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Charitable giving and the illusion of fulfilled responsibility

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“There is also this to be said. It is immoral to use private property in order to alleviate the horrible evils that result from the institution of private property. It is both immoral and unfair…. The proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible.” – Oscar Wilde

The holiday season is upon us.  For most of you reading this article, this is a time for gathering with loved ones, intense traveling, and a plethora of home cooked meals.  But for many, it is also a time of great hypocrisy, willful ignorance, and diffusion of responsibility.

More than any other time of year, the holiday season (between November and December) typically is the period of time when people feel the most charitable.  Donating to charitable organizations and non-profit entities is a fond activity for many who feel the sudden sense of moral responsibility that typically accompanies increased discussion about “family” and “giving.”  And donating makes people feel good: “I’ve done my part,” they exclaim; “We are making the world a better place,” they rejoice.

Is that so?

The idea that by simply donating to a charitable organization from time to time, one has fulfilled his/her civic and moral obligation to the world at large is a narcissistic, egocentric, and convenient narrative for those who would rather close their eyes to the ills of systemic injustice.  Now, if you believe that you have no such civic or moral obligation to anyone other than you and you alone, than by all means, stop reading at this point… though I suggest that you also seek professional assistance to deal with your level of sociopathy.

To those who think I am being too harsh in my criticisms, I invite you to ponder the following questions.  What good is it to donate to organizations that help the homeless, if you continuously vote against measures that protect the social safety net?  What good is it to volunteer your time at veterans’ hospitals, if you will continuously support measures that severely gut proper mental health funding?  What good is it to donate food to a local food kitchen that services the poor, when you continuously support measures that will virtually eliminate the very SNAP benefits that prevent starvation amongst the downtrodden?  What good is it to deliver gifts to a local children’s cancer center, when you continue to support measures that prevent greater universal access to proper preventative care and treatment?  What good is it to spend time praying for the poor, when you continue to support policies that place an immense burden upon their shoulders, and when you privately disparage them as being “lazy” and “dependent on handouts?”  And in summary, what good is giving to charity when you spend most of your life perpetuating the very injustices that charities seek to eradicate?

If pondering these questions causes a visceral reaction amongst you the reader, then our collective work to eliminate – rather than alleviate, and by extension, perpetuate – systemic injustice can now begin.  The truth can be very inconvenient and painful, but true change begins with an open mind, an open heart, and open eyes.

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. Season to give….got that right! People should spread their thoughtfulness and giving tendencies throughout the year.

  2. I love you, Nick. I can always distinguish your pieces from their titles. “On the sociological effects issuing from the gradual and persistent degradation of humanitarian sentiment preceding, during and succeeding Christi Natalis, or the holiday commonly known as Christmas”

  3. Your articles are like GTL for my brain.

  4. Lol! Love you too bro. Ethnic hug.

  5. Great article!! Me like.

  6. Gracias Taina!

  7. It’s my credo to do & give all year long. After all, we live each day, so why not spread joy throughout the year?

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