Posts Tagged ‘Democracy’

Many were thrilled to see that the Kellogg Foundation had made a $75-million commitment to attacking racial disparities in communities across the country. It brought to mind the superb work of Anne Kubisch and her colleagues at the Aspen Roundtable for Community Change— whose work on structural racism remains among the most thoughtful approaches to analyzing and acting on this insidious problem. And so I turned to Anne’s colleague Keith Lawrence— and this is what he had to say:

“Hats off to the Kellogg Foundation for publicly adopting racial equity as a central grant-making principle!

“This is a bold step by a major philanthropic sponsor of initiatives designed to eliminate racial disparities in communities across America. It’s bold because a racial equity perspective explicitly challenges a number of faulty ‘wisdoms’ about race and its connections to familiar socioeconomic outcome patterns, and about the appropriate posture for philanthropy in this arena.

“Kellogg’s recent decision to transform itself into an anti-racism organization sends an important message to those who would believe that President Obama’s election signaled the end of race in America. While that historic development is a great leap forward for our democracy, and a welcome reminder that large numbers of voters hunger for a politics of hope and connectedness, it should not cloud our recognition that we still have a long way to go in truly extending opportunity to all Americans. Thankfully, old-fashioned, in-your-face racism has receded and most of us now consciously embrace colorblind values. But we’re not yet a colorblind society, because our opportunity systems and institutions maintain racially patterned inequalities without, for the most part, intentionally setting out to do so. Kellogg understands that racial privilege and disadvantage have been deeply inscribed into the physical, cultural, economic, institutional, and psychological spaces we navigate daily. Racially inequitable norms and practices in the employment, housing, criminal justice, health and other key sectors still combine to keep far more individuals of color on the margins than can reasonably be explained by their individual shortcomings. Personal responsibility isn’t irrelevant, but its contribution to chronic racial group inequalities is dwarfed by the effects of public policies, institutional practices and unconscious biases that continue to perpetuate racial disparities.

“By stepping up and reframing its race work in this way, Kellogg also sends an important message about the niche philanthropy occupies in our democracy.  Americans have always relied on secondary institutions to extend democratic equality: public schools, trade unions, political parties, religious organizations and, among others, philanthropy. These “equalizing institutions” help create a common social fabric as well as additional opportunity pathways for those without social advantages. The extent to which philanthropic foundations have given a broader cross section of the public access to areas and opportunities once the exclusive preserve of elites—such as higher education, the arts, or specialized training—has been part of this equalizing stratum. This wholehearted embrace of a racial equity grant-making standard speaks loudly to others in this sector about what they can do to help our democracy achieve its full potential and substance”.

Keith could not have put it better. I am eager to hear the thoughts of others on Kellogg’s big bet, the work of the Aspen Roundtable on Community Change and the combination of research and action that is required.

—Jane Wales

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People today know “the price of everything, but the value of nothing,” according to Oscar Wilde.  Raj Patel agrees in his new book called The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy. At the Council, Patel addressed the current debate over free market ideology. He believes “we see the world through the faulty prism of markets” and need to think about other ways of valuing the world. Patel noted The Commons and La Via Campesina as other models, but stressed that one of the best things that can be done to improve global society is to place a much higher value on women. Patel ended by encouraging the audience to become engaged in the fight against injustice and to organize based on justice and equality. When advocating for greater engagement he said, “It’s not just through consumption that I can change the world.”

To listen to the entire program with Raj Patel, please visit our online archive.

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After 60 years of Communist rule, the People’s Republic of China celebrated their anniversary today with military demonstrations, parades, and fireworks. Hu Jintao, Communist Party leader and President, spoke in Tiananmen Square from the same spot Mao Zedong had declared the creation of a new China: “[We] have triumphed over all sorts of difficulties and setbacks and risks to gain the great achievements evident to the world. Today, a socialist China geared towards modernization, the world and the future towers majestically in the east. We have realized the goal of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

You can read more about the anniversary celebration in this article from the New York Times and watch highlights from the celebration below.

As the People’s Republic of China celebrates its 60th anniversary, on Monday, October 5th, the World Affairs Council will be hosting a distinguished panel of China experts who will examine the future role for democracy in the People’s Republic of China.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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“You cannot hide a dead elephant with a lotus leaf, ” according to Mu Sochua, Cambodian parliament member and human rights advocate.  This local Cambodian proverb best describes the disconnect she finds between the positive image presented to the international community by Prime Minister Hun Sen and the daily troubles faced by the average person in the country.  Mu Sochua spoke last Thursday about her view of the current political situation in Cambodia.  Discussing the difficulties women have in receiving the most basic human rights, education and health care, she argued that women must be given healthy bodies and minds in order for them to reach a power-equality. Sochua urged the audience to work with her to fight government corruption, raise the status of women, and support NGOs by writing to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with whom she recently met in Washington DC, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

For more on Sochua’s trip to Washington and her presentation to the Human Rights Commission, read this post from the blog of the Vital Voices Global Partnership, which awarded Sochua the Vital Voices Human Rights Global Leadership Award in 2005 for her work to end human trafficking.

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Is the Russian political system best understood as a “managed democracy” and who is managing it—President Medvedev or Prime Minister Putin? What are the implications for U.S.-Russian relations? After his visit to Moscow earlier this month, has Obama successfully “reset” relations with Russia and what must he do to improve future relations between the two countries? How have both Europe and Russia responded to initial overtures by President Obama and the new administration since the beginning of 2009?  Journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anne Applebaum joined the Council last night to share her interpretation and analysis of Russia’s relations with the United States, Europe, its neighbors, and current political issues within the country. For her full talk, listen or watch recordings here at our online archive. For more on these issues be sure to check back when Applebaum’s husband, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, joins the Council on August 5, 2009 for our Richard & Judith Guggenhime Speaker Series.

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Last Thursday, former President of Mexico Vicente Fox joined a packed Council audience and our President and CEO Jane Wales for an unscripted conversation on the current challenges facing Mexico. On Mexico’s war on drugs, the first topic of discussion, President Fox gave potential strategies and necessary actions for ending the violence and killings, emphasizing the need to fight the war from the demand side. President Fox also praised Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her recent comments admitting the role of US demand for drugs and supply of weapons in fueling the violence and encouraged continued cooperation between the two countries. Other topics of conversation included the Mexican economy, the H1N1 virus (or “swine flu”), NAFTA, immigration, and democracy. For the full conversation between President Fox and Jane Wales, check out the audio and video recordings here at our online archive or watch a short video clip of the program below.

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