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Taking on Wedge Politics

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

NCG member Cathy Cha, Program Director for Immigrant Rights and Integration at the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, published Taking on Wedge Politics discussing how foundations can take race issues head on. 

With people of color now firmly in the majority in California, the long-term outlook for progressive causes in the state is bright. But conservatives got a taste of a winning formula last year when they used wedge politics to divide communities of color during a dust-up over affirmative action in higher education. African Americans and Latinos were in the pro-affirmative action camp, but some Chinese and Indians in the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community were vocal in their opposition, often using divisive and racist arguments to make their case.

At the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, we were alarmed about the divisions that surfaced during that debate. We care deeply about the future of our home state, and we believe California will be stronger to the extent that people of color stand together. We work on issues like immigrant rights where building coalitions across lines of race and ethnicity is critical to success.

As we surveyed the damage from the affirmative action debate, we began to ask ourselves some questions:

  • How could we support our grantees and their allies to take on issues of race and racism in the AAPI community head-on?
  • How could we help build stronger partnerships between the AAPI, African American and Latino communities for progressive fights in the years to come?
  • How could we inoculate these groups against the divisions of wedge politics as we look ahead to 2016 and beyond?

With these questions in mind, the Haas, Jr. Fund and Chinese for Affirmative Action convened two meetings of a cross-section of AAPI leaders. During the discussions, the groups agreed on several important steps to reduce racism and promote interracial understanding and collaboration. One of these steps was to organize a joint meeting with African American and Latino allies to identify common ground policy issues. Another was to create a curriculum and “toolkit”* that groups could use to proactively address stereotypes and racism in Asian communities.

Read the full article to learn more about how funders are spurring tough conversations.  The toolkit is currently in production with the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund and Chinese for Affirmative Action, with support from the California Endowment, California Wellness Foundation, Gerbode Foundation, Rosenberg Foundation and Unbound Philanthropy.