We are awestruck by Tuesday’s announcements of the latest largesse by billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, including gifts of $30 million to Virginia State University and $40 million to Norfolk State University.
During the course of four months, she has given $4.2 bil- lion to 384 organizations, including 23 HBCUs and hundreds of nonprofits and people-helping agencies from Maine to Hawaii and from Florida to Montana.
She announced her first round of gifts totaling $1.7 bil- lion in July, including donations to six HBCUs. Hampton University received $30 million at the time.
We must admit we were skeptical at first. It was like Santa whooshing in with a sack filled with high-dollar gift cards from the Land of Make-Believe. Not real.
But, according to Business Insider and Bloomberg, Ms. Scott’s gift-giving is real and her checks won’t bounce. She got $38 billion in her divorce settlement from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and nearly doubled her money in the last year, the financial publications report.
In May 2019, she apparently pledged — like her billionaire compatriots Bill Gates and Warren Buffet — to give away the majority of her fortune.
After witnessing how COVID-19 has ravaged the economy and been an economic disaster for many unemployed Americans who are on the verge of losing their homes and worried about feeding their families, Ms. Scott said in a blog post on Tuesday that she asked her team of advisors to “accelerate” her giving to organizations helping people through this crisis. She said she placed emphasis on communities “facing high projected food insecurity, high measures of racial inequity, high local poverty rates and low access to philanthropic capital.”
And for the HBCUs, food banks, United Ways, YWCAs and so many organizations benefiting from her donations, Tuesday must have seemed like Christmas came early and Santa is real.
Ms. Scott said in her blog that her mantra is simple: Give the money upfront, no restrictions or strings attached and get out of the way.
We applaud her for that.
We hope that her sizeable donations — for most HBCUs the largest single donation in their histories — give VSU, NSU, Hampton and the others a chance to not only pay a few bills and do things like fix faulty heating systems in drafty old dormitories, but to dream big and bring about transformative change that will help boost the futures of their students and the promise of their institutions.
In addition to scholarships and hiking the pay of adjunct and other professors and staff, we hope the universities will consider pumping money into such forward-facing items as student and faculty research projects that can grow knowl- edge, benefit communities and enhance the skills and careers of those involved. These funds also can create campus day care centers that operate well into the evenings, giving working parents a chance to get an education knowing that their children are safe and well cared for. These gifts also can create opportunities for students to engage in hands-on projects, enabling them to learn new skills while helping communities in areas ranging from health care, education, social work and green technology.
We are certain gratitude for these gifts is flowing today from many corners of the country. Thousands of people will be helped by Ms. Scott’s generosity. But this also stresses the urgent need for a living wage to be paid to the millions of workers whose labor helped Ms. Scott and the others become billionaires.
According to 2017 data analyzed by well-known economists and reputable organizations, about 40 percent of the nation’s wealth is controlled by the top 1 percent of the population. We hope the 1 percenters who are making their billions off the work of little people will look deep within the companies they control and make systemic changes by putting a share of their large profits into raising the wages of those subsisting at the bottom rungs of the pay scale.
While the pandemic has wreaked havoc and shut down businesses large and small, we hope that a return to normalcy will bring with it a sense of righteousness and morality that will lead to a reduction in the gaping pay inequity that keeps people struggling and their families in need of aid.
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