Thousands of people have joined demonstrations across the world, but are charities doing enough to show their support?
Thousands of people have joined demonstrations across the world following the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis on Monday 25th May. The police officer, Derek Chauvin, was filmed kneeling on My Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes.
Vigils, demonstrations, and marches have taken place in America to demand justice for George Floyd and stop police brutality against black people. On Sunday 31 May, thousands of people protested in London in support of George Floyd, and against racism. There are more demonstrations being organised with enormous crowds expected to join.
We have seen how social media and digital, so often used to stoke hatred and division, can be a rallying point for protest, awareness and education. Modern civil rights campaigners have access to tools and technologies that allow them to directly reach more people than previous generations could ever have imagined. Whilst COVID-19 has isolated us physically, digital is allowing people around the world to come together to make a change. Those of us unable to attend rallies and marches due to COVID-19 and lockdown can take action by donating to a fundraiser for Mr Floyd and other funds and projects.
Digital has been integral to the success and reach of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has provided a blueprint for how organisations can use social media to spread a message worldwide. Charities in the UK and abroad are throwing their weight behind the movement.
One of the key things that we’re seeing at the moment is that words alone are not enough – action is required, and it is required of all of us. Some of this work must be within the charity sector itself. We saw this last year when #CharitySoWhite exposed the underrepresentation of BAME individuals within the charity sector, and highlighted the discrimination that many of these people face. This lack of representation can only lead to a lack of understanding.
UK charities have a responsibility to use their digital platforms to highlight and address wider societal issues. But we must also clean our side of the street and provide an example to other organisations of how to recruit and manage more equally.
Black Lives Matter was established in 2013 following the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. It is a global organisation set up to create and realise change by dismantling racism and countering acts of violence against black people.
BLMUK is the UK outpost of the Black Lives Matter Global Network and works to stop violence in partnership with other anti-racist groups. They have launched a GoFundMe campaign to help educate people and tackle institutional racism affecting black people in the UK and across the world.
In the wake of the protests across America and here in the UK, people posting support and raising awareness initiated action on social media. Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, two music industry executives, asked musicians to halt their usual work for a day of reflection and discussion for ‘an honest, reflective and productive conversation about what actions we need to collectively take to support the black community.’
Other industries joined in the digital movement, including the charity sector, to extend support and elevate anti-racism resources and organisations with the #BlackOutTuesday and #theshowmustbepaused hashtags.
Charities in the UK got involved by posting statements across their websites and social media.
Comic Relief posted on Twitter: ‘Comic Relief was founded on the principle of ending injustice. Racial justice is a global issue. We stand with the black community, including our black colleagues, project partners, supporters, and friends’. Their Twitter feed is promoting organisations aiming to dispel racial stereotypes, educate people about allyship, and provide support for people affected by the recent events.
MSF UK posted on Twitter: “Silence Kills. You matter. Black lives matter.” They have been using their Twitter feed to spread awareness of actively anti-racist resources such as Anti Racism Day and UK Black Pride.
Charities closely aligned with the cause have also come forward.
Show Racism the Red Card works to educate people about anti-racism through workshops and training to undermine racist beliefs and ideas. Launched nearly 25 years ago, the organization works with prominent footballers to promote their mission.
Their Instagram page features a post of Jadon Sancho, who joined in with a handwritten message of ‘Justice for George Floyd’ and wrote that ‘we have to come together as one & fight for justice’ on Twitter. Show Racism the Red Card’s Instagram feed features artwork and information about the cause as well as support and information from prominent black figures.
Race Equality First have worked over 40 years to spread awareness and combat discrimination and hate crime in Scotland. They have taken to Instagram to highlight key information about hate crime, sources of help and how to take action. Their Instagram feed features quotes from luminaries such as Martin Luther King Jr and Michelle Obama as well as how to demonstrate locally.
#CharitySoWhite, an organisation that questions privilege and structures in the charity sector reinforcing institutional racism, said on Twitter ‘The racism that murdered #GeorgeFloyd is not an issue isolated to America or one that is only perpetuated by the police service...Charity sector - you must hold state accountable on police brutality and racism. You must stand up to the racist power dynamics that riddle our work.”
We reported on the work of #CharitySoWhite when the hashtag first emerged, and revisited the topic six months down the line to see what had changed.
#CharitySoWhite’s statement highlights the responsibility that charities have in working towards a more equal and inclusive society – just as the campaign began to address the underlying racism and discrimination faced by many BAME charity workers.
The sector can do great work in leading social change, just as it always has in this country. But that will only be achieved if charities as a whole take responsibility for underrepresentation in the sector and take steps to address it.
Only by creating a more diverse charity sector that reflects the modern society that we live in will charities in the UK be able to affect wider change.
Fewer than 1 in 10 voluntary sector employees are BAME (9%), and in terms of leadership roles, between 5-8% of executive and non-executive leaders in the sector are from BAME backgrounds.
One third of the largest charities have all-white senior leadership teams and boards. Last year we recorded a two part podcast series exploring this, and tackling the issues facing inclusion in the charity sector. You can listen to Part One and Part Two here.
ACEVO has a list of eight principles to address the diversity deficit in the charity sector. This resource can help organisations to eliminate the systematic barriers and unconscious biases that restrict BAME individuals in the charity sector from moving into leadership positions.
Former CharityComms Editor and charity sector digital veteran Susheila Juggapah anecdotally reports this discrimination:
“This became such an issue that I spoke to an anonymous contributor, a woman of colour, for an article in CharityComms, who said she’s sick and tired of not being promoted while watching lots of white women being promoted over her and not understanding what she was doing wrong.
While it’s impossible to know if this lack of promotion is due to being a BAME person, there is a definite common thread there around promotion. It’s frustrating because it’s hard to know if you haven’t got the skills or if its because how people perceive you. So there is a feeling of being gaslit, especially when you’re few and far between and there’s nobody to talk to about it.”
Thousands of you voted for your BAME Charity Digital Leaders in our campaign to highlight the outstanding contributions and digital leadership of BAME individuals working throughout the charity sector. In the months since the vote, we’ve been working with a number of your nominees in our content, and at our #BeMoreDigital 2020 Conference.
These digital leaders are all doing exceptional work, often under difficult circumstances, and set a great example to the wider charity sector of the incredible leadership that we are missing out on as long as we act unilaterally. Addressing the issues of racism and exclusion requires a united response.
As long as BAME individuals are underrepresented in leadership positions throughout the charity sector, then UK charities will not be able to properly address the issues of systemic racism in our society.