MacKenzie Scott’s Politicized Philanthropy

MacKenzie Bezos at the Vanity Fair Oscar party in Beverly Hills, Calif., April 3, 2018. (Danny Moloshok/Reuters)
Charity is becoming just another low-risk method for people to engage in politics and virtue-signaling.

After consistently being ranked the most-generous country in the world from 2010 to 2019, the United States has plummeted to 19th place, according to a recent study from the Charities Aid Foundation. This, of course, is on the heels of a year plagued by lockdowns, civil unrest, and attendant economic pains. Yet while American pocketbooks were strained this past year, the rich decided to step up — with top philanthropists donating more than ever before. Coming in second place, MacKenzie Scott donated nearly $6 billion, and she’s continuing her prolific giving this year. In the first quarter of 2021, she gave away $2.7 billion. Her generosity is to be commended.

In her recent blog post “Seeding by Ceding,” the novelist and ex-wife of Jeff Bezos described her dedication to her desire to “de-emphasize privileged voices,” as she proceeded to endorse and list the recipients of her immense, recently acquired wealth. Recipients included such organizations as Afrika Tikkun, which aims at improving food security and employment in South Africa, and New City Kids, a New Jersey-based foundation that combats child poverty and delinquency. Who could object to that?

But many recipients are not so innocuous. Scott has also donated undisclosed millions to Borealis Philanthropy, an umbrella organization that includes the likes of Spark Justice, an outlet that provides money to bail-funds, and the Communities Transforming Policing Fund, an activist fundraiser devoted to “redefining safety” and investing in “alternatives to police and jails.” So long as they are led by minorities, bail-funds and weak-on-crime policies are acceptable to our oligarchs — no matter their disastrous effects.

On the one hand, Scott’s funding of these lucky leftists — with the notable exception of the Defund the Police groups — is largely harmless. Take, for example, the cases of Chinese for Affirmative Action and Decolonizing Wealth Project — two such organizations that have been given millions of dollars to burn. The American public continues to overwhelmingly oppose affirmative action, and one activist nonprofit based in San Francisco can hardly hope to change that. Similarly, the Decolonizing Wealth Project’s support for ludicrous proposals such as giving #LANDBACK to Native Americans is so insane that it stands no chance at picking up steam. Seriously, read the group’s “manifesto.” It’s a trip.

On the other hand, though, the clout that accompanies these considerable donations has begun to sow the seeds of disaster. When public figures ranging from Kamala Harris to LeBron James each lend their blanket endorsements to hundreds of obscure racial-equity groups, their audiences pay attention. Indeed, social-media stars are largely responsible for driving tens of millions of dollars into the hands of a sketchy, greedy few who have profited immensely from the recent attention. It would be one thing if Scott wanted to spend her money on silly activism. She has plenty to spare. But it is another thing altogether for her to essentially exploit thousands of easily manipulated young people into supporting her radical politics. Remember how the largest BLM account on Facebook was secretly run by an Australian, middle-aged, white man? His scam raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars from unsuspecting donors. The endless addition of new social-justice outlets makes it difficult to consistently verify them, and Scott’s choice to donate to so many is exactly what perpetuates this. Some charities should fail, but the Left’s insistence on funding random groups prevents the best managed and motivated charities from rising to the top.

Nevertheless, the Left somehow continues to claim the moral high ground. Never mind the fact that conservatives and religious people donate significantly more to all sorts of charitable causes than their liberal and secular counterparts. Never mind that leftist advocacy is nowhere near as helpful as medical research or food security. People who strengthen underprivileged voices are pious, while those who support Back the Blue are heretical.

MacKenzie Scott’s $3 million gift to “Theater Offensive,” a small group of queer and transgender performers seeking to attain liberation through “choreo poems” and makeup tutorials, is really for herself more than anyone. Donating to an obscure, niche group is a fantastic way of getting to feel like a savior — and her list of recipients has an abundance of similar nonprofits.

This savior complex is part of why I think so many people donate to movements that will never succeed in achieving their goals of “dismantling” the ever-broadening assortment of ideas labeled “oppression.” It’s the gift that never stops giving. Or, rather, the cause that never stops taking. Self-described anti-racists engage in anti-racism as though it were a religion, a life-long journey that never ends. This removes the risk of failure, as everyone donating to #LANDBACK or any of these activist groups has already accepted that they won’t work. Donors can consistently put money into something that won’t accomplish anything, while still reaping the pleasure that comes with doing something virtuous without the threat of something as uncomfortable as failure. If revolution could be achieved by donating money and interpretive dance, Rockefeller would have become king.

Charity has stopped being something we volunteer for our communities or to people in desperate need. It’s just becoming yet another low-risk method for people to engage in politics. To be sure, Scott is not the cause of this phenomenon. She does not need to donate all this money, and she deserves praise for her generosity. But that doesn’t mean that we should not hold her accountable for her frivolous — and sometimes dangerous — spending.

MacKenzie Scott doesn’t have a real investment in groups such as Theater Offensive. In the past few months, she has given to nearly 300 separate teams. It’s impossible to meaningfully care about the success of so many different groups, and it’s this alienation from one’s almsgiving that permits the politicization of philanthropy. Let’s return to volunteering at your local public school or house of worship. Let’s return to soup kitchens. It’s harder than flinging money at random people, but it’s a heck of a lot more human.


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