Thursday, June 5, 2008

Rant Against Racism

"Is it true that American institutions are so fundementally racist and oppressive that good-faith efforts to increase inclusiveness and diversity, or to relieve distress through nonracially specific programs, are simply futile'?

William A. Schambra, "Philanthropy's Jeremiah Wright Problem," Chronicle on Philanthropy, June 3, 2008.

William Schambra of the Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal not so cleverly links up Obama, theories of structural racism, and Jeremiah Wright. The answer to your question, Bill, is that "good-faith efforts" matter as do "nonracially specific programs." But are they enough?

The central problem of Schmabra's rant against "liberal" foundations and their support for grantees advocating structural racism perspectives is that he shows little concern or curiosity about the deep-seated patterns of racial disparity related to school achievement, net worth, economic mobility, community college completion, high school graduation, bank loans, predatory lending, and imprisonment -- to name just a few of the elements in these patterns. Do conservative theories and interpretations provide sufficient explanations? Are marriage, entrepreneurship, and choice powerful-enough interventions?

I share some of Schambra's concerns that structural racism theory seems to leave little room for pragmatic interventions in the here and now. Yet, dialogue about structural racism has underscored the problem of persistent racial disparities across many dimensions of American life.

Schambra owes us more than a "hit job."

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