Earlier today, openDemocracy published an insightful piece by Erica Kohl-Arenas examining the Ford Foundation’s new mission to eradicate inequality. In “Can philanthropy ever reduce inequality,” the author questions whether the Foundation will stray from the history of U.S. philanthropy and attack “inequality at its roots” instead of simply promoting “the tradition of individualized ‘racial uplift’ or ‘self-help’ that calls for assimilation, upward mobility, and ‘social responsibility.'”
Kohl-Arenas’s central question is an important one and we plan to engage with her arguments on this blog. Later this month, in fact, we’ll be hosting a dialogue on the general theme of philanthropy and inequality. Confirmed contributors include Karen Ferguson (whom Kohl-Arenas mentions in her piece), Leah Gordon, Daniel Geary, Megan Ming Francis, and myself; though please email us if you’d like to join the conversation as well. And please do take this invitation seriously. At the moment, income and racial inequalities are urgent topics in the U.S., so a conversation on the role of philanthropy in addressing these inequities is appropriate and important. More broadly, though, the sector’s scholars and practitioners could benefit from an honest dialogue on the raisons d’etre of the sector and whether it has achieved (or ever could achieve) these purposes.
-Maribel Morey, co-founder of HistPhil.