History Has Its Eyes On Us Too

Dear Colleagues,

First my sincerest hopes for your continued health and wellness. If you have struggled to stay focused, productive, creative and feel safe this week – know that you are not alone. 

At WFN, we have also struggled with the images, stories and contradictions that have emerged from the attack at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. While searching for answers, and accountability, we are also holding deep sorrow for the lives lost, those injured physically, and those now dealing with the mental and emotional trauma of being hunted and attacked. 

While we condemn the police officers who appeared to aid and abet the insurrectionists, we know we must resist oversimplification about those in uniform. The complicated truth is that for many people of color, the U.S. Armed Forces or a job in law enforcement are among the few paths out of generational poverty. As we saw last week, many officers of color served with honor despite facing imminent danger of white supremacists invading the Capitol, and also the danger of white supremacists within their ranksOne Black officer even contends that the breach of the Capitol happened because Black officers weren’t taken seriously.

This is not a new development. During the Clinton era, philanthropy-backed welfare reform forced low-income mothers to find work rather than stay home to care for their children in the name of “self-reliance.” This coincided with the 1994 Crime Bill, which enforced racist tactics under the banner of the “war on drugs” and expanded the prison industrial complex and law enforcement and corrections jobs. As a result, women of color and immigrant women remain overrepresented in the field of corrections, though hardly ever in higher-ranking positions, meaning they are more likely to face rampant harassment and abuse while on the job. 

Before we can move forward, we must stop. Stop skipping over the hard and painful work of reflection and truth-telling about how philanthropy’s vested interest in perpetuating systemic racism and sexism has brought us to this moment. 

Next week we will watch the first woman of color — who, herself, began her career as a prosecutor — sworn in as the U.S. Vice President. History has its eyes on us too. Thank you for continuing to center the voices of your communities and fighting for economic security and prosperity for women of color as a core element of a strong democracy and a more just society. 

Yours for equity and justice,

Elizabeth Signature

Elizabeth Barajas-Román
Women’s Funding Network 
President & CEO

Letters from Elizabeth