Over two thirds of charity staff have experiences of racism within sector – report

Over two thirds of people working within the charity sector have experienced, witnessed or heard stories of racism within the sector, a new report has revealed.

Research by ACEVO and Voice4Change revealed almost half of respondents had been subject to ‘ignorant or insensitive’ questioning about their culture or religion, while 30% said they had been treated as an ‘intellectual inferior’.

A further 23% of those surveyed said they had been subject to excessive surveillance and scrutiny by colleagues, managers or supervisors.

The report, Home Truths: Undoing racism and delivering real diversity in the charity sector, published today, has highlighted the voices and experiences of Black, Asian and Minoritised Ethnic (BAME) people working in the sector.

The research, which was funded by the National Lottery Community fund, received 493 detailed responses to an online survey, as well as 24 in-depth interviews with BAME and white participants and two roundtables on the subject matter.

A lack of diversity within the charity sector has been highlighted over the past year, but ACEVO said these new findings demonstrate that the problem is not ‘simply an absence of BAME people’, but ‘significant discrimination and harm’ against those inside the sector.

Yet, 50% of those who responded to the survey said they felt the need to ‘tone down’ their behaviour in order to fit in with the sector.

The report argues for a ‘change of culture and power dynamics’ within the sector in order to achieve progress on diversity and face-up to racism.

It called for leaders to make racial equity a focus of external work, as well as setting meaningful internal DEI targets.

Furthermore, it suggests that leaders should be held accountable for progress on DEI targets, and that they take ownership of their learning on racism and anti-racism, so that they can help to challenge and undo racist systems.

“Racism remains with us in the 21st century. This is not just the result of ignorance but, as laid bare by Covid-19, is a product of a society designed to benefit some people over others,” Voice4Change CEO, Kunle Olulode said.

“Home Truths shows us that the charity sector, despite good intentions, still reproduces racial inequality, blocking BAME people from positions of influence and power through policies and processes designed without them in mind. Ultimately this inequality holds back our sector from fulfilling its core purpose and stalls progress towards racial justice in society.

“This report provides an honest and constructive examination of the realities and impact of racism in the charity sector. It provides not just description of the problem, but serious thought about how we can fix things too. It is a call for transformation. I hope everyone that reads the report answers that call.”

ACEVO CEO, Vicky Browning added that for BAME people working within the sector, the report ‘will not be surprising’.

“However, for many white leaders, Home Truths will be a shock and may make them feel defensive. But this report is not about pointing fingers and assigning blame: it is about encouraging more leaders to accept responsibility for what needs to be done. By accepting responsibility and committing to action, we can stop asking for more evidence of the problem and move forward together to build real diversity.”

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