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A Philanthropic Response to White Supremacy from the Birthplace of Freedom

Monday, August 14, 2017

By Sidney Hargro, Executive Director, Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia | @SidneyRHargro 

On Friday night, 256 miles from Philadelphia, hundreds of neo-Nazi, white supremacists descended upon Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.  They marched to the University of Virginia campus carrying torches reminiscent of Ku Klux Klan marches and surrounded a counter-protest planning meeting and prayer service at St. Paul’s Memorial Church chanting Nazi slogans including “Sieg heil”, “blood and soil,” and gave the Nazi salute.  At that moment, a mere protest in favor of saving a statue, an exercise protected under the First Amendment of our U.S. constitution, became a hate-laced act of domestic terrorism.  The next day, Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old local woman was killed and 19 others were injured when a rally participant from Ohio, intentionally plowed into the crowd of peaceful counter-protesters.

Although these events did not happen in the greater Philadelphia region, we are not immune to the presence of hate groups nor the racism and bigotry they promote. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights and advocacy organization, Pennsylvania has the sixth highest number of hate groups in the country. Their members live and work in our communities. Groups such as these, who posit the dominance of one race, seek the systematic exclusion of others based on race, and historically have been known to terrorize and silence the voices of those who threaten white supremacist ideology.

In the birthplace of freedom and liberty for the United States, it is imperative that philanthropy responds.  To that end, Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia condemns hatred and white supremacy, root and branch. White supremacy has no place in a civil society. Likewise, we fully understand that the way of progress does not end here.  We are actively working with members to define a full commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion; considering new ideas for dismantling structural racism and bigotry; and supporting the sector with individual and collective action to achieve results.

After all, advancing equity is not only a moral consideration but an issue of effectiveness in philanthropy.  We will not fully realize the social impact we wish to achieve without actively addressing the historical context and modern manifestations of systemic racism and bigotry in our communities and our institutions. Philanthropy Network embraces and affirms the inalienable rights outlined in the Declaration of Independence - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - for each and every person. May our work serve as a beacon to help light the path toward an equitable and just future in our community and our country.

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