Today is the National Day for Racial Healing, the annual observance created by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in 2017 and observed every year on the Tuesday following Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It is a time for contemplation and collective action on #HowWeHeal from the effects of racism and an opportunity to bring ALL people together in their common humanity and inspire collective action to create a more just and equitable world.
Racial healing is a process that restores individuals and communities to wholeness, repairs the damage caused by racism and transforms societal structures into ones that affirm the inherent value of all people. It builds upon the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation framework that seeks to unearth and jettison the deeply held, and often unconscious, beliefs that undergird racism – the main one being the belief in a hierarchy of human value. This belief, which has fueled racism and conscious and unconscious bias throughout American culture, is the perception of a person’s or group’s inferiority or superiority based on physical characteristics, race, ethnicity or place of origin.
Dr. Eddie Glaude Jr. spoke about this during his Philanthropy Forward ’17 plenary “The Value Gap,” which refers to the values that contribute to institutional racism – that white people are valued more than others are. He challenged philanthropy to confront the ugliness of our history and how we got to now. I implore you to relisten to his message as it is as timely and relevant as ever.
At a time when we are reeling from witnessing the staged coup attempted by armed terrorists at our nation’s capital on January 6, we are faced with yet another piece of stark evidence demonstrating that the time for change is now.
Beyond the statements, is philanthropy prepared to face the truth? A truth that Dr. Glaude describes “goes beyond condemning white nationalists and neo-Nazis,” but extends to understanding that “white supremacy involves a way a society organizes itself and what and whom it chooses to value?” A truth that requires understanding that “all Americans are shaped by racial habits that shape our lives, personal choices, policies and even our philanthropic efforts?
If these racial habits can be changed through the transformation of inequitable practices and policies, we first need truth and racial healing.
In The Pause from the On Being Project, John Paul Lederach, senior fellow at Humanity United, lifts the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and offers that our way forward into renewing our social contract and reversing toxic dynamics rest on the pillars of the “fierce urgency of now,” of the necessity of patience and persistence because “the arc of the moral universe is long,” even as “it bends toward justice” and the commitment to “nonviolence and appreciation for our ultimate interdependence.”
In several conversations with groups of Philanthropy Ohio members in the recent weeks, when asked where folks are finding hope, many shared they find hope in the courage of others, in momentum, in awareness, in community responses to racist incidents, in honest dialogue, in their faith and in truth.
And it’s hopefulness that Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, says can move us toward justice – along with getting proximate to people and communities at risk, affirming and learning about their humanity and dignity; changing the narratives that create policy problems; and being willing to do what is uncomfortable and inconvenient. He contends that “Until we tell the truth, we deny ourselves the beauty that is justice.”
Today we continue the journey. We continue leaning in to learn alongside our peers about the truth of our history and our present. We continue being uncomfortable and having inconvenient conversations in our professional and personal lives, pushing through frustration and fragmentation. We continue the resolve to deconstruct the conditions that give rise to racial and economic inequity. We continue to love our neighbors, even in a polarized world – to recognize the human dignity in all and to find and actualize our philanthropy – love for humankind.
I wish you all hope, truth & healing in the new year and always!
Deborah Aubert Thomas
President & CEO