ActionAid UK sorry after internal report finds 'denial, disbelief or indifference' to racism

ActionAid UK has acknowledged that people of colour on its team experienced “injustices” and “totally unacceptable” hurt, following a critical independent audit of racism within the organisation.

An internal Independent Race Audit, carried out last year, found that staff from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds felt “less valued, less supported, less empowered” and had fewer opportunities to fulfill career aspirations than their white counterparts.

The audit found there had been “systematic denial, disbelief or indifference” to racism staff members had experienced, which left them feeling “unheard, disrespected and excluded”, according to a summary seen by Third Sector.

Staff from BAME backgrounds had been subjected to “sweeping stereotypical statements and actions” which were then dismissed or ignored, the summary said.

The charity shared a summary of the audit, which it said in a statement had been intended to explore “the prevalence of institutional racism and racist behaviour within ActionAid”, with staff in November.

The summary went on to say: “Conversely, the audit records that among some white members of staff there is a perception that People of Colour are somewhat ‘protected’ in the organisation and therefore have some sort of ‘structural advantage’.”

The report found that in the organisation as a whole “there is limited awareness among colleagues of how everyday racism plays out in the organisation, including during formal and informal interactions”.

It also found that staff were frustrated by previous attempts to instigate an anti-racist culture in the organisation.

“There was also scepticism that anti-racism efforts would not be lasting,” the summary said.

“Many felt that this cycle of good intent will only be broken if anti-racism is embedded within processes and practices daily and not dealt with as a one-off exercise.”

The report called for the organisation to develop a shared vision and strategy for anti-racism with specific goals and create feminist, anti-racist behaviour frameworks for staff and leaders, with explanations of how things will be tackled if people deviate from expected behaviours.

It also called for the organisation to work with a diverse range of stakeholders to work out what a “power-balanced, truly global AAUK” would look like, as well as fostering a culture of learning.

It said: “A key consideration should also be the ongoing safety, allyship and support of People of Colour who are actively speaking up throughout upcoming phases of change.”

In a statement, ActionAid UK said it would not tolerate any form of racism within the organisation.

“The audit sheds light on injustices experienced by some colleagues and identifies systemic problems within the organisation that may have led to unacceptable behaviours, fostered a climate of impunity among some staff and prevented equity in the workplace for all colleagues,” the statement said.

“The hurt identified was and is totally unacceptable and we are profoundly sorry that this has happened at ActionAid UK.”

It went on to say: “Each of us must work hard to understand the consequences of our decisions, statements, and actions each day.

“We are steadfast in our goal of addressing any historical racism and failings which may have enabled injustices within ActionAid UK.

“We will, now and in the future, work hard to become an actively anti-racist organisation that is committed to social justice, equity and securing each person’s right to dignity and respect in the workplace, free of discrimination every day.”

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