Open Letter to Philanthropy: The Cure to Viral Racism Is Within Our Hands

Thanks to the leadership of Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP), Proteus Fund has joined over 150 foundation and philanthropic organizations in recognizing that the cure to viral racism is in our hands and pledging to take action with respect to their COVID-19 response and beyond.

Dear Colleagues,

While Covid-19 may be novel, the racism accompanying it is far from new. Racial bigotry and “xenophobia” is ravaging Asian American communities in the U.S. alongside the physical impacts of COVID-19. It is reminiscent of attacks against South Asians, Arab and Muslim Americans after 9/11, brewed from anti-Blackness and the all-too familiar racial profiling of Black, Brown, and Native American people just going about their lives. We thank those that stand in support of Chinese and Chinese Americans during this period as we stand in solidarity with others who have and continue to experience racism and bigotry.

Scapegoating of Asian Americans is fueled by fear and racism simmering just below the surface. When it comes from our country’s top leaders, whether direct or implied, it signals an official stamp of acceptance and puts Asian Americans in harm’s way, including children. There are more than 21 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) in the U.S., comprising the fastest growing racial group, and they too are impacted, especially health care workers and others providing essential services who are risking their lives to save others. And philanthropy is not immune. Our staff and colleagues are also impacted by a variety of aggressions, externally or even within our own work environment when minimized or ignored.

Through every crisis, philanthropy responds. Some foundations have acknowledged the need to address racism in their COVID-19 response. Asian American community foundations, giving circles, and other mutual aid solutions are stepping up to support the community, both to address COVID-19 as well as the unique harms to Asian Americans. Asian and Asian American philanthropists are also stepping up to be part of the larger COVID-19 solution, including but not limited to, donating personal protection equipment for American health care workers.

All of this is a great start, but much more can be done. The cure to viral racism is within our hands. We call on our colleagues to:

  • Include language in statements that denounce hate related to COVID-19 (and beyond).
  • Include efforts that address viral racism as part of rapid response fund guidelines.
  • Insert equity into outreach efforts and funding decisions to ensure that smaller organizations, especially those in harder hit communities and inclusive of AAPIs are part of that mix.
  • Reach out to AAPI staff members and colleagues to see how they are doing and offer support.
  • Speak out when you see racism and prejudice against any individual or community.
  • Think of this moment as a “reset” button to imagine a more holistic approach to philanthropy that gains new traction toward racial and gender equity.

Let’s think expansively about this country’s future and support a path to finding our full humanity based on trusted relationships. In this pandemic, it is abundantly clear that we are one people with a shared destiny. Let’s close this country’s chapter on the tired and harmful stereotypes along with this novel virus. Our collective health is strengthened by our shared humanity and our best allies are common sense and good will. Through every such crisis and every day in between, solidarity matters.