How Philanthropy Fuels Polarization | Community Foundations

How Philanthropy Fuels Polarization


Foundation: Rockefeller Brothers Fund

credit: Scribd

"It's easy for this to happen because I didn't intentionally look for opposing voices or try to understand what was animating them. I tended to group all those voices together, oversimplify even though there was nuance worth capturing, and dismiss them as fringe views." That's what philanthropist Melinda Gates has to say in an op-ed in the New York Times about how she handled the immigration debate in the early 2000s.

"I had a single-minded focus on achieving wins for immigrants who faced real suffering and adversity," she writes. "I wanted those wins badly, and so did my grantees. In, I think my sense of urgency about winning made it more difficult to process dissonant information that didn't align with my strategy or the way I was thinking about the problem and its solution."

That made it harder for her to "anticipate how the immigration debate would soon become a potent proxy for dueling visions of America that would turbocharge xenophobia," she writes.

Gates, who has donated more than $100 million to causes including climate change and HIV/AIDS, says she now realizes that she "would have benefitted from challenging these assumptions and asking tough questions about our approach around the issue and how those feelings could be manipulated and weaponized.

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