Grantmakers in the Arts’ Racial Equity Overview

Grantmakers in the Arts provides leadership and service that advances the use of philanthropic and governmental resources to support the growth of arts and culture. As a professional association of funders, GIA exhibits leadership by working with our members to define better practice in the field of racial equity. Racial equity is a core value of the organization, and the most popular programmatic offering for those in the arts and culture sector in our online, conference programming, workshops, and other outputs.

Specific themes of our racial equity programming include:

  • The analysis of how funding practices create structural challenges for organizations of color (Eurocentric quality standards, matching requirements, among others)
  • The impact of these practices
    • The largest white theater in the U.S. has a general operating budget of $50M-$60M
    • The largest African American theater’s annual budget is under $4M
    • The largest Latine theater’s annual budget is under $3M
  • 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.”

GIA shares examples of interventions made by our members in their pursuit of greater racial equity in arts funding to influence funders to invest in BIPOC/ALAANA organizations, artists, and communities.

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), people of color still face the worst social outcomes.

    For instance, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research:

    • Median weekly earnings of white women are 81.5% of the median weekly earnings of white men
    • Median weekly earnings of Black women are 65.3% of the median weekly earnings of white men
    • Median weekly earnings of Latine women are 61.6% of the median weekly earnings of white men

    According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

    • American Indian and Alaska Native women experience assault and domestic violence at much higher rates than women of any other ethnicity.
    • Over 84% of Native women experience violence during their lifetimes.
    • On some reservations in the United States, the murder rate of Native women is 10 times higher than in the rest of the nation.

    According to LGBT Funders and National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:

    • Trans people, in the aggregate, are twice as likely to live in extreme poverty (earning under $10,000 a year) as the general U.S. population
    • Latine transgender people face seven times the poverty rate of the general population
    • Black transgender people face eight times the poverty rate of the general population

    According to the Human Rights Campaign

    • While 72% of Americans are white, since 2013 only 20% of the trans people that have been victims of fatal violence in the U.S. have been white
    • 80% of the trans people that have been victims of fatal violence in the U.S. have been people of color

    According to National Disability Institute

    • 24% of non-Hispanic white people with a disability live in poverty
    • 40% of African American people with a disability live in poverty
  • GIA feels that others’ strategies of combining considerations of race with other considerations (gender, disability, etc.) too often result in considerations of race being pushed into the background or ignored.
    • For instance, studies by the U.S. Department of Labor and the American Association of University Women found that in the first two decades of affirmative action, the greatest growth in career and education has been experienced by white women, rather than by any racialized group.
  • 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.

    • For instance, according to the 2014 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, nearly 70% of the self-identified non-Hispanic white women – those most helped by affirmative action – surveyed either somewhat or strongly opposed affirmative action for people of color.
    • This is an example of an all too frequent phenomenon – the use of race as the means to convince people who are being helped by a policy or practice to disavow that policy or practice as a give-away for people of color.
    • Another example: According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, white people made up the largest share – 52% – of people lifted from poverty by safety-net programs, while black people made up less than a quarter of that share.
      • When it comes to receiving Medicaid, white people make up about 43% of recipients.
      • According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, white people made up the largest share (36.2%) of any ethnic group receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – commonly called food stamps.
    • A 2018 study conducted by researchers at Stanford University and University of California, Berkeley, found that whites’ decreasing support for social safety net programs correlated with increasing racial resentment.
      • The study found that when white participants were told that whites continue to be the “largest single ethnic group in the United States,” they proposed cutting $28 million from federal welfare spending.
      • Those told that whites’ population share is “substantially declining” proposed cutting $51 million.
      • The study also found whites were less likely to support programs that benefited minorities if they had been told that the achievement gap between white and minority incomes is closing.
      • White participants who opposed a welfare program benefiting minorities went on to support a program benefiting whites.

GIA believes that all oppressed groups should benefit from assistance efforts. 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 in support of racial equity in arts funding is to increasingly reveal how that the liberation of all oppressed people is interdependent.

In 2017, GIA completed design of a pilot workshop for funders to address racial equity in their practices and portfolios. We contracted Race Forward to co-design and co-facilitate these workshops, which bring together a cohort of funders to explore the history of racialization in the U.S., how racialized outcomes manifest in arts philanthropy and in public funding of the arts, and to develop strategies for funders to engage in equitable practices in arts grantmaking. The subsequent survey of pilot workshop participants revealed a high level of satisfaction with the workshop, a high interest in continued engagement and the desire for a longer, more content-rich version of the workshop. In response, GIA updated and expanded the workshop.

The workshop participants begin by watching the Grantmakers in the Arts webinar: The workshop participants begin by watching the Grantmakers in the Arts webinar: “Real and Not Real: The history of racialization in the United States,” presented by Race Forward and GIA president Eddie Torres in August 2018. The webinar had a record-breaking 200+ registrations and continues to be watched by grantmakers and cultural organizations, nearing 500 additional views by the end of 2018, our most watched webinar.

The participants then meet in person with GIA and our partners (in the past, Race Forward and now True North EDI) to learn more about the history of racialization in the United States and how structural racism manifests in arts funding; how racial equity is different from diversity and inclusion; systems analyses; implicit bias; tools that can be employed to identify and remediate inequities; and to co-develop strategies to make their and the field’s arts grantmaking more equitable.

At a recent workshop, in response to the statement, “What I learned from the workshop will be useful to my work,” we had 100% agreement. Workshop participants in cities like Detroit, Cleveland, Boston and Seattle have expressed that what they learned from the workshop will be useful to their work. Here are some of their remarks:

“I wanted to express my gratitude for Grantmakers in the Arts’ Racial Equity in Arts Funding workshop.  Members of our grantmaking community are working to increase investments to organizations, individuals, and communities of color.  You and the whole facilitation team brought much needed context, advice, and inspiration to the group. Your information and facilitation was truly appreciated.”

“The information was framed in a different way that helped clarify how this history of racialization shows up in our work.”

“I really appreciated the honesty and vulnerability of the facilitators throughout the workshop, especially in the discussions around the case studies. There was a level of honesty around the challenges of racial justice work that I haven’t experienced in a training previously.”

“The case studies were useful to see other organizations’ struggles, efforts, and successes and compare them to the experiences we face. It is always helpful to learn about how other similar organizations operate. So often, we are consumed with our own work, it can be difficult to find out what others are doing.”

“I left feeling hopeful that the assembled organizations will move forward together. The commitment to move forward collaboratively with racial justice work – and push further – felt different from what I’ve experienced previously.”

“I came away with several clear steps that I plan to take in my organization regarding racial equity. I feel that the training will also make me more proactive in assisting in what others in my organization are working on.”

“I have clear next steps on how I can integrate the lens of structural racism in my work and how I can build my anti-racism knowledge and practice in my personal and professional life.”

“I see lots of opportunity to continue building a shared analysis of the panel process as a system (rather than a series of individual events). As the place where funding decisions are made, I see lots of opportunity to collaboratively develop new processes of evaluation and decision-making that redistribute power to community and contribute to racial justice.”

“After the workshop, I feel inspired and am able to see more clearly the power I have as an individual to enact change. I’m thinking more strategically about the resources and relationships I have, and how my organization can continue to center race in the work that we do. Thank you for doing this work and I hope to stay connected with GIA.”

As of 2021, GIA has brought our workshops online, doubling the annual number of participants. GIA has also partnered with Hillombo LLC to develop an advancing workshop that supports its participants in developing experiments in organizing stakeholders to execute experiments for which they organize their peers for pro-BIPOC funding interventions.

For further insight into GIA’s support for racial equity in arts funding please see the Historical Outline of GIA’s Work in Equity as well as our Racial Equity Theory of Transformation, and other programming represented on GIA’s website.