The latest issue of brand new far-right magazine Compact repeats Candid racial equity numbers that include pledges, double counting, and in-kind giving to decry the “dizzying array” of foundations willing to throw “no-strings-attached money” at racial equity.
Author Michael Tracey is obviously not interested in detail, but if he were he would find that: a) around half of the $24 billion he cites has not been tracked to actual recipients and exists only hypothetically as a figment of branded press releases, and b) much of the racial equity money that was actually disbursed went to schools and education, not #Defund or other racial justice movement work. The giving Tracey sneers at here is, as defined by his source, any giving that names BIPOC beneficiaries. That’s it, that’s the traitorous philanthropy Tracey and Compact derides: giving to UNCF and United Way and Hope Credit Union and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
It’s a shame that Candid found the time to inveigh against the strategic merit of Black Lives Matter Global Network’s spending when their time might be better spent contextualizing their analysis for Tracey and others who use it to advance an anti-Black agenda. Instead, that duty falls to others.
The Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity (PRE) has been setting the standard for applied use of Candid data to benchmark support for BIPOC for decades. “Mismatched,” PRE’s 2021 report, tracks $25 to $80 billion in total funding from 2011 through 2018 and $55 billion (so far) in 2020. Unlike 2020 funding research that has dominated the discourse, PRE only includes money that can be tracked to specific recipients and excludes vague pledges.
Headlines made it sound like racial equity funding boomed out of nowhere in 2020, but PRE had over 15,000 racial equity funders in its dataset as early as 2015. The 2020 data are preliminary, and they suggest that funding for racial equity and for racial justice will be higher than PRE has ever tracked before, but not higher by the many orders of magnitude suggested by coverage in the Chronicle, AP, and Compact.
“Mismatched” is concerned with funding that names BIPOC explicitly as beneficiaries, which they call racial equity funding, and with the subset of that funding that is for systemic change work, also known as racial justice funding. Funding for racial equity (6%) and for racial justice (1%) is still a small share of all foundation giving.
“Many assessments … underestimated prior funding and inflated 2020 funding,” PRE explains, which is how bad data is used to support a reactionary narrative that racial equity funding was only done by a tiny minority of funders before 2020 and has swamped the sector since. White-led organizations and many donors, including foundations, use movement language to describe non-aligned work, which distorts the data about racial equity funding in profound ways.
This was an especially big problem in 2020 when real-time statistics from less precise research than PRE’s created the impression that movement funding was surging as corporations described, for example, buying from Black suppliers as an investment in racial justice.
To be clear, the racial equity funding ecosystem is dominated by recipient organizations that represent the interests of white, wealthy, often corporate donors. Less than 20% of racial equity funding was set aside for the kind of racial justice work that changes systems. Movement organizations keep getting excluded from donors’ response to calls from those very movements. Inaccurate data and scaremongering articles like Tracey’s replicate this vicious circle.