Bob’s Blog: On Radical Nonviolence

“When you’re feeling down and out, wondering what this world’s about

I know a place that has the answer…

In your world, there was a King

He once said, ‘I have a dream’,

Now, there’s a man who knew

The secret.”

From The Land of Make Believe album

Chuck Mangione & Esther Satterfield, vocalist

The news emanating from Gaza and Israel continues to be distressing and sobering.  I hesitated in providing commentary, uncertain that I would be able to 1) offer up any words that are of any use to those suffering from the devastating impact of war and violence in the region and 2) provide any insights beyond that which already has been scribed multiple times across multiple venues in the media.

I offer up some observations, then, anchored in the values and beliefs of our institution.

At the California Endowment, we believe in The Beloved Community – for our state, nation, and world.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr described the Beloved Community as a space of equity, belonging, peace, and freedom from bigotry and oppression.  The idea of the Beloved Community was developed and framed by a cohort of philosophers, theologians, and activists in social and racial justice: Josiah Royce, Gandhi, Howard Thurman, John Lewis, Martin Luther King – and in more recent years, Thich Nhat Hanh and john powell.  It is a state of full, complete, and unapologetic inclusion and belonging.  For All.

So, at TCE, we view our health and wellness mission through a Beloved Community, anti-racist lens.  This is “the what” of our work and our investments.

Equally important to us, however, is “the how”.  And “the how” is represented by what King, Lewis, Rev. James Lawson, Cesar Chavez, and Dolores Huerta advanced to confront injustice in our nation: radical, revolutionary nonviolence.  We believe in investing in those leaders and communities who utilize peaceful, nonviolent social action and community organizing to realize systems and policy change in pursuit of equity.  We believe in the power of transformation through peaceful action — and denounce violence.

As such, we condemn the bombing of Palestinian families in Gaza by the Israeli government; it amounts to anti-Brown racism.

As such, we condemn the violent terrorist actions by Hamas against Israeli families and communities; they represent racist, anti-Semitic deeds.

We condemn state-sponsored or community violence against oppressed and innocent people and communities anywhere, whether in the Middle East, Madagascar, Maine, Minneapolis, or Modesto.

We reject “othering” and racism of any type or any form.  While anti-Black racism represents the crucible of “othering” here in the history of our nation, we stand firmly and equally against anti-Indigenous, anti-immigrant, anti-Queer, anti-Trans, and anti-Semitic activity by anyone and anywhere.

As a social justice-minded philanthropy, we also function as investors in, and merchants of, hope.  We salute and invest in those organizers and leaders working peacefully at the community and grassroots level to build bridges across differences and recognize a shared sense of humanity in “the other.”  There are leaders and organizations in the Middle East supported by philanthropy who embrace the idea that a thriving Palestinian community can peacefully coexist with a safe and secure state of Israel.  This week, that idea would appear to lack feasibility and plausibility.  But as Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it is done.”

To those who endeavor to build bridges across differences, we believe in you, and you are this planet’s most valued resource.  And on behalf of our Board and staff here at TCE, we thank you.

Bob Ross


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