Almost two and a half years ago, following an engaged and engaging discussion at the central branch of the Pratt Library about how Americans talk — and don’t talk — about race, Open Society Institute-Baltimore director Diana Morris weighed in with a pithy, insightful analysis of our nation’s seemingly institutional racism.
“In America, we focus a lot on individuals; we don’t think about systems,” Morris noted in December 2009, prefiguring the current cataclysm surrounding the death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin. “Even in school, we don’t talk often about systems unless we happen to take a course in college about sociology. So that’s very helpful to me when I think through ‘how can we really talk effectively about the criminal justice system, which so adversely affects people of color and people who are poor.’ And that’s a system at work, and some of them are sort of unofficial or informal systems, and some of them are formal systems, but it’s more than just an individual bias. And we want to be able to convey that, because unless we can really pierce those systems, we’re not gonna really get effective change.”
Since 1997, Morris has brought a pronounced passion to effecting change in this city as overseer of the local outpost of gazillionaire philanthropist George Soros’ international Open Society Foundations. Specifically, OSI-Baltimore, according to its website, concentrates on “three intertwined problems: untreated drug addiction, an over-reliance on incarceration, and obstacles that impede youth in succeeding inside and out of the classroom. We also support a growing corps of social entrepreneurs committed to underserved populations in Baltimore.”