Addressing racial inequality must be central to the coronavirus response, says #CharitySoWhite

Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities will be disproportionately affected by the coronavirus crisis if funders and charity leaders do not make racial equality central to their response, the #CharitySoWhite campaign group has warned. 

In a position paper, Racial Injustice in the Covid-19 Response, published this morning, the group says that without a “purposeful approach” that looks at how racial issues intersect with the response to the crisis, there is a risk that the pandemic will further entrench social inequalities.

The position paper is a live document that will be updated as the Covid-19 response develops, according to the campaign group.

BAME communities are more likely to be affected by the crisis, the report says, because they are over-represented in the groups identified as vulnerable to Covid-19, are disproportionately affected by measures to deal with the virus such as increased police powers, and are over-represented among key workers with low incomes and low rates of home ownership.

“It is easy in a crisis to revert to familiar ways of working, but in doing so we risk not only reinforcing existing structures of racial inequality, but further imbedding them,” the report says.

“We ask civil society to urgently mobilise and take the lead in centreing racial inequalities as they support communities hit most hard by this public health crisis.” 

To avoid inequality, the report says, the sector’s response should be guided by five key principles, which include acknowledging that tackling racial inequality is central to an effective response to the crisis, actively listening to and valuing lived experience, focusing on marginalised communities and supporting BAME staff and volunteers.

“Getting it right for the most vulnerable and at-risk means we get it right for everyone,” the report says. 

The principles outlined in the report also include large organisations “acknowledging and rebalancing the power dynamics” by understanding their own power and resources and ensuring funding restrictions are not disproportionately affecting BAME charities. 

“It is past time for the sector to acknowledge its ability to have a sweeping and lasting impact across society,” the report says. 

“Too often we absent ourselves from this and the accountability that comes with it. We frame conversations around risk, not power, and inevitably end up choosing the easy path to short-term, low-risk programmes with the full knowledge that these may well be less effective.”

The report says the effects on BAME communities will be both immediate and long term if the response is not managed effectively. 

“There is likely no returning to ‘normal’," it says. "The choices made by us today will have a lasting impact for generations to come.

“We need to work together, openly acknowledging the power and racial imbalances inherent in our sector, and seize the opportunity to set a new precedent for the future.”

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