Kellogg Devotes $75 Mil To Combat Racism

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has announced that it will lead a $75 million initiative aimed at righting some of the disparities that can lead to racism. On May 11 youth organizations from 29 states and the District of Columbia will receive grants through the "Racial Healing Initiative." Host Michel Martin speaks with Gail Christopher, vice president of programs for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Terry Cross, director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association, one of the organizations that received a grant from the foundation.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ALLISON KEYES, host:

From personal finance, we turn to philanthropy. Lots of organizations and individuals talk about ending racism in the United States. Now we'll hear about a group that's putting its money where its mouth is. Years ago, the board of directors of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation committed itself to becoming the most effective anti-racist organization it could be. And the foundation invited groups to apply for $75 million in grants to promote understanding across the racial divide.

They call the project America Healing. And they've just announced which groups have won grants from the program. Earlier, Michel Martin spoke with Gail Christopher. She's the vice president for programs at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. They were joined by Terry Cross, the executive director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association. His organization received one of the Kellogg grants. Gail Christopher explained why the foundation felt this was the right time for their anti-racism effort.

Dr. GAIL CHRISTOPHER (Vice President for Programs, W.K. Kellogg Foundation): Most of the children in this country will be children of color in just a few short years. And it is the disparities and outcomes and also the challenges that these children are facing that answers the question: Why now? Roughly 60 percent of the children of color live in low income families. Far too many of those are concentrated in poor communities. And that's why this emphasis now.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And there are two prongs to this approach as I understand it. One, you want to address the socioeconomic effects of bias, and you also want to address hearts and minds.

Dr. CHRISTOPHER: Exactly. We can legislate and we can mandate changes, and our country has done that. But if you look at the school segregation reality today or residential segregation reality today, it's like it was before Brown vs. the Board of Education.

So to really bring about a sustained change, people have to have a change of heart. Once they reach that understanding, we'll all be collectively engaged in producing better outcomes.

MARTIN: There are those who would argue that that conservation has been had and had and had and there are if anymore need be said, it's not going to do much effect and that, really, at this point, the structural barriers per say, have been removed. There's an African-American president, for heaven's sake, an incredibly diverse Cabinet. Many of our business leaders are of all different ethnic groups.

So therefore the real issue at this point is for minorities or those who traditionally not benefited from the fruits of this society as others, to do their part. And what would you say to that?

Dr. CHRISTOPHER: I would say that's exactly why this initiative is needed. All we have to do is look at the disparities and outcomes both in terms of health and education, the disproportionate incarceration dynamics in this country. They all reflect the legacy of the structured racial barriers that we had. We took 300 years to build a nation with those kinds of structured legal barriers. So if it took three centuries to build it, it's certainly going to take more than a few decades to undo it.

MARTIN: Terry Cross, tell us a little bit about your organization's mission and about how the grant you've received will help you fulfill that mission.

Mr. TERRY CROSS (Executive Director, National Indian Child Welfare Association): The National Indian Child Welfare Association is dedicated to the well-being of American-Indian children and families. And the disparities that Dr. Christopher mentioned have far reaching consequences. Across the country children of color are disproportionately represented in the child welfare system primarily because of those disparities, not because of any differences in the rates of maltreatment.

MARTIN: One of the things that you said in your grant application that you want to do is develop and disseminate best practice knowledge in the field and promote better use of data so that people, where they're making decisions to remove children from homes are actually working from evidence as opposed to from suppositions that they may have.

Mr. CROSS: That's correct. One of the things that we know well is that kids get better services when the adults in their lives cooperate and when there are strong divisions in terms of race relations between native and non-native peoples that the quality of services really suffer. And so it's really important that the people providing the services understand the consequences of their actions and have a better way of going about it.

MARTIN: How will you know if you've succeeded? And further, how does this advance the cause of racial healing?

Mr. CROSS: Well, we expect to see as a result of our actions the actual decreases in the number of native children placed and an increase in the number of family services that are provided to help avoid the breakup of Indian families. And how our services help deal with the issue of the racial divide is in order to get to this decrease in disproportionate placement, we have to make space for a conversation about how that could even occur in a nation, particularly amongst providers who care.

And so in order to help individuals understand, they have to come to terms with them to actually meet and talk with adults who have grown up in that system who lost their culture, who lost their way. And through a process of acknowledging the truth of the people who had experienced this, it becomes possible to create services that begin to restore relationships and then to develop a new way of relating.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We're talking about the America Healing Project. It's a $75 million effort to combat structural racism and ethnic bias. Our guests are Gail Christopher of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which is making the grants that Terry Cross of the National Indian Child Welfare Association that's one of the groups that's just received one of the grants.

But, Gail Christopher, to that point, is the metric for success here that differences among groups are minimized? Because people might say, well, the NBA happens to have a lot of African-Americans in it and they all happen to be tall. But nobody says, gee, that's really terrible that there's that many African-Americans and they all happen to be tall. There are some people who would question that just different outcomes by definition is a bad thing.

Dr. CHRISTOPHER: We're not and I think it has to be put into context. One of the points I really must make is that much to our surprise, we received nearly one-thousand responses to our offer for funding. So that would suggest that some people out there really do get the fact that there is a need for this kind of work.

And ultimately this is a conversation, this is a work that needs to be done by our entire country. The cost of disparities is monumental. And we are just we are following, I guess you could say, a hunch and the evidence supports us so far that these racial dynamics, the fact that the disproportionate burdens are borne by children of color, that these need to be dealt with.

MARTIN: So, again, I have to ask, how will you know if you have succeeded? Because $75 million is a lot on a hunch, isn't it?

Dr. CHRISTOPHER: It's more than a hunch. I mean, the evidence supported our work. But I probably won't be alive when this has succeeded. I mean, we understand that success for healing racism in the United States is a long-term investment. Seventy-five million is the beginning of the process. We are putting into place an accountability system as part of this effort. We would like to see a national system of accountability that actually measures benchmarks of progress in terms of closing the gaps.

The level of extreme residential segregation that we have in this country is one indicator. If under ideal circumstances 10 years from now, that will be less of a reality.

MARTIN: When should we check back with you to see whether your efforts are bearing fruit?

Dr. CHRISTOPHER: We would encourage an ongoing conversation. Certainly this group of 119 grantees like Terry Cross and his colleagues, they will be part of a larger network of groups that are working together. We'd love to talk to you again within the next year.

MARTIN: Terry Cross, when's a good time to check back with you to see whether your efforts are bearing fruit?

Mr. CROSS: Well, I agree, a year would be great. And I just want to address your issue of how do we measure success. I think one of the things that you have to keep in mind is that every child who has an opportunity to grow up strong and proud and know who they are and has a chance for a better future is a success. And we measure that one family at a time.

So, we have to think about joining what the colleague of mine refers to as the world of the small with the world of the large. And in our tribal teachings, those two things are connected. So the experience of one child is representative of the experience of a people.

And the more that we can bring those together through this process of creating hope in our communities for self-determination and holistic services and nondiscrimination and to bring together providers of all races in accomplishing that level of services that are needed to reduce these disparities, we have made tremendous progress.

MARTIN: Terry Cross is the executive director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association. He joined us by phone from Connecticut. Gail Christopher is the vice president for programs at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. She joined us here in our Washington, D.C. studios. I thank you both so much. I look forward to further conversations.

Dr. CHRISTOPHER: Thank you.

Mr. CROSS: Thank you very much.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.