Work to promote equity and eliminate stigma will continue, even as SCOTUS decisions try to set us back

Promoting equity

The Supreme Court handed down Thursday its much anticipated decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard. The decision upended efforts made by colleges and universities to increase diversity on campus and gutted affirmative action programs.

College campuses lack diversity because centuries of white supremacy culture and systemic racism have created barriers for Black and Brown people. Affirmative action helped to address these barriers. A “color blind” approach will never end systemic racism.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy points out that while this decision focused on college campuses, it will have significant implications for the nonprofit sector. They quote conservative leaders promising litigation focused on philanthropy.

The decision will trigger a “generation’s worth of litigation,” which will involve philanthropy, predicted Michael Hartmann, senior fellow at the Capital Research Center, a conservative think tank that focuses on philanthropy. Hartmann said the ruling is a sign that the judiciary no longer treats higher education with special deference. Philanthropy, he said, should take notice.

“Privileged establishment philanthropy should probably be concerned about the state of judicial and other kinds of deference that it’s historically been accorded, too,” he wrote in an email.

The Ford Foundation issued a statement, co-signed by dozens of nonprofits, including Funders Concerned About AIDS, . The organizations pledge to work for the racial equity.

We will remain steadfast in our collective mission to create a more equitable nation within the bounds of the law. To forge ahead, we must continue to advocate for the human dignity of all people — regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or country of origin — with renewed vigor and commitment.

Our nation’s future prosperity, vitality, and unity depend upon America becoming a true multiracial democracy — an aspiration that requires racial equity and diversity in higher education. Despite today’s ruling, our foundations will not waver in our commitment to those making the nation’s high ideals a reality for all communities and all people.

Eliminating stigma

And we cannot ignore the impact of another Supreme Court decision, issued Friday, that opens the door wider to LGBTQ+ discrimination. That case, 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, allows a web designer to put a sign up that says they do not serve LGBTQ+ couples.

Justice Sonya Sotomayor begins her powerful dissent by quoting an earlier Supreme Court decision, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in which the court highlighted the stigma that comes with LGBTQ+ discrimination.

The Court also recognized the “serious stigma” that would result if “purveyors of goods and services who object to gay marriages for moral and religious reasons” were “allowed to put up signs saying ‘no goods or services will be sold if they will be used for gay marriages.’”

And yet the Supreme Court today does just that. It gives stigma and discrimination the color of constitutional protection.

Ending the HIV epidemic

These decisions harm our efforts to end the HIV epidemic. That’s because the epidemic is fueled by inequity and stigma.

Indeed, we have all of the tools and biomedical interventions needed to end the HIV epidemic. But we lack equity and stigma gets in the way of our wholeness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, “Health equity is achieved when every person has the opportunity to ‘attain his or her full health potential’ and no one is ‘disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of social position or other socially determined circumstances.”

The lack of equity is a direct result of a deadly mix of racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, whorephobia, stigmas around sex and drug use, and more. These systems of oppression erect significant barriers to HIV testing, prevention and treatment.

If we are to have any hope whatsoever in ending the HIV epidemic, we must put a significant effort into dismantling stigma and building equity.

This work continues

This work, ending inequality and fighting stigma, is what AIDS United does every day.

One of the ways we’re doing this is with our upcoming virtual workshop on Mapping Our Desire For Our Movements. The free, participatory workshop brings people together to explore pleasure, sex and connection while examining our past and present sex lives. This approach embraces pleasure and empowers our communities to take control of our well-being.

Another way AIDS United is doing this work is through the Racial Justice Index.

The Racial Justice Index aims to create awareness — and eventually sustainable change — around the misalignment between who holds power and resources in HIV organizations and the epidemic’s disproportionate impact on the Black community.

The bold mission of the Racial Justice Index is to assess and improve the HIV sector’s commitment to racial equity by creating assessment tools and resources to combat anti-Black racism and other forms of racism. This includes hiring practices, leadership, talent retention and decision-making in the HIV movement.

We believe firmly that this approach — coupling the biomedical interventions of testing, prevention and treatment, with the efforts to eliminate stigma and promote equity — is the only way we can end the HIV epidemic.

And this is the work we will continue to do, even as a slew of Supreme Court decisions try to set us back.