ADVICE: Funding a Human and Thriving American Democracy
by David Sarju
Imagine an America where Black and Indigenous (B / I) families and communities flourish, filled with laughter, goodwill, and limitless possibilities; where the grandchildren of today’s young adults are born into a beloved community, knowing that their humanity is widely appreciated; where America itself is ascendant, valuing humanity of all creeds and tribes. The Puget Sound region has a complementary collection of decolonization organizations that heal fragmentation, alongside science-driven organizations that together can create an evolving national model. But the way forward is different from what we usually imagine. The “charity” that demands assent, dyssynchrony, and short-term results has not addressed America’s fundamental vulnerability – dehumanization.
Donors must provide capital for family and community, not charity, are the sources of lasting well-being. Along with key and proven strategies, funds must also be made available to heal historical trauma, strengthen the existing network of community B / I assets and ensure that children from birth to 5 years experience early learning environments. America will then have a better opportunity to achieve the imagined economic and social well-being.
Black and Indigenous peoples, colonized since the nation’s beginnings, represent an unrealized source of American social and economic well-being. Citigroup recently reported that anti-black racism alone cost US $ 16 trillion in unrealized gross domestic product (GDP) within the last 20 years only. Specifically, like the Falls and Ladders game, the black descendants of the Middle Passage, for example, have experienced repeated cycles of partial repair and marginalization over the past 150 years. According to Institute for Economic Policy, in eight of the nine measures of well-being, including infant mortality, wealth and employment, black people fare worse or no better today than on Thursday, April 11, 1968, when President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Fair Housing Act.
Closer to home, Seattle Times writers have repeatedly reported a fall Black home ownership, wealth and concomitant community connectivity over the past 40 years. During this period, these cycles were simultaneously reinforced and obscured by symbolism, pity, proclamations, conflicting internal policies, atomized programs, confusion of data, and redundant studies. In 2020, Light bleam reported that the achievement gaps between blacks and whites in Kindergarten to Grade 12 are greatest in more progressive American cities.
The biggest challenges cannot be solved independently, nor without attention to the intangibles.
Results incompatible with decades of private and public “reforms”, “calculus” proclamations, ribbon cuts and associated budgets demonstrate the tangible costs of dehumanization. Dehumanisation compromises not only the economic well-being of the nation, but also social bonds for all. It promotes violence against women, gays and immigrants and undermines public health, the environment, and many other systems for all Americans.
To achieve sustainable well-being, investments must target longer-term horizons and add three strategies to proven approaches. Many funders and social service companies recognize targeted universalism as an effective approach to solve complex problems and some, such as Annie E. Casey Foundation, have proven the benefits of investments over two generations and community. Organizations like Rainier researchers have proven the value of funding with longer-term horizons and combining science, tangible results and humanizing approaches.
Large-scale multigenerational outcomes will require that families and communities, not agencies, be the primary sources of well-being. The region must make three synergistic investments to achieve the sustainable well-being of Indigenous people, Black people and the nation:
First, multigenerational trauma requires multigenerational healing. People need time, space, and community to heal, envision, plan, and build. Entrenched dehumanization will only dissolve when the B / I peoples, and not the institutions of the dominant culture, have the power to define the future of the B / I peoples. Indigenous communities, for example, engage in healing that includes recognition (storytelling), understanding, release and transformation of historical trauma. When we invest in the whole person, individuals and communities can promote their own well-being and help heal society at large. It is a virtuous circle.
Second, community resource brokers, documented in Mario Small’s research, strengthen social networks. This work has more than started in Seattle. Every January, the State of Africatown event highlights community well-being advanced by Black Community Impact Alliance, Creative Justice, Choose180, Community Passageways, DADS and a host of other community-based organizations. . These communities engage in integrated restorative practices. Their leaders possess an unparalleled understanding of dominant systems and collectively generate joy, innovation and efficiency that have eluded standard âcharitableâ efforts of the past 50 years. With adequate resources, these organizations can further integrate healing and tangible results, reduce navigational burdens on individuals, and strengthen community power.
Finally, parents’ dreams for their grandchildren must be supported by what intuitions and science confirm. Washington University ILABS and Cultivate learning published a wealth of research demonstrating the importance of healthy early learning environments that integrate socio-emotional and cognitive development. Early literacy, even communication at 10 months, is predictive of many other markers of life. Today, compounding the multigenerational trauma, many black families in Puget Sound are experiencing a recent loss of economic and social cohesion. Families with means understand, and even demand, the investments necessary when a single neuroatypic child experiences mental health challenges. Investing in the places where B / I children play and learn will ensure that children’s curiosity and creativity will ignite when they enter kindergarten, on track to meet the needs of an enterprising human society.
Evidence of progress will include short and long term actions among individuals, businesses and society. The main intermediate measures include: parent-child relationships, a family, an intimate partner and healthy civic relations; a high rate of B / I children starting Kindergarten and Grade 3 who are strong and strengthened emotionally and cognitively; more connected B / I community assets.
Our souls and our destinies are linked. Before the passage of the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s, for the common good local science, goodwill and resources conspired to clean up what had become a terribly polluted Lake Washington. The targeted systems approach generated gains faster than expected. Building healthy communities and sustainable democracy is more complex, but if our region courageously aims to see each person as fully human, it can shape a moral order that will produce well-being and a more resilient democracy.
David Sarju is a consultant for Crew management. He has written for the Puget Sound Business Journal and the University of Washington Consulting Alliance and has presented at numerous industry conferences.
ð¸ Featured Image: A family on a 2020 Seattle walk in June. (Photo: Susan Fried)
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