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To achieve equity, we must focus our efforts. The promise of American opportunity has always been in sharp contrast with our nation’s legacy of racial discrimination and oppression. At Lumina, we work with others to pursue racial equity, diversity, and inclusion to address systemic racism that fosters injustice.
Unfortunately, today’s education systems fail to meet the needs of today’s students. These students are more racially and ethnically diverse. They are more likely to work full time. And they are more likely to experience poverty, a lack of stable housing, and food insecurity. These circumstances reflect widening gaps in income, wealth, and access to opportunity.
Policies, practices, and beliefs—rooted in history and still affecting people today—especially keep many Black, Native American, and Hispanic people from the education and skills they need. These systems unfairly hold back students who are seeking a better education and a better life. Racial disparities in the United States are widening, and without concerted efforts, such inequity will continue to grow.
Deliberate policies created or contributed to these unjust conditions, and it will take focused efforts to remove those barriers and achieve racial equity. Higher education has an important role to play. Even amid serious challenges, education and training after high school remain among the most secure pathways to economic stability. But the country needs a learning system that works well for everyone.
We work with partners to pursue racial and economic fairness by ensuring that colleges, universities, and other education providers do all they can to make opportunity real for students of color, students who are the first in their families to go to college, students from low-income families, and working-age adults. Racial equity is achieved when
Racial equity is achieved when outcomes such as the likelihood of having a degree or other quality credential, or being called for an interview, or being selected as a Lumina grantee or contractor cannot be predicted by a person’s race or ethnicity. Racial justice will be realized when the policies, practices, systems, and root causes that lead to inequitable outcomes are eradicated. Our work is aligned with these definitions.
To pursue its mission with integrity, Lumina must exhibit the change it desires. We must:
Prioritize real change in policy and systems that address the origins of inequality and inequity.
Build competence among board members, senior leadership, and staff members to authentically and collaboratively engage communities of color.
Embed a commitment to racial equity, diversity, and inclusion in our recruitment and hiring practices, our contracting and grantmaking practices, and our investment practices.
Promote the capacity of our grantees and contractors to pursue racial equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Foster and support efforts to promote racial equity, diversity, and inclusion within philanthropy.
Our work is specifically aimed at facilitating the success of students who are Black, Hispanic, Latino and Native American. To ensure we realize our objective of a better-educated country, we must put racial equity first. We do not believe a “rising tide” of prosperity, whatever benefits it may produce in society, will “lift all boats.” We believe that to make real progress our board and staff—and those or our partners—must reflect the diversity of the communities we aim to serve. Lumina and its grantees must demonstrate an ability to lead with an equity-first approach, openly talking about the role of equity and justice in the work and what we have done to equip people to lead.
To underscore our commitment, Lumina announced nearly $3.2 million in grants in early 2021 to 11 organizations locally and nationally working to advance racial justice and equity. The foundation’s Racial Justice and Equity Fund was established in 2017 with $2.5 million in grants to improve racial climate on college campuses and elevate dialogue about racial injustice in everyday life. Those initial grants came in response to racially motivated violence that August at the University of Virginia. In mid-2020, after George Floyd’s murder in police custody sparked widespread demonstrations, Lumina pledged an additional $15 million in grants over the next three years to help dismantle structural racism in ways the advance and complement its mission. The more than $3 million announced in early 2021 is part of this commitment.
Our equity-first approach represents an exciting opportunity for us to recalibrate our efforts to address a scourge as old as America itself. No country can hold its people down without spiraling downward as well, and our collective aspirations are far greater than the levels of fairness and equity we’ve reached thus far. As we rise to meet the challenges of COVID, the economy, and our racially stained past, we can and must do better.