Prof. Megan Ming Francis on the HistPhil web site with, Do Foundations Co-opt Civil Rights Organizations?

Do Foundations Co-opt Civil Rights Organizations?

In 2015, protection of black bodies from state sanctioned violence remains an unmet challenge for civil rights groups committed to racial equality. As many journalists and scholars have detailed, the elusiveness of this goal is due to a combination of interlocking factors including: a history of discriminatory economic policies, racist policing, and political policies that criminalize poverty. However, missing in these analyses is an examination of the role of wealthy funders in co-opting the agenda of civil rights organizations that were already focused on the issue of racial violence in the early 20th century and re-directing these organizations toward the question of segregated education. If today’s foundations play similar roles with civil rights organizations, they once again risk limiting the radical potential of these organizations. The history of the civil rights movement and the Garland Fund should make foundations today more sensitive to their potential for co-opting civil rights grantees. Leaning on this history, foundations might try to avoid this path by taking the time to understand the communities in which grantees work, support grantee goals, and actively seek to build partnerships in which grantee voices are affirmed.