By: Johane Alexis-Phanor, a fundraising and communications consultant with an expertise in raising funds for Black-led movements

This modern-day multiculturalism claims that it serves a diverse society, but it serves no one but mainstream white interests. This multiculturalism is inherently anti-Black.

Multiculturalism is a cancer to Black progress.

And when I say “multiculturalism,” I don’t mean living, working, and serving harmoniously in and on behalf of a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, and multi-religious society. I’ve worked in those environments. From 2011-2012, I served in the Office of Civil Rights at the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) in their Language Access Department. Our office was responsible for recruiting and training interpreters and translators to serve multi-lingual speakers who lived in BHA housing and ensure that they had meaningful access to housing applications, screenings, hearings, and other information in their language. We partnered with community-based organizations to recruit the top 5 spoken languages living in BHA at the time: Mandarin, Haitian-Creole, Spanish, Portuguese, and Vietnamese. We were very clear about the needs of the people we served and our multi-racial and multi-lingual office and its group of volunteers worked well together. 

When I say “multiculturalism,” I also don’t mean having a multicultural background, interest stemming from different cultures, or having a multicultural circle of friends.

When I speak about the ills of multiculturalism, growing uncontrollably, metastasizing, and impairing the normal function of movements on behalf of Black people, I am speaking about the twisted modern-day iteration of multiculturalism as a social justice movement. 

This modern-day multiculturalism claims that it serves a diverse society, but it serves no one but mainstream white interests. This multiculturalism is inherently anti-Black.

The Original Intent of Multiculturalism

The original intent of contemporary multiculturalism as a global movement in places like the U.S. was to include, recognize, and remedy the socioeconomic and political harms experienced by “minority” groups.  

Multiculturalism was intended for BIPOC, LGBTQ, people of different nationalities and religions, and people with disabilities to maintain their distinctive collective identities and practices. It was originally meant to celebrate the various cultural expressions of different groups. Initiatives like ethnic studies in schools, religious exemptions, and multilingual access are all examples of multiculturalism. 

The Problem with Modern Day Multiculturalism

But somehow and somewhere along the way, the original intent of multiculturalism has morphed into a social movement that has become dangerous to Black liberation. These are the five reasons why I ran from multiculturalism: 

1. Multiculturalism chips away at Black solidarity.

The impact of multiculturalism is that Black people who should be the most concerned about the issues that directly impact them, their families, and their communities distance themselves from Black resistance movements. The National Urban League’s most recent “State of Black America” found that the Equality Index of Black America is 75.7%. This index measures Black American’s progress compared to whites’ regarding economics, health, education, social justice, and civic engagement. According to the President of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, Rahsaan Hall, based on this Equality Index, “At this rate, Black people would not see parity with white people in this country for 180 years.” If we are to make any progress, it is important more than ever that we build collective power. However, multiculturalism threatens Black solidarity.

I met with a prominent Black leader recently, and in getting to know each other, I shared with them that I raised money for Black-led organizations. Upon hearing about this aspect of my work, they immediately went into a diatribe about how they had been educated in Europe, that wealth had a more significant impact on equity than race (completely disregarding intersectionality AND the effects of race on wealth), and that they had to “like everyone” because they served a diverse community. This conversation revealed to me some of the biggest problems with multiculturalism.

Multiculturalism has led Black people to champion diversity over the anti-racist work of Black-led movements.

Multiculturalism has brainwashed Black people into turning their backs on our community’s most pressing issues.

Multiculturalism has instilled fear in Black people so that they do not dare to prioritize Black issues lest they be labeled racists, prejudiced, or segregationists.

Multiculturalism has deceived Black people into thinking that to concern oneself with the progress of Black communities is to have disdain for other groups of people. Yet the goal of Black liberation movements has always been to fully acknowledge the humanity of Black people, not to deny the essential humanity of other races.

Multiculturalism has completely robbed Black people of Black solidarity, and this is a hindrance to our progress. 

2. You can not escape anti-Blackness under the cloak of multiculturalism.

Multicultural spaces do not inherently uplift Black communities. I have been working in community development for the past ten years, and anti-Blackness is pervasive in these multicultural spaces. I’ve witnessed Black people being spoken about disparagingly, denials about the existence of structural racism, and have been met with silence and rejection upon centering Blackness. 

One of the most disheartening conversations I’ve had occurred when a non-Black POC who was responsible for the economic development of a Black community expressed to me that Black people did NOT know what they wanted when it came to economics. I was flabbergasted and listed the basics starting with good-paying jobs. I could not believe that this person was tasked with developing initiatives that supported the economic empowerment of Black people. But this type of minimizing of Black people’s intelligence and contributions is not uncommon in multicultural mission-based fields. 

What’s most egregious about multicultural movements is that they use the language of equity while being deeply entrenched in anti-Blackness. 

I met with a founder of a multicultural platform whose rhetoric was explicitly anti-racist. Their brand and every article written about them spoke to closing the racial wealth gap and empowering marginalized communities. Yet, in speaking to this founder, the moment I mentioned a statistic that spoke to equity issues for Black people in this person’s field, I was met with silence. And although we had spent almost 30 minutes brainstorming the ways we would collaborate, I never heard back from them. When I went online to learn more about this person’s work and where I could have gone wrong in our conversation, I found an interview where they had used the exact same statistic that I had shared with them. And so although we spoke the same language of social justice, I quickly learned that multiculturalism uses language to mask its lack of intent to tackle equal rights on behalf of Black people.

3. Multiculturalism in and of itself has become some kind of moral pinnacle.

Modern-day multiculturalism is not concerned with advancing social justice on behalf of Black communities. Multiculturalism believes itself to be the penultimate expression of social justice. Multiculturalism has become the dream that MLK had. Multiculturalism has become the  proverbial “mountain top.” If one is well-educated, well-traveled, and progressive, then one must be multicultural, not necessarily anti-racist. Multiculturalism has become a token and a badge of honor with no real substance behind it. 

4. Multiculturalism celebrates instead of resists.

Unlike the Rainbow Coalition of the 1960s – a multi-racial alliance that fought against police brutality, segregation, and disinvestment in Black, Brown, and poor white communities – multiculturalism is not interested in confronting deep social and economic discriminatory policies. Multiculturalism is not interested in restorative justice, combating anti-Black racism, questioning, or challenging power structures. Resistance is much more difficult and much more dangerous than the celebratory nature of multicultural movements. It’s much easier to celebrate diversity than it is to fight the displacement of Black communities and mass incarceration. And so, in multiculturalism, we have inherited a watered-down version of coalition building for social justice.

5. Multiculturalism’s primary focus is on inclusion and not combatting unjust systems.

Inclusion in and of itself will not repair the harms of slavery, segregation, and discrimination in this country. But multiculturalism has so concerned itself with inclusion that many of its movements have devolved to not just including but centering powerful white interests. After all, if inclusion and not resistance, accommodation and not justice are the primary goals, then does it not make sense to include white power structures in the movement? 

One of the most dangerous forms of multiculturalism that I have seen has been to use this strange doublespeak wherein to challenge white power structures is exclusionary, but to accept them is seen as radical inclusion. I have witnessed movements that started off with good intentions succumb to this harmful form of multiculturalism. 

I met a leader early on in the creation of their organization. They came to me with facts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics about the type of workplace inequities they hoped to repair. To my dismay, this movement has since completely abandoned its original mission of creating pathways of opportunity for Black people. Instead, they have chosen to focus on “inclusion” over tackling the unjust systems that hinder the economic empowerment of Black people.


Modern-day multiculturalism is not interested in practices and policies that protect or uplift Black people socially or economically. Multiculturalism is not interested in decentering Whiteness. It hopes to gain power by gaining proximity to white power structures. The same white power structures that have dehumanized Black people and Black communities for centuries. 

I reject multiculturalism and instead choose to center Blackness. I am inspired by the words of the Insight Center for Community Economic Development that state, “Anti-blackness is the foundational architecture of the rules that maintain racial oppression and economic exclusion today, so we need a new approach to reassess and reimagine the rules, policies, and narratives that uphold it.

“In these times of extreme racial and economic inequality, we must move beyond ‘normal’… By centering Black people in the creation of new policies, systems, and institutions — in the pursuit of economic liberation for all…”



Johane Alexis-Phanor (she/her) is a fundraising and communications consultant with an expertise in building capacity for organizations that impact racial equity. She grew up as a second generation immigrant in the Haitian enclave of Mattapan, in Boston. Using her entrepreneurial spirit, she launched Beyond Wordz to assist with the organizational development of non-profits doing work to positively impact Black people and Black communities. To date, she’s raised close to $3 million to support community development initiatives. In 2022, she was one of 5 finalists for the Haitian-American Young Citizen of the Year given by the U.S. Haitian Chamber of Commerce to recognize professionals under 45 whose commitment, outstanding civic engagement, volunteerism and public service has benefitted their community. Follow her on Twitter at @beyondwordz_.

S.M.A.R.T. Black Philanthropy aims to advance a new model of philanthropy in Black communities. This model is asset based instead of deficit based. It prioritizes a collaborative approach instead of a competitive approach to philanthropy. Finally, it is rooted in Black traditions and movements.  

SBP is written from the perspective of Johane, a Haitian-American woman, who inadvertently found herself in the field of community development working to leverage charitable giving to support the economic empowerment of communities of color. It challenges the current paradigm of philanthropy while exploring issues of Black self-reliance, structural inequalities in the non-profit field, the intersection of faith and social justice, and more. The S.M.A.R.T in S.M.A.R.T Black Philanthropy stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely- an acronym that is often used to set mission-driven goals. These writings present a S.M.A.R.T alternative for achieving greater social good through philanthropy.