Charity staff share experiences of racism using #CharitySoWhite hashtag

The move was sparked after Citizens Advice was forced to apologise for a guidance document for staff that was described as 'horribly racist'

Charity sector workers are sharing their experiences of racism and discrimination in the voluntary sector using the Twitter hashtag #CharitySoWhite.

The discussion was sparked when Citizens Advice was forced to apologise for a piece of training guidance that outlined the barriers its staff might face when dealing with people from BAME communities, which was described as "horribly racist" by Twitter users when it emerged last week.

Saba Shafi, commercial director of the Advocacy Academy, a leadership programme for marginalised young people, tweeted yesterday that the issue with Citizens Advice was not "a one-off incident" and invited others to share their experiences of racism in the charity sector, using #CharitySoWhite.

People across the sector responded with their experiences of racism, exclusion or being the only black, Asian or minority ethnic person in the room.

Rita Chadha, who was appointed as chief executive of the Small Charities Coalition in June, tweeted that in a previous leadership role at a small charity she had cleaned her own office to save money – but her successor, a white man, was given a cleaner, an assistant and was paid £5,000 a year more than her, despite working fewer days.

Collette Philip, a brand consultant who now runs her own company, Brand By Me, said she had been forced to leave the sector in order to fulfill her potential.

"When I got promoted, other colleagues asked me to my face if it was 'positive discrimination'," she said.

She also recounted being frequently confused with a black colleague, being overlooked for a senior role and told she was not assertive enough, only to be accused of being aggressive when she challenged a colleague on poor behaviour.

"#CharitySoWhite is the reason the sector is haemorrhaging great people," she wrote.

"I had to leave and set up my own business to be able to have the impact I knew I was capable of. No regrets."

Darshan Sanghrajka, the founder of Super Being Labs, which helps to accelerate social-impact organisations, tweeted about being mistaken for a waiter in a meeting with partners and for an intern at a workshop he was running while self-employed. He said people had made assumptions about his religion and drinking habits based on his ethnicity.

Ruth Ibegbuna, director of the Roots Programme, which aims to bring people from different walks of life together to learn from each other, said she had many examples, but some were "still too painful or rage-inducing to type". She urged white people working in the sector to examine their organisations honestly and ask if they were part of the problem.

Yovanka Paquete Perdigao, a charity marketing and communications consultant, said she had worked for charities in Africa that had only white, male trustees and where she had been the only African staff member.

Kris Tan, digital advertising manager at the charity marketing agency Platypus Digital, said recent moves to improve equality, diversity and inclusion in the sector had not resulted in action.

"That's the frustration we deal with as BAME," she said.

"We get asked to speak on their panels, we're in their photographs, we fill in surveys. Nothing changes. There's no action. There's no roadmap. Honestly, I'm so tired of just talking."

Samir Jeraj, a policy and practice officer at the Race Equality Foundation, said some people were attempting to change the sector for the better.

He said he was often approached by people who wanted to improve diversity in their organisations but who were thwarted by a lack of support from colleagues and management.

"On a cultural level, there is the pervasive assumption in charities that because you're 'nice people' doing 'good work' you're exempt from structural discrimination or unconscious bias," he said.

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