Racial Equity

Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) is committed to addressing structural inequities and increasing philanthropic and government support for BIPOC artists and arts organizations. Racial equity is a lens through which GIA aims to conduct all of its work, as well as a specific area of its programming.

Since 2008, GIA has been elevating racial equity as a critical issue affecting the field. To actualize this work within the sector, GIA published its Racial Equity in Arts Funding Statement of Purpose in 2015. Through webinars, articles, convenings, and conference sessions, GIA provides training and information to support arts funders in addressing historic and structural inequity through their grantmaking practices as part of an effort for racial justice as a means toward justice for all.

GIA believes that all oppressed groups should benefit from funding. We give primacy to race because racism is the means by which oppressed groups are manipulated into opposing programs that assist them. Therefore, Grantmakers in the Arts’ equity work – including our discussions of support for trans artists, artists with disabilities and for disability arts – is NOT race-exclusive but IS race-explicit. GIA’s vision for the future of our work is to increasingly reveal how the liberation of all oppressed people is interdependent.

GIA has made a strategic decision to foreground racial equity in our work for several reasons:

  • Within other oppressed peoples’ communities (including women, members of the lgbtqi community, people with disabilities, and others), it has been well-documented that people of color still face the worst social outcomes.
  • GIA feels that others’ strategies of combining considerations of race with other considerations too often result in racialized people being pushed into the background or ignored.
  • The U.S.’ creation of race was established to keep oppressed peoples separate.

Unless we articulate our support for racialized peoples, while calling out this separation strategy, we inadvertently reinforce this separation strategy.

Specific themes of our racial equity programming include:

  • The analysis of how funding practices create structural challenges for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color)/ALAANA (African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, Native-American) organizations (Eurocentric quality standards, matching requirements, among others).
  • The impact of these practices, as manifest in racialized disparities in levels of funding.
  • An exploration of the use of coded language to justify racial inequity (i.e. referring to white audiences as “general” or “mainstream,” while organizations of color are “culturally-specific.”

When it comes to self-identifying language, GIA seeks to use terms that communicate our respect. We do not seek to impose language on members of any group. We respect the manner in which anyone prefers to self-identify. When referring to issues of racial equity, “we use the term BIPOC to highlight the unique relationship to whiteness that Indigenous and Black people have, which shapes the experiences of and relationship to white supremacy for all people of color within a U.S. context.” We take this explanation and practice from the BIPOC Project.

GIA has also used the racial and ethnic identifiers African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, and Native American. We have used African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, Native American – represented using the acronym ALAANA – because we know that many believe the term, “people of color,” conflates together entire groups of people and as a contrast to white. This results in a continued centering of whiteness as the norm and the standard from which other identities deviate.

GIA does not refer to organizations that are founded by, led by, and feature the work of ALAANA/BIPOC communities as “culturally-specific,” as we believe this term centers whiteness as the norm from which other organizations deviate.

GIA is committed to communicating respectfully. GIA does not ask that anyone self-identify with or use any term other than ones they prefer.

February 11, 2022 by Nadia Elokdah

"After the catalyzing uprising in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in May 2020, many cultural institutions have sought to represent themselves more equitably — that is to say, more diversely — to the Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) community at large," reports Frederica Simmons in Hyperallergic. "This pursuit of equity has fallen heavily on the shoulders of BIPOC cultural workers, as institutions rush to communicate their inclusivity to majority White audiences."

February 10, 2022 by Nadia Elokdah

"For those of us who have participated in a half-century of powerful activism by people with disabilities, a familiar slogan summarizes our call to action: Nothing about us without us." Nikki Brown-Booker writes in the Winter 2022 issue of Stanford Social Innovation Review.

February 9, 2022 by Nadia Elokdah

Cameron Shaw, new executive director at the California African American Museum (CAAM) shares her perspective and strategy as the museum's new leader, "she is committed to creating 'a workplace that is safe and supportive where I show up with integrity, empathy, generosity, and clarity. And I’m a person in progress working toward those things.'”

February 7, 2022 by Nadia Elokdah

"Using learnings from the Giving Circles," LUNAR Co-Founders/Directors Yichen Feng and Sabrina Wu write in their recent announcement, "we are building a $20M+ integrated capital fund. Rooted in solidarity, racial justice, and trust, we will deploy patient, flexible, integrated capital to Black and Indigenous-led organizations, businesses, and community developments."

February 4, 2022 by Nadia Elokdah

"Racism is structural; it is upheld and perpetuated by institutions, like foundations, in the ways that they operate," writes Celia Bottger, program assistant & grants manager, NorthLight Foundation in a blog for Philanthropy New York. "In addition to taking concrete steps to institutionalize racial equity in our policies and practices, we at NorthLight came to recognize that we must engage in a process of decolonization."

January 28, 2022 by Nadia Elokdah

"If you’ve taken a leap, what was the runway you needed? If you wanted to take a leap, but didn’t, what held you back?" writes guest editor Donita Volkwijn about the prompts for the latest edition of Nonprofit Wakanda Quarterly.

January 27, 2022 by Nadia Elokdah

"We have to stop being afraid of the critique,” Joe Scantlebury, CEO of Living Cities says in the Chronical of Philanthropy. “We don’t improve in silence.”

January 24, 2022 by Nadia Elokdah

"We’re moving beyond DEI (bodies at the table), racial equity (measuring POC against white people), and perhaps even racial justice (the righting of racial wrongs), to an actual focus on what Black people need to thrive (building pro-Black)," Cyndi Suarez writes in the latest issue of NonProfit Quarterly (NPQ). "These parallel realities exist right now. But there is a gap between the leaders of color and radical white conspirators at the edge—and the funders who claim to be."

January 20, 2022 by Nadia Elokdah

In a new report, "Trading Glass Ceilings for Glass Cliffs: A Race To Lead Report on Nonprofit Executives of Color," from the Building Movement Project, experiences and challenges of nonprofit leaders of color who have attained the top position in their organizations are explored, addressing the struggles of often increased racism on the path to leadership.

January 19, 2022 by Nadia Elokdah

Is philanthropy ready to commit to racial equity? The sector "doesn’t have a reputation for radical transformation," reports Generocity. "Progress on racial equity is a challenging case study. Leaders in philanthropy now commonly cite the injustice of race serving as an effective predictor of economic, health and other social outcomes."