An opinion piece

What we are seeing currently is a tumultuous period in current affairs. Two main items dominate the headlines; COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement. The charity sector has been a powerful instrument for change throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, but can we harness the same energy in the fight against racial injustice?

Overwhelmingly, the global response to COVID-19 has been that we are united in our understanding of the virus as a common enemy, one that must be defeated at all costs.  The way governments across the globe have responded to the pandemic has been subject to scrutiny; the rules and regulations about public conduct have differed worldwide and decisions about spaces reopening have been sources of contention. However, in many ways, “physical health” has been depoliticised, the pandemic has become a humanitarian issue. It unites us in its ubiquity and devastation. Funds are immediately redirected and it tops the agenda for support. 

A quick search of grant-makers in the UK will reveal that a staggering number have redirected most, if not all of their grant-giving capacities to “fighting the virus”. Whilst their usual beneficiaries have undoubtedly been affected by the virus in numerous ways beyond falling ill, their needs have been trumped by the battle to destroy this deadly pathogen. It has become common narrative that everybody has a responsibility to contain the virus and the financial response has been overwhelming. COVID-19 has become a human issue that demands immediate action, rather than one issue that intersects with many others.

More recently, acts of police brutality in the US have cast a light on the fraught state of race relations across the globe; Europe has responded through widespread protests and thousands have taken to the streets in the UK over the past few weeks. Debates in the UK about protests exacerbating the Coronavirus crisis have been widespread. However, when we take into account that “black males are 4.2 times more likely to die from a COVID-19-related death and Black females are 4.3 times more likely than White ethnicity males and females”, and that black communities are still taking to the streets, risking their health in the name of equality, what we are confronted with is the historic collision of two pandemics; racism and COVID-19.

Racism is seen as a strictly social issue, relegated to the field of political and governmental concern, a battle for minorities, not for humanity. COVID-19 on the other hand, is seen as a human affliction, a common enemy, one to be fought beyond the front-lines. However, the effects of coronavirus have been drawn along contours of inequality, making it both an inherently political issue and a humanitarian crisis. The same can be said for race; the effects of racism taking many more lives over the course of history, making it a humanitarian crisis too.

The immense level of charitable support and attention the Coronavirus has received is a heavily politicised statement. The change has been rapid; society has united to alter the way we live in order to eradicate the new threat to life. It brings into stark comparison the lack of funds and tangible collective support for the devastating effects of racism. If we took lessons from our response to COVID-19 and implemented the same united front, the threat to black lives could be halted too. Both pandemics have numerous victims and need us to band together. By no means should grant-giving strategies be strictly evergreen, nor should it be a case of “jumping on the bandwagon”, but it should be equal.

If you are looking for a charity to support which fights racism in the UK, take a look at our latest blog here.