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  • The Problem with Nonprofits: Too Many White People

       October 04, 2006

    Ladies and gentlemen, Madison's nonprofit agencies have a severe problem: too many white people work for them:

    When Barbara Golden looks around at the nonprofit agencies that assist Madison area people in need, she doesn't like what she sees.

    So few of their workers are people of color; so many of those they work with are.

    And so Ms. Golden, along with fellow misguided crusaders, has "begun confronting some local nonprofit organizations on the dearth of people of color on their staff rosters."

    Lovely. Imagine yourself as a young social work graduate. You've earned a Master's Degree and you go out into the workforce determined to make the world a better place. You accept a low-paying job at a nonprofit agency because you truly believe in the work they do. You work your ass off and can still barely afford to pay off your student loans. Then, some jackass like Ms. Golden comes along and questions your employment simply because of the color of your skin. It's enough to make you want an MBA.

    Where is it written that only "people of color" can adequately serve minorities? And shouldn't someone evaluating the racial makeup of Madison's nonprofits want to keep in mind that the vast majority of people who live here are white. Wisconsin is full of white people. Lily white whiteys. Are white people so horrible and lacking in empathy that we can't even help other people? God, we're awful.

    I'm shocked and amazed how many people think that. All of these Madison organizations are absolutely dedicated to hiring minorities just for the sake of hiring minorities. And, because the push is so strong, they're making dumb decisions like this:

    Wexford Ridge Neighborhood Center on Madison's west side works to develop staff from the community it serves - primarily low-income people of color, said executive director Paul Terranova. Of the nine staff members, seven are people of color, he said.

    Finding staff among the ranks of the served may mean reconsidering what's of value to the organization.

    "If people are too in awe of a college degree, they will tend to overlook very valuable skills," Terranova said. "My own graduate studies may have helped me be a better grant writer, but did very little to help me as a community worker."

    So let me get this straight. The Wexford Neighborhood Center, which I know for a fact does a ton of work with kids, wants to help lower-income folks get a leg up. To do so, they're showing these kids that an education isn't that important and that what's really important is to be able to use your minority status to get jobs you otherwise wouldn't be qualified for. And that's exactly what it is. Don't tell me for one second that a white person would be hired for this job because of their other "very valuable skills".

    Argh. I'm sick to death of this attitude that demographic similarity equals some kind of mystic understanding. At least I'm used to that attitude. I can't imagine what these young, liberal, white nonprofit workers feel like. My guess is that they're starting to not feel so liberal anymore. Score another one for the Evil Right Wing Conspiracy.

    Posted by at October 4, 2006 08:12 PM

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    #  October 5th, 2006 8:03 AM      kris
    The link on the Cap Times website to this story says "Can area nonprofits serve minorities with mostly white staff?" But they never actually ask that question. They assume that they can't. That's what pisses me off about this.  
    #  October 7th, 2006 2:37 PM      mbrlr
    Of course white folks can help, but it's simply an observation that we still don't truly have anything approaching a socially or educationally desegregated society. Jim Crow lives on even in our Northern states.

    In Arkansas right now, we're trying to deal with the fact that we've underfunded many schools, both white and black, but it always seems to be the black majority districts that suffer most both here and nationwide. In many communities, blacks and other minorities move in and white folks flee...and then funding for those now primarily black or other minority school districts is somehow lowered. Gee, I wonder favorite part of this short-sighted idiocy on our part is that any person classified as a minority who miraculously is economically and socially able to beat the system and succeed, despite our current social set-up and its faults, will then follow those white folks to better housing and opportunities. This then causes those whites to run away even farther out, pleading for school vouchers as they go and thus again guaranteeing insufficient funding for our public schools.

    The rest of the West thinks we're crazy as betsy bugs and the evidence supports that conclusion.

    We're failing all of our young, whether their history and ethnicity is black or white or Latino or Asian. What are my two little anglatinos to do --- flip a coin and see which one joins the white flight and which one decides to build a barrio here in the mid-South and learn Spanish properly just to irritate racists? żEs muy terible, pero es la verdad, no?  
    #  October 9th, 2006 9:52 AM      BVBigBro
    "In many communities, blacks and minorities move in." From where exactly? What happens when a white family in an urban neighborhood moves and wants to sell their home? They sell and it is likely to a minority family if for no other reason than the demographics of reproduction rates. An additional problem is that many people reject cities in their entirety. Why would people choose to live in the city in the first place?

    Lots of people would consider that a bizarre question, but I much prefer the middle of nowhere to any city, and I am not alone.  
    #  October 11th, 2006 1:18 AM      Daddy
    I've met some of the worst people I'll ever know in non-profit and volunteer organizations. Truly miserable people.

    It's enough to make me wish I was in line at the DMV.  
    #  October 12th, 2006 11:33 PM      REV
    Boo-Hoo! White-people care. WAaaaaaHhh! White-people are compassionate and run charities. It's NOT fair that whitey loves humanity and wants to help. Boo-Hoo!  
    #  October 13th, 2006 12:56 PM      mbrlr



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