Dismantling Institutional Racism: The Beginning of our Journey

No matter where you come from, what you look like, or how much money your family has, everyone should have what they need to learn, grow, and thrive. However, opportunity in America has traditionally depended on who you are and where you come from. Policies, practices, and beliefs—rooted in history and still affecting people today—continue to oppress, exclude and prevent Black, Latino, Native and Asian people from fulfilling their potential.

At the Community Foundation, we believe that addressing structural racism and racial disparities is the first essential step towards reaching our vision for Central New York: to be a vibrant community with opportunity for everyone. But in order to partner with our community in making change in this way, we must first start from within.

Our staff and board have been laying the foundation for this work over the past two years. We’ve already taken several important steps:

  • Ongoing Learning: You cannot tackle an issue if you do not understand it. In 2019, we began by implementing the Intercultural Development Inventory among all of our staff. Last year, we continued this journey guided by the expertise of The Race Matters Institute and the Association of Black Foundation Executives. Our entire staff attended an intensive three-day virtual racial equity workshop this summer, followed by specialized sessions for those in leadership roles. This has served as a jumping-off point for ongoing staff education through book reads and discussion around topics of white privilege, implicit bias, institutional racism and more.
  • Board Planning: Our board of directors is engaging in a series of listening, learning and community conversation sessions designed and facilitated by Gwen, Inc. to help inform our next strategic plan and integrate an equity lens more explicitly throughout our infrastructure.
  • Infusion into Operations: Community Foundation staff are helping us to integrate equity into our work by participating in open dialogue in the assessment of internal policies, practices, protocols and communications to ensure they align with our aspiration to be an anti-racist organization. In addition, we’ve expanded our existing commitment to utilize Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBE) when choosing external suppliers and vendors.
  • Investing in Black-Led Organizations: In June, we announced that we would be investing a minimum of $1 million over the next few years through a new Black Equity & Excellence funding priority. While addressing issues directly related to racial inequity has always been foundational to our work – to improve early childhood education, literacy, educational and professional opportunity and to put an end to childhood lead poisoning – this new commitment will allow us to enhance these efforts.

This fall, we announced the formation of the Black Equity & Excellence Advisory Council, comprised of members of the Black community in Central New York, to assist us in this effort. The council will review proposals, make grants and be integral in the institution of anti-racist funding practices across our community investment work.

These are helpful first steps, but there is much more to do. We are committed to taking further actions as we continue down this journey. For any effort that we undertake, we will ask ourselves how race informs the issues to be addressed and the audience to whom it applies.

Racial equity is mission-critical for us, so as we head into the development of our next strategic plan, we will be evaluating how we can incorporate it into everything we do. This includes a systematic review of our operational policies, hiring practices, grant and initiative efforts, external communications and donor development practices to ensure racial equity is fully integrated into our work.

This work will not happen overnight, but we are committed to seeing it through while learning and listening to the community. And we want the community to provide feedback and hold us accountable.

We aspire to be the change you hope to see in Central New York and across the country.

4 comments

  • I am so glad to read this … so important. I feel fortunate to be a small part of all that you do. Thank you.

  • Robert O. Richardson

    White, raised in Pulaski, NY, and predictably naive, I went to teach at Howard University, where I spent nine years and earned tenure in the English Department. In the process, I learned a lot about how racial prejudice and the political agendas it generates work–and don’t. If you want real diversity and progress in discouraging racism, forget about the abstract nouns that permeate your communication, hire qualified members of minority groups, and treat them as you would any other employees. Working together on a hands-on project beats any self-consciously virtuous program designed to right a tenacious social problem.

  • Karen S. Nicholas

    I am grateful to have received a grant from OCCF to help Blessings in a Backpack alleviate child hunger in Oswego, where I live. Although Oswego County is 96% white, we have many of the problems often faced by minority communities: hunger, homelessness, poverty, and illiteracy. I applaud your attempts to fight structural racism, but I hope that people in need in our county will still receive your support. And yes, I would favor a grant to try to make Oswego County more attractive to minority communities.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s