ICYMI: It’s Open Season on Civil Rights. Philanthropy Must Not Retreat.

"With the stroke of a pen, the highest court in the land declared open season on the American Dream this summer when it effectively ended affirmative action in college admissions," said Stacey Abrams and Julián Castro for The Chronicle of Philanthropy. "The ruling put a target on all policies and programs that seek to remediate and prevent race-based discrimination everywhere, including workplaces and polling places — potentially imperiling the 2024 elections and opening the floodgates for far-reaching attacks on civil rights."

"As a new Supreme Court session begins today, philanthropy needs to ready its resources to fight back against a slew of court challenges that threaten the very notion of diversity, equity, and inclusion."

"Since the affirmative-action ruling, lawsuits have been filed against a venture-capital firm for helping businesses led by women of color and against a law firm with diversity recruiting practices. Last month, a group that opposes affirmative action sued West Point, alleging it inappropriately uses race and ethnicity in making admissions decisions. (The court’s earlier ruling did not cover military academies.)"

"The legal and political landscape to defend and protect diversity and inclusion is fraught and uncertain. It’s clear that any organization fighting for equity and justice risks being targeted. Nonprofits are especially vulnerable."

"In addition to our own extensive work in the social sector, we both currently serve on the Board of Trustees for the Marguerite Casey Foundation. We know first-hand, the impact that philanthropy has on grassroots movements. At a time when right-wing philanthropy is pouring money into organizations hell-bent on destroying our most basic rights, progressive and mainstream donors must do more than hold the line."

"The tasks for philanthropy are clear. First, philanthropy must immediately halt its recent great retrenchment on racial-justice funding. Since 2022, too many companies and philanthropic institutions that asserted with one voice that “Black Lives Matter” and pledged support for the racial-justice movement have slashed resources and cowered in response to negative headlines attacking 'woke' philanthropy. This about-face only makes the work of the detractors easier."

"The attacks on racial-equity efforts will work if too many of our colleagues respond tepidly or retreat. We should follow the lead of the Fearless Fund, which is aggressively fighting a lawsuit that would have prevented the organization from directing its funding to start-up businesses owned by Black women."

"Second, we implore foundations not to remove language signaling a commitment to racial justice or specific communities of color from their websites, grant applications, and grant programming. The targeted affirmative-action decision applied solely to admissions to colleges and universities that receive federal funding — not to foundations, grant makers, or corporations investing in racial-justice work. This is a tried-and-true tactic: fearmongering versus fact-finding."

Read the full piece here.