Reflecting on Actions to Address Institutional Racism

David Farren, Executive Director of the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation

Compounding the trauma that communities of color are disproportionately experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, black communities in this country have yet again been traumatized by the senseless killing of George Floyd while in the custody of four Minneapolis police officers. As it should, the all too familiar circumstances of his death have catalyzed worldwide outrage and legitimate public protest, which our democracy enshrines. The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation mourns this most recent tragic loss, as we have mourned for the Charleston 9, Laquan McDonald, and countless more.

Because black lives matter, it is essential that we join this public conversation and unequivocally condemn the institutionalized racism at the root of these events and many others. Our two regions – Chicago and the Lowcountry of South Carolina – have different but equally deep histories of racial inequity. South Carolina’s roots go back to the early colonization of this country and enslavement of Africans. Chicago remains the most racially and economically segregated large metro region in the country.

Regardless of our background, status or organizational missions, we must all examine the ways in which we have been complicit in perpetuating the status quo, and take steps to address the glaring inequities in our society. We look forward to staying in dialogue with our grantees, partners, and other leaders in the fields in which we work, to advance our collective goals for a healthy planet for all, a myriad of expressive traditions in our communities, and inclusive narratives at all of our cultural institutions.

Because action matters, we offer the following as initial steps:

1) Funders can support racial equity training for your staff, board, grantees, and other partners. We continue to sponsor equity training for grantees in each of our mission areas.

There are a number of groups doing this work, and here are two we have worked with most recently and recommend:

2) Get involved in expanding your understanding of our program areas:

3) Support black owned businesses.

4) Read this blog from Vu Le.

5) Learn about racism and the cost of segregation in our communities in this report about the Chicago region from Metropolitan Planning Council and this report on Charleston County, SC from College of Charleston.

6) We will share additional resources on our web site as we learn more. Please email or comment on social about what you’re learning and reading and most importantly, doing.

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