Confronting the Colonial Dynamics in Philanthropy

A new book, "Decolonizing Wealth," challenges colonial dynamics in philanthropy and finance, philanthropy's white supremacist legacy, and the little investment and support of POC-led efforts in communities as result of those dynamics.

ColorLines reports that in his book, Native author and philanthropist Edgar Villanueva "calls on people working in philanthropy to move away from the individualistic and transactional practices of rich people donating money to poor people. Instead, he says, we must adopt a culture of reciprocity—where mutual sharing and community are at the core of financing social change."

Addressing how philanthropy has been used to uplift colonialism, Villanueva, who is chair of the board of directors of Native Americans in Philanthropy said:

There have always been generous people, so I’m not undermining some of the good intention that has happened through the years of philanthropy and the role it has played in supporting progress in this country. But our DNA as a [philanthropic] sector is very much similarly connected with the DNA of colonization. And that is the idea of hoarding wealth, using colonization so it has the mantra of dividing, exploiting, and conquering. In a way, [wealthy people asserting that they’re] superior in order to grow wealth.

In this interview with ColorLines, Villanueva emphasizes that philanthropy should address structural problems rather than just trying to fill diversity quotas within their organizations.

When you’re focused just on checking that box around diversity, we’re not making any significant, systemic change within our organizations. Out of the $800 billion in assets that foundations are sitting on, only five percent of that is being actually invested into grants. Then of that five percent, only about seven and a half to eight percent has ever been invested in communities of color. The trickle-down impact of those dynamics results in very little investment and moving of the needle on systemic issues and especially supporting POC-led efforts in communities.

Villanueva says the conversation around equity is now a buzzword in philanthropy. "I’m excited that they were having it, but folks have to really understand that it is so much deeper than diversity," he adds. "It is about equity, it is about a shift in ownership and a major shift in power."

Read the full article here.

Image: Pixabay / The Digital Way