World Bank Owes People of African Heritage Apology
December 16, 2012 4:35 AM   Subscribe

"Claims of institutional racism against black people have dogged the World Bank for decades. The current president has a real opportunity to end the scourge."
Dr. Jim Yong Kim
The World Bank

Dear Mr. President

We, the undersigned, are executive committee members of Justice for Blacks, a group consisting of current and former World Bank staff organized to restore the human dignity and rights of people of African heritage in the World Bank. Racial discrimination is a violation of human rights that is unequivocally condemned by a multitude of international human rights instruments. It robs black people of their inalienable and inviolable rights. It also seriously impairs the Bank's legitimacy as a leading global development institution.

We are writing to urge you to take immediate and concrete steps to put an end to what is degrading and dehumanizing to black staff and damaging to the long term mission of the World Bank. We are encouraged by the brilliant speech you delivered in Tokyo during the Annual Meetings that underlined your reverence to Dr. Martin Luther King and his quest for justice. We sincerely hope that your presidential mantle will draw its strength from the gravitas of justice than from the inertia of the status quo.
Full text of petition in the link.
posted by infini (10 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I'm really glad this post was able to stay with the edits.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:08 AM on December 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

*pant pant pant wheeze*

Frantic back end work with the wonderful taz. I'd written her before hitting publish because I wasn't quite sure of my formatting ability and there's no way to save a draft for review.
posted by infini at 5:14 AM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I attended a lecture series about the various labor administrative tribunals that international orgs use to deal with their own staffs. It seemed to be an unclear mess of a system, without good controlling rules or the kinds of legal protections that people who work in national jurisdictions are used to. And all of these orgs have "staff unions," which are jokes - they're a tool of the organization itself, and do virtually nothing to protect the needs of their own members, who are compelled to fund them with dues payments.
posted by 1adam12 at 6:16 AM on December 16, 2012

Is there more info about the kind of discrimination that exists at the world bank? The article only mentions a couple of short examples in passing.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:03 AM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

PDF of the Beatrice Edwards report mentioned in the letter.
posted by infini at 9:24 AM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

On the morning of May 27th this year, the staff of the Legal Affairs Office of the World Bank encountered an ugly racial slur scrawled on the wall outside their department. Very shortly, however, the words "N–––, go home!" were erased by order of World Bank management. This was the second such episode in as many weeks.

The General Counsel's office filed an incident report with security services, much as you might do about a broken lock or a stolen purse, but word spread rapidly through the Bank. For days, black staff members waited in vain for senior management to condemn the graffiti and inform them about steps that would be taken to ensure that public displays of race hatred would be stopped. This expectation was met with silence. Senior management neither acknowledged nor condemned either incident. One week later, the Bank's diversity policy was posted on the intranet. Period.
- Bea Edwards 2009 Foreign Policy in Focus

(A far more readable summary than the PDF)
posted by infini at 9:32 AM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't study these things closely but am I wrong in thinking that the World Bank is like the IMF, basically a corporatist colonization instrument in public service drag? Because if so then maybe calling for a racial attitude adjustment is sort of missing the point, like calling for the Mafia to drive Priuses or something.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:33 PM on December 16, 2012 [6 favorites]

In the Bank's caste system blacks are lined up behind the beyond and stacked down beneath the underneath.

best sentence I've read today.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 4:11 PM on December 16, 2012

This article lumps together two different issues, treatment of Africans and treatment of African-Americans under the heading of "People of African Heritage" and hopes you won't notice- check the Beatrice Edwards report. African-American employees are extremely underrepresented, African ones are not. Note that the article is not asking for greater representation of African-Americans and their 3 proposals are probably non-starters.

Anyone familiar with the World Bank and Word Bank culture would find the "niggers go home" graffiti extremely odd, like "acid is groovy kill the pigs" odd.
posted by Challahtronix at 5:52 AM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

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