"The pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling," Scott wrote in a Medium post. "Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color, and for people living in poverty. Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires."
Organisations that received funds included HBCUs – historically Black universities and colleges – as well as Goodwill, Meals on Wheels, YMCA, the NAACP, Global Fund for Women, etc. which all provide services for under-resourced communities and take on institutional discrimination.
Many received this as “wonderful” news, with many people calling it “AMAZING”, “incredible” and “generous”.
AMAZING—Mackenzie Scott just gave away $4,158,500,000 in 4 months to 384 orgs nationwide for pandemic poverty relie… https://t.co/YCKXW0L3Zj
At a time when so many organisations in the US are chronically under-funded, an endowment of this kind could make a huge financial difference especially during the pandemic.
“Her gifts include $50 million to Prairie View A&M, and $40 million to Morgan State -- DOUBLING the school's endowment. This is how you do it, donating to schools that educate working-class people, not to elite schools that are already swimming in money,” Nikole Hannah-Jones tweeted.
Incredible. This generous donation of at least $40M will improve the lives of thousands of San Antonio residents an… https://t.co/JJQYX3vxYV
— Mayor Ron | Get vax’d! 💪 (@Mayor Ron | Get vax’d! 💪)
And while it is crucial to ‘even the playing field’ as it were, the massive donation has sparked online debate about considering why these types of donations like these are necessary, and whether we should be skeptical of the root causes behind billionaire philanthropy.
As James Moore wrote in The Independent, “Big philanthropy serves to highlight the failures of taxation systems that leave democratic governments starved of funds to distribute to the needy, to fund research, to invest in education themselves.”
Imagine what would be possible if Amazon paid taxes too #TaxTheRich https://t.co/vI2oxkQCYm
— Working Families Party 🐺 (@Working Families Party 🐺)
In other words, people’s well-being should not be dependent on the whims of billionaires – no matter how well-intentioned – due to failures in economic systems.
As one person on Twitter put it, “Jeff-Bezos’s-ex-wife is distributing a tiny fraction" of her wealth.
“Great but this should’ve happened involuntarily via taxation instead of relying on our nobility’s generosity like the Middle Ages,” one person responded to the news. Another, however, said, “Good for her! I hope other billionaires step up and follow her example.”
It’s a thorny situation that requires carefully parsing government funding and taxation, the ethics of being a billionaire – no matter your intentions, workers’ rights, and, well, the current state of capitalism in the midst of a massive global health crisis.
And while Scott is certainly not at fault for giving away wealth towards more-than-worthy causes, moments like these require a full re-examination of why ‘incredible’ acts like these are even necessary.