Can you describe Google.org’s approach to racial justice grantmaking and racial justice work?
We’ve primarily directed our grant funding to criminal justice work over the last five years, making more than $44 million in grants and giving more than 15,000 hours in pro bono services to nonprofits working in that space. Google has a deep appreciation for data science; it’s a part of our DNA. So our largest grants in this space have been to nonprofits working to close data gaps across the criminal justice system. For example, we’re funding work to identify bias in policing practices and jail population trends in rural communities.
Alongside the criminal justice data work, we’re also funding community-led solutions. We take to heart the importance of centering on the dignity of marginalized communities and affirming the flourishing of Black and Brown lives. What that means in practice is funding organizations that are led by and advocating on behalf of Black or Latino communities, such as the Black Lives Matter Movement.
What have been some of the biggest challenges this year?
We saw the most recent racial justice uprising happen in the wake of COVID-19. People from all kinds of communities came out on the streets in response to the death of George Floyd and demanded change in our justice system. As a result, reforms kicked off across cities in America. But behind the mobilization, the Black community continues to feel the loss of many loved ones due to COVID-19. The pandemic has exasperated systemic inequities in healthcare and in our economic system that leave Black communities most vulnerable.
From the grantee perspective, that means organizations and their staff are dealing with two crises at one time. It’s been very challenging but I’m proud that we’re able to support groups like The Satcher Health Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine that are working to address these disparities.
What keeps you motivated and positive?
Racial justice work, at its core, requires a necessary discomfort that drives progress forward. But at this moment, I’m feeling energized by the catalytic shift the U.S. is experiencing in addressing systemic anti-Black racism. I am deeply inspired by the visionary leaders that drive community-led solutions. For me, it’s a great honor to be in solidarity with their work.
What advice do you have for women starting out in their career?
When you are early in your career, it can feel like there’s so much to learn from the people around you. I’d ask young women to consider just how much the world has to learn from them, too. Young people are the driving force behind social movements, the first adopters of new technologies and more willing to imagine the world differently. That perspective is invaluable to innovation and progress.