In case you missed it, TFN shared a powerful statement condemning the white supremacy and police violence in the country, which I invite you to read. I stand behind Pat Smith at TFN and commit to putting this work into practice at Smart Growth California.
As a facilitator, I usually prefer lifting up the voice of others, but I recognize in this moment I need to speak out more given my own power, privilege and whiteness. Until I help dismantle white supremacy and the racist systems and culture that comes with it, everything I’ve worked so hard at Smart Growth California to realize, healthy, equitable and sustainable communities for all, will never be realized. #BlackLivesMatter.
If a black man can’t safely be in a public space, then what good are parks and open space? If transit gets shut down because people are exercising their right to protest, then what good are investments in transportation infrastructure? If decisions about land use are made using a racist lens, then everyone loses out.
I acknowledge that “smart growth” itself is a loaded term, and that my understanding is that this work was started largely by white men like me who had good intentions around promoting compact, sustainable development to prevent urban sprawl, but who also had a blind spot for issues related to race and power. It’s no wonder that the structural racism that earlier redlined communities forces later led to gentrification and displacement, given we live in a culture that has historically displaced and engaged in violence against people of color.
Given so much of Smart Growth California’s work is tied to the land, and how it’s used, I also acknowledge that not only have racist practices historically and currently hurt black and brown communities, but that the original taking of land was from the multiple indigenous communities who called California home for thousands of years, and who continue to live here.
Even though over the last couple of years we’ve been more explicit in our work for racial justice at Smart Growth California, I haven’t fully engaged in the larger Movement for Black Lives. If I really want healthy, equitable and sustainable communities, then I need to use my own power and privilege as a white male to dismantle white supremacist culture. And like the statues of confederate soldiers being toppled for good reason, I recognize there are many artifacts of white supremacist culture that divide our cities that need to be removed: racist policing and land use, freeways and car culture, gentrification and displacement, among other things.
I acknowledge that these are just words on a blog, imperfect, incomplete and too little too late. I’m taking this moment for deep reflection, and to listen to what is being said. I commit to adding my voice against speaking out against white supremacy, police violence and its associated systems.
In 2018, I attended a TFN team retreat that focused on racial equity, skillfully facilitated by Bina Patel and shaped by my colleague Dion Cartwright at TFN. One key insight for me from the conversation was that white supremacy feeds off of silence, speed and shame. To counter it, I must speak out, slow down and be compassionate. My insight now is that I need to make this a daily practice, being even more intentional about how I bring these three actions into being every day.
I find inspiration from the funders in our network, and the many organizations they’re supporting to build a racially just world. They are collectively speaking out, slowing down and being compassionate in their responses and continued action. I invite you to read more about how they are responding to this crisis below.
In the past I’ve used words like partnership, collaboration and networks to talk about our work. I recognize this isn’t enough. Moving forward, I also commit to practicing solidarity with the broader movement for racial justice, lifting up and supporting leadership of black, brown and indigenous communities, and encouraging funders within our network to do the same.
Director, Smart Growth California
Read more about how funders and advocates in California have responded in their own words, check out the following links (and if we’re missing anyone, please contact Ron)
- California Community Foundation
- Central Valley Community Foundation
- Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
- Enterprise Community Partners
- First 5 LA
- Garfield Foundation
- Latino Community Foundation
- Liberty Hill Foundation
- Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
- Marguerite Casey Foundation
- NextGen Policy
- Resources Legacy Fund
- Roy and Patricia Disney Foundation
- Silicon Valley Community Foundation
- The California Endowment
- The California Wellness Foundation
- The James Irvine Foundation
- The San Diego Foundation
- The San Francisco Foundation
- Sierra Health Foundation
- Water Foundation
- Stand Together for a Just and Inclusive Economy (Open letter from 30+ philanthropic organizations)
- Advancement Project
- California Environmental Justice Coalition
- California Forward
- California Walks
- Greenlining Institute
- Housing California
- Local Government Commission
- Prevention Institute
- Public Advocates
- The Nature Conservancy
- ACT-LA/Healthy LA
- ChangeLab Solutions
- Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment
- Circulate San Diego
- Community Water Center
- GreenBelt Alliance
- Investing in Place
- Leadership Council for Justice and Accountability
- Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition
- Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust
- Nature for All
- Public Health Alliance of Southern California
- Strategic Actions for a Just Economy
- Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education
CALIFORNIA REGIONAL GRANTMAKING ASSOCIATIONS AND FUNDER AFFINITY GROUPS