July 2021 Newsletter
The past 18 months have called for people, organizations and systems to focus onresponding….to changing health guidance, urgent community needs, rapid unemployment, re-employment, wildfires, toxic air, rolling blackouts, water shortages, the list goes on.
Now, as the state and federal government are poised to invest generational sums of money to kickstart the economy, modernize education and infrastructure, many of us in philanthropy, public systems and community organizations are turning our attention to responding to these funding opportunities, desperate to not miss out on leveraging public dollars to benefit our communities.
At ReWork the Bay we are grappling with a fundamental question:
As organizations begin inviting office workers back to their desks, and we look to put the pandemic in the rearview mirror, many people and corporations will also seek to put the racial “reckoning” that coincided with the pandemic behind them–perhaps punctuated with a celebration of Juneteenth being recognized as a Federal holiday. But now is not the time to move on.
No, now is the time to practice resolve in holding on to the lessons learned as a nation in 2020, and to ensure that commitments made are not broken. As it relates to work, this includes not taking corporate commitments to racial justice at face value–we need to pay attention to whether those huge financial commitments to racial equity grants are happening (spoiler alert: early signs are that they are not).
We also need to press industry leaders to go beyond grantmaking. Business practice change is where the real impact is when it comes to racial justice. For example, in the Tech sector, are companies actually hiring black people, or just talking about it? And are venture capitalists actually funding black entrepreneurs? Again, the data isn’t promising.
Relatedly, are employers considering the benefits of remote work through a racial justice lens, and using the return to work to make changes toward a more inclusive office culture that facilitates greater participation and advancement of women and people of color?
And finally, can those of us for whom returning to an office is now a primary topic of conversation, not forget that so many workers-predominately people of color and women- won’t be returning to an office? For them, there is no “return to work” because they never stopped going to their job sites to do “essential” work that has kept our communities running.
Please join us in committing to not lose sight of the many important lessons we’ve learned during the past 16 months. Instead, let’s keep them front and center, and use them as fuel to advance toward real racial justice. Here are some resources to get started:
- A People’s Orientation to a Regenerative Economy by United Frontline Table
- Don’t be fooled by corporate commitments to racial equity by Caitlin Morelli
- Return to Office? Some Women of Color Aren’t Ready by Ruchika Tulshyan [NYT Paywall]
- In a year of tragedy, injustice, and upheaval, have we seen progress in the quest for racial justice in technology? by Kapor Center
- ‘The spirit of our ancestry’: how California’s Black Wall Streets are changing their cities by Abené Clayton