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Philanthropists should tackle racial justice

A recent commentary in The Baltimore Sun delved into the many ways that the institutions of American society discriminate against African Americans (“The case for reparations is clear; the means are not,” April 7). From slavery to redlining in housing to the War on Drugs to health disparities, America’s history has long been marred by inflicting harm and denying opportunities to black Americans. All of us, including those in the philanthropy sector, must examine the ways in which we have and continue to contribute to these problems and work implement equitable solutions.

The philanthropy sector likes to think of itself as the “good guys,” but our hands are far from clean when it comes to perpetuating systemic racism, consciously or not. Many philanthropies have a history of giving to institutions and organizations that have embedded racial inequality into the fabric of our social structure. It is long past time for us to embrace diversity, equity and inclusion training, to change our own giving practices and view our role in society differently. Increasing willingness to have these tough conversations is helping things begin to change, but we have a long way to go.

Philanthropy can be a critical player in solving all sorts of problems in our society. Eliminating systemic racism and our own role in contributing to its pervasiveness needs to be one of them. We must take a hard look at the ways in which we redistribute wealth in this country and embrace equity in everything we do. Many of us talk the talk of racial justice. We have to walk the walk, too.

Nikki Highsmith Vernick, Columbia

The writer is president and CEO of the Horizon Foundation and a board member of the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers.

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