The Reckoning of Philanthropy
Similar to how one popular dating app is designed to be deleted, I am hopeful that philanthropy can precipitate its own demise. In the current state, philanthropy is vital to funding initiatives that the public sector deems too risky. But what if our systems functioned so well that philanthropy was no longer needed? Could philanthropy catalyze systems change to make its utility obsolete? These are some of the questions that inform my current approach to giving.
At a young age, my parents instilled in me a deep awareness of the access and power bought by capital accumulation. My dad is from a family of sharecroppers who were rich in children but poor in every other measure. The last child of 14, he grew up sharing a single bedroom with his parents and siblings. At the age of 6, he began to work with his family picking cotton to make ends meet. My mom did not endure the same degree of financial hardship as my dad, but she grew up in the thick of the Bible Belt during the civil rights movement. Her mother veiled her Jewish faith in order to fit in among those of the dominant Christian belief, and she witnessed the daily exclusionary practices aimed at her Black best friend, Mildred. These stories, among others, made me acutely aware of the unique privilege of my situation.
Throughout my childhood, my mom would regularly ask my sister and me if a single sperm should dictate the path of someone’s life, to which we would obediently answer “no,” not quite understanding what a sperm was at the time. She explained that where you were born and to whom you were born were chance events, and wealth was not tied to worth. Many years later, I can confidently say my answer is still “no.” Yet, in most cases, where you start in life is the biggest determining factor for your life trajectory.