The Race for the Bottom
Al Jazeera (2021)
This is an excellent documentary about the role of wealthy philanthropists and their foundations in thwarting the battle end institutional racism. Filmmakers make the point that “insurrection” that stormed the Capitol on Jan 6 didn’t start with Trump: that it was decades in the making.
Narrated by prestigious African American historians and academic, the begins with efforts by Carnegie and John D Rockefeller to steer newly freed slave into manual labor training that would keep them in agriculture and in the South. In 1903, Congress authorized the Rockefeller foundation to create General the Education Board. The latter would set standards for rural public schools, as well as universities and medical schools for the next 50 years. In 1910, the Flexner report, funded by Carnegie Foundation, recommended the closure of five black medical schools. In severely restricting the supply of Black doctors, the move also reduced access to medical care for Black patients.
The rise of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s would lead to a new wave of philanthropic funding, aimed at preventing the Black “insurrection.” The Ford Foundation, the source of significant funding to Black Studies, Black Art and Black higher and post graduate education, used it to split the African American community by create a Black liberal elite. I was very surprised to learn the the Black Panther Party received Ford Foundation funding for their free school breakfasts, medical clinics, eye programs and sickle cell foundation.
The film also mentions the role of George Soros’ Open Society Foundation in funding Black Lives Matter.
The rise of the Black Power movement, as well as women’s and gay rights movements in the late sixties and seventies would also trigger a white backlash, giving rise to a host of conservative foundations and think tanks (eg Heritage Foundation, Federalist Society, Walton Family Foundation, DeVos Family Foundation). The work of these foundations (along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) would lead to a sustained attack on public schools through the (publicly funded) charter school movement, as well the training and appointment of conservative judges and an electoral coalition that would elect Donald Trump in 2016.
The film can be viewed free at https://www.aljazeera.com/program/the-big-picture/2021/2/11/a-race-for-america