Our approach every day at Foraker is to focus on strengths – strengths of the people, the places, and the missions we serve. Fault, blame, and shame have no place in our work as they rarely, if ever lead to resolution or learning. Instead, they only serve to polarize and shut people down from learning the very thing they set out seeking.
It is, then, with a heavy heart that we are listening, watching, and reading the blatant anti-Semitism, racism, anti-LGBTQ, anti-science rhetoric happening in Anchorage. We recognize or perhaps just hope that this is a fringe set of voices designed to drown out the vast majority of people who are too upset, distracted, or eliminated from the conversation to hear their voices in what should be a civil public process. While we serve the entire state of Alaska and its people and nonprofits, many of us live in Anchorage. This is our home.
As a voice for nonprofits that stands for missions across the political, social, and economic spectrum, we understand that for every nonprofit seeking to move in one direction there are others seeking the opposite. This is the nature of a healthy democracy where all these groups can exist. In fact, take a look at places where democracy is challenged and you will see that opposition to the reigning government’s perspective is underground and, therefore, less visible or worse defeated out of existence. And so in democracy, we get to hear different voices, and because of that we typically make better decisions that serve more people.
What is unequivocally unacceptable, however, is when those voices are used to vilify others, to intentionally spread hateful messages that ring with fear and ultimately suppress our democratic process. Let us be perfectly clear, we stand for a healthy society where nonprofits can do their best service in partnership with government and business – where we can work to make our homes and the places we care about better and stronger. We will stand up for and alongside those who work for the good of our community, and we will condemn hate when we see it. It might bear repeating that this is not a new position, it is who we have always been and will always be. It is inscribed in our core values and in every statement that clarifies our commitment to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Equally true is that anti-Semitism, racism in its many forms, and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric are not new. It is as old and as present as anyone can likely remember. But the current fevered pitch playing out in this COVID pandemic is a pandemic of its own. It is catching and spreading and allowed to continue because the vast majority of us are tired and scared and simply out of energy to take on one more thing.
But, just as for COVID, there is a vaccine for this, too, in the form of education – on the Holocaust (Anne Frank Center, Holocaust Memorial Museum) – on the detriment of colonization (First Alaskans Institute, Alaska Native Heritage Center, The Alaska Coalition of BIPOC Educators) – on the deep harm of racism (Southern Poverty Law Center, Alaska Black Caucus) – and on anti-LGBTQ life (Pride Foundation, Anti-Defamation League, Identity Alaska).
It also comes in the form of voting rights (Nonprofit Vote, Voting Rights Act) and by a commitment to civic engagement that is civil by all those in elected office. And, finally, it comes from a deep belief by all of us that our democracy is worth all the effort.
Just as in COVID, not everyone will get vaccinated or wear a mask to protect themselves or each other. So for the rest of us, we have to dig deeper to find hope that we will return to a life of being together again – a life where we can work out our differences for the good of our community and for everyone, not just the loudest few. It means our job is far from done as we stand for truth and science and for what history reminds us will happen again and again if we fail to learn and to act. Let’s find the strength together to speak up when we see injustice – to lead with love – to work for a truly civil and just society.
We are standing right beside you.