This week we had a peaceful transition of power from one president to the next, following traditions of 200+ years. Considering the white supremacist attack on the U.S. Capitol just two weeks ago, the threat of more violence, and the measures needed to keep people safe from the ongoing pandemic, this peaceful transition of power is in some ways remarkable just for happening in a calm and orderly way.
And while the ceremony is a long-standing political tradition, this time we witnessed the historic swearing in of the first Black and Asian woman as Vice President of the United States. Like many people of color across the country, I could not help but feel the pride of this moment.
Seeing both who we are and who we can be.
Still, we need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and acknowledge the truth of what we see there: While we are a nation of infinite possibilities, we are also a nation that witnesses police murders of innocent Black people, often with impunity. We exploit the labor of Latinx, African, and Asian immigrants while denying them the protections given other Americans. We have accumulated wealth and power on land stolen from Native Americans subjected to genocide and cultivated by the labor of enslaved Black people.
When we examine our reflection in its totality, we see that as a nation, we are divided and largely in denial. Even with this weight of history, there’s reason to hope – and reason to act. James Thompson, a 26-year-old Black cafeteria worker on his way to being drafted in WWII said it well in 1942, “I love America and I am willing to die for the America I know will someday become a reality.”
What organizers in Georgia achieved this year is an example of transformative change and what it will take to realize Mr. Thompson’s dream for this country – and we need more of that right now. I challenge us all, in this time of trials and opportunity, to dream and to strive with radical imagination.
Philanthropy can make a difference.
Philanthropy has a vital role to play in building our brighter, more equitable future. San Francisco Foundation has focused our work on advancing racial equity and economic inclusion, and I see that work as more important and urgent than ever before. After launching our equity agenda in 2015, we are now doubling down on that work and making racial equity core to how we approach not only our grantmaking, but all of the work throughout the foundation.
But we cannot do it alone. A more equitable society – where it is no longer new or noteworthy that a Black and Asian woman was elected to national office – requires sustained, coordinated work from philanthropists as well as community organizations and elected officials. Join us to build a better nation for all. We can and we will succeed; we are all in for all of us.