what they think would happen.” It is especially alarming when funders are involved, because funding is often jeopardized under this paternalistic philosophy of “See, they can’t even get along; we’re not funding them.” Working with organizations led by and serving people of color, I’ve seen this multiple times with different funders who get upset or who roll their eyes and refuse to fund critical work because leaders of color have tension with one another.

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So you don’t think race, equity, diversity, and inclusion are relevant to your mission

[Image description: An brown/gray owl with extra large orange eyes and black pupils, looking adorably surprised. Image from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, this post may be a little shorter than usual, due to a few few full-blown tantrums from my little ones over the course of the day. One involved a potty training accident that required a thorough hose-down in the bathtub. I am slightly frazzled and not very lucid.

A few months ago, I was talking at a conference about what race, equity, diversity, and inclusion look like in every day practices. “These concepts have been like coconut water,” I said, “everyone’s drinking them after hot yoga. But how are we actually changing our hiring, communications, board governance, evaluation, fundraising, and other areas?”

After my presentation, a colleague raised her hand. “My organization does not focus on social justice,” she said, “We address cancer, which does not discriminate; it affects every one of all races. How are these concepts applicable to my organization?”

I was glad she asked that question, because I am sure others feel the same way. Another time, a different colleague wrote, “while measures of injustice, inequity[,] and racial oppression might be appropriate outcomes for your nonprofit—ours is reduction in hunger. Which might lead to all those other things but really—we care about feeding kids.”

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10 measurable New Year’s resolutions your nonprofit or foundation can totally achieve in 2019

[Image description: An adorable little squirrel with puffy cheeks and big eyes, staring directly at the camera. They have mixed orange-gray fur, with a white tummy. Their paws are touching, held in front of their chest. This squirrel has nothing to do with this post and is only here as clickbait. It worked. You clicked. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. If this is your first day back from the holiday break, make some coffee and read last week’s pep talk “Welcome back to work, you stunningly brilliant and attractive world-changer, you!” followed by “12 tips to ensure you don’t stab anyone on your first day back from break.” (Tip 9: Take a short walk. To your car. Drive home. Watch Netflix.)

It is 2019, a brand new start! Take a deep breath. What you smell is the aroma of change, of possibility, of hope! Or maybe leftover food or rotting compost that should have been thrown out before the weekend, but I’d like to think it’s the former. As many of us make our personal resolutions to improve ourselves, so should our organizations. Unfortunately, many resolutions fail because they are either too lofty or too nebulous or involve exercise.

Here then are some tangible, relatively straight-forward resolutions all of us, whether we are nonprofits or foundations, should make to ensure that we and our sector have a kickass 2019. They are in no particular order, do not encompass everything we need to do, and I might expand on some of them in future posts: Continue reading

How the concept of effectiveness has screwed nonprofits and the people we serve

[Description: An adorable little light-brown hamster, with tiny feet, staring directly at the camera. Its little hands are clasped in front of it. This hamster has nothing to do with the content of this post. It’s just a cute hamster, because it’s Monday and you deserve a cute hamster. Image obtained from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. Before we delve into today’s very serious topic, a quick announcement. January 12th is International Nonprofit Karaoke Throwdown Day! Here’s a blog post I wrote on why staff and boards of different nonprofits need to hang out more. Find a nonprofit or two in your area and challenge them to a #NonprofitKaraokeThrowdown. Here, I even crafted an invitation email for you:

“Hey [org(s)], Nonprofit AF has declared January 12th to be International Nonprofit Karaoke Throwdown Day, so we at [your org] challenge your staff and board to a singing contest. This is It, we’ll be Right Here Waiting for You, and Chances Are, You’re Going Down. Sorry Not Sorry.”

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about effectiveness. Last week, Kathleen Enright, the CEO of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) wrote this thought-provoking article. Here’s an excerpt:

“[The] work to define effectiveness has typically come from white organizations – prominent consulting firms, think tanks, universities, philanthropy and management support organizations. These institutions – and I count GEO among them – have advanced ideas about effectiveness that have unwittingly perpetuated or even exacerbated inequity in the nonprofit sector.”

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All right, “color-blind” colleagues, we need to have a talk

[Image description: Sharpened coloring pencils of various colors. From left to right: Dark green, light green, light blue, purple, red, orange, yellow. They are all lined up in close proximity and facing the same direction, and they appear to be on a mirror, hovering over their reflections. Image obtained from Pixabay.com]

In my work and travels I’ve met some really incredible people doing amazing stuff. Every meeting, every trip restores my faith in our sector, as well as replenishes my office’s supply of pens and chapsticks from various exhibitors at conferences.

But once a while, I encounter people who are “color-blind,” who say things like:

  • “Vu, I love what you say about nonprofits needing to be more inclusive. You know, I have a grown son who has diverse friends. And he has never once referred to his friends by their skin color characteristics. Not once. I think it’s wonderful that he just doesn’t see color.”
  • “XYZ foundation decided to focus on organizations doing work with minorities. That’s great for organizations like yours, but what about the rest of us? I just don’t understand. I just don’t get why we need to keep focusing on race.”
  • “Can we talk about income? We keep talking about race, when really it’s about income. It’s not about race. Poor people are of all colors.”
  • “Why do you keep using the term ‘people of color’? Isn’t that just dividing us further? Where did that term even come from?”
  • “Why does it matter that they [leaders of organizations focused on specific diverse communities] be from those communities? Shouldn’t the most important factor be whether they have the qualifications to run the organization?”
  • “Maybe you should release a statement saying that you prioritize skills and experience above everything. That may help calm people down.” This was said by a board development consultant after I said my organization has been trying to be thoughtful about ensuring we have a diverse board that’s representative of the communities we serve, but that it was complex and we were getting pushback on the fact that though our board is 90% people of color, we still are not representative.

These are just a sample of things I’ve heard, and when I hear them, it makes me sad. So I do what I sometimes do under stress: Listen to the soulful ballads of Kenny Loggins. Especially “Return to Pooh Corner,” which recalls the innocence of childhood, counting bees and chasing clouds with a yellow bear whose nose is stuck in a jar of honey (Kenny Loggins, you sexy mulletted genius, you!). Continue reading