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30 Jun, 2021 16:05

How does a charity with a bad reputation and falling donations change its image? Oxfam’s got the answer: call your staff racist

How does a charity with a bad reputation and falling donations change its image? Oxfam’s got the answer: call your staff racist

In Britain, Oxfam is best known for its high-street charity shops that sell overpriced second-hand clothes. In Haiti, it’s a very different story. There, Oxfam is most associated with serious sexual misconduct.

In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake that claimed 220,000 lives, injured 300,000 and left 1.5 million people destitute, male aid workers brought girls, some reported to be below the age of consent, to their Oxfam-funded accommodation for parties described as being “like a Caligula orgy with prostitutes in Oxfam T-shirts.”

Oxfam is now keen to rehabilitate its image by condemning its own employees. It would indeed make sense to expose and condemn the corrupt managers of its foreign aid programmes. But this is not what the charity has in mind. Instead, Oxfam’s British executive team has circulated a survey to shop workers, office staff, drivers and factory hands, asking them about their attitudes towards racial justice. The starting point for the survey is that “whiteness” is “the overarching preservation of power and domination for the benefit of white people”.  In other words, “whiteness” is inherently racist. Being white is bad.

It just so happens that 88% of the people employed by Oxfam in the UK are white – and they haven’t taken too kindly to being accused of racism simply because of the colour of their skin. Not that long ago, Oxfam was synonymous with middle-class, left-wing worthiness. Its shop staff were the kind of sandal-wearing vegans who email their friends at Christmas to say they won’t be sending cards but have instead bought a goat for a family in Kashmir. In other words, Oxfam employees are far more likely to be suffering from white guilt than seeking to enact white supremacism.

Also on rt.com Oxfam under fire for ‘divisive’ staff survey that rejects ‘reverse racism’ & calls racism ‘power construct’ to benefit ‘whiteness’

The Oxfam survey describes racism as “a power construct created by white nations for the benefit of white people”. The phrase ‘power construct’ suggests that whoever wrote this has recently graduated from Critical Race Theory 101. But let’s put that to one side for now. Let’s think instead about what might have been “created by white nations for the benefit of white people”.

Oxfam was set up in the UK – one of those “white nations” – almost 80 years ago to tackle global poverty. The charity’s continued existence is testament to it having failed in this mission. But a small group of “white people” have indeed benefitted from Oxfam’s existence. When Mark Goldring, Oxfam GB’s chief executive, stood down at the end of 2018, he was part of an 11-strong “executive team” all of whom were paid more than £100,000 a year. 

It’s not just that white people get rich off Oxfam’s donations: the charity fundamentally aims to keep black people poor. Oxfam’s wealthy executives no doubt enjoy nice food from posh supermarkets. Oxfam’s donors, meanwhile, are encouraged to pay just £6 to send a pile of poo to a family in Africa. The money raised is used to teach families living in poverty about “effective, eco-friendly composting” so they can “grow more food to eat and sell”. 

Sending poo to poor black people (or, at least, buying a gift card featuring a steaming turd) might make Oxfam’s white execs feel good about themselves, but it does not bring prosperity to under-developed societies. Decent transport infrastructure, power supplies, factories and industrial machinery are more likely to alleviate poverty than lessons in eco-friendly composting. But genuine development would see Oxfam go out of business. 

Not only is poverty still a major problem, but Oxfam’s aid workers are still under fire for abusing their position. Last year, an Independent Commission on Sexual Misconduct, Accountability and Culture Change investigated Oxfam’s treatment of its own staff and those dependent upon it for help. Its interim report, published in January, noted that “bullying, harassment and discrimination were rife in many of the charity’s offices”. The final report noted that “transactional sex” was “widespread in two emergency zones”. This is horrendous. Women and girls in the most desperate circumstances imaginable are being offered help in exchange for sex. 

As some members of Oxfam’s staff have noted, this is reflective of  “colonial behaviour” and elitist, racist and sexist attitudes. It is Oxfam’s chief executives and those managing its foreign aid programmes who have serious questions to answer. Yet rather than facing up to these major issues, they prefer to lecture their UK workers about “white privilege”.

Also on rt.com Amnesty International ‘upholds racism’ and its senior staff used the N-word, so why do its views still carry so much influence?

On the back of recent scandals, Oxfam’s funding has plummeted. Following reports into sexual misconduct in Haiti, the charity was prevented from applying for funds from the British government’s aid budget, which led to a £16 million shortfall in its finances. Making a noise about racism now seems a feeble attempt to win back support. 

Despite cuts to its funding, Oxfam has found money for a survey that categorises workers according to four different categories for gender and two for race: “white” or “black, indigenous or … a person of colour (Bipoc) and/or black, Asian or minority ethnic (Bame)”.

Having failed at tackling poverty abroad, Oxfam is now looking to civilise the white savages at home. These lectures on racism are an insult to Oxfam’s British workers and an outrage to the women Oxfam’s foreign missionaries were supposed to help, not exploit for sex.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.