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AFP Townhall on Anti-Racism, Inclusion and Fundraising

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On June 15, 2020, AFP hosted a Global town hall on Anti-Racism, Inclusion and Fundraising, featuring Marco A. Corona, Michelle T. Edgerton, Kishshana Palmer, Ken Miller, and Simone Joyaux. Here, printed with permission, are Simone’s oral remarks.

My name is Simone Joyaux. I’m a white, heterosexual, well-educated, affluent woman. HUGE unearned privilege. Except for being female…

I’m here today in great anger and sadness … which I’m having trouble managing even though I’m white.

I begin by thanking Papa Georges. Even as a child, I knew that different was cool, even if it hurts sometimes.

I’m here at this town hall to pose questions. Questions to stimulate conversations… Conversations I believe we should all be having with neighbors, fellow community members, friends, and family. Conversations inside your organization with staff and board…and even conversations with clients and customers, and donors of time, and/or money.

Why conversation?

Because conversation is a core business practice. True and competent business people know that – in the nonprofit and for-profit and even government sectors.

Because, as Theodore Zeldin says in his marvelous book Conversation: How Talk Can Change Our Lives: “Throughout history, ordinary people have suddenly come out with the most amazing statement – when they find the courage. What matters most is courage.”

Why conversation? Because talking can and does change our lives – if we actually engage in conversation as part of business and personal life.

So before my questions to stimulate your conversations…Let me share a bit about the concept of conversation:

  • From a business perspective, competent professionals know and apply learning organization business theory and conversation as core business practices. (Peter Senge etc.)
  • Now for general life: I’ll start with my deep sadness first….From Theodore Zeldin’s beautiful book Conversation: How Talk Can Change Our Lives.
    • “For most of history, the world has been governed by the conversation of intimidation or evasion.”
    • “Conversation, like families, dies when it is inbred. Or when your guests have had more or less the same experience as yourself… Conversation has to explore new territory to become an adventure.”
    • “We become the prisoners of our families, our genes, our memories, only if we wish to be prisoners. It is by conversation with others, by mixing different voices with our own that we turn our individual life into an original work of art.
    • “It is true that most people like to hate. Emile Zola said, ‘Hate is holy.’ Hate makes people feel they have principles and opinions….”

Now I’ll speak from some of Zeldin’s joy and beauty:

  • “What if conversation were to become the most important kind of interaction, and the main agent of change?”
  • “What matters is whether you are willing to think for yourself, and to say what you think…

Now here are some of the questions I ask clients and friends and at meetings and when speaking and writing – regardless of an organization’s mission…. (And yes, I sometimes get scorned and insulted…complained about and criticized. And yet, my white privilege protects me…certainly not always but yes mostly…)

1.  Have you confronted your own unearned privilege? Recognized and explored it? Has your staff done this together? How about your board members together at a board meeting?

2. Where you work…as a consultant or staff person: Do you make sure that those organizations explore issues of race, gender bias, gender identity, socioeconomic status … over and over and constantly?

3.  Did your organization explore the New York Times August 2016 research, history? Why wouldn’t every single organization in the USA do that? Part of our history…

4.  Is social justice a regular conversation at your organization – based on articles and the news and contemporary society and what’s happening outside the USA and… and…?

5.  Do you refuse to recruit more white people to your board – because you have enough already? And this has nothing to do with where you live or your mission or… (And you should have that same conversation about too many men on your board!)

6.  Do you accept charitable gifts from donors who make racist statements? Do you return gifts when donors make racist remarks about your football players or staff or and?

7.  Do you intentionally construct learning conversations at your organization – with staff, with the board, with donors? For example, have you talked about taking a knee with Colin Kaepernick? Will your board and staff talk now about what the NFL did first and now?

8.  Do you take risks? Are you able to take risks?

  • Do you speak out when you hear people trash talking about race … and more?
  • Are you able/willing to lose a job because you ask questions and stimulate conversation?

9.  Do you have mandatory reading at work – by staff and by board members? How many of you staff and board members have read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book Between the World and Me?

10. Do you recognize, acknowledge, and promote equity rather than equality? Do you and your work colleagues and family and friends know the difference? Do you speak out and vote for affirmative action and such appropriate laws and regulations?

In Conclusion:

Philanthropy…defined as love of humankind…voluntary action for the common good. But that’s not what most philanthropy demonstrates.

I’m not seeing or hearing the conversations I expect in nonprofits, in so many philanthropic organizations. Over and over I’m overwhelmed with racism and sexism, gender bias, socioeconomic power, discomfort with gender identity…Over and over a country that embraces all this. Yes, often embraces. Mostly, just ignores. So rarely fights.

My closing statement…Ending as I began: Thank you Papa Georges. Even as a child I knew it was ok to be different. You taught me that over and over and over…Merci, mon père.

And what about some of the most beautiful and inspiring statements ever made?

“Hope has two daughters, anger and courage. They are both lovely.” (Saint Augustine)

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice. But there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” (Father Dan Berrigan)

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

“If there is no struggle there is no progress…Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”  (Frederick Douglass)

Let’s say it was 24 hours before you were born, and a genie appeared and said: “What I’m going to do is let you set the rules of the society into which you will be born. You can set the economic rules and the social rules, and whatever rules you set will apply during your lifetime and your children’s lifetimes and even the lifetimes of your grandchildren.”

And you’ll say, “Well, that’s great. I get to define what kind of world I want to live in.” But you’re smart too. You ask: “What’s the catch?”   

And the genie says, “Here’s the catch. You don’t know if you’re going to be born poor or rich, of color or white, female or male, homosexual or heterosexual.”

Now what rules do you want to have?

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