Q&A: Creator requires donors to ‘decolonize’ their wealth

Edgar Villanueva is on a mission to vary philanthropy.

Villanueva, a 44-year-old racial justice activist, grew to become a family title within the donor world in 2018. He mentioned he was moved by the eye gained by his e-book, which argues that institutionalized philanthropy in America perpetuates practices that marginalize minority communities.

He says he reached that conclusion after a few years of working in philanthropies from Washington state to North Carolina, the place he’s an enrolled member of the Native American Lumbee tribe. Lately, he has pushed for philanthropies to include extra range and inclusion on the within and make investments extra into minority communities on the skin.

To that finish, Villanueva launched the nonprofit Decolonizing Wealth Challenge in 2018. The group runs a fund supporting minority-led initiatives for social justice causes and has obtained contributions from billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

The second version of Villanueva’s e-book, “Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Knowledge to Heal Divides and Restore Steadiness,” was launched final week. The Related Press spoke just lately with him about his requires change and different issues. The interview was edited for readability and size.


Q: You’ve argued that institutionalized philanthropy is contaminated with a “colonizing virus.” What do you imply?

A: The philanthropic trade because it exists at present, with $1 trillion in belongings, took place by way of a historical past of inequality. There have been gathered benefits and advantages for folks with wealth, and particularly for white folks within the U.S., to be within the place of with the ability to generate and construct wealth within the first place. So of us who had these generational sources handed it down, and people with gathered advantages have been in the very best positions to start out foundations and to truly have the ability to be charitable in a really conventional sense.


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Now we have to convey that historical past into context as we’re fascinated by the items — who’s receiving cash, who makes choices about cash and who advantages from this complete trade.

Colonization was all about extracting sources and hoarding sources… So I discuss this colonizing virus as a result of it is sort of a virus that has actually contaminated all of our techniques however particularly the techniques linked to cash.


Q: And the way can the sector fight such a virus?

A: The best way out of that is to consider therapeutic. If trauma is the results of how wealth has been gathered, I consider that we are able to flip that and use cash and wealth in another way, particularly philanthropic capital, which must be deployed to essentially profit all folks. If we’re investing in communities of coloration and truly prioritizing Black and Indigenous communities which have traditionally been marginalized, then I consider that we may help shut the race wealth hole that exists, in essence utilizing cash as a type of medication.


Q: Charitable foundations are criticized for investing their endowments in firms that don’t align with their missions. Some introduced plans to vary their methods. Do you see that occuring at a mass scale?

A: I’m hopeful. Most likely prior to 5 years in the past, there was little or no discuss endowments. I feel increasingly as we’re speaking about efficient and fashionable philanthropy, we’re wanting on the total image of all of the sources which might be out there to foundations. And there’s a serious push to align the grant-making practices and the enterprise practices with the funding practices. What’s the web worth of philanthropy if with our proper hand we’re doing a little good and with our left hand we’re really doing hurt? It actually is unnecessary for a basis to spend money on grant making round legal justice however make investments their endowments in non-public prisons. Return on funding isn’t all the time one thing that may be quantified by a greenback signal.


Q: Philanthropic funding for racial fairness initiatives elevated following the police killing of George Floyd. Will that be sustained?

A: I feel we’re having a breakthrough second. I really feel optimistic about it. A variety of issues have been shifting up to now three years, due to the work of social actions just like the Motion for Black Lives. There’s been numerous exterior stress on foundations, on firms to speculate extra in social justice and simply in communities of coloration typically.

On the Decolonizing Wealth Challenge, we’ve actually been fueling this reckoning that’s been occurring throughout the sector for the final variety of years. So the conversations, even earlier than the homicide of George Floyd, have begun to shift. I feel that second completely opened a brand new stage of alternative for sources to move.

One of many challenges that we now have in philanthropy is usually transferring cash in ways in which hook up with a information cycle or some kind of sparkplug occasion that occurs in communities. It’s human nature to wish to reply within the second, however what we now have to proceed to push for is to middle and prioritize Black, Indigenous and different communities of coloration in our grantmaking.


Q: You’ve spoken about the necessity to lengthen grace to People studying about racial inequities. Do you consider there’s a lack of grace in immediately’s social justice actions?

A: I do, I do. However I feel it’s been actually laborious to increase grace in a second the place we’re immediately within the line of assault. So I do consider there’s a time to struggle and a time to essentially defend our positions and to possibly not compromise or discover that center floor. However I feel all of us can, and may, discover methods to work in the direction of extending grace to others.

In my very own journey, I do know that I used to be raised to be racist. I used to be raised to be sexist, homophobic, and thru numerous studying work alone, but additionally the assist of group round me, I’ve developed over the past couple of many years to be somebody who thinks and exhibits up very in another way.

However had I not had that chance to seek out group, to show me, I don’t know that I might have gotten there alone. And so we live in a time of cancel tradition. We’re dwelling in a time of identification politics. And it’s really simply actually difficult after this final political administration and all of the issues we noticed — insurance policies, the assaults on our communities — to increase grace in these moments. So it’s a means of therapeutic that all of us have to interact in. I attempt my finest to increase that to others, as a result of that’s how I’ve been obtained by way of the years.


The Related Press receives assist from the Lilly Endowment for protection of philanthropy and nonprofits. The AP is solely liable for all content material. For all of AP’s philanthropy protection, go to

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