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Charities must recognise continued link with racial disparities in communities, report warns

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The Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights looked at work done by civic Scotland in recent years.

A racial justice charity has warned that organisations who made commitments to racial justice in the midst of 2020’s Black Lives Matter movement have a moral responsibility to keep the promises they made. 

A report, published on Monday by the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER), examines the public statement and promises made by a range of groups across Scotland following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers. 

The analysis, titled ‘Do Black Lives Still Matter in Scotland’, gathered 65 examples of public statements from institutions in support of Black Lives Matter over May – June 2020 to gauge the Scottish response, including from the Third Sector. 

The report said the third sector is in no way immune to the impacts of the UK’s history of colonialism, warning that legacies of this can be found all across organisations, for example in structures, power imbalances, a lack of diversity, language/terminology used, assumptions made, physical assets owned and interactions with communities.

CRER said that within the third sector there are still many instances of racism, citing an independent audit, published in November 2022, which found that staff at UNICEF UK

regularly experience covert racism and that the charity had “no targeted and specific

process on how to report and address racism”.

The authors wrote: “Third sector organisations have multiple actions they could take, for example understanding and reflecting on how many charitable actions overseas are linked to Britain’s colonial history and violence or investigating the roots of their organisation, benefactors and philanthropic funds. 

“In addition, all charities should be recognising and acting on present day racism within their organisations and the wider third sector, for example in funding landscapes/distribution.

“The critical nature of racial inequality means the moral case for the third sector to understand the UK's colonialist history (and their potential links with this) in order to recognise the link with racial disparities exhibited in communities today is strong.”

In the report, CRER outlined a number of actions that organisations across the country could take to follow on from the work that has been done since 2020. 

CRER also conducted a survey for BME workers involved in race equality or anti-racism activities across multiple sectors to provide additional insight.

They wrote: “In 2020, thousands across Scotland took to the streets in Black Lives Matter protests from Glasgow to Inverness to Orkney, petitions were signed and social media activity concerned very little else.

“In some ways this analysis may paint an overly rosy picture of progress: it represents only organisations who made commitments in 2020 and responses are written by organisations themselves.

“Many organisational initial statements and responses acknowledged the role of race and racism within both their organisation and society. A few contained apologies for past failures to acknowledge racial injustice. Indeed, one of the lasting legacies of Black Lives Matter may be an increased openness around historically ‘difficult’ conversations about race and racism, including within specific workplaces and organisations.

“However, the BME workers survey also showed that many respondents seen their organisation acknowledging racism outwardly but doing little internally. Such statements need to be the start of anti-racism work, not the end of it.”