Philanthropy as Solidarity

By: Ruby Maddox hands

The word philanthropy has got some negative connotations as well as positive ones.

While the original meaning of philanthropy comes from the Greek  philanthrōpos, meaning love and humanity or love for human kind(1), today philanthropy is often seen as something else. Instead of altruistic act or gesture done in the name of love for humanity, the word philanthropy invokes the perspective of a separation of the giver and the receiver. In this perspective, the “philanthropist” donates his/her time or money to a cause or an issue that does not directly relate to or affect them. Instead, those who can afford the “luxury of giving”, give as a way to assuage feelings of guilt, without really caring about root causes or related problems. “Philanthropy” from this paradigm, recalls issues of race,class, and privilege.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said,

Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.

I recently met with a friend and we discussed the idea of solidarity among current economic, social, and environmental movements taking place around the country and around the world from the #blacklivesmatter campaign to fossil fuel divestment, to international solidarity for Palestinians, and beyond.

Philanthropy as solidarity can mean giving of your time and money to help create a counter-force to existing systems of injustice. This means showing solidarity in the public sphere as well as actively giving and participating to build the kind of systems we do want in our communities; consistently asking ourselves: “What kind of society do we want to build? and What is our role in that vision?”

This season, how can you use your philanthropy to show solidarity?

1) http://www.merriam-webster.com

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