Philanthropy and Minority Protection
By Xiaolei Chen
Graduate Student, Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University
Philanthropy is a word deviated from the Greek - phil is the prefix meaning "love" and anthropy meaning "of human beings" as it is used in the word, "anthropology." Accordingly, the word philanthropy means a) concern for the welfare of mankind and b) charitable action inspired by this concern. The concept of philanthropy is, therefore, a combination of spirituality and behavior that reflects such, and scholars have defined it with subtle differentiation. Robert Payton, for instance, defined it as "voluntary action for the public good," while Burlingame believed it could be better defined as "voluntary giving or receiving intended for pubic purposes" (Burlingame 1993, 6).
According to Merriam-Webster's dictionary, the meaning of minority is "a part of a population differing from others in some characteristics and often subjected to differential treatment." Such factors as the color of skin, origin and culture, therefore, become excuses for a so-called majority to treat minorities differently.
In order to obtain equal rights, therefore, and to protect (to guard or keep from harm) their integrity and culture, minorities have formed various voluntary organizations to achieve their diversified goals. Most often these organizations have been formed by members of these groups, sometimes with the help of government and members of the majority. Therefore, a broad definition of minority protection includes the ways in which civic groups organize themselves, as well as the measures taken to make the rights and benefits enjoyed by the majority of the population equally accessible to other races or ethnicities.
The ideas of ethical reciprocity, equality and democracy have long provided rationales for the minority protection movement and have greatly inspired many people, both minority and majority, to devote themselves to the actualization of these doctrines.
Expressed in the Golden Rule, the aim of ethical reciprocity is to be oriented toward the broad love for all human beings regardless of their race. As early as the fourth century B.C.E., Greek philosopher Plato expressed such philanthropic ideals by saying that "May I do to others as I would they should do unto me." This concept was further asserted by many of Plato's successors, such as Socrates who interpreted ethical reciprocity in the fifth century B.C.E. as, "do not do to others that which would anger you if others did it to you."
The essence of ethical reciprocity has also been extraordinarily integral to the teachings in many religious books. In the Holy Bible, for example, Jesus Christ told his disciples that "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye shall love one another" (John 14: 34). Buddhism teaches "hurt not others with that which pains yourself" (Udana Varga). "No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself" is taught in Islam's forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 13. Similar notions exist in many other religions or their doctrines, such as Confucianism, Hinduism, Wiccan, Baha'i, and Judaism.
In 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was completed, it proclaimed to the whole world," We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness." This statement is the crystallization of equality and democracy, and is still a goal that minorities are trying to achieve.
As a "melting pot," the United States is the most pluralistic country in the world. According to the 2000 Census survey, out of the total of 281,421,000 Americans, 75.1% are white, 12.3% are Black, 3.6% are Asian, and 0.9% is of American Indian and Alaskan Native origins. The rest of the population is bi- or multi-racial. "Therefore, no one race or ethnic group in America can now securely assert that its particular heritage is the one which defines the national identity" (Rhea 1997, 125).
Based on the pluralistic demographic composition, American democracy features in it, democratic liberalism, praised as the "most desirable" and the "most stable of all contemporary political traditions" by such influential people as Locke and Toqueville (Requejo 2001, 1). The sustainability of democratic liberalism depends partially on equality between the majority and minorities. Thus, the practice of minority protection has great significance in sustaining the American democratic way of life and the rights and liberties it brings to the populace.
Ties to the Philanthropic Sector
Minority protection is naturally bound to the philanthropic sector in various ways. Historically, minorities began protecting their own rights due to the unavailability of philanthropy directed toward them from the domineering white society. Organizations were established to respond to the minorities' most immediate needs, such as education, religion, health care, higher political status, and protection of group members' lives. A shift has occurred in our post Civil War, post Civil Rights movement, globally economic country after a number of major social upheavals, increased education, and racial integration occurred. The paradigm now is that the greatest portion of the white majority has realized that minorities are Americans; so, now the lines of color have begun to dissipate and have been replaced with cultural recognition and cooperation. As a result, this common recognition has produced momentum for philanthropic unity in the new age.
Theories of government and market failure explain that nonprofit organizations provide services for the public's good that are not normally provided by the government or by for-profit organizations. Because minorities' needs are often "small scale" in comparison to the needs of the majority, it is increasingly important that not-for-profits assume a more active role in minority protection.
Minority protection has become an indispensable part of our social fabric. In American history, American culture, Western civilization, public policy and public affairs, we see illustrations of minorities' social and economic evolution. For example, the history of America traces the progress of minorities and we get a sense of their triumph over oppression and discrimination. The Civil Rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s, Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, the Mississippi Riots in 1962, and the March on Washington the following year, all provide us with unique and valuable insights for policy making and public affairs doctrine.
Key Related Ideas
Throughout American history, a number of negative societal trends have contributed to increased awareness and the philanthropic acts by individuals to protect the rights of the varied minority groups. The most glaring inconsistency with the assertion that "we, all, are created equal" was the practice of slavery of African Americans. Jim Crow laws, segregation, lynching, and abolition are all ideas related to that history of black oppression. Naturally, infringement on the rights of other minority groups have led to additional struggles within our society and many other related ideas - Japanese internment camps, women's suffrage, the Equal Rights movement, equal pay, equal opportunity, and affirmative action.
Important People Related to the Topic
Throughout the history of minority protection, there are many figures that have made outstanding contributions. Among them is W. E.B. Du Bois. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Du Bois, a prophetic African-American scholar, sharply commented: "the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line" (Morris 2002, 1). He initiated the famous debate with Booker T. Washington, which focused on many issues affecting the development of African American communities at the turn of the century. It "was a socio-political debate on the role race and ethnicity plays in the lives of people" (Ibid., 6), and it formally brought minority issues into the public forum.
Martin Luther King, Jr., a well-known "advocate of non-violent social change" (Carson 2002) and African-American civic leader, dedicated his life to the Civil Rights movement. His speech, "I Have a Dream," is the masterpiece of his declaration for equality and political representation for minorities.
Related Nonprofit Organizations
Naturally, a number of foundations provide support for minority interests. Of these, the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, in the last century, have devoted large amounts of money to the improvement of minorities' well-being.
Among the tens or hundreds of thousands of nonprofit organizations that serve minority group interests, some possess extraordinary significance. The most prominent of these include:
American Civil Liberties Union: Founded in 1920 as a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, the ACLU is designed to defend American citizens' civil liberties. Basically, it is the ACLU's contention that despite an individual's race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, or disabilities, every person in the United States should possess the same basic rights.
Association of American Indian Affairs' purpose is "to assist and protect the constitutional rights of" American Indians, Aleuts and Eskimos of the United States; "to improve health, economic and educational conditions; and support the perpetuation of their cultures" (AAIA 2003). Through dissemination of information about the welfare of these people, AAIA attempts to enlighten public opinion and assist in forming more beneficial national policies.
Chinese Six Companies was a coordinating council for the Chinese community that began in the 1860s in America. The various locations provided housing, social support, legal counsel, and representation for those who needed these services. They became more formally known as the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is the country's oldest civil rights organization, whose purpose is to protect the rights of African Americans by ensuring equal opportunities in health care, education, employment, housing, and all facets of life. For a history of the organization and information on available resources and programs, see the NAACP Web site at http://www.naacp.org.
National Black United Fund is a national organization with local affiliates that work to assist black communities by providing philanthropic funds as a catalyst for social and economic change.
National Congress of American Indians' mission is "to inform the public and the federal government on tribal self-government, treaty rights, and a broad range of federal policy issues affecting tribal governments" (NCAI 2003).
National Council of La Raza is a nonprofit organization "established in 1968 to reduce poverty and discrimination, and improve life opportunities for Hispanic Americans" (NCLR 2003). NCLR works to meet its mission by strengthening Hispanic community-based organizations and by using research and advocacy to affect public policy and governmental programs which serve Hispanic populations.
Related Web Sites
The African American Yearbook Web site, provides comprehensive information about African American organizations, media and religion. It also has a search engine to help illustrate details of these organizations. Visit at http://www.africanamericanyearbook.com.
American Civil Liberties Union Web site, at http://www.aclu.org, provides information on public policy initiatives and discusses current issues related to racial equality, women's rights, religious liberty, and other relevant topics.
The DiversityInc.com Web site, at http://diversityinc.com, is an accessible and informative site that covers minority-related topics ranging from news to business, from publications to employment opportunities.
The Ford Foundation Web site (http://www.fordfound.org) provides information on the Foundation's history, areas of funding, programs, publications, and more. Though it is not minority-oriented, it provides information on funding for minority studies through numerous programs and grants.
The GeoCities Web site, at http://geocities.yahoo.com/, offers a special section for Native American affairs. Information provided includes Native American culture, sport, music, organizations, political and educational issues.
Association on American Indian Affairs. Homepage. [cited 10 January 2003]. Available from http://www.indian-affairs.org.
Burlingame, Dwight. Altruism and Philanthropy: Definitional Issues. Indianapolis: Indiana University Center on Philanthropy, 1993.
Carson, Clayborne. King's Biography. MLK Online. [cited 17 November 2002]. Available from http://www.mlkonline.com/bio.html.
Jefferson, Thomas. The Declaration of Independence. First Amendment Cyber-Tribune. [cited 30 November 2002]. No longer Available.
Morris, Aldon. Introduction. In Marlese Durr, ed., The New Politics of Race. Connecticut: Praeger, 2002.
National Congress of American Indians. Welcome to the NCAI. [cited 10 January 2003]. Available from http://www.ncai.org/Home.9.0.html?&no_cache=1.
National Council of La Raza. About NCLR. [cited 10 January 2003]. Available from http://www.nclr.org/section/about/.
Requejo, Ferran. Democracy and National Pluralism. New York: Routledge, 2001. ISBN: 0415255775.
Rhea, Joseph Tilden. Race Pride and the American Identity. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1997. ISBN: 0674566815.
Robinson, B.A. Shared Belief in the "Golden Rule". Religious Tolerance.org. [updated 9 July 2002; cited 18 November 2002]. Available from http://www.religioustolerance.org/reciproc.htm.
The U.S. Census Bureau. All Across the U.S.A.: Population Distribution and Composition, 2000. [cited September 12, 2002]. Available from http://www.census.gov/main/www/cen2000.html.
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