AI finger-pointed for its racism, culture of white privilege by its own staff

AI finger-pointed for its racism, culture of white privilege by its own staff

Amnesty International, the long-time lesson giver which used to nosing around in other people’s affairs, has been put in the dock by some members of its own staff who denounced it for its culture of white privilege with incidents of overt racism, British The Guardian reported on its website, citing an internal review into AI secretariat.

The review into workplace culture was commissioned in February 2019, after two staff members killed themselves in 2018, seemingly for having been subjected to widespread bullying.

The review revealed that Amnesty International had a “toxic” working environment as eight current and former employees of Amnesty International UK (AIUK) described their own experiences of racial discrimination.

One of the whistleblowers, Katherine Odukoya, was quoted by The Guardian as saying: “We joined Amnesty hoping to campaign against human rights abuses but were instead let down through realising that the organisation actually helped perpetuate them.”

An internal review at the organization’s international secretariat, conducted by the consultancy Howlett Brown following the Black Lives Matter movement, recorded multiple examples of workers reporting alleged racism including Senior staff using the N-word and P-word, with colleagues labelled over-sensitive if they complained.

Published in October 2020 but not press released, the 46-page internal report by Howlett Brown, which focused on AI’s international secretariat, summarized: “Remarks (in the focus groups) were consistently shared that the external face of Amnesty (International Secretariat) is very different to its internal face.” The experts recommended that to resolve issues there would need to be a recognition of the “systemic privileges that exist”.

The human rights watchdog was also finger-pointed for systemic bias including the capability of black staff being questioned consistently and without justification, and minority ethnic staff feeling disempowered and sidelined on projects.

Besides, a lack of awareness or sensitivity to religious practices results in problematic comments and behavior, the review showed, in addition to aggressive and dismissive behavior, particularly over email and often directed towards staff in offices in the global south.

A statement released alongside the report by the Amnesty International coalition leadership team said it was “sobered” by the findings, adding: “It is a timely reminder that discrimination, racism and anti-Black racism exist in our organization. It has highlighted both the extent and systematic nature of racism and indicates we must address white privilege wherever it exists.”

Yet, in a joint statement, two current and six former employees of AIUK called for the director, senior management team and board to resign, claiming the leadership “knowingly upheld racism and actively harmed staff from ethnic minority backgrounds”.

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