As America’s first black president prepares to leave office, it is time to double down on support for a new generation of leaders of color. At the Open Society Foundations, we are launching a new initiative to do just that and more.
The Equality team within our U.S. Programs, led by Leslie Gross-Davis, has started the Soros Equality Fellowship to provide financial support and training to a small cohort of fellows annually, all of whom are working in their own ways to undo racism and xenophobia. We encourage applicants in midcareer working in a wide array of settings—in academia, advocacy, media, law, technology, and the arts.
In the years ahead, we aim to identify and back dozens of talented new leaders with creative plans to confront and ultimately subdue the forces of racial and ethnic animosity that continue to divide Americans.
Barack Obama’s election and reelection have been inspiring milestones, but the results have not yet come close to fulfilling the hope that propelled him to power back in 2008. Race continues to divide Americans.
Evidence of discrimination abounds—in attacks on voting rights, anti-immigrant hate speech, hostility toward Muslims, biased policing, and a stubbornly persistent racial wealth gap, to name just a few. According to a survey on race relations published this summer by the Pew Research Center, 60 percent of Americans feel more change is needed to bring about racial equality. Since then, the toxic rhetoric of the 2016 presidential campaign has underscored that desperate need.
At the Open Society Foundations, we have long worked to advance racial justice. We work to expand the franchise and boost participation among all who historically have been kept on the margins, excluded from full access to political power. And we build bridges among the diverse champions of justice, bringing advocates together across racial, ethnic, and generational lines. We recognize the power of individuals committed to change, and we are excited about the opportunities these fellowships will offer a new generation.
The task is daunting. The mission is urgent. Yet we know the strength and courage to remove the persistent stain of racism lives among us. We hope to follow the lead of our fellows as they take us all forward.