Decolonizing Wealth by Edgar Villanueva


If your library has a copy of this book, published in 2018, borrow it and if nothing more, read the terrific foreword written by Jennifer and Peter Buffett. If you have more time, plunge into the book. The introduction is titled “What if Money Could Heal Us.” I read the first sentences and thought, as much as I loved the foreword, I’m not the audience Villanueva seeks: “This is a book for people who direct the flow of money. The more money you direct, the more this book is for you. You may be a philanthropist, an investor, or a funds manager, you may work for a foundation, a bank, or a community.” But then Paragraph 2: “Whoever you are, you are welcome. As I explain, in my own Native American belief system we are all relatives, literally all related to one another. We are also all infected with what I call the ‘colonizer virus,’ which urges us to divide, control, and exploit. Nowhere is the virus more symptomatic than in how we deal with wealth.” OK, I was in.

Part One is “Where It Hurts” and Part Two is “How to Heal.” Villanueva works in philanthropy, has seen from the inside how the colonizer virus has infected, determined, the structures of philanthropic organizations and the world of finance. Wealthy white men (primarily) sit in their beautifully decorated headquarters, some looking remarkably like plantation houses, quite separated from the communities they purportedly serve, peruse applications for funding, and call those in need of their help to come to them and answer their list of questions. We have money, you don’t.

Villanueva made me recall a conversation I had with a bond manager during which he proudly said that he deals only in the mostly highly rated municipal bonds. I thought that sounded good at the time. Why take on risk you don’t have to, at the cost of giving up a little return? Well, the bond raters are infected with the same colonizer virus that the money managers are. Money flows toward money.

But, really, read this introduction.

4 comments on “Decolonizing Wealth by Edgar Villanueva”

  1. My library does not have the book. I tried to find the forward online–no luck, but I found an interview that was very interesting: After listening to the conversation, I see new ways in which my own personal small amount of giving needs to be thoughtful as well as my personal financial investments (although Villanueva is talking to an audience working in the field of philanthropy/foundations). A bonus, Edgar Villanueva is very entertaining in the Minneapolis Foundation podcast. I have sent in a request; I hope the local library purchases the book. Thanks, Teri.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Barbara, for finding this interview. There are good stories that serve as examples of the problems and I’m hoping you heard some of them. I’ll definitely listen to this podcast. Years ago, I heard someone talk about charitable contributions that are really rich people giving to rich people. Art museums, the symphony, the opera…you get the picture. And then I saw a cartoon in The New Yorker where a woman at a cocktail party is saying, “I think we do an excellent job of bringing the arts to people who aren’t interested in the arts.” Made me think, that one.

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      1. I think I read the speaker’s book–years ago. I remember it making the point that most of us MUST fund the common good with taxes which may or may not be used to our liking. The rich pick and choose what they deem worthwhile, and they get huge tax breaks as a bonus. Plus they often get lots of perks from the organizations they support. Someone recently sent me photos of the outfits worn at the 2021 Met Gala ( which requires at least a $30,000 contribution to attend (unless you are famous and they invite you for the publicity). You must be invited to attend/donate, and there is always a waiting list for invitations. Thanks for sharing the New Yorker cartoon. Our times demand good friends and a sense of humor to survive!

        Liked by 3 people

  2. Teri, not a book I would have ever considered reading and now I am thanking you for steering me toward it. No matter how much we have, it is vital to consider how money moves about and influences what happens in our societies; how it accrues like a conglomerate or aggregate stone, attracted to itself. When I leave here I am going directly to my library to see if they have it and, if not, request a purchase.

    Liked by 2 people

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