We *Still* Need to Talk — Two Years on, No Closer to Change.
July 2022 marks the second anniversary of our collective — The Racial Equity Index. For those new to our group and our work, we are a global group of BIPOC people (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) exploring and investigating the lack of and need for a racial equity index within the global development sector.
We are a volunteer-led collective, doing this work and our full-time jobs, part-time jobs, consulting work, raising children, caring for loved ones, and navigating the global development sector — the sector this group is all a part of, yet painfully removed from.
We wrote the words below when we formed this group in 2020:
The Racial Equity Index believes that individuals and institutions are products of the larger society and environment in which they exist and also have the agency and responsibility to live up to the change we claim to want to see in the world.
Across the global development sector, philanthropists and global development actors, organisations and institutions are rarely, if ever, expected to assess how they themselves are upholding and perpetuating racial inequity both internally and external to their institution.
In direct response to this gap in the field, we are producing an index and advocacy tools that will provide greater accountability for racial equity within and across the global development sector to dismantle structural racism and create a more equitable system and culture with justice and dignity at its core.
Our group grew. We formed teams and bodies of work — we developed a bond. For the first 18 months, we worked with intention, unapologetically, and with energy. Since then, we’ve been working, posting, meeting, networking, and, most vitally, being highly vocal about our work and why we do it. Now nearing the two-year mark and observing the lack of progress this sector has made, we and many other BIPOC peers doing this work, are tired.
As BIPOC people who shed light on the inequities in the international development sector, this work takes up our time and headspace. It also comes at a cost — speaking up about systemic racism while working in a sector that claims not to be systemically racist causes pushback (obviously).
Over the last two years, our collective and its work have been praised by many. Our work has been quoted and referenced more than once, by much larger iNGOs and other equity-based initiatives attempting to do this work. Time and time again, our facilitator and founder has sat in front of her computer screen looking at white faces of potential funders, donors and peers, relaying these facts and championing the efforts of this 12-strong group of BIPOC volunteers. And, time and time again, our work and achievements have been denied funding all while being praised for the critical and overdue need for our work. In the meantime, bodies of work from mostly white-led, well-established organisations working on similar equity initiatives are funded, including funder pooled initiatives to gather funders to ask questions about racial equity within philanthropy.
We are living in a bizarre time of monumental racial gaslighting. Large organisations that have been caught blatantly upholding racist organisational structures seem to react to their accusations with nobility. They release wordy public statements acknowledging their mistakes and pledging to do better. They form DEI committees, groups, and initiatives and hire a mass number of BIPOC employees. However, once the initial outrage dies down, many of these organisations get away with carrying out simple DEI surveys and questionnaires (see performative allyship in the cycle of inaction by Danielle Coke below).
Whenever anyone looks back to seek evidence of real change, they are directed to the new BIPOC staff members and the diversity committee that carries out talks and sends out a survey every quarter. There is no change to the ratio of white to black/brown leaders or EDs and decision-makers, no change in the shift of power back to those who run organisations in the regions the NGOs work in. Case closed.
Below are just a few examples of the ongoing and continued violence by organisations and the sector at large:
- Medecins Sans Frontieres: Just a few weeks ago MSF was back in the news for profiting from exploitative images in their fundraising campaigns. We encourage readers to follow the work of DecoloniseMSF — a group working to hold MSF accountable for the continued racism and racial violence in the organisation.
2. The sector will create every acronym possible in an effort to distract from the real work needed around racial equity and anti-racism. We’ve seen — DEI/JEDI/NDEI/DREB/DEIAB (seriously, enough with the acronyms) which are not racial equity. DEI is a starting point to make white people in organisations comfortable enough to even utter the word racism. Read these articles that go deeper into this issue:
-Why Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion alone won’t dismantle structural racism in global dev.
-Why DEI and Anti-Racism work needs to decenter whiteness.
-Anti-Racism: Why your DEI agenda will never be a success without it.
3. Where did all the pledged funds for racial equity actually go? (clue — not to groups like ours)
-Philanthropic Pledges for Racial Justice Found to be Superficial
There has been no change. None. So this year given our exhaustion and mental and psychological fatigue, we at The Racial Equity Index have made a decision about our anniversary. We are choosing not to celebrate our anniversary. Not only are we drained, fatigued, and in need of respite, but we are also taking an intentional pause to reflect and gather our own internal resources.
As a result, we are directing our efforts and time to one another and to you — our BIPOC peers in this fight with us who are feeling just as tired and frustrated. We are choosing to honor our work over the last two years with a shorter, one-day event on 25 June and we will welcome those who have been doing the work, to join us and acknowledge how far we’ve come in our respective work — and how far behind the sector continues to remain. Join us.
In honor of this group and our BIPOC community,
The Racial Equity Index.
The Racial Equity Index turns two years old on 3 July 2021! That is two years of our volunteer collective calling out inequities and injustices in the sector, and bringing to task the complicit behaviours that uphold them, and two years closer to building a Racial Equity Index for the global development sector.
On 25 June 2022, we are coming together to host three sessions to explore conversations about the reality and impact of racism that we are seeing, in global development. This year’s event is a shorter and sweeter set of sessions that will be rooted in the realities shared by those who seek accountability and transformative change within the global development sector.
For more information, including details of how to register, please visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/we-still-need-to-talktalking-truth-on-racial-equity-in-global-development-tickets-355946655027
Established in June 2020, the Racial Equity Index Group is a collective of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) who currently work or have spent part of their career working in international development and are dedicated to holding the sector accountable through the creation of a global racial equity index.
Follow our work at TheRacialEquityIndex.Org