We are experiencing the unprecedented. The world we knew before COVID-19 has been permanently upended. Our lives—our histories—are forever split in two: before coronavirus and after.
Beyond overflowing hospitals and understocked grocery stores, our economies have fallen off a cliff. Today, a full quarter—more than 40 million people—of American workers have filed for unemployment. Fewer than half of black adults have a job. In a mere two months, Americans have lost twice the number of jobs as in the Great Recession.
And, during these last few weeks, one pandemic has collided with another, as tens of thousands of protesters take to the streets to demand justice for George Floyd’s murder, for all the violence against black people that has gone unfilmed, and for a history of white supremacy and racial terror that remains unreconciled.
But in this moment when we, the people, are demanding more action and in need of more support, the organizations on the frontlines—fighting for the rights of black and other marginalized communities, championing essential workers, and building the systems that will be central to an equitable recovery—face their own crisis. Indeed, the economic realities brought on by COVID-19 threaten the very survival of the people, organizations, and movements behind this crucial work.
If we do nothing, the economic toll, alone, will be devastating. But losing nonprofits would hurt more than our economy. Especially at this moment when we cannot physically be with each other, civil society—the spirit and sinew of our collective civic life—is vital.
And so, we cannot simply do more of the same. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. Our challenge is not to save any particular organization; it is to save the soul of our democracy itself.