Published in Ms. Magazine

By Judy Diers

As the world continues to reckon with white supremacy and its oppressive systems, how do we better support women of color? Inspired by Amanda Gorman’s inauguration performance, Judy Diers calls on all of us—including philanthropy—to step up and support young women of color, and organizations—so Amanda is not seen as an exception but the norm.

On Inauguration Day, Amanda Gorman…captured the nation’s attention with the power and beauty of her words, and the passion and grace with which she read them. She also captivated us because she’s young and had to overcome so much, causing many to call her “exceptional.” And she is, but she shouldn’t be.

White supremacy is not something that only applies to those who stormed the U.S. Capitol last month—but to each of us who continue to benefit from systems that exclude young people of color and then “exceptionalize” them for making it through the hurdles and challenges that very same system puts in their way. Just this week with the horrifying news of Rochester police handcuffing and pepper-spraying a 9-year-old girl, we cannot forget that we live in the same world where a younger Amanda Gorman could have been that very little girl.

So while I wholeheartedly celebrate Amanda Gorman, let’s not put her on a pedestal and call her “exceptional” because there are hundreds of thousands of girls of color who—in spite of our oppressive systems—have survived, thrived and are actively leading us to a better tomorrow. Just look who was leading the racial justice protests this past year.

While it may give us hope to elevate one impressive woman to take the stage and applaud ourselves in the name of progress, let’s get to the business of examining our own biases and systems that make us surprised that a young Black woman would excel.

The Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is an independent organization working to address inequality and build a future grounded in justice. For more than 85 years, it has supported visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. Today, with an endowment of $16 billion, the foundation has headquarters in New York and 10 regional offices across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

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