Reflections from Ginger Hintz, RG Family Philanthropy Fellow, 2009-10
Understanding and unpacking how class affects your life is hard. It’s a never-ending process of exhuming social constructions and calibrating those signifiers to your personal experiences. It’s a dance of nuance, assimilation, and struggle. Awareness does not guarantee you won’t get stepped on or find yourself on the wrong side of assumptions. The process of deconstructing an intense cross-class experience is even more challenging.
Working with Resource Generation (RG) for eight months was an incredible opportunity to learn, translate, and understand philanthropy, privilege, class, and social justice from multiple perspectives. The Creating Change Through Family Philanthropy retreat provided an authentic learning exchange to witness the practice of social change philanthropy. Immersion into an unfamiliar culture is not a simple affair yet I was able to learn about philanthropy in a way that was unique, powerful, and inclusive.
I set two personal goals for the Resource Generation fellowship:
1)Learn more and gain a deeper understanding of philanthropy.
2)Integrate the learning from working for an organization that has an explicit social justice framework in its mission, and its practice, back to my current job.
Most Americans do not openly discuss class. Therefore, it’s extremely rare to participate in candid dialogues about privilege and wealth, especially when you do not have either. Openly discussing taboo subjects is powerful and when done well, builds bridges to mutual understanding. It’s important to note that my fellowship would not have yielded such rich results if Resource Generation did not fully practice their mission of social justice and cross-class inclusion.
Growing up working poor and geographically isolated, I internalized the desire to move up and away. I wanted to experience more than what I could see beyond the never-ending horizon. I quickly learned that my chances of remaining static were much higher than the narrative had led me to believe. My choices were neither dynamic nor as open as others around me.
Our annual relocations from one nowhere to another provided me the opportunity to see that wealth, as I had understood it, was subjective. In one town, this family was the keeper of treasures while in the next county, that family pulled the strings. Clearly there was a larger, more esoteric phenomenon being practiced. It was the beginning of my class-consciousness. Among other things, class defines, subjects, and shapes your ability to make choices. Class also forms your sense of place.
Working with RG and also for the world’s largest private foundation has made my sense of place extremely complicated. It is a place that is fascinating yet hard to breathe. It’s almost more open and isolating than the physical places where I grew up. The breadth of scale is beyond my former comprehension. Little did I know that living in the middle of nowhere with just your family to love and hate prepared me well for learning about the dynamics of family philanthropy.
How do I begin to weave a logical narrative about philanthropy and my desired contribution to it? It’s an illogical space that has incredible power and yet the obvious disparity leaves me mentally exhausted. I am disappointed as I see philanthropy practiced with arrogant assumptions and worry about the consequences of that action on the people it claims to serve.
It’s at these crossroads where I see the power of Resource Generation’s work. I see that consistently and relentlessly using a social justice framework in a system that does not hear or value that way of thinking is possible. I see that shifting entrenched ideologies as you learn new perspectives and breaking down assumptions is not only achievable, it is necessary. I see radical social justice praxis informing a new generation of wealthy young people just as they begin to practice their own giving. I see the hard work of authentic, sustainable social change.
Having this opportunity to engage so deeply and see so clearly this perspective has been worth the long hours and emotional anguish. I feel truly privileged to be a witness to this work. Even more so, the knowledge I’ve gained has provided a new sense of place; a place where I can breathe on my own and embody a perspective that merges many different voices. Moving forward with this song almost makes me want to dance.
I am focusing specifically on class but want to note that race, gender and sexuality cannot be divorced so easily. It’s rare when you have an experience where class is the dominant lens.
It’s difficult to articulate the impact of my experience; however, I’m positive my understanding of the fellowship and participation in the Creating Change Through Family Philanthropy Retreat will evolve.