My dislike for nonprofits is not the traditional charity argument. It is not the idea that helping people is bad and that we should all “pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.” My issues regarding nonprofits are about a much more sinister matter. This is about the direct racism, specifically antiblackness in the paradigm of nonprofits.
This is about deliberately defunding Black communities after the Civil Rights Act. You’re free, but no longer control the money.
How nonprofits derailed Civil Rights Act gains
Redevelopment coincided with the Civil Rights Movement. What redevelopment did was essentially take tax dollars that used to go to the upkeep of cities and school districts and placed it in the hands of developers.
Redevelopment was also part of the Southern Strategy. A new and silent way to be racist.
Moved money from local, people control to rich people’s control.
Redevelopment made the Civil Rights Movement toothless. It took away funds to run African-American communities and made poverty a money making endeavor —not for the poor, but for those “helping” the poor.
With city and county services being cut to give tax breaks (and tax credits) to corporate America and wealthy developers, those controlling the government realized they needed a stopgap. If the number of social workers are cut, and funding for the schools is taken away there needs to be a cheap way to replace those people and services.
Nonprofits, specifically those started after the Civil Rights Movements, were created to fill that deliberate hole.
Nonprofits, a poor substitute for a social contract
Nonprofits are fine to supplement supports already in place, but in the African-American community, they are now the community’s foundation.
And nonprofits (ironically funded by wealthy foundations) are almost ALWAYS underfunded. Nonprofits are also a clever way to outsource government services and THEN defund them.
You already got the smartest and the brightest on the payroll, so you won’t have any fightback.
Make activists beg for change instead of making change.
They were also created for propaganda. You don’t need Birth of a Nation or Uncle Tom’s Cabin when you have 200 nonprofits explaining how awful Black people are and why. For Black people to get funding (that was stolen from us) we have to regurgitate a pathologizing narrative and tap dance.
OH AND then you have nonprofit journalism whose job it is to report the pathologizing nonprofits under the guise of equity and antiracism all funded by the same men sitting on the private equity firms that are throwing you out your home!
AND THEN you get the added benefit of other people of color confused why they too can’t get pathologized and exploited, why is it always about the BLACKS!
Nonprofits help in all kinds of ways: gentrification, dismantling public schools, prison, welfare to work, creating pointless division….so many things.
It’s literally GENIUS!
Nonprofits are not a replacement for government and public supports. Nonprofits are not a replacement for activism. And they directly harm communities and they were deliberately created to do all these horribly wonderful things.
So when I say “Nonprofit workers are like missionaries. Their religion is capitalism.” I am being very literal.
by Teka Lo, Public Intellectual