#CharitySoWhite: Time for an urgent commitment to racial equality

Under the new government, the sector must show true leadership by tackling racism in its own back yard

For #CharitySoWhite, the new year begins with a reflection on the new Conservative majority government and our grave concern about what this means for the charity sector and the communities it serves.

The number of reported hate crimes in the UK has doubled in the past five years and, from Windrush to Grenfell, the policies of the leading party have devastated ethnic minority communities.

We expect this pattern to continue: priorities outlined in the Conservative Party manifesto seek to target and discriminate against ethnic minorities, with explicit intentions to ramp up the persecution of Gypsy and Traveller communities serving as just one example.

The sector’s response to the election is critical. It is our role to champion the belief that a better world is possible, one where social, economic and political realities rooted in social justice prevail. In order to fulfill this purpose, urgent action on racial equality needs to be taken, with the sector showing true leadership for our nation by rooting out racism in its own backyard.

Just as racism is prevalent across society and all aspects of life, it is embedded within the charity and voluntary sector. This is not just overtly racist incidents, but also structures that lead to specific outcomes for ethnic minorities across health, education, housing, the labour market, criminal justice and many more social issues.

Racism is built into the very fabric of organisations, reflected within working cultures and practices, and evidenced by the image of the sector and the people who represent it. People who are racialised by the charity sector do not see themselves reflected in its leadership, nor do they see their experience and knowledge represented.

This must be addressed as a matter of urgency, because structural racism within the sector both negatively affects its beneficiaries and limits the impact that organisations have. A lack of diversity contributes to narrow thinking, which presents barriers to effectively representing, engaging and building trust with marginalised communities.

To truly shift power to those most affected by the issues the sector is tackling, things must change, which means addressing the power structures, hierarchies and policies that maintain the status quo. We see, time and again, how broad agendas on "diversity" and "inclusion" easily sideline difficult discussions and concrete action on structural racism in favour of easy targets and quick wins.

The vital first step that leaders must take is to publicly acknowledge the existence of structural racism and commit to genuinely tackling it within their organisations. Leaders cannot continue to ignore these difficult conversations, or hide them within the walls of their boardrooms. Nor can the sector continue to shroud and obscure these issues with vague terminology such as "diversity" and "inclusion".

The only way to achieve change is to be bold and vulnerable in our approach in order to build a better future for the communities we serve.

At #CharitySoWhite we believe that action on structural racism is rooted in honesty, hope and humility. Honesty in our choices to date and the ways they have prevented us from achieving change. Humility in our understanding and acknowledgement that none of us know for certain the perfect approach, but that this will not stop us from seeking answers and working to create a better world. Hope in our ability to move the needle and make a difference.

As the new year begins, we are developing and sharing a vision of a way forward for the sector after the election. It is not business as usual, and complacency is not an option.

#CharitySoWhite is a campaign group committed to rooting out racism in the charity sector. Follow @charitysowhite to join the movement

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