MacKenzie Scott knows that by virtue of being one of the richest people alive, she can command attention. She also doesn’t believe wealth should be a reason for attention.
So the former wife of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos is using her megaphone to dismantle the system that has put her on a pedestal.
It’s tricky business.
“Sitting down to write this post, I felt stuck. I want to de-emphasize privileged voices and cede focus to others, yet I know some media stories will focus on wealth,” Scott writes in her Medium post published Tuesday. “The headline I would wish for this post is ‘286 Teams Empowering Voices the World Needs to Hear.'”
That’s because Scott, who is worth almost $60 billion according to Forbes, announced in her post she has spent the first quarter of the year giving away $2.7 billion to “286 high-impact organizations in categories and communities that have been historically underfunded and overlooked.”
Scott says the teams doing the work for those communities — including the Alaska Native Heritage Center, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Maine Expansion Arts Fund, Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity, Southwest Texas Junior College and the Youth Empowerment Project — should be in the spotlight.
“People struggling against inequities deserve center stage in stories about change they are creating. This is equally — perhaps especially — true when their work is funded by wealth,” Scott writes. “Any wealth is a product of a collective effort that included them. The social structures that inflate wealth present obstacles to them. And despite those obstacles, they are providing solutions that benefit us all.”
Scott received 25% of Bezos’ Amazon shares when she divorced him in 2019.
Very shortly thereafter, on May 25, 2019, Scott signed The Giving Pledge, a public declaration for billionaires to give the majority of their wealth away. On March 6, 2021, Scott’s new husband, Dan Jewett, also pledged the same.
Scott has become a leading giver, on Forbes’ list of the “most philanthropic billionaires” published in January. “In just one year of active philanthropy, Scott has outshined her peers by miles,” the Forbes ranking said.
Jeff Bezos in not on Forbes list, but has taken steps in recent years to give money to climate issues with his $10 billion earth fund and his $2 billion “Day One Fund,” which aims to help the homeless and their families and to create preschools.
In her Medium post, Scott also says she sees excessive, individual wealth as a plundering of human systems and the most productive solution to such an injustice is to quickly and carefully disassemble and distribute that wealth into the hands of many.
In this tranche of wealth distributed, Scott has given money to two and four year higher education educating underserved students, organizations working against religious persecution and discrimination, arts and cultural organizations, poverty alleviation organizations, and organizations that support the betterment of and continuation of this network of support organizations, she says.
The donations are given without any restrictions on how it can be used, Scott says.
Scott shared, in her Medium post, a line from a poem by Rumi to summarize her efforts: “A candle as it diminishes explains, Gathering more and more is not the way. Burn, become light and heat and help. Melt.”
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