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What We're Reading: Democracy and Equity Edition

Thursday, July 22, 2021
by Crispin Delgado, Public Policy Director, Northern California Grantmakers

No matter our color, background, zip code or political views, our democracy should work for everyone. Democracy in the United States is premised on the notion that every voter should have the freedom to cast their vote. Through the act of voting we make our voices heard, elect representatives who govern in our name and enact our priorities.  

The election of 2020 was no exception. Many communities of color in California saw the election of 2020 as a moment of reckoning.  Voters were not only asked to weigh in on the presidential election, but also to consider several ballot initiatives that could advance racial equity and social justice, such as Propositions 15, 16 and 17. Many voters of color saw the election as an opportunity to use their votes to change the conditions created by the pandemic and racially divisive rhetoric. While many voters made their voices heard in early November, by January there were several attempts to silence them.  

On January 6, 2021, insurrectionists, mostly white nationalists, targeted the U.S. Capitol. They claimed election fraud and were determined to disrupt the certification process that would officially call the election in favor of President Biden and Vice President Harris. The world looked on, as extremists in the group powered through physical barriers, climbed walls, broke down doors and windows to make their way inside the building. By the day’s end five people had lost their lives.  

The attempted coup has deep implications for our work. While the insurrectionists that day carried the president's messages about voter fraud; it was really about voter turnout. This was an attempt to overthrow the 2020 election, an election that brought out a historic number of voters to the polls, including new voters, reactivated older voters, and people of color.  

This attempted coup was about silencing the Black votes. This was about silencing the Latinx votes. This was about silencing everything non-white. This was one day, but it served as a rally call for all nationalists to recalibrate their strategies for maintaining power. Many took this fight to the states where they are trying strategies to prevent an election, like that of 2020, from happening again. As of mid-May 2021, policymakers in 48 states have proposed over 389 new laws seeking to suppress voting.  

To determine how to move forward, we must understand that protests and the fight for basic human and civil rights has been taking place for hundreds of years. We must protect community voices and refine our democracy processes to serve everyone. We must continue to speak truth to power and take stock of our funding priorities as we consider policy changes to make our democracy free and fair for everyone.  Take a look at what I'm reading, listening to, and where I'm going for resources. 

What I'm Reading

1. Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619 - 2019

edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain

2. Shaping a More Racially Just America

by Rev. Samuel Casey 

3. Our Democracy Is Under Attack and Philanthropy Needs to Act Now

by Carmen Rojas and Dimple Abichandani 


What I'm Listening To

1. Who is the Next Stacey Abrams?

Democracy in Color Podcast with Steve Phillips

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2. Stop the 2024 Steal 

Pod Save America Podcast

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GET INVOLVED: Connect to Redistricting Efforts 

1. Philanthropy California: Fair Representation Fund 
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2. Common Cause: Local Redistricting
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3. Redistricting in Arizona 
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