An Oxfam staff survey that describes ‘whiteness’ as ‘the preservation of power and domination for the benefit of white people… which white supremacy serves to protect’ has caused significant upset among its employees.
The survey on racial justice, which was circulated to Oxfam’s 1,800 UK staff, reportedly described racism as “a power construct created by white nations for the benefit of white people” and said that “all echelons of power, to some degree, exist to serve whiteness”.
Employees were asked whether they would describe themselves as “non-racist”, “anti-racist” or “none/neither”, and to identify their racial profile under one of two headings – “white” or “black, indigenous or as a person of colour (Bipoc) and/or black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME)”.
The survey was reportedly created by a working group and responses were voluntary.
Staff said they found the survey offensive and divisive, with one telling The Times: “Why are they presuming their workers, who are working for a humanitarian charity, are racists and bigots?”
Another said: “I felt like I was being signposted into a category that I don’t wish to be labelled in. I don’t want to be sub categorised as either a white supremacist or a full on racist. And I don’t want to have to apologise for being a white woman.”
An Oxfam spokesperson said: “We oppose racism and other forms of discrimination that blight countless lives around the world and trap people in poverty. Racism makes it harder for people to earn a living, feed their children and put a roof over their heads.
“Oxfam is working hard to become an anti-racist organisation and this survey is an important part of ensuring that we live up to our values.”
In 2018 Oxfam and several other charities were engulfed in a worldwide scandal involving sexual abuse, witness intimidation and bullying.
It served a three-year ban from receiving UK aid funding, but was once again suspended from making claims earlier this year after new allegations against two members of Oxfam staff working in the Democratic Republic of Congo emerged. Three aid workers have been reported to have been dismissed.