Home » Our Voices » ‘You Can’t Lift People Up by Putting Them Down’: How to Talk About Tough Issues of Race, Poverty, and More

‘You Can’t Lift People Up by Putting Them Down’: How to Talk About Tough Issues of Race, Poverty, and More

Have you noticed that social-impact organizations working with black people often describe them in language that is so offensive that we wouldn’t dare use it to their faces?

The “at-risk, low-income, minorities in high-crime, high-poverty, disadvantaged communities whom we seek to empower and transform” have far more going on in their lives than our denigrating short-hand acknowledges.

In fact, cognitive science and longitudinal studies strongly suggest that consistently defining people in denigrating terms is one way that racist narratives become institutionalized and part of the culture. Old-school philanthropy, social-justice, and social-innovation organizations that are wed to that old way do more harm than they realize.

While they are right to point out injustices, disparities, and needs, they are dead wrong to do it by deeply associating all these problems with the people who experience them. This unintentionally but categorically lets systemic instigators off the hook.

Fortunately, there is a vanguard of leaders choosing instead to define people by their aspirations and contributions before noting their challenges, which makes it much easier to see the systemic causes behind their struggles.

Read more at The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Trabian Shorters
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Trabian Shorters is one of the world's leading social entrepreneurs and a leading catalyst of a national movement to first define black people by their aspirations and contributions, then to secure their fundamental freedoms to Live, Own, Vote and Excel. Shorters is a retired tech entrepreneur, and the former head of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation's Communities Program. He is a New York Times Bestselling author, and the international authority on a cognitive frame-work called "Asset-Framing" which enables major foundations, associations and journalism networks to operate far more equitably in today's multi-cultural society.

2 Responses

  1. Simone Walton

    Thank you for sharing these national fellows!

    I am inspired by their commitment and their continued development.

    Have a Blessed Summer!

  2. Alan Inman

    Mr. Shorters,
    I’m very impressed with your article and would like to hear more about the “Campaign”. You certainly touch on points that I’ve long held. It’s clear that only heading downward can never take you to an upward path. Thank you for being a part of the leadership in this movement to change the “Narrative” about our Black Community.

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