At Democracy Fund, we believe in the dignity of every individual and in the equal protection of their rights under the law. All people have intrinsic value and dignity, and bigotry in any form undermines our democracy. When these values are threatened, we will stand up to protect and preserve fundamental individual rights as enshrouded in the United States Constitution.
Though bigotry and prejudice are not new phenomena, the 2016 presidential campaign marked a turning point in the tone and tenor of modern political conversation — including a sharp increase in charged rhetoric across cultural, ideological, and partisan divides. Subsequently, findings from Democracy Fund’s Voter Survey Group, have revealed that existing political divides were super-charged by a seemingly renewed cultural anxiety related to Americanism, race, immigration, and Islam/Muslims.
Like many who care about the health of our political system, we at Democracy Fund have been increasingly alarmed by what has followed the election — from the implementation of policies targeting immigrant and minority communities to the rise in hate-crimes against communities of color and Muslim, Arab, and South Asian (MASA) communities.
In response to these disconcerting developments, Democracy Fund has followed the lead of extraordinary Americans throughout the country who are working to ensure the resilience and safety of targeted communities by launching our Special Project on Fostering a Just and Inclusive Society. Through this initiative, we aim to help protect those whose civil rights and safety are endangered in this volatile political landscape—particularly Muslim, Arab, and South Asian (MASA) and immigrant communities. This project centers around a few main objectives:
- Funding honest and positive communications efforts that support MASA and immigrant communities and promote civil discourse.
- Creating bipartisan community networks to help and defend MASA communities in the face of threats.
- Challenging infringements on civil rights through litigation, legal services, and legal education.
Since we began supporting these projects in June of 2017, our grantees have made significant progress building relationships across the field and providing legal support. For example:
- The Security and Rights Collaborative (SRC) played a central role, with the National Immigration Law Center, Advancing Justice — Asian Law Caucus, and over 100 other MASA and allied field organizations, in organizing the national #NoMuslimBanEver campaign.
- The Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP) filed four amicus briefs, in support of a challenge to DACA’s termination and in support of challenges to anti-sanctuary city policies. Following the events in Charlottesville, ICAP filed a lawsuit to prevent the return of unlawful private paramilitaries.
- Vets for American Ideals’ #WhatIFoughtFor campaign has reached over four million people. The portrait campaign portrays refugees alongside service members to emphasize that embracing diversity is a core American value.
There is a tension inherent in this work. Every day we see headlines that remind us of the profound urgency of supporting organizations working on the front lines of our communities and our courts ensure the safety of targeted communities and to defend the dignity our democracy demands. And yet, we recognize that the work of building resilience and combating hatred is long haul work and that the daily struggles of our grantees are steps in a long road toward a more perfect union. We are grateful for their work and pleased to be able to support it.
Grantees under the Just Inclusive Societies Project include the following:
- Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Asian Law Caucus
- Business Forward Foundation
- Civic Nation
- Faith in Public Life
- Georgetown University: Institute for Constitutional Accountability & Protection
- Hopewell Fund: Over Zero
- Human Rights — Vets for American Ideals
- Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law
- Movement Law Lab
- NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
- National Immigration Law Center
- Proteus Fund — Security and Rights Collaborative
- ReThink media
- The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding
- USCRI — Freedom to Believe