70% of BAME charity staff 'have experienced or heard of racism in sector'

The figure comes in a report by Voice4Change England and Acevo, based on a survey of 500 people

About 70 per cent of black, Asian and minority ethnic people working in the charity sector have experienced, witnessed or heard stories about racism in the civil society sector, according to new research.

And 45 per cent of the almost 500 people surveyed said they had been subject to ignorant or insensitive questioning about their culture or religion, the research discovered. 

A report on the findings has been published today by Voice4Change England, which champions BAME civil society voices, and the charity leaders body Acevo.

The report, called Home Truths: Undoing Racism and Delivering Real Diversity in the Charity Sector, says that not only is there an absence of BAME people working across civil society, but also that those who are working inside the sector face discrimination. 

A third of survey respondents said they had been treated as intellectual inferiors, and about a quarter of respondents said they had been subject to excessive surveillance and scrutiny by colleagues, managers or supervisors.

The report says there needs to be “a change of culture and power dynamics” to achieve real progress on diversity in the sector.

It recommends that charity leaders are held accountable for progress on diversity, equity and inclusion targets, and that they take ownership of their learning on racism to further challenge and dismantle racist systems.

The report, which was funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, is based on the survey, 24 in-depth interviews with white and BAME participants to highlight the experiences of BAME people working in the charity sector, plus two round-table discussions with racial justice activists, funders and membership bodies.

Kunle Olulode, chief executive of Voice4Change England, said racism was “a product of a society designed to benefit some people over others”.

He added: “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 our sector back 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 a description of the problem, but serious thought about how we can fix things too. It is a call for transformation. I hope everyone who reads the report answers that call.”

Vicky Browning, chief executive of Acevo, said: “For many BAME people working in the charity sector the findings in this report will not be surprising. However, for many white leaders Home Truths will be a shock and might 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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