Racial Justice & COVID-19

Foreword from Shalni Arora (Trustee) and Jo Broadwood (CEO) – The Belong Network

Racism is suddenly and at last everyone’s business and acting against it everyone’s responsibility. It is time for us all to be clear about which side we are on, through our work, our philanthropy, our actions. Benjamin Franklin himself said ‘justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.’

Structural and systemic inequalities affecting different groups and communities have been exposed and are deepening as the impact of the pandemic continues to unfold. The disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities has renewed focus on the painful and pervasive issue of structural and systemic racism. This is not new and has been highlighted repeatedly in studies that demonstrate the persistent gap in outcomes in employment, housing, health, attainment and life opportunities, particularly for black communities.

The present moment is an opportunity for transformation and change. What has been heartening about the peaceful protests across the world is the involvement of people from all walks of life and all sectors; from major corporations to the US military, all have expressed their support. The question is can we transform this into something that allows a new sense of belonging, a sense of ‘all of us’ where it doesn’t mean that we are all the same, but that we recognise and celebrate our shared humanity, resources and planet? There is anxiety and a lack of knowledge and expertise amongst some groups about how to do this well. That doesn’t matter as there is no such thing as failure, but an opportunity to learn and do things better. This anxiety should not stop us from taking action and there are several organisations we can support.

Professor John. A. Powell, Director of the Othering and Belonging Institute at the University of Berkeley in the U.S acknowledges that the forces of ‘othering’ are strong. Often driven by a sense of fear, and anxiety about not being heard or recognised, narratives which emphasise polarisation and division spread quickly aided by social media and a 24-hour internet news culture. He affirms the need for us all to prioritise work that promotes belonging and that sense of ‘all of us’ and offers the insight that ‘though Fear is faster, Love is stronger’. Now is the time for entering into new alliances that build bridges and connections across different groups. ‘All of us’ has no meaning if some of us are left behind, excluded and discriminated against. As philanthropists with an interest and investment in a fairer, kinder, more socially just and peaceful world it is up to us to act ensuring we move towards a world where we all feel that we belong.

The murder of George Floyd rightly mobilised thousands of peaceful protests across the world calling for an end to racial injustice and inequality. The pain and anger of black communities needs to be listened to and we must heed the call for change. Our organisation, ‘Belong’ supports the call by Operation Black Vote for a Racial Equality strategy that can develop into a broader Social and Race Equality Contract. We urge further reform in education, the criminal justice system and health outcomes as necessary to tackle inequality and root out injustice.

Belong – the Cohesion and Integration Network exists to address the barriers, structural and relational, that prevail between all groups – the old and young, black and white, religious and non-religious, straight and gay and many more. We connect people, places and organisations locally and nationally across the UK to disseminate knowledge and best practice. We support all those who are doing this vital social glue work; giving them the resources, skills, training, inspiration and confidence to improve their practice. Together with our members, we are developing a shared voice on key issues, and influencing policy so that we can make an integrated society where, belonging and integration are an embedded, everyday reality.

An independent charity and membership network, our vision is a society where difference and diversity is welcomed and celebrated; where there is kindness, trust and enduring social connections between different groups and communities. The research tells us that the most powerful form of reducing prejudice and promoting empathy between different groups is through social mixing. Whether that is face to face or online, relationships across difference play a key role in helping us to move beyond narratives of ‘us’ and ‘them’ towards ‘all of us’; where belonging and integration is seen as an everyone, everywhere issue.

How is British philanthropy responding?

UK Grime artist and philanthropist Stormzy recently announced through his business #Merky that he is committing £10 million over the next 10 years to support organisations, charities and movements that are committed to fighting racial inequality, justice reform and black empowerment in the UK.

In his statement he said, “The uncomfortable truth that our country continuously fails to recognise and admit, is that black people in the UK have been at a constant disadvantage in every aspect of life – simply due to the colour of their skin.”

“I’m lucky enough to be in the position I’m in and I’ve heard people often dismiss the idea of racism existing in Britain by saying ‘if the country’s so racist how have you become a success?’ and I reject that with this: I am not the UK’s shining example of what supposedly happens when a black person works hard”.

He continued, “There are millions of us. We are not far and few. We have to fight against the odds of a racist system stacked against us and designed for us to fail from before we are even born. Black people have been playing on an uneven field for far too long and this pledge is a contribution in the fight to finally try and even it”.

Research released by The Ubele Initiative shows that 9 out 10 POC (people of colour) organisations and services are unlikely to survive the impacts of COVID-19. Funders have been responding to the pandemic by switching to flexible core funding, relaxed reporting, making solidarity statements and having more intentional conversations on how to fund for racial justice. But philanthropy can do better. There can be more philanthropic investment in social enterprises and organisations that are led by, created by or have a POC in a leadership position. It is important to have leaders who understand and are representative of the communities that philanthropic organisations seek to serve: lived experience cannot be substituted.

What can donors do?

BAME communities have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and it is clear that funders can do more to address inequalities and ensure fairness of funding distribution. Individual donors, trusts and foundations have the power to improve their response and help strengthen BAME voluntary sector infrastructure and challenge some of the sector-wide systemic issues that act as barriers to funding.

Grant making and giving can be done through a positive racial lens and there are many resources and places to go for advice to help support grant makers and philanthropists ensure that they understand the impacts of their giving and internal policies on BAME communities.

Voice4Change England and ACEVO have released a report entitled: Home Truths: Undoing racism and delivering real diversity in the charity sector. The report seeks to reframe the ‘diversity’ debate within the sector, saying that racism is a significant and unresolved issue in the charity sector just as it is in the rest of society. In making this report research was carried out on the experiences and expertise of over 500 BAME people. Some key findings include:

  • 68% of respondents said that they had experienced, witnessed or heard stories about racism.
  • 50% of respondents felt that they needed to ‘tone down’ behaviour or to be on their ‘best behaviour’ in order to fit in in the charity sector.
  • 30% of respondents had been treated as an intellectual inferior.
  • Of those respondents that had experienced or witnessed racism, 74% said senior staff within their organisations had played a significant part.

This report is intended to provide a supportive framework for change and lays out steps both to further open up the charity sector to BAME people and to re-orientate charity work towards building a racially just society.

The Resourcing Racial Justice fund is a coalition of POC activists, and social leaders dedicated to social change and they have established a new UK wide-funding pool to support individuals and communities working towards racial justice.

Applicants can apply for grants ranging from £5,000 to £50,000. For the first wave of funding they aim to redistribute £500,000 of funding. They are encouraging donors to join their efforts and individuals that would like to donate to the funding pool can contact Resourcing Racial Justice by email. Find out more here…

They state that, “Through every crisis, be it COVID-19 or the climate emergency, people of colour are disproportionately affected because they are already at the sharp edge of structural and systemic inequality. We know that POC are more likely to live in low-income households on precarious incomes and are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. With existing evidence, 19% of deaths from COVID-19 are people of colour, when they make just 14% of the overall population. Prioritising people of colour, in all their intersections and identities, is an essential approach to reparative justice.”

Philanthropic Racial Equity has published ‘Grantmaking with a Racial Justice Lens – A practical guide’ to help foundation leaders understand what it means to move from racial equity to racial justice funding strategies. It also addresses how to align operational practices to both reduce racial inequity and advance racial justice, with a chapter on selecting the right tools and consultants. Practical advice includes three foundation tools for activating a racial equity lens:

  • Collecting diversity data
  • Protocol for discussing diversity with grantees
  • Racial equity programming Check-up

It also emphasises that the lens should be applied internally to the organisation as well as externally.

Future Foundations UK has published a new briefing paper on the Trust and Foundation sector’s response to the Covid-19 crisis, with a renewed call to action and practical recommendations to ensure equitable approaches. They set out five immediate steps for independent funders and foundations:

  1. Demonstrate a strong commitment to grantees
  2. Commit more resources to local sustainable infrastructure
  3. Provide direct funding for grassroots movements
  4. Be pragmatic and look at different models of funding
  5. Shift to a social justice approach

The Association of Charitable Foundations will be holding a panel discussion on the 23rd of June 2020 with key expert organisations about their take on the current response by foundations to race inequality in the context of Covid-19, and what they’d like to see happen next.

The panel will be chaired by ACF Trustee, Fozia Irfan, who launched the DEI Coalition of funders six months ago and will update on its progress. Fozia will be joined by four experts and foundation representatives engaged in change: Fatima Iftikhar from Charity So White, Debbie Pippard on behalf of Funders for Race Equality Alliance, Derek Bardowell representing Future Foundations UK and Dilhani Wijeyesekera, Comic Relief’s lead on equity and inclusion. Members of ACF can register here.

Philanthropy Impact are hosting a webinar on “Racial equity in the philanthropy and impact investing ecosystem – The role of philanthropists, social and impact investors and their professional advisors in addressing racial bias”. The event will be held on 2nd July 2020 1:00pm to 5:00pm, further details and registration can be found here.

UKCF has issued a statement which recognises the urgent need to make sure more money is reaching more BAME-led groups. Therefore, they will administer an initial £250,000 fund for infrastructure support to reach BAME led organisations and tackle barriers to access to NET Coronavirus Appeal funds.

UKCF want to encourage more BAME led organisations to apply for funding but recognise the onus is on UKCF and community foundations to make grants visible and accessible. UKCF welcome engagement with BAME groups, membership organisations and communities to understand their specific needs in response to coronavirus; to listen, to collaborate, to build more relationships, to support and encourage more applications for funding. UKCF is running regular webinars for organisations with leadership from black and minority ethnic backgrounds to share application criteria and process. They are also working with partners to identify community needs and advise the NET allocation committee on addressing these gaps.

Some of the key donation funds in UK: 

Donate to Black Minds Matter UK:

Donate to Stop Hate UK:

Donate to Show Racism the Red Card:

Donate to the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Foundation:

Donate to Hope Not Hate: