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The Futility of Philanthropy in the Face of Policy

May 24, 2013

The tenuous relationship between public policy and philanthropy is best personified in the form of billionaire New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, known as much for his charitable largesse as he is for his attempts to ban soda.

Mayor BloombergMichael Bloomberg recently launched an “innovative public-private partnership” between New York City, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Ashoka Changemakers, and the Campaign for Black Male Achievement at the Open Society Foundation to “reduce the disparities holding back too many young black and Latino men.”

It all sounds rather noble, but then you’re reminded that Mayor Bloomberg has supported (explicitly racist) public policies such as “stop and frisk” police strategies that do nothing but hold back young black and Latino men–and a $36,000 grant will do nothing to prevent innocent young black and Latino men from experiencing state-sanctioned racial profiling, nor will it curtail the nearly 40,000 marijuana arrests made annually in New York City–again, mostly young black and Latino men.

Before crowdsourcing ideas to reduce disparities, Mayor Bloomberg should first put an end to his disparity reinforcing policies–he doesn’t need philanthropy to do that.

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